Clooney kicks off star-powered Venice film fest

Tue Aug 30, 2011 7:21pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - George Clooney kicks off the 2011 Venice film festival on Wednesday with the world premiere of his political drama "The Ides of March," setting the tone for a star-studded 11 days on the Lido waterfront.

The 50-year-old Hollywood heavyweight acts in and directs the movie based on Beau Willimon's play "Farragut North," and appearing alongside him is Ryan Gosling as an idealistic young press secretary to Clooney's governor Mike Morris.

The evening red carpet screening marks the opening of the August 31-September 10 event, which promises eagerly awaited movies and A-list stars who will hope the high-profile launch puts them in the frame for awards next year.

Thousands of journalists and fans are descending on the Lido island across the water from Venice to catch a glimpse of their idols and bring the glamour of the world's oldest film festival to a global audience.

The roll call of celebrities expected this year includes Clooney, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Matthew McConaughey, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and pop superstar Madonna.

It marks a significant turnaround for director Marco Mueller, who was criticized last year for a low-key festival and faces growing competition from the annual rival event in Toronto which overlaps with Venice.

"It is a program that tells you how much support we get from the artists, the film makers ... and it proves that Venice really stands as a major platform to create a special kind of visibility," Mueller told Reuters.

Among the most hotly anticipated titles is "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," an adaptation of John Le Carre's spy novel starring recent Oscar winner Colin Firth and Gary Oldman.   Continued...

<p>U.S. actor George Clooney (2nd L) arrives by speedboat in Venice August 30, 2011. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri</p>