Hollywood rolls out red carpet for Saudi Crown Prince

Hollywood rolls out red carpet for Saudi Crown Prince amid LA protests
3 min read
03 April, 2018
Hollywood's biggest executives have been queuing up to rub shoulders with the billionaire prince in LA this week, as peace groups rally against 'arming and abetting' his brutal regime.
The prince sips a Starbucks with former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg last week [Getty]
As Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman touched down in America's West Coast this week, entertainment industry bigwigs, hoping to cash in on the oil-rich kingdom's burgeoning film industry, have been preparing a charm offensive to win big investments and make inroads into a lucrative new market flush with petrodollars.

The 32-year-old leader reportedly attended a dinner hosted by media mogul and co-executive chairman of 21st Century Fox Rupert Murdoch, where he rubbed shoulders with a host of big industry names such as Disney CEO Bob Iger and Warner Bros. chairman Kevin Tsujihara.

Legendary actors Morgan Freeman and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, as well as multi-award-winning filmmakers Ridley Scott and James Cameron were also in attendance at the "intimate" dinner, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The prince – who has reportedly rented out the entire Four Seasons Hotel for his entourage during their Californian sojourn – will also be hosted by talent agency CEO Ari Emanuel with veteran producer Brian Grazer in attendance. Grazer is well known for producing box office hits such as The Grinch and The Da Vinci Code.
Mohammed bin Salman employs an army of lobbyists and PR firms to sell himself as a reformer when he is really a war criminal and a power-hungry thug whose ego rivals that of Donald Trump
The Crown Prince's jam-packed social calendar is also rumoured to include meet-ups with Oprah Winfrey and the mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti, who has publicly pledged to challenge MbS on Saudi Arabia's brutal military operation in Yemen.

Just four months after it was announced the 35-year ban on cinemas in Saudi Arabia would be lifted, those in the industry have been flocking to build cinema complexes, sell movies and establish a film industry in the kingdom.

Its young population – two thirds of whom are under the age of 30 – are well-educated and outward-looking, with disposable income ready to spend as draconian restrictions on entertainment are loosened.

However other groups of Californians are less happy about the powerful young leader gracing the West Coast.

Codepink, a women-led NGO who campaigns for peace, held protests on Monday outside the LA office of Ari Emanuel's talent and media company Endeavor in which Saudi Arabia is planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Mohammed bin Salman employs an army of lobbyists and PR firms to sell himself as a reformer when he is really a war criminal and a power-hungry thug whose ego rivals that of Donald Trump," Codepink co-founder Jodie Evans told The Hollywood Reporter.

"It is absurd that the US is in bed with this 'prince' who mercilessly bombs Yemen, shakes down Saudi businessmen, captured the Lebanese prime minister, concocted a rift with Qatar and even kidnapped his own mother," Evans added.  

"The Saudi monarchy also jails and beheads dissidents, discriminates against the Shia minority, and forces women to live under a repressive male guardianship system. It is not a regime the United States should be arming and abetting."

Human rights group Amnesty lambasted the image-conscious leader's domestic reform programme last week as a powerful PR campaign glossing over the country's abysmal human rights record, releasing a spoof advertising campaign mocking the publicity frenzy surrounding the prince's US tour.

"Saudi Arabia's aggressive publicity drive to rebrand its image, tarnished by a ruthless crackdown on freedom of expression and a bombing offensive in Yemen, is fooling nobody," the group said in a statement.