The assault allegation against “Jeanne du Barry” writer/director/star Maïwenn has become even more complex.
After Maïwenn admitted to attacking French journalist Edwy Plenel, the Mediapart magazine editor-in-chief is citing Maïwenn’s possible motive: retaliation for the publication reporting on her ex-husband Luc Besson’s sexual abuse allegations. “Léon, the Professional” director Besson was accused in 2018 of repeatedly raping Dutch-Belgian actress Sand Van Roy over the course of two years, as well as multiple other women. The case against Besson was dismissed in 2021 after an investigation.
Maïwenn was married to Besson in 1992; she was 16 years old when they wed. Besson knew Maïwenn since she was age 12, and the couple began dating when the actress was 15 years old. Maïwenn said during the 1994 DVD extras for controversial film “Léon, the Professional” that the central relationship was inspired by her and Besson’s love story. The couple divorced in 1997.
“We published what [Maïwenn] told police as part of the investigation into Besson,” Plenel told Variety. “When she talked to the police, she discussed complicated aspects of her relationship with Luc Besson, notably during their separation. But once we published our piece, we never received any protest of any kind. That was about five years [ago] — that would mean that for all this time, Maiwenn wanted to take her revenge. But if that’s the case, why didn’t she send an email? [We] never even got a phone call from her.”
Plenel alleged Maïwenn pulled his hair and spat in his face while dining at a Paris restaurant. The reporter filed a police report on March 7 and cited that the encounter took place in late February.
I don’t know Maiwenn, I never met her. I would have been unable to recognize her,” Plenel said. “This aggression caused more stupor than anything else. She didn’t aggress me individually, but the symbol that I represent, as the founder and director of a journal, which in France, has been on the forefront of all the #MeToo revelations.”
Plenel added of Maïwenn, “She’s outspokenly anti-#MeToo and she made a gesture to please her world, and that’s why she bragged about it on TV. We could see a sort of pride that echoed that world.”
Plenel noted that he only wanted an apology from Maïwenn but she “refused.”
During a May 2023 interview, Maïwenn said “yes” she did assault Plenel, but added, “It’s not the moment for me to talk about it. I’ll talk about it when it’s the right moment. I am very anxious about the launch of my film,” in reference to “Jeanne du Barry” opening Cannes.
“Jeanne du Barry” has since been met with protests at Cannes over the casting of Johnny Depp following the Amber Heard trial over his abuse claims. Cannes director Thierry Fremaux and Maïwenn have stood by Depp after his defamation trial win.
“Cannes chose a completely mad symbol as it’s opening night selection: a film by Maïwenn that’s about a courtesan seeking power,” Plenel pointed out. “The mythology that’s put forward in the film, coupled with the casting of Johnny Depp, her anti-#MeToo comments and now this aggression that she seems to be proud and that makes people laugh on TV — that says something.”
He added, “I didn’t receive a message from Monsieur Thierry Fremaux telling me, ‘Look, this is our choice, but be sure that we’re not standing in solidarity with the acts of Maïwenn.’ It could have been done out of correctness or politeness.”
Plenel and Mediapart previously published “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” star Adèle Haenel’s MeToo accusation that French director Christophe Ruggia sexually assaulted her when she was 12 years old on the set of “The Devils.” Haenel recently has criticized the French film industry for defending known “sexual aggressors.”