La Jolla producer’s new film starring Johnny Depp opens Cannes Film Festival

La Jolla resident Nellee Holmes (center) attends the Cannes Film Festival.
La Jolla resident Nellee Holmes (center) attends the Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of “Jeanne du Barry,” for which she was an executive producer.
(Provided by Nellee Holmes)

Nellee Holmes follows up her career in entertainment journalism as an executive producer of ‘Jeanne du Barry.’


A movie that opened this year’s Cannes Film Festival in France has ties to La Jolla through Village resident Nellee Holmes, who after decades of working in entertainment journalism now has her first film as a producer.

“Jeanne du Barry,” a French-language historical drama starring Johnny Depp as French King Louis XV, is centered on the life of Jeanne Bécu, “who was born as the illegitimate daughter of an impoverished seamstress in 1743 and went on to rise through the court of Louis XV to become his last official mistress,” according to

“This film is about unconditional love but is such a unique story,” Holmes said.

Holmes was born in Moscow and studied literature and worked as a theater and film critic for the first English newspaper in Russia. When she moved to the United States, she represented Russia at press junkets, conducting interviews with movie stars.

She soon joined the Hollywood Foreign Press, an organization of journalists who report on the American entertainment industry for predominantly foreign media markets.

Holmes, who has lived in La Jolla for more than a decade, said, “I have lived in two places in my life: Moscow and La Jolla, and I love La Jolla.”

At the encouragement of Depp’s agent, Holmes was asked if she wanted to join the production team for an upcoming project, and she soon signed on as an executive producer.

“I always admired Johnny Depp, especially during my [Hollywood Foreign Press] years,” Holmes said. “I consider him the most important American actor of his generation.”

After elaborate filming in Versailles, France, to re-create the opulence of 1700s French royalty, the film opened the Cannes festival on May 16.

Depp’s casting following his high-profile defamation lawsuit against former wife Amber Heard — who made accusations of abuse against him — caused some controversy.

But Holmes said: “I judge him by his art. He is a man of integrity and has a great work ethic.”

Actor Johnny Depp and director and co-star Maïwenn of "Jeanne du Barry" appear at the Cannes Film Festival this month.
Actor Johnny Depp and director and co-star Maïwenn of “Jeanne du Barry” appear at the Cannes Film Festival this month.
(Vianney Le Caer / Invision / AP)

When the film screened, it was given a seven-minute standing ovation.

Holmes said it was “amazing” to have the film open the Cannes festival. “There is nothing like Cannes, honestly,” she said. “I feel that the audience … absorbed the story and became part of it.”

“Jeanne du Barry” was directed and co-written by Maïwenn, who also plays the title role.

The day after the film screened, Holmes and Depp connected to discuss a future project. “It will be interesting, but I cannot talk about it,” Holmes said.

Holmes also is writing a book about “being in the present moment and manifesting your dreams into reality,” she said.

She encourages anyone interested in pursuing film “to just do it” because “we need new international talent. Don’t be afraid and don’t stop.”

People need film, she said, because “it encourages us to keep dreaming. So many films center on the power of love. No matter your age or race, we all need that connection.” ◆