Banderas, Hayek, Kidman, Cage Lido-bound

VENICE — It looks more like a skateboarding ramp than a catwalk, but an elaborate wooden structure dubbed “the Wave” is set to usher in one of the biggest boatloads of talent in the 60-year history of the Venice Intl. Film Festival.

While this year’s Cannes fest in May was notable for the paucity of stars, Venice has scored a bumper crop.

Expected on the Lido are Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Nicole Kidman, Anthony Hopkins, Omar Sharif, Kate Hudson, George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Emma Thompson, Naomi Watts, Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton, Nicolas Cage, Sean Penn and Benicio del Toro, among others.

The 60th Venice Intl. Film Festival kicks off today with Woody Allen’s New York-set comedy “Anything Else.”

First to step down the postmodern red carpet will be stars Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci, with Allen –marking the director’s first appearance at the fest, despite the fact that many of his films have premiered here.

As workers hammer away at “the Wave,” the grand dame of Euro fests is also preparing to unspool a strong batch of arthouse pictures after this year’s underwhelming Cannes offerings.

Underlining Venice’s importance within the Italian film community, an unusually high number of competition entries has been snapped up for local distribution since the lineup was announced July 31.

As always, the lead-up to Venice has seen a few squabbles playing in the Italian press, most notably between fest topper Moritz de Hadeln and Venice mayor Paolo Costa.

De Hadeln has blamed local authorities for monkey-wrenching his attempts to revamp the Lido’s crumbling infrastructure. The mayor has replied that de Hadeln should “stop whining.”

Italian jury chief and veteran director Mario Monicelli has created a stir by promising to push hard for recognition of national entries, which include Marco Bellocchio’s new film “Good Morning, Night,” segueing from its premiere here to a gala presentation in Toronto.

Reflecting this year’s crowded roster of top U.S. talent is an unprecedented high roll-up of international press, with offshore media accreditations up by as much as 20%.

Hitting town for Venice coverage, some for the first time, are, among others, Premiere magazine, the New York Times, Newsday, Newsweek, the New York Daily News, Entertainment Tonight and E! Television.

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