Hollywood stars visit Havana amid U.S.-Cuba thaw

Fri Jul 31, 2009 1:35am EDT
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By Rosa Tania Valdes

HAVANA (Reuters) - Hollywood came to Havana on Thursday as Cuban writers and artists gave an award to Benicio del Toro, star of the 2008 movie "Che," in a ceremony attended by fellow actors Bill Murray, Robert Duvall and James Caan.

Murray stole the show when he improvised a version of the song "As Time Goes By," then jokingly passed around a hat, asking for money.

Their presence lent a bit of Hollywood glitz to warming U.S.-Cuba relations, and may have been the precursor for the making of a film in Cuba.

A spokesman for the group said del Toro was in town for the award, but that Murray, Duvall and Caan were working on a "research project.

When asked if he and his pals might make a movie on the communist-led island, del Toro told reporters: "That depends on the governments, on the American government."

Because of the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, Americans have been forbidden, with some exceptions, from visiting the island or doing most business there.

Hollywood stars such as Robert Redford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and director Steven Spielberg have come to Cuba in the past but cultural exchanges slowed due to restrictions imposed by former U.S. President George W. Bush.

The group's spokesman said they were traveling under a license granted by the U.S. Treasury Department.   Continued...

<p>Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro holds his Tomas Gutierrez Alea prize at Cuban Union of writers and actors in Havana, July 30, 2009. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa</p>