Top Academy Award nominees will have a politically charged gift in their swag bag this year — a luxury trip to Israel paid for in part by a government that hopes such celebrity junkets will offset news coverage of the country’s troubles.
Israel’s tourism ministry said the trips, valued at up to $55,000, including first-class airfare which would be funded by another party whom it did not identify, are on offer to actors and directors vying for Oscars in the February 28 ceremony.
Israel has long sought ways to overcome any misgivings foreign visitors might have about the security situation, given the simmering conflict with Palestine.
“These are the most senior people in the film industry in Hollywood and leading opinion-formers who we are interested in hosting,” said tourism minister Yariv Levin.
“They will experience the country first-hand and not through the media.”
Among those to be offered the 10-day VIP trip for two will be actors Sylvester Stallone, who signed a pro-Israel petition during the 2014 Gaza war, and Leonardo DiCaprio, who sent Israeli paparazzi into a frenzy in 2010 while visiting the country’s top model, Bar Refaeli, his girlfriend at the time.
DiCaprio is among the nominees for best actor.
One of Stallone’s rivals for best supporting actor, Mark Rylance, is a pro-Palestinian activist in Britain, who might be less inclined to take up the offer.
The junket would be offered to all 25 artists nominated in the best actor/actress, best supporting actor/actress, and best director categories and to the host of the ceremony, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, Stephen Fry has quit Twitter following a backlash over his poorly received “bag lady” comment at the Bafta awards.
The awards host was hit with abuse when he remarked of Jenny Beavan, who won the Bafta for costume design for Mad Max: Fury Road: “Only one of the great cinematic costume designers would come to the awards ceremony dressed like a bag lady.”
He deleted his Twitter account yesterday after an expletive-filled rant on Sunday night to the “sanctimonious fuckers” who had complained on the social media site about his comment.
Fry first explained it was a joke between friends, writing: “So just a word to the tragic figures who think calling Jenny Bevan a bag lady was an insult. She’s a dear friend and she got it. Derrr.”
Fry has been one of the most popular commentators on the social media site, with more than 12m followers before his account was deleted.
This is the third time he has left the site,after a break in 2014 when he said he was filming in a place “whence I’ve been advised it is safest not to tweet”, and then from February to May last year, when he announced he would be “taking a holiday from Twitter”.
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