Cruise wedding revives Rome's Dolce Vita


ROME - La Dolce Vita is back. Rome basked in Hollywood glamour on Friday as paparazzi gave chase to Tom Cruise and his bride-to-be Katie Holmes, along with a jetload of celebrity guests, ahead of their wedding on Saturday in a lakeside town north of the Italian capital.

"La Dolce Vita returns to the Tiber" and "Hollywood decamps to Rome" read Italian newspaper headlines, reviving memories of the 1950s and '60s when the Eternal City teemed with film stars.

A medieval castle in the lakeside town of Bracciano, 40 km (25 miles) north of Rome, has been tipped as the venue for Saturday's wedding, although seasoned showbusiness watchers do not rule out a last-minute change of plan to outwit the media.

"I just came to have a good time in Italy," American movie star Will Smith said after landing in Rome on Friday.

Footballer David Beckham and his pop star wife Victoria arrived a few hours later, and John Travolta, who shares Cruise's Scientologist faith, was also expected.

Jim Carrey, Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett Smith, Brooke Shields and "Mission: Impossible III" director J.J. Abrams are among the guests already in the city for the nuptials. Russell Crowe and Steven Spielberg are also said to have been invited.

Shields, who last year had a public spat with Cruise when he criticized her for taking medication to treat post-partum depression, braved waiting photographers for a stroll around the Spanish Steps.

The wedding will be a Scientology ceremony as twice-divorced Cruise, an ardent follower of the church founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, cannot marry with a Catholic rite. Holmes was raised a Roman Catholic.

Local authorities said this week Cruise, star of Hollywood hits like "Top Gun" and the "Mission: Impossible" trilogy, has not sought permission for a civil service either, meaning the wedding could be purely ceremonial and have no legal value.

Church of Scientology weddings are similar to Christian ones with rings, music, and flowers. The bride wears white and the groom a dark suit.

The ceremony often includes a reminder to the groom to provide the bride with "clothes and food and tender happiness and frills, a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat".

Details of the event, whose price tag is estimated at 2 million euros, have been shrouded in secrecy. The pair will be dressed in outfits designed by Giorgio Armani and local media reported that they will give their guests towels embroidered with their own initials.

Cruise, 44, and Holmes, 27, have a baby daughter, Suri, who was born in April. Cruise also has two older children adopted during his marriage to Nicole Kidman.

After spending most of their stay in Rome holed up in the luxurious Hassler hotel, besieged by the paparazzi, the couple threw a party for some 130 guests at a central restaurant on Thursday, waving and acknowledging throngs of cheering fans.

People magazine reported that Kidman, who re-married earlier this year, sent the pair a wedding present, wishing them "a lifetime of happiness together".

The normally sleepy town of Bracciano, already full with journalists, was cashing in on its moment in the spotlight. Paparazzi, named after the street photographer Paparazzo in Fellini's 1960 movie La Dolce Vita, swarmed in the streets.

"The wedding of the year in Bracciano" boasted the town hall's website above a picture of the smiling couple.

Owners of apartments overlooking the frescoed Odescalchi castle, where director Martin Scorsese married model and actress Isabella Rossellini in 1979, are renting their terraces to photographers and TV crews for up to 100,000 euros.

Bracciano's mayor is charging reporters 1,000 euros ($1,279) for positions in the town's historic archives, which face the castle, and 300 euros to park a satellite truck.