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ROME (Reuters) - A lifetime achievement award for Oscar-winning actor Al Pacino kicked off the Rome film festival on Wednesday, bringing a Hollywood veteran to the movie showcase which this year has a markedly European flavor.
Pacino received the award as one of the great alumni of New York's Actors Studio -- the celebrated drama school where he and other actors like Robert De Niro, the late Paul Newman and Marilyn Monroe learned the ropes of the business.
He also took questions from members of the public -- a trademark feature of the Rome festival where audiences get to meet their favorite stars.
The 68-year-old, who comes from a family of Italian immigrants to America, was nominated for an Oscar eight times for films like "The Godfather," "Serpico" and "Dog Day Afternoon."
He won the golden statuette once, as best actor for his portrayal of a blind man in "Scent of a Woman" (1992).
Currently Pacino is on the big screen with "Righteous Kill," where he and De Niro play two veteran cops on the trail of a serial killer in a film that was panned by the critics.
"It's hard to put on a suit, and getting harder -- with shirt and tie," he joked at a press conference, saying he was thrilled about the award.
"You feel as though someone is giving you a party and you don't quite know what you did to deserve it," he added.
He also spoke about "Salomaybe?," his third film as a director and an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's once banned play, and one of his most controversial works, "Salome."
"I pondered it and played with it for a few years ... I am still working on it, it's coming along," he said, adding he hoped to present it in Rome next year.
Pacino said he was "not crazy about making films" and saw himself as a performer, preferring theater stages to film sets.
Playing with a famous quote by Tony Montana, the drugs boss in one of his best-known films, "Scarface," he said good actors need not be good liars.
"In life we act, but in our art we go for the truth," he said.
The opening film of the Rome festival, which runs through October 31, is "L'Uomo Che Ama" (The Man Who Loves), an Italian love drama starring Monica Bellucci premiering on Thursday.
Five other home-grown films are in the main 20-title competition, alongside Britain's "Easy Virtue," which is based on a Noel Coward play and stars Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas, and French drama "The Sea Wall," with Isabelle Huppert.
Only one U.S. movie -- cop drama "Pride and Glory," with Colin Farrell and Edward Norton -- is in the main contest.
Other highlights include "8," a collection of eight short films inspired by the U.N. Millennium Development Goals on poverty by eight acclaimed directors -- among them Gus Van Sant, Jane Campion and Wim Wenders.
Editing by Caroline Drees