Cannes opens with 'Robin Hood' premiere

Opening ceremony hosted by actress Kristin Scott Thomas

CANNES -- Thirteenth century horsemen met 21st century glam as the 63rd annual Festival de Cannes kicked off on Wednesday night with a traditional opening ceremony followed by the world premiere of Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood."

While Mother Nature threatened to steal the spotlight with threats of volcanic ash, powerful waves that destroyed several beachfront properties in Cannes a few days earlier and overcast weather, the fest opened as planned.

Noticeably absent from the opening-night hoopla was Scott, who blamed recent knee surgery for not appearing.

The rest of the film's cast was on hand, including Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow and young French starlet Lea Seydoux, who all caused a stir among paparazzi and fans lining the Croisette to catch a glimpse of the action.

The opening ceremony, broadcast live by Gallic pay TV channel Canal Plus, was hosted by Franco-British actress Kristin Scott Thomas, who impressed the crowd with her presentation in perfect French, calling Cannes "the city that never sleeps."

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The low-key ceremony stuck to tradition as president Tim Burton's jury -- Kate Beckinsale, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Alberto Barbera, Emmanuel Carrere, Benicio Del Toro, Victor Erice, Alexandre Desplat and Shekhar Kapur -- took their seats onstage before the director joined them. The director, known for his dark films, was all smiles as he listened to a live musical interlude.

Crowe took the stage to apologize for Scott's knee-induced absence before Blanchett greeted the crowd in French.

The opening ceremony was followed by the world premiere screening of "Robin Hood." After the screening, guests headed to the Majestic Hotel for an official dinner presided by the fest's president Gilles Jacob and France's Cultural Minister Frederic Mitterrand, who enjoyed a tour of the red carpet before the opening ceremony.

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International actresses Elsa Zylberstein, Arielle Dombasle and Salma Hayek joined filmmakers Agnes Varda and Mathieu Amalric at the cocktail dinner to inaugurate the recently renovated Majestic.

The afterparty will continue at a Universal bash on the Majestic Beach, co-sponsored by Technicolor who worked on the film's production, rushes, lab services and visual effects.

As the title card at the end of Scott's "Robin Hood" reads, "And so the legend begins ..."

The Festival de Cannes runs through May 23.