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Venice on high alert

Stars dazzle Lido amidst tight security

VENICE — Police scuba divers are scouring the lagoon and sharpshooters are on call for roof duty on the Palazzo del Cinema, as the 62nd Venice Film Festival kicks off today amid security concerns.

Italy is considered at high risk of a terrorist attack because of its support of the U.S.-led contingent in Iraq and protecting the Lido is a top priority for organizers.

Fest topper Marco Muller downplayed the austere air infused by metal detectors flanking the catwalk — as well as by legions of police on the premises — and vowed that paparazzi will be popping bulbs even more than usual.

“Security will not be an issue,” a relaxed Muller told Daily Variety on Tuesday. “As long as photographers get here 15 minutes early to have their camera bags inspected, they will have lots of space to work in.

“We want to make sure the festival gives top visibility to its movies and to the people who made them.”

This year, the Dante Ferretti-designed catwalk, featuring a dazzling display of giant golden lions, has been enlarged. Several of the gilded statues have been perched on the enormous metal detectors in an attempt to blend the security devices in with the glitzy scenery.

Security fears do not seem to be deterring the robust star roster expected to be traveling to the Lido.

Muller said Harrison Ford has made the trek to accompany Calista Flockhart, who stars in Spanish helmer Jaume Balaguero’s noncompeting thriller “Fragile.” The pair will be among celebs attending the Chinese fireworks gala tonight for Tsui Hark’s martial-arts opener “Seven Swords.”

George Clooney, Laura Linney, Jacqueline Bisset, Spike Lee, John Woo and Emir Kusturica are among others expected as opening-night guests.

Opening the competition Thursday will be Clooney’s sophomore helming effort, the McCarthy-era-set “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Heath Ledger will tubthump for “Brokeback Mountain” and “Casanova,” which also stars Sienna Miller and Jeremy Irons, who are expected to attend. Other U.S. pics unspooling the first week with thesps in tow include “Elizabethtown” (Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst), Linney starrer “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “Cinderella Man.”

Fest concludes Sept. 10.

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