We are currently trialling our new-look independent.co.uk website - please send any feedback to beta@independent.co.uk


Having a blast-off at Cannes? Russian businessman pays £1m to fly into space with Leonardo DiCaprio


A trip to space with Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio raised €1.2 million (£1.03 million) for charity at a glitzy fundraiser at the Cannes film festival last night.

At the 20th annual event organized by amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, DiCaprio emerged as the mystery guest to accompany the winner on a Virgin Galactic flight into space. DiCaprio stars in the film The Great Gatsby, which opened the 66th Cannes film festival.

Actress Sharon Stone said the winning bidder would spend three days in training with DiCaprio in New Mexico before blast-off.

"You don't get to go to outer space every day with a handsome movie star," said Stone, dressed in a tight-fitting white dress with a gold snake trim down the back.

The bidding started at €1 million.

The auction brochure for the star-studded gala held at the five-star Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, France, near Cannes, said DiCaprio and the winning bidder would be among the first 1,000 people to leave the planet.

The winner, Vasily Klyukin, 37, a Russian living in Monaco, said he had always wanted to go into space.

"I want to be a bit daring," Klyukin, who works in real estate, told press. "I will have to give up smoking now for sure!"

After the successful bid from Klyukin - who also bought a gold and diamond necklace for €400,000 euros  - Stone announced two other tickets were available on the flight. They raised another €1.8 million.

The auction raised €25 million, more than double last year's sum of €11 million.

The amfAR gala is the biggest fundraising event at the world's largest film festival. The benefit was first hosted by Elizabeth Taylor.

The list of stars attending Thursday's event included DiCaprio, Cannes jury members Nicole Kidman and Christopher Waltz, singers Kylie Minogue and Janet Jackson, and actors Adrien Brody, Jessica Chastain and Goldie Hawn.

The evening featured performances by gold-clad Shirley Bassey singing "Goldfinger" and British pop band Duran Duran.

Introducing the event, supermodel Heidi Klum said it raised more than €10 million a year for Aids research.

Other auction items included tickets to Hollywood events, a Damien Hirst painting, an 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.