London fest kicks off with 'Frost/Nixon'

Political drama draws praise at opening-night gala

LONDON -- The world premiere of Ron Howard's "Frost/Nixon," penned by British scribe Peter Morgan from his play of the same name, received an enthusiastic welcome at the BFI London Film Festival on Wednesday evening.

Already preparing for contention at the 2009 Academy Awards -- and a lock to feature at the British Academy Film Awards -- the film had the opening gala buzzing.

Howard and "Frost/Nixon" producer Brian Grazer were joined at the screening and the festival's glittering opening-night party by Working Title's Eric Fellner and key cast members including Frank Langella, Martin Sheen, Matthew MacFadyen and Kevin Bacon.

Grazer thanked his paymasters at Universal -- name-checking key studio players including Ron Meyer, Marc Shmuger and David Linde -- for backing the heavyweight political drama, saying that turning the successful play into a film was "a hard one to say 'yes' to."

The movie drew applause from the large audience comprising the great and the good of the U.K. industry.

The red carpet gala, one of a slew of special events programmed by the organizers of the 52nd edition of the U.K.'s largest noncompetitive film festival, was introduced to a packed house by festival director Sandra Hebron.

For the next two weeks, the British capital promises to play host to several sparkling screenings, with a myriad of diverse titles making up the program.

Upcoming high-profile screenings include Oliver Stone's "W." and Rian Johnson's sophomore directorial outing "The Brothers Bloom."

Also unspooling will be "Quantum of Solace," the latest installment in the James Bond franchise, and Stephan Elliott's period romp "Easy Virtue," based on Noel Coward's 1920s social comedy. Rights to the film were just acquired by Sony Pictures Classics.

This year also sees festival organizers ramp up industry events including the second edition of the Production Finance Market hosted, run and organized by Film London.

The two-day market takes place Monday and Tuesday and focuses on putting investors, film financiers and producers and distributors in the same room for two days of meetings and speeches.

The festival wraps Oct. 30 with a European premiere gala for Danny Boyle's India-set love story "Slumdog Millionaire."
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