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Johnny Depp says Dior video was made with 'great respect and love' for American Indians

Johnny Depp attends the "Waiting for the Barbarians"

Johnny Depp attends the "Waiting for the Barbarians" screening during the 76th annual Venice International Film Festival on Sept. 6 in Venice, Italy.  Credit: Getty Images / Tristan Fewings

Johnny Depp has responded to backlash accusing the French fashion house of Christian Dior of exploiting American Indian culture in a video campaign in which he starred.

At a Sunday news conference for his new film "Waiting for the Barbarians" at France's Deauville American Film Festival, the 56-year-old Depp said he, director Jean-Baptiste Mondino and Dior set out "to make a small film. What was released was a teaser for that film. So a teaser, obviously, is a very concentrated version of images and there were objections to the teaser. ... But the film has never been seen."

It was unclear if Depp were referring to a nine-second clip or a more than minute-long clip both released in late August for the fragrance Sauvage. Dior has removed both from its social media, though archived copies remain online.

"There was never — and how could there be or how would there be — any dishonorable [intent]," he continued. "The film was made with a great respect for the indigenous peoples … all over the world. It's a pity that people jumped the gun and made these objections. However, their objections are their objections."

Depp said those involved in the campaign "are going to have a sort of get-together with the complainants, whoever has objected to this. But I can assure you, no one has any reason to go out to try to exploit" American Indian culture. "It was a film made out of great respect and made with great respect and with love for the Native American peoples to bring light to them. They haven't had the greatest amount of help out of the United States government. … So we'll come to an agreement so that everyone's happy. And I think that's fair."

The longer clip for the campaign, titled "We Are the Land," shows Depp wandering the arid landscape of the Arches National Monument in Utah and appearing to play the late Shawnee native Link Wray's 1950s instrumental hit "Rumble" on an electric guitar.

Intercut are shots of Canadian First Nations actress Tanaya Beatty (Paramount Network's "Yellowstone”), as well as of Rose Sioux tribe member Canku Thomas One Star performing a traditional Men's Fancy War Dance. Consulting on the campaign was the New Mexico organization Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO), founded by LaDonna Harris, who in 2012 adopted Depp and made him an honorary member of the Comanche Nation.

Representatives of groups including the indigenous Environmental Network and IllumiNatives objected to the campaign, as did many commenters on social media, though several self-identifying as American Indian have reacted favorably to the video.

Beatty earlier this month said on Instagram she had taken the role with trepidation, and that knowing it would be made regardless pledged her paycheck to the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. She added, "I do believe Dior — though misguided — had every intention of showing indigenous culture in a beautiful light while giving jobs to some Indians in the process.”

Neither Dior nor AIO responded to Newsday requests for comments.

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