Star power comes to Venice

'Burn After Reading' screening kicks off festival

VENICE -- Venice regulars Brad Pitt and George Clooney helped assure the 65th annual Venice Film Festival got under way with flashbulbs popping Wednesday, taking to the red carpet soon after Russian actress Ksenia Rappoport officially opened the event to an enthusiastic and packed Sala Grande.

Rappoport -- well known in Italy for her Donatello-nominated role in Giuseppe Tornatore's "The Unknown" -- was master of ceremonies at the gala opening ceremony that opened the world's oldest film festival.

But it was the world premiere of "Burn After Reading" from Oscar winners Joel and Ethan Coen that attracted most of the day's attention, including the four-deep crowd that greeted Pitt and Clooney on their trip down Venice's famous red carpet. They were joined there by the Coen brothers, along with co-stars Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand.

Earlier in the day, the Pitt and Clooney show provided some laughs at the "Reading" presser, as the two stars traded gibes about their all-too-public personal lives.

"I am so surprised to hear that question. That is honestly the first time I have been asked that," Clooney said when asked when he plans to settle down like his co-star. "I am getting married and having a child today."

Pitt, whose family has grown to six children with the birth of twins Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline last month, offered to share his children with Clooney, deadpanning: "I'll have two more by next year."

The day's other major highlight was the afternoon screening of Vittorio De Sica's 1948 classic "The Bicycle Thief," which premiered in its newly refurbished format. The film played to a full 500-seat Sala Perla, within the Venice Casino, which financed the €120,000 ($179,000) restoration. De Sica, who died in 1974 at 72, was a fixture in the well-known Casino.

"In a way, I guess, De Sica helped pay for the refurbishment of his own film," Casino president Mauro Pizzigati said. "It's an important project and we are very proud to be associated with it."

The Venice festival runs through Sept. 6.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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