Johnny Depp presented himself as a victim of “cancel culture”, which he says has spread across the cinema industry, as he took centre stage at a prestigious Spanish film festival to receive a top award.
Depp was answering questions on Wednesday from reporters at the San Sebastian International Film Festival about the loss of Hollywood’s favour for new roles ever since his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, went public with allegations of domestic violence against him.
A judge at the High Court last year found the allegations to be “substantially correct”.
“It’s a very complex situation, this cancel culture, or this instant rush to judgment based on essentially what amounts to polluted air,” the 58-year-old actor said.
“It’s got so far out of hand that I can assure you, no-one is safe. Not one of you, so long as someone is willing to say one thing.”
Female filmmakers and other groups had criticised the organisers’ decision to distinguish Depp with the Donostia Award, the festival’s highest honour, saying it tarnished the event’s image and delivered the wrong message to victims of gender violence.
Last year Depp lost a libel case against the publisher of The Sun that accused him of domestic violence, the judge ruling that the allegations were “substantially correct”.
In March, the Court of Appeal refused Depp permission to appeal against the High Court ruling that he assaulted Amber Heard, saying his attempt to overturn the decision had “no real prospect of success”.
Depp is also suing Heard for millions of dollars in the US, over a Washington Post essay that she wrote about domestic violence. The trial in that case was recently delayed until April 2022.
Spain’s Association of Female Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media, which has close links to the festival, said that awards should not be granted based only on professional or artistic achievements.
“What is the message that remains when men denounced for sexist violence are applauded, photographed on red carpets, surrounded by unconditional fans?” the association, known as CIMA, wrote in a Twitter thread in which it acknowledged the “complexity” of the issue.
The actor, who played Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean and leading roles in Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow, spoke to reporters hours before the award’s gala.
The controversy emerged despite the festival’s request for media questions to be restricted to Depp’s career. A press conference moderator blocked a question from a reporter about the CIMA’s criticism.
“It takes one sentence, then there’s no more ground, the carpet has been pulled,” Depp said, without mentioning Heard or the libel case.
“It’s not just me that it’s happened to. It’s happened to a lot of people: women, men, children have suffered from various types of unpleasantries that sadly at a certain point they begin to think it’s normal, that it’s them. It’s not,” he said.
The actor also talked about how the coronavirus pandemic has made more people watch films on screens at home rather than in cinemas, which closed during lockdowns.
“The majority of the world went, ’You know, this ain’t bad. We can sit and watch this thing at home. We can cook some popcorn, as opposed to the idea of a guy who makes 700 dollars a week and wants to take his wife and kids out to dinner and a movie on the weekend, which is a 200 dollar deal.
“I think the Hollywood movie machine has a few design flaws they are just realising.”
“I’m glad I saw it coming, personally,” he added.
The San Sebastian International Film Festival takes place from September 17 to September 25. Depp was to receive the award on Wednesday in what is his third appearance at the event.