While there may be insanely rich people in the world, experts suggest that Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, wields the greatest financial power thanks to the country's vast resources, notably its Public Investment Fund valued at around $750 billion. Bin Salman, commonly known as MBS, has been strategically using these funds to court Hollywood's elite in a bid to normalize Saudi Arabia despite ongoing allegations of human rights abuses, according to the NYPost. La La Land luminaries like Will Smith, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Johnny Depp have reportedly been among those enticed by the kingdom's allure, with some receiving hefty sums of money to attend events such as the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah.

While Elon Musk boasts a net worth of $202 billion, experts argue that MBS has greater liquid assets readily available for such endeavors. Saudi Arabia's ambition to become the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world by 2030 has led to significant investments in Western businesses and entertainment ventures, including partnerships with Uber, Disney, and Boeing, among others.

The movie industry, recognizing the potential financial windfall, has been eager to capitalize on Saudi Arabia's investment. Hollywood studios are actively pursuing Saudi funding to finance their projects, seeking audiences with the highest echelons of Saudi authority to secure lucrative deals.

Making Moves

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Saudi Arabia has been making concerted efforts to boost its film industry's profile, announcing grants and initiatives aimed at developing local talent and attracting international partners. At events like the Cannes Film Festival, Saudi entities have pledged substantial sums to foster an environment conducive to cinematic production, while initiatives like Daw provide financial support for local filmmakers and production companies.

As Saudi Arabia continues to invest in its film industry, Hollywood stars like Johnny Depp find themselves at the center of a lucrative and controversial courtship, highlighting the intersection of entertainment, geopolitics, and commerce on the global stage.