Leonardo DiCaprio helped raise $1.5 million for AIDS research after a guest at amfAR's charity auction at Cannes International Film Festival paid 1.2 million euros to board a Virgin Galactic spaceship in a seat next to his sometimes next year. Another pair of seats on the same flight were sold to a different bidder for 1.8 million euros ($2.3 million).
The bidding for the exclusive seat next to DiCaprio's started at 1M euros ($1.29M). "You don't get to go to outer space every day with a handsome movie star," said actress Sharon Stone when introducing the space trip, adding that the lucky winner would spend three days in training with the actor in New Mexico before take-off.
Vasily Klyukin, a 37-year-old Russian living in Monaco, eventually offered the highest bid, making him join the first 1,000 people to leave the planet. He told Reuters after the auction, "I want to be a bit daring. I will have to give up smoking now for sure!" At the event, Klyukin also bought a gold and diamond necklace for 400,000 euros ($517,000).
Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson is hoping to launch the first tourism flight from his spaceport in New Mexico at the end of the year. A bunch of celebrities like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Ashton Kutcher are believed to have deposited $200,000 to join the space trips. Rumor has it, there's a waiting list of more than 580 people who wish to board the spaceship.
The auction was held Thursday night, May 23 at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc as part of its 20th annual Cinema Against AIDS event. The "Titanic" actor who was at the film festival to promote "The Great Gatsby" was in attendance at the charity event. He allegedly also offered tickets to the premiere and after-party of another of his movie "Wolf on Wall Street".
One of the biggest fundraising events, amfAR's charity auction was introduced by Heidi Klum this year with Cannes jury members Nicole Kidman and Christoph Waltz, singers Kylie Minogue and Janet Jackson, and actors Adrien Brody, Jessica Chastain and Goldie Hawn in attendance as well.
Brody reportedly took off the Bulgari watch he was actually wearing to be auctioned off, and it's sold for about $116,000. Also going under the hammer for good cause that night were a Damien Hirst painting, Annie Leibovitz family portrait, the chance to star in four movies, and a private performance from Simon Le Bon and John Taylor of Duran Duran.
Tickets to some prestigious Hollywood events were auctioned off as well. They were for a special Oscar weekend that included a room at the Beverly Hills Hotel, a Chopard watch, tickets to the Weinstein party and VIP access to two star-studded events, Elton John's annual viewing bash and Vanity Fair's legendary after-party soiree. Overall, the event raised 25 million euros ($32.3 million), more than twice last year's total of 11 million euros ($14.2 million).
Besides the auction, the amfAR event included a dinner and a fashion show. Shirley Bassey took the stage performing "Goldfinger". British pop band Duran Duran also served as a musical guest.