George Clooney, David Cronenberg and Roman Polanski are vying for the top honor in this year’s Venice cinema festival, which will see stars from Madonna to Al Pacino on the red carpet, organizers said Thursday.
Clooney’s fourth film, "The Ides of March," will open the 68th edition of the festival in a glittering premiere expected to draw actors Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood, as well as the director himself.
The Hollywood heart-throb’s earlier movie, "Goodnight and Good Luck," won best screenplay and best actor awards at Venice in 2005.
Twenty-two films in all will compete for the prestigious Golden Lion award, all of which are world premieres — a first in the festival’s history.
Canadian director David Cronenberg — known in his early horror film days as the Baron of Blood — brings his "A Dangerous Method" to the competition, with stars Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender and Vincent Cassel.
Roman Polanski’s "Carnage" will see stars Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet besieged by paparazzi, though the controversial Polish director "cannot be present for legal reasons," festival director Marco Mueller told journalists.
The acclaimed filmmaker is wanted in the United States for alleged sexual assault dating back to 1977.
Polanski has stayed in France since he was briefly detained in Switzerland in 2009 and fears extradition from other European countries, notably Italy, which has a long history of such cooperation with the United States.
While "Carnage" is set in Brooklyn in New York, it was shot in Paris.
The five US films taking part in the competition include Ami Cannan Mann’s "Texas Killing Fields" and Todd Solondz’s "Dark Horse" — while the three British works include Steve McQueen’s "Shame," starring Fassbender.
For Asia, co-productions between China, Taiwan or Hong Kong — such as Te-Sheng Wei’s "Seediq Bale" and Ann Hui’s "Taojie," are also competing alongside Japan’s "Himizu" by director Sion Sono.
Out of competition screenings are also expected to draw large crowds with Madonna hoping for a better reception from the critics for "W.E.", a film about King Edward VIII’s romance with American divorcee Wallis Simpson, than she had for her first effort as a director, "Filth and Wisdom."
Pacino meanwhile will be giving his version of Oscar Wilde’s once-banned "Salome."