Sports stars pitch in

So do musicians, bringing pizzazz to fests

Make some room on the Croisette, movie stars, the icons of sports and music are crashing the party.

Tonight's red-carpet gala features a superstar with arguably wider global fame than Harrison Ford. Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona will be in town for the midnight screening of the documentary "Maradona by Kusturica." A gaggle of fellow soccer stars also is expected to be on hand.

The movie typifies a recent trend in major fests — notably Berlin and Cannes — combining as it does impeccable cinematic credentials from two-time Palme d'Or winner Emir Kusturica and a star from a different arena. Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones concert film "Shine a Light," which opened this year's Berlinale, is another prime example; it generated more excitement than any other picture at that festival.

Other recent noncinema stars gracing film fests include former world heavyweight champ Mike Tyson, here for James Toback's documentary "Tyson"; Madonna, who was also at the Berlinale; U2, who performed in Cannes last year; and soccer legend Zinedine Zidane, who was here in 2006. The phenomenon even extends to politicians, with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore gracing Cannes for "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006.

So are festivals looking to cash in on the media-pulling power of stars from outside cinema?

"The rules are simple: We welcome films and those who appear in them," said Festival de Cannes general delegate Thierry Fremaux, a huge soccer fan. "Last year, U2 came for 'U2 3D.' Tyson and Maradona in Cannes is a happy coincidence, but these are first and foremost good films made by two great directors."

Fremaux noted that such crossover talent gains wider coverage for the festival.

"For France, (sports daily) L'Equipe has a big presence in Cannes for those two films, and they have given a lot of coverage on links between cinema and sport," he said.

"The Argentinean media is also very excited. Cannes reaches some different media. For us, it's the opportunity to talk about cinema everywhere."

Similarly, the international music media was hot for this year's Berlinale, which was awash with rock and pop idols. Besides the Stones and Madonna, the event welcomed Neil Young, Patti Smith and Gorillaz to the red carpet in February.

"Sport, politics, it's all showbiz now," said Baz Bamigboye, a correspondent for the London Daily Mail and a Cannes veteran. He described "Tyson" as "a good TV movie."

Other major festivals are following suit, notably Tribeca with a sports sidebar and Sundance with a strong emphasis on music.

Eric J. Lyman contributed to this report.