U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Hollywood to enlist its star power in the United Nation's ambitious campaign to end poverty, tackle climate change and promote a fairer more humane world — and he got an enthusiastic response from stars and top executives.
The U.N. chief was feted at a lunch hosted by legendary television trailblazer Norman Lear and at a celebrity dinner for about 200 VIPs hosted by powerhouse producer-director Brett Ratner. He rubbed shoulders with Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Courtney Love, Sharon Stone and several studio chiefs.
Ban spoke at both events about the conflicts and crises in the world, the growth of terrorism, discrimination against women, gays and minorities, violations of human rights and poor governance — and the 17 U.N. goals adopted by world leaders last September to tackle the issues.
He said he could reach perhaps 2,000 people to try to galvanize global action to achieve the goals, but the stars and moviemakers could reach millions with the message.
"You are the people who can motivate, who can inspire, who can make people laugh, who can make people cry," Ban said.
"I am here to ask your help. This world is in trouble. ... A lot of people are dying," he said. "I know with just one movie you earn a lot of money. But this time I'm urging you to work for humanity, work for this better world."
At the lunch at Lear's home, Ban urged media executives to raise public awareness of the goals in the U.N. campaign to end extreme poverty, achieve equality for women, fight discrimination and preserve the environment by the 2030 deadline.
"The message is the world better pay attention," Lear said, adding that achieving the goals is critical for survival.
The centerpiece of the evening event was the announcement by British writer and filmmaker David Raymond of a TV miniseries called "In Harms Way" which every year will present a true story about U.N. staff in the field. The first season, about the 1999 crisis that led to independence from Indonesia for the southeast Asian nation of East Timor, will start production in Australia, hopefully in the beginning of 2017, he said.
Raymond said he came up with the idea after listening to the secretary-general five years ago challenge Hollywood to come up with United Nations-themed stories.
"The U.N. does a lot of stuff around the world that no one ever realizes that they do — and they don't do it for a pat on the back or ego," he said.
Ratner said Raymond walked into his suite this year at the Cannes film festival and presented the "In Harms Way" project, which his Ratpac Entertainment company decided to produce.
He paid tribute to Ban for "his understanding that a strong and special relationship between the United Nations and the Hollywood community could be a great force for positive change around the world — and it is something I am completely committed to do ... and I hope by the end of this evening everyone here will be too."
Ratner announced that Leonardo DiCaprio's documentary on the environment will be released this fall, "in which Ban Ki-moon is the co-star." The secretary-general has campaigned since he took office in 2007 for action on climate change, and appointed DiCaprio a U.N. Messenger of Peace focusing on climate.
Singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder, a U.N. Messenger of Peace focusing on disability rights, said artists take what they see, spread messages and encourage people to move forward.
It is imperative that artists make people "aware of what we need to do to make the world better," he told the Associated Press. "By having us be a part of it, it means that they understand what we can do to be a part of helping to move the world forward, and so we're very honored to be a part of the celebration of unity."
TV personality Larry King, who was the master of ceremonies at the dinner party, praised the secretary-general, whose second five-year term ends on Dec. 31. King called him "a man who may well be the next president of South Korea."
Ban has refused to address persistent speculation about his future in his home country, saying he will devote 100 percent of his time and energy to his U.N. duties until he bows out.