Sharon Stone was among the star attractions — amid a heady array of big names — on the opening night of the Red Sea Film Festival on Thursday night in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah.
The following day, the actress took part in an in-conversation discussion in which she described her reason for attending, despite admitting there had been concerns from those around her in the U.S.
“I’m an envelope breaker, my success is to break the envelope, just like coming here,” she said. “Everyone said to me, aren’t you afraid? And I said, ‘I’m afraid not to know. So why don’t I go, see how it really is and I’ll tell you?’ What I’ve learned is that what everybody tells you isn’t always the way it is.”
She later emotionally enthused, while reaching for paper napkins, how much it meant for her to be in Saudi Arabia. “I’m just a kid from Pennsylvania, I grew up with Amish people who drove into my driveway in their horse and buggy,” she said. “There was no possibility for me to come to Saudi Arabia to meet you.”
Across a very personal — and frequently teary — discussion, Stone described the personal costs she had endured over the decades of her work, both from her overnight rise to fame thanks to Basic Instinct (and its 1992 world premiere in Cannes where she “went into the theater as one person and came out of the theater as a superstar”), and her decades-long connection with amfAR, for which, when she started, she was initially warned by her publicist that it would “destroy your career” due to AIDS still being a taboo subject at that time.
Speaking in a country where the issue of women’s rights has been a major source of criticism but has seen seismic shifts in recent years, Stone also gave a highly impassioned and theologically-fused speech about female empowerment, saying that, “Women are not here just to serve men. Men are also here to serve women. And if we are not serving equally, then we are disrespecting our maker.”
She added, to applause from the audience — mostly local Saudis: “We are here to be of service to the great good, we are here to serve humanity.”