Cannes Film Festival kicks off with Johnny Depp's return and plenty to talk about

Throngs of onlookers shouted “Johnny!” as Depp, in purple-hued sunglasses signed autographs and edged back into the spotlight following his explosive trial last year with ex-wife Amber Heard. “Jeanne du Barry,” directed and co-starring Maïwenn, has been billed as Depp's comeback - though his prominent presence at Cannes has been hotly debated.

A coterie of stars streamed down Cannes' famous red carpet for the opening night ceremony, including Brie Larson, Uma Thurman, Gong Li, Elle Fanning, Naomi Campbell, Catherine Deneuve (who graces this year's festival poster) and a blue-haired Helen Mirren, who carried a fan labelled #worthit.

Joel C Ryan/2023 Invision
Carys Zeta Douglas, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones pose for photographers at the 76th international film festival at Cannes, southern France. - Joel C Ryan/2023 Invision

During the opening ceremony, Michael Douglas received an honorary Palme d'Or, with his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones and their daughter, Carys Zeta Douglas, looking on from the audience.

“I'm even older than the festival," said Douglas, 78, after receiving a warm standing ovation.

Douglas and Deneuve officially declared open a festival that promises a Côte d'Azur buffet of spectacle, scandal and cinema set to be served over the next 11 days. It's unfolding against the backdrop of labour unrest. Protests that have roiled France in recent months over changes to its pension system are planned to run during the festival, albeit at a distance from the festival's main hub.

Meanwhile, an ongoing strike by screenwriters in Hollywood could have unpredictable effects on the French Riviera festival.

“My wife is currently picketing with my 6-month-old, strapped to her chest,” juror and actor Paul Dano said referencing Zoe Kazan. “I will be there on the picket line when I get back home.”

But with a festival lined with some much-anticipated big-budget films, including James Mangold's “Indiana Jones and the Dial of the Destiny” and Martin Scorsese's “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the party is sure to go on, regardless.

Stars set to hit Cannes' red carpet in the next week and a half include Natalie Portman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Sean Penn, Alicia Vikander, Scarlett Johansson and Abel Tesfaye - also known as the Weeknd.