Johnny Depp was awarded a medal of honor by controversial Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in Belgrade Tuesday for his “outstanding merits in public and cultural activities, especially in the field of film art and the promotion of the Republic of Serbia in the world,” as Balkan Insight reports.
Elected in 2017, Vučić’s presidency has sparked numerous protests, with critics accusing him of moving towards authoritarian rule and corruption — including stifling press freedom.
“I truly, sincerely thank you, President Vučić, and this medal of merit, if I am given the honor to walk away with this, I thank you for being kind enough to bestow it upon me,” Depp said, per Balkan Insight. The actor also highlighted personal change during his acceptance speech. “I’m right now on the verge of a new life and I like it, I like a re-beginning,” he said. “And I would love for that for that beginning to start here.”
"I'm right now on the verge of a new life & I like it…" – Johnny Depp ✨️ pic.twitter.com/ZnuN1PJFWB
— Tongo Bozzie🍹🚬°•.•* (@Noneofthemknew1) February 15, 2022
The news comes after the actor has recently courted his own controversy. In November 2020, Depp lost a libel suit against U.K. tabloid The Sun, which referred to him as a “wife-beater” in an article about his relationship with ex-wife Amber Heard. The judge overseeing the case found the paper’s claims that Depp was abusive toward Heard were “substantially true.” Last September, Depp lamented the cancel culture that followed prior to him receiving the Donostia Award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in Spain. He also claimed Hollywood was boycotting him.
The star received the award as a part of Serbian Statehood Day, which commemorates the first Serbian uprising that led to the Serbian Revolution against Ottoman rule in the early 1800s. Depp has recently worked on Serbian-related projects, including shooting scenes in Belgrade for Minimata and lending his voice for a lead role in the Serbian-produced animated series, Puffins.