Douglas tribute opens Deauville festival

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Read special dialogue with Michael Douglas

DEAUVILLE, France  Actor and producer Michael Douglas made a royal entrance in Normandy Friday night as the Deauville American Film Festival opened its 33rd edition with an homage to the actor.

Catherine Deneuve surprised festgoers with an unexpected appearance, accompanying jury president Andre Techine at the event.

The festival's founder, Lionel Chouchan, welcomed Douglas, telling the crowd: "I have a love affair with the Douglas family. It's an old flame and I apologize for such a late coming out."

Douglas greeted everyone with a "bonsoir" then showed off his fluent French-speaking abilities for the mostly Gallic audience.

"I think there's been a mistake because I'm very, very young," he said, adding "It's an extraordinary town and I'm touched by the generosity and warmth of the people of Deauville."

Douglas was joined by U.S. ambassador to France Craig Stapleton and Deauville Mayor Phillippe Augier, who awarded the thesp with a special town medal and pronounced Douglas "the ambassador of romantic Deauville."

"Everyone says that a festival is special, but not everyone can say that a festival changed his life," said the actor, who met his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones at the fest.

He added: "Nine years ago I was here with 'A Perfect Murder' and I met the perfect wife."

The tribute, complete with a montage of clips from the actor's films, was followed by a screening of Douglas' latest turn in front of the camera, Mike Cahill's "King of California," which co-stars Evan Rachel Wood and will be released in France by Metropolitan Films.

A chorus line of fans waited along the red carpet as Douglas and invited guests headed to the nearby Casino Barriere for a lavish dinner.

The 10-day event continues Saturday with a screening of "The Bourne Ultimatum" presented by director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon.

International heartthrob George Clooney will join Damon in Deauville for Sunday's premiere of "Michael Clayton" followed by Brad Pitt on Monday for "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford."

Ben Affleck will be coming to town later in the week for the world premiere of his directorial debut "Gone, Baby, Gone" starring kid brother Casey. Sidney Lumet will treat festgoers to the world premiere of his latest directorial effort "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" as the fest pays tribute to the veteran helmer next Friday.

As glitzy premieres light up Deauville's glamorous theaters, independent films will also be in the spotlight as 11 US-made projects compete for the fest's prestigious Grand Prize, given last year to Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' "Little Miss Sunshine.

The clock will keep running through the festival's closing night ceremonies on Sunday, Sept 9 as the new 24/7 screening marathon of U.S. classics "American Nights" gets underway keeps the town up all night.

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