French fears unfounded as Hollywood comes to Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival was beginning today with Penelope Cruz the first Hollywood star to grace the red carpet.

The Cannes Film Festival was beginning today with Penelope Cruz the first Hollywood star to grace the red carpet.

The Spanish actress is there to promote her new film, swashbuckling costume drama Fanfan La Tulipe, which has been chosen to open the festival.

There were fears that Hollywood’s finest would stay away from Cannes in protest at France’s opposition to the war in Iraq.

But the fears have proved unfounded with Nicole Kidman, Clint Eastwood and Keanu Reeves among the big names jetting in to the Riviera.

Celebrity watchers were looking forward to the prospect of Kidman attending the same event as Cruz, the current partner of her ex-husband Tom Cruise.

Any potentially awkward situation has been avoided, however, as organisers have not scheduled Kidman’s new film, Dogville, to be screened until next week.

The most hyped event of the festival is undoubtedly the European premiere of The Matrix Reloaded, which is tipped to be this summer’s biggest blockbuster.

Stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne are all expected to attend the screening of the £84m (€117m) movie.

Arnold Schwarzenegger will also be in town to promote his return to the screen as the Terminator in Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines.

There are 20 films in competition for the prestigious Palme d’Or at this the 56th annual Cannes Film Festival.

One of the strongest contenders is Lars Von Trier’s Dogville, in which Kidman plays a woman on the run from gangsters who hides out in an isolated township in the Rocky Mountains.

Other films in the running include Mystic River, directed by Clint Eastwood, featuring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon as childhood friends whose lives take a tragic turn.

British hopes are represented by veteran director Peter Greenaway, for his film The Tulse Luper Suitcases.

Out of competition, one of the most eagerly anticipated screenings will be British comedy Calendar Girls, starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters.

It tells the story of the ladies from the Women’s Institute who famously stripped off for a charity calendar and sparked a media frenzy.

The Cannes judging panel this year includes Hollywood actress Meg Ryan, director Steven Soderbergh and Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai.

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