Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry and Baz Luhrmann talk careers, inspiration at RSIFF

Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry and Baz Luhrmann talk careers, inspiration at RSIFF
Gwyneth Paltrow cut a business chic look as she headlined three high-profile In Conversation panels. (Getty)
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Updated 07 December 2023
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Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry and Baz Luhrmann talk careers, inspiration at RSIFF

Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry and Baz Luhrmann talk careers, inspiration at RSIFF

JEDDAH: Academy Award-winner and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow cut a business chic look as she headlined three high-profile In Conversation panels that took place at the Red Sea International Film Festival on Wednesday night, with Australian director Baz Luhrmann and US actress Halle Berry taking part in panels on the same day. 

Taking part in a retrospective conversation moderated by Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG) CEO Jomana Al-Rashed – who introduced Paltrow as a personal role model – the latter looked back on her career as a successful movie star as well as an entrepreneur, recently celebrating 15 years of her wellness company, Goop.   

“Entrepreneurship and acting are very similar. Both require the same kind of energy,” said Paltrow of her decision to launch Goop.  




Paltrow went into some detail about the first ever MCU film she shot, 2008’s “Iron Man,” starring Robert Downey Jr. in his famous titular role. (Getty)

“I’m really happy I did it because I’ve learned so much through the process of growing this company and working with this team and all of the challenges, whether it be inventory management or Excel. I never thought in a million years I would have to learn how to read a P&L. It’s been so thrilling to build this business and still do what I love to do.”   

On the topic of films, Paltrow was asked by an audience member about how she felt about working in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to which she said she stopped watching the films at some point, having also never watched “Avengers: Endgame,” in which she has a significant role.  

Paltrow did, however, go into some detail about the first ever MCU film she shot, 2008’s “Iron Man,” starring Robert Downey Jr. in his famous titular role.   

“The first film we did was very different from the rest because the studio didn’t think it was going to be a big hit,” she said. “They hired Jon Favreau to direct who was great. And they hired Robert Downey Jr., who was un-hireable at the time. His career was at a very low point. 




Paltrow with Mohammed Al-Turki and Jumana Al-Rashed. (Getty)

“And then I remember they called me one day and said, ‘Come do this thing with us.’ And I said, ‘I’m not going to be in a superhero movie.’ And then they said, ‘No, but it’s going to be like doing an indie film. We’re going to have fun and, you know, you don’t have to be in too much of the action part anyway.’”   

“And so I thought, ‘Oh, okay.’ And we had such a good time. We improvised almost every scene of that movie. We would write it in the morning in Jon’s trailer, and it was like doing an independent film. Then, the movie was such a huge hit that then we didn’t make them like that anymore. But it was fun. It was a fun ride,” she added.  

Paltrow, whose last onscreen role was Netflix’s “The Politician,” was also asked whether she saw herself returning to Hollywood.  

“I never say never. I’m really happy and busy doing what I’m doing. But again, I can never know what the future will hold,” she said.  

Here’s a look at what Luhrmann and Berry had to say at their respective In Conversation panels:  

Halle Berry talks Oscars and inspiration  




US actress Halle Berry took part in the panel. (Getty)

US actress Halle Berry, the first and only African-American actress to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, spoke about empowering herself as an actress, filmmaker and producer as she delved into topics like the creation of her production house, upcoming projects and possibly shooting parts of her next movie in Jeddah.   

Berry, revealed to huge applause, that inspiration struck her on her flight to Jeddah for a new story she wants to direct.  

“Finally on the plane coming here I saw a story, I saw what’s in my heart, and realised what I wanted to share,” said Berry, who recently launched production company HalleHolly with former WME partner Holly Jeter.   

Asked by moderator and Lebanese presenter Raya Abirached to elaborate, Berry said, “It’s a love story at its core, but it deals with the supernatural and time travel and the future. It’s taken me the last few years to figure this out.”   

Berry also spoke about her famous Oscar win in 2002 for her devastating role in Marc Forster’s “Monster’s Ball,” also starring Billy Bob Thornton.   

About her win and speech, Berry said, “I don’t remember any of it and here’s why. I didn’t expect to win. I don’t know if anybody ever expects to win. Back in those days, usually whoever won the Golden Globe, would win the Oscars. So, any hopes I had were dashed when I lost to Siccy Spacek for the Golden Globe.  

“And it was in that moment that I thought this was a good run. Look how far I got. I dared to take a chance and I took the role of ‘Monster’s Ball’ and all of my agents and everybody around me said this would be the end of my career.   




Halle Berry spoke about empowering herself as an actress, filmmaker and producer. (Getty)

“So, knowing all that, I didn’t write a speech. I just wanted to go and have fun and sort of bask in the moment of this achievement, being at the Academy Awards and being nominated. So, I was not prepared. So, when I went up there when they called my name, I absolutely went blank. And all I remember was Russell Crowe. Walking up there and seeing his face and hearing him say, ‘Breathe, mate.’ And I remember taking a big breath turning around and then it’s kind of a blur. And the next memory I really have is backstage, and realizing, ‘Oh! An Oscar!’ I think I saw it for the first time backstage.”  

Berry also talked about her upcoming collaboration with Angelina Jolie for the action-comedy film “Maude v Maude,” which the two actresses are co-producing.   

“I’m just thrilled to just work with another woman and craft a story from our sensibility, from our point of view. So many times, we’re characterised in movies, and the writers are usually men, so we’re portrayed from their perspective. And, so, there’s a female director, Angelina and I are there, and we can tell a story from our point of view.”  

She also said the Warner Bros. film is a big action movie that will shoot around the world: “And maybe we’ll come back here (to Jeddah). When I was looking around the old town today, I was thinking about what we can get in here.”   

Baz Luhrmann reflects on his biggest hits  

Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann, known for films like “Romeo + Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Elvis,” sat down with Raya Abirached to look back on his 30-year-long career, reflecting on his biggest hits.  

Talking about his hit biographical film “Elvis,” starring Austin Butler in the lead role, Luhrmann went into some detail about losing hope on the film when COVID-19 hit. However, Butler never gave up, he said.  

“Austin carried a very precious secret with him that he didn’t tell me about until much later in the process, and that is that he had lost his mother at exactly the same age that Elvis did. And it affected him profoundly because she was the one who would go with him to auditions and you know helped him start out. His work ethic was like… Denzel Washington rang me out of the blue. I didn’t know Denzel at the time. He said, ‘Look, you’re about to meet Austin Butler.’ Austin was doing a play with Denzel on stage and he said he’s never seen a young actor work as hard as he was. ‘You’ll be all over him,’ said Denzel. And I was,” said Luhrmann.  

“And then the movie went away. I told everyone to go home from Australia. But Austin wouldn’t leave. He said, ‘I’m not leaving.’ We would see him walking up and down the beach and people would think he was mad because he’d be yelling his ‘Elvis’ lines into the ocean,” he added, laughing.  

Luhrmann, in an offhand comment, also said he’s considering retiring while talking about how he picks the projects he works on.  

“I’ve always got so many pieces in my mind and I’ll never make all of them. It’s just so much noise out there and not to criticize anyone but there’s just so much stuff out there. I would rather retire – which I am considering doing – and not put more noise out there. If I can’t put something that’s actually useful and can be worthy of someone’s incredibly precious two-and-a-half hours when you invite them into a darkened room with strangers to look at something that they can’t walk out and either be uplifted or moved or something… It’s got to be worthwhile to do it. That’s all they care about. And if I can believe I can do that, then I would do it,” he said.


Amira Al-Zuhair, Arab models turn heads on the runway

Amira Al-Zuhair, Arab models turn heads on the runway
Updated 27 February 2024
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Amira Al-Zuhair, Arab models turn heads on the runway

Amira Al-Zuhair, Arab models turn heads on the runway

DUBAI: Part-Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair, alongside British Moroccan star Nora Attal and Moroccan Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi, turned heads at a futuristic Missoni show in Milan before heading to Paris Fashion Week.

The Italian luxury fashion label’s runway showcased an abundance of printed designs featuring lines in various orientations over the weekend.

From horizontal stripes on flowing dresses to diagonal lines adorning tailored jackets and vertical stripes enhancing structured coats, the collection offered a diverse array of patterns. 

Her outfit comprised vertically striped tights, diagonal striped shorts and a printed cover-up. (Getty Images)

Each garment exemplified Missoni’s expertise in knitwear, with the interplay of lines adding depth and dimension to the pieces. 

Al-Zuhair, born in Paris to a French mother and Saudi father, made a striking statement in a black, white, and grey ensemble on the runway. Her outfit comprised vertically striped tights, diagonal striped shorts and a printed cover-up. 

The leggings were integrated into her shoes, adding a unique twist to her ensemble.

Completing the look, she adorned a headpiece that echoed the leggings and accessorized with brown and white shades.

El-Maslouhi captivated in a black-and-white dress featuring a short cape and a thigh-high slit. (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, El-Maslouhi captivated in a black-and-white dress featuring a short cape and a thigh-high slit, elegantly paired with the same vertically striped tights worn by Al-Zuhair.

Attal also showed off a sophisticated black-and-white ensemble, wearing tailored trousers paired with a cropped fur coat.

In addition to the monochrome ensembles worn by all the aforementioned models, the Fall/Winter 2025 women’s collection showcased a burst of color without fixating on specific hues. From vibrant purple and pink to earthy brown, fiery orange, cool blue and every shade in between, the collection embraced a diverse spectrum of colors.

Attal also showed off a sophisticated black-and-white ensemble, wearing tailored trousers paired with a cropped fur coat. (Getty Images)

According to the brand’s website, the stripes symbolize “a new beginning” and intertwine “to create the drawings of the renowned (fashion) illustrator Brunetta (Mateldi).”

Al-Zuhair has made her mark on the fashion world by walking for an array of esteemed brands beyond Missoni. Her runway presence has been felt in shows for renowned fashion houses such as Maison Alaia, Brunello Cucinelli, Balmain, Dolce & Gabbana, Giambattista Valli, Giorgio Armani, Elie Saab and many more. 

In addition to her runway appearances, Al-Zuhair has been featured in campaigns for various high-profile brands including Prada, Chanel and Carolina Herrera.

All three models will no doubt hit the runway at the ongoing edition of Paris Fashion Week, with past appearances suggesting they will walk for a clutch of high-end fashion houses during the event that wraps up on March 5.


Aziz Ansari, Tom Segura to headline first-ever Abu Dhabi Comedy Week

Aziz Ansari, Tom Segura to headline first-ever Abu Dhabi Comedy Week
Updated 27 February 2024
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Aziz Ansari, Tom Segura to headline first-ever Abu Dhabi Comedy Week

Aziz Ansari, Tom Segura to headline first-ever Abu Dhabi Comedy Week

DUBAI: The first-ever Abu Dhabi Comedy Week is set to kick off in May this year, with Aziz Ansari and Tom Segura announced as headliners for the inaugural event, to be held from May 18–26 at the Etihad Arena.

Ansari, who rose to fame for his role in “Parks and Recreation,” as well as his Emmy-winning Netflix show “Master of None,” will take to the stage on May 18.

US actor-writer Segura, one of the biggest names in the comedy business, will take the stage on May 25. He is best known for his Netflix specials “Ball Hog,” “Disgraceful,” “Mostly Stories” and “Completely Normal.” In July 2022, he released his New York Times bestselling book, ‘I’d Like To Play Alone, Please,” which was described as “laugh out loud funny” by Forbes. 

“We are thrilled to be a part of Abu Dhabi Comedy Week, the capital’s new annual celebration of joy and laughter, underscoring our commitment to presenting premier entertainment offerings to the vibrant community of Abu Dhabi,” said James Craven, president of Live Nation Middle East.

“With an incredible line-up featuring some of the biggest names in the industry brought to the festival by Live Nation Middle East, Abu Dhabi Comedy Week will offer unforgettable experiences for comedy fans across the region. Having already established ourselves on the comedy circuit, hosting the biggest comedy show seen in the UAE last year, this is another incredible step in our live entertainment journey.”


Meghan Markle filmed cooking with Afghan female refugees in US

Meghan Markle filmed cooking with Afghan female refugees in US
Updated 26 February 2024
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Meghan Markle filmed cooking with Afghan female refugees in US

Meghan Markle filmed cooking with Afghan female refugees in US
  • Footage released on Archewell Foundation website at ‘evening of cooking and storytelling’
  • Event held with Mina’s List, which helped evacuate over 2,000 Afghans to US after Taliban takeover

LONDON: Footage has emerged of Meghan Markle, duchess of Sussex, cooking with a group of Afghan female refugees in the US.

The video, published on the website of her Archewell Foundation, shows her making traditional Afghan cuisine, including dumplings, with the 15 women.

The meeting, described as an “evening of cooking and storytelling,” took place on Feb. 10 in partnership with the Southern California Welcome Project, set up by the duchess in 2023, and Mina’s List, a New York-based organization that has worked with female Afghan activists and politicians since 2014.

Archewell said in a press release that the women shared “their personal stories” and discussed “the support they find from this intergenerational group of women.”

It added that in 2021, Mina’s List helped secure the evacuation of more than 2,000 Afghan women and their families from the country after it fell to the Taliban.

Subsequently, Mina’s List and Archewell “joined forces to provide community and support to these remarkable women as they begin to rebuild their lives in the US.”

Archewell said the Southern California Welcome Project is “a safe haven and inclusive environment for women who have recently resettled in the US from Afghanistan.”

It added that there are currently 11 Welcome Projects operating across the US, “designed to foster a sense of belonging through activities including sewing, art, hiking, swimming, photography, storytelling, and cooking.”

The foundation added: “By facilitating women-based programming, The Welcome Project also brings access to critical resources and opportunities that not only supports the women participating in The Welcome Project, but also improves the lives of those around them — their families and their communities.”


Film Independent Spirit Awards sees Arab wins, Mideast fashion on the red carpet

Film Independent Spirit Awards sees Arab wins, Mideast fashion on the red carpet
Updated 26 February 2024
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Film Independent Spirit Awards sees Arab wins, Mideast fashion on the red carpet

Film Independent Spirit Awards sees Arab wins, Mideast fashion on the red carpet

DUBAI: US director A.V. Rockwell hit the Film Independent Spirit Awards’ red carpet in a look by Lebanese designer Elie Saab as she scooped up the award for best first feature for her movie “A Thousand and One.”

Rockwell’s green-hued gown hailed from the fashion label’s Resort 2024 collection and featured a dark-to-light green gradient color palette, a plunging neckline and a cape that was attached at the shoulders.

US director A.V. Rockwell hit the Film Independent Spirit Awards’ red carpet in a look by Lebanese designer Elie Saab. (Getty Images)

Rockwell’s film stars Teyana Taylor as a mother who kidnaps her six-year-old son, Terry, from the foster care system. The film had its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize.

Meanwhile, Celine Song’s quiet romance “Past Lives” won two of the biggest awards at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, including best feature and best director. Other big winners were Cord Jefferson’s comedic satire “American Fiction,” with Jeffrey Wright winning for lead performer; and Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers,” which won prizes for Da'Vine Joy Randolph and Dominic Sessa, the Associated Press reported.

The 39th edition of the show was held Sunday in a beachside tent in Santa Monica, California, and streamed live on IMDb and Film Independent’s YouTube channels and X accounts.

“Thank you so much for letting me share what it feels like to be human, to love and be loved, and thank you for loving our film," Song said in accepting the directing prize, according to the Associated Press.

Her film was among the top nominated at the show, alongside “May December,” which won only one award (for Samy Burch's first screenplay) and “American Fiction,” which fared better.

Wright won for playing a frustrated author who becomes wildly successful by writing something he hates in “American Fiction.”

The Spirit Awards sit firmly within the larger Hollywood awards season, which culminates with the Oscars on March 10. But with a budget cap of $20 million for nominees, the show celebrates films that sometimes go unheralded, or at least under-nominated, at the bigger shows.

Last year, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” swept the Spirit Awards before going on to do the same at the Oscars. But this year, many top Oscar contenders — including “Oppenheimer,” “Barbie” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” — would not have qualified.

Kaouther Ben Hania’s film “Four Daughters,” which is nominated for the corresponding Oscar, won best documentary. And Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall,” also nominated for best picture at the Oscars, won best international feature over “The Zone of Interest.”


Charlotte Church denies antisemitism claims after singing pro-Palestinian song at concert

Charlotte Church denies antisemitism claims after singing pro-Palestinian song at concert
Updated 26 February 2024
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Charlotte Church denies antisemitism claims after singing pro-Palestinian song at concert

Charlotte Church denies antisemitism claims after singing pro-Palestinian song at concert
  • Welsh singer-songwriter led a 100-strong choir singing “From the River to the Sea” during a pro-Palestine fundraising concert in Caerphilly, South Wales, on Saturday
  • Critics say the song calls for the destruction of Israel but pro-Palestine campaigners say it asserts “the right of all Palestinians to freedom, equality and justice”

LONDON: Welsh singer-songwriter Charlotte Church on Monday denied allegations of antisemitism after she was criticized for leading a choir singing “From the River to the Sea.”

Church led the 100-strong choir during a pro-Palestine fundraising concert at a village hall in Caerphilly, South Wales, on Saturday. The song refers to the land between the River Jordan, bordering the occupied West Bank and Israel in the east, to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism has labeled the song and its central message “antisemitic,” saying it calls for the destruction of the state of Israel.

However, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and other activists say the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” refers to “the right of all Palestinians to freedom, equality and justice.”

Church addressed what she described as the “alarmist” reports about Saturday’s event live on Instagram on Monday, in a message in which she explained she was “fighting for the liberation of all people.”

She said: “Just to clarify my intentions there, I am in no way antisemitic. I am fighting for the liberation of all people. I have a deep heart for all religions and all difference.

“It was a beautiful, beautiful event. But unfortunately the powers that be can’t have that. (They) can’t have such a powerful symbol of resistance as what we worked towards on Saturday.”

Church confirmed the event ended with a chant of the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

She said: “Clearly, if you know the history of it all, (it is) not an antisemitic chant calling for the obliteration of Israel. It is not that in any way, shape or form. It is calling for the peaceful coexistence of Israelis and Palestinians.”

Church added that “lots of other beautiful songs … of liberation and freedom” were performed during the event, including Arabic songs, Welsh songs and South African songs associated with the anti-Apartheid movement, “the lyrics of which were adapted to the situation in Palestine.”

In video footage from the concert, Church is seen standing behind a banner that reads “Let Palestine Live.” She and the members of the choir are wearing keffiyeh scarves, a symbol of solidarity among supporters of Palestine.

In November, Church posted a video message on Instagram in which she expressed support for the Palestinian cause. She urged her followers to watch footage from Gaza and the West Bank, and to amplify Palestinian voices during “this genocide that is happening in front of all of our eyes.”

The 37-year-old singer told her fans, “Do not look away,” and expressed concern about the children “caught in this geopolitical insanity.”

In the same video she said that starting on Nov. 20 she would be offering weekly singing sessions “for the liberation of Palestine and the liberation of the Palestinian people.”