Scarlett Johansson reportedly turned down funding from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for her next film in which the Hollywood star was set to play the Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario in a biopic directed by Ridley Scott.
Johansson had originally agreed to play the part but once she found out that Bin Salman, known popularly as MBS, was amongst the funders, the A-lister rejected his involvement.
Johansson’s rejection of MBS came to light in an interview yesterday between Addario and Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Addario told Kristof that Johansson wanted nothing to do with MBS once she found out about his involvement.
“Scarlett Johansson said absolutely not,” Addario said in the interview with Kristof. “She said: ‘This guy is perpetuating the war in Yemen. He has women in prison.’”
She also added: “This was before the killing of Khashoggi, when he became one of the main people who wanted to fund the movie.”
Explaining why MBS may have wanted to get involved Addario said: “I didn’t meet with him personally. But my sense is that he probably – my movie got folded into this huge charm campaign. And that fact that he wanted to show the west that he was into Hollywood, he was into all the great things of the west … Do I want him associated with this movie? Obviously not. And thank God he’s not.”
Johansson’s stance against MBS may put a number of other Hollywood A-listers to shame. The Crown Prince holds strong ambitions to become a major player in Hollywood as part of his charm offensive. In April, he headed to Hollywood to meet with studio heads and stars including Dwayne Johnson and Oprah Winfrey for a private intimate dinner at the Murdock state.
A revealing Instagram post by Johnson, also known as, The Rock, seemed to suggest that the Crown Prince had been served alcohol during the course of the evening. The actor joked that he would “be sure to bring my finest tequila to share with his [sic] Royal Highness and family” on a trip to Saudi Arabia.
While Johansson’s stance against MBS is likely to earn her much praise, she has previously come under criticism for siding with human rights abusers in the Middle East. Four years ago she announced that she was quitting her role as an ambassador for Oxfam, an international organisation that fights against poverty, after insisting on promoting an Israeli company that operates in the illegal West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.