Inside Johnny Depp’s bizarre new bromance with Saudi Crown Prince MBS

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Feb 15, 2024 at 01:42 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

In an unlikely tale, Johnny Depp finds himself entangled in what’s been described as a “bromance like no other” with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The odd and slightly controversial pairing is detailed in a new profile in Vanity Fair which claims that Depp is currently getting the royal treatment over in Saudi Arabia.

According to the publication, the new friendship formed following a chance meeting between Depp and Prince Badr bin Farhan Al Saud—Saudi Arabia’s Culture Minister and MBS’ cousin—during the production of a French period movie titled Jeanne du Barry.

In 2017, Prince Badr made headlines when he served as the front man for MBS’ purchase of the world’s most expensive painting, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi. Price tag? $450 million. Yep, that’s how rich he is…

Though initially resistant to the idea of meeting Prince Badr, after a couple of days of back and forth, Depp had to accept the invitation due to the Prince’s substantial involvement in the film’s funding.

“It goes so well that, within months, the 60-year-old actor, known for palling around with the likes of Keith Richards and the late Hunter S. Thompson, will stand face-to-face with MBS, the 38-year-old de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia,” writes Vanity Fair.

MBS allegedly hosted Depp in the Saudi Kingdom for nearly two months in 2023, putting the actor up in royal palaces and transporting him in helicopters, yachts and a private plane. Unsurprisingly, it sounds like money is a huge factor in this unlikely “bromance.”

Depp is shooting movies in Saudi Arabia as he waits on a potential seven-figure deal to make him one of the nation’s global cultural ambassadors.

“They made a genuine connection,” a friend of Depp told Vanity Fair. “It’s a shock to many of the people who know [Depp], but it’s what happened.”

Depp, wrestling with a somewhat tarnished reputation due to his highly publicised court case with ex-wife Amber Heard, and MBS, marked by the brutal 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, seemingly found camaraderie as outcasts navigating abrupt shifts in public perception.

When asked for his perspective, Johnny Depp told Vanity Fair, “Though I admit I was somewhat naive at first to what was transpiring in the region, I’ve since experienced firsthand the cultural revolution that is happening there—from emerging young storytellers radiating fresh ideas and works of art to a blossoming film infrastructure and a newfound curiosity for innovation. I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from various parts of the region who have been most welcoming in sharing with me their culture, their traditions, and their stories.”

Under MBS’ strategic move, Saudi Arabia has undergone a cultural renaissance, among its 30 million residents, relaxing stringent rules on public entertainment, including lifting bans on music and cinemas. This transformation aligns with MBS’ ambitious Vision 2030 plan, aiming to diversify the country’s revenue streams and break free from its historical dependence on oil money.

There will also be a surge in festivals and events. Leading the charge is Soundstorm, the Middle East’s premier music festival, held every December.

Meanwhile, Prince Badhir, who plays a pivotal role in acquainting the world with Saudi Arabia’s cultural richness, has been featured alongside rapper Swizz Beatz, husband to Alicia Keys, on a Hulu episode of Drive With Swizz Beatz, showcasing the rich cultural tapestry of Saudi Arabia.

While some, like Martin Scorsese, decline invitations, others attend events like the Red Sea Film Festival. MBS relies on figures like Prince Badr and Turki Al-Sheikh to cultivate relationships with foreign entertainers and athletes.

In other words, though the bromance is clearly in full gear, it seems doubtful that Depp and MBS would be pals if the Crown Prince wasn’t throwing around insane amounts of oil money at him…

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