Johnny Depp may be something of a persona non grata in North America, but the controversial actor was met with open arms at the Zurich Film Festival in Switzerland yesterday where he appeared as a guest of honor, premiered his new film, “Richard Says Goodbye” and spoke at an “In Conversation” Q&A talk.

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Directed by Wayne Roberts (“Katie Says Goodbye”), “Richard Says Goodbye” co-stars Zoey Deutch, Danny Huston, Rosemarie DeWitt and centers on a college professor who lives his life with reckless abandon after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

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Perhaps more interestingly, given the underwhelming reviews for ‘Richard’ so far, Depp revealed he would be making a film with the critically-acclaimed filmmaker Ciro Guerra, whose latest film “Birds of Passage,” co-directed with his partner Cristina Gallego, was heralded at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and then selected as the Colombian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards (read our review).

“There’s a film I’m getting ready to go do, based on Nobel Prize-winning author J.M. Coetzee’s book, [“Waiting for the Barbarians”] with Ciro Guerra — a great director — and Mark Rylance,” he explained. “Mark Rylance is really truly a genius. Here’s what’s amazing about Mark Rylance. He’s considered — and is — probably the greatest living Shakespearean actor today, and he refuses to acknowledge that. He makes sort of fun of it. So, it’s Mark Rylance, myself, Robert Pattinson. Super excited, we’re going to shoot that in Morocco towards the end of October.”

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Written by Nobel laureate and South African-born writer J. M. Coetzee in 1980, the novel “Waiting For The Barbarians” considers imperialism and tyranny and centers on an imaginary empire, racial strife and power struggles in a fictional colonial village (fun fact, Philip Glass wrote an opera based on the book).

Here’s the Amazon synopsis of “Waiting For The Barbarians”:

For decades the Magistrate has been a loyal servant of the Empire, running the affairs of a tiny frontier settlement and ignoring the impending war with the barbarians. When interrogation experts arrive. However, he witnesses the Empire’s cruel and unjust treatment of prisoners of war. Jolted into sympathy for their victims, he commits a quixotic act of rebellion that brands him an enemy of the state. J. M. Coetzee’s prize-winning novel is a startling allegory of the war between oppressor and oppressed. The Magistrate is not simply a man living through a crisis of conscience in an obscure place in remote times; his situation is that of all men living in unbearable complicity with regimes that ignore justice and decency.

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Presumably, the film will be Guerro’s English-language debut, what with Depp, Rylance, and Pattinson in the movie. However, given the indigenous people sure to appear and likely have meaningful roles — and considering the empathy the filmmaker has already shown for the native people of South America and his sensitivity with notions of class — perhaps it will be something of an even split. No concrete details of the film have emerged other than the trio that will star and the book that it’s based on, but with filming set for the end of this month, more details and the official word should arrive soon.

The 14th edition of the Zurich Film Festival presents 160 films from 48 countries.

– Reporting by Jessica Kiang. Photo courtesy of the Zurich Film Festival.