According to RadarOnline, numerous A-list celebrities, including actress Michelle Williams, made their way to Saudi Arabia to attend the Red Sea Film Festival, where Williams was purportedly paid a staggering $900,000 for her presence. The third annual 10-day event, commencing on November 30, saw Williams donning a stunning Giambattista Valli ensemble on the red carpet. Reports circulated that a standing offer of $1 million circulated among talent agencies to entice major stars to participate in the festival. A newsletter from Puck even suggested that Will Smith might have been offered more, while Creative Artists Agency reportedly negotiated just under $1 million for Williams, although the agency declined to comment on these claims.
Expressing her perspective on attending the festival, Williams stated that she was moved by the rapid changes occurring in the region. She expressed curiosity about the energy and the people driving the positive transformations, emphasizing the festival’s significance as a platform featuring 38 filmmakers, portraying it not as a mere token but as a movement. However, criticism was leveled at the event in a newsletter, citing the festival’s association with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has faced controversy over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Hollywood luminaries such as Sofía Vergara, Sharon Stone, and Joel Kinnaman were also in attendance. The newsletter further asserted that the festival’s “foundation” not only supported Johnny Depp’s Jeanne du Barry film but also arranged transportation for him to attend the event.
The event stirred controversy in light of the Biden administration’s report on Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, which implicated bin Salman. The lack of direct action against the crown prince prompted criticism, with travel and financial sanctions imposed on other Saudis involved and members of the elite Royal Guard unit.
The determination of the report highlighted bin Salman’s approval of an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Khashoggi. While some lawmakers appreciated the transparency, others felt that the sanctions were not severe enough to address the gravity of the situation.