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Inquiring minds at fest

Reel Life: Can you repeat the question?

Ah, the joys of Cannes! For 12 days in May, it’s the home of auteurs, artistes — and journalists. There are thousands of media reps here, eager to write about the art and creativity of filmmaking. Well, not really. Most of them are here simply to cover celebs. And so they bask in the daily Riviera ritual in which 200 international journalists, crammed into the Palais’ Conference de Presse room, hurl questions at the stars and directors of such films as “Troy,” “The Ladykillers,” “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Shrek 2.”

The press conferences provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear actress Saffron Burrows drop names like Yeats as she talks about her role in “Troy,” or Tom Hanks answer enthusiastic queries about whether he remembers his film “Turner & Hooch.”

So, as our salute to the fabulous men and women of the working press, here’s a small sampling of the most probing questions.

LOCAL HEROES

Czech journo to Wolfgang Petersen: “Where is the real Troy? Is it in Albania?”

Canuck reporter to Canadian Mike Myers: “Why is it Canadians can go to Hollywood and be so hilarious?”

Chinese reporter to Tom Hanks: “Since you’re successful in many ways, are there any areas you still want to conquer, such as studying Chinese culture?”

WHEN THE QUESTIONS UPSTAGE ANY POSSIBLE ANSWER

Chilean reporter to Joel Coen: “To me, this is a movie about words. How do you assess the words in the movie?”

Greek journo to Brad Pitt (who’s married to Greek-American Jennifer Aniston): “I wonder if life can be a battlefield with a Greek woman?”

Argentine journo to Cameron Diaz: “I want to hear about your experiences with ‘Shrek 2,’ but also your experiences on ‘The Mask,’ ‘The Last Supper,’ ‘She’s the One,’ ‘Feeling Minnesota,’ ‘Head Above Water’ …” He rattled off six other titles before Jeffrey Katzenberg said, “OK, we get the point.”

I MEAN ‘AWKWARD’ IN THE GOOD SENSE

Canadian to Hanks: “I’d like to ask you about your performance. I think it’s a comic masterpiece, but some people think it’s mannered and awkward and irritating.”

But then, any story about press conferences has to include some answers. So, in response to the global media’s perceptive questions, here are some fascinating responses from the world’s most glamorous junket de press.

FREUDIAN SLIP

Asked why he wanted to work with the Coen brothers, Hanks furrowed his brow and said, “Their movies are so unpredictable. They also are uncomprehensible — uh, uh, uncompromising.”

SORRY, NO EXCEPTIONS ALLOWED

Actor Brian Cox of “Troy” lauded working with Peter O’Toole, who had starred in, “with the exception of ‘Troy,’ the greatest epic movie ever made.”

PORK SHANK REDEMPTION

Wolfgang Petersen said he immediately thought of Pitt for Achilles. Soon afterward, “We had a legendary dinner where I put him through a test with a huge pork shank.” He never explained what it involved, but said Pitt passed the test.

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