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Cannes cracks ‘Code’

Hanks starrer will bow theatrically in France on May 17

Columbia Pictures’ adaptation of “The Da Vinci Code” will open this year’s Cannes Film Festival on May 17 out of competition.

Artistic director Thierry Fremaux traveled to L.A., where he nabbed the Tom Hanks starrer Saturday, after seeing a rough video edit that was still missing some scenes.

Theological-themed thriller helmed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer and John Calley for Columbia Pictures and Imagine Entertainment will bow theatrically in France on the same day, and in the rest of the world May 19.

Fest could hardly have bagged a more fitting pic for its all-important opening-night slot.

And it has done so relatively early in the selection process. Last year the fest didn’t settle on “Lemming” until the eve of the April 19 press conference to unveil its full lineup.

The $100 million adaptation of Dan Brown’s 25 million-copy best seller is a high-profile English-lingo pic — with a strong French accent.

The presence of helmer Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks alongside French thesps Audrey Tautou and Jean Reno and Brits Ian McKellen and Alfred Molina will guarantee plenty of star wattage on the Cannes red carpet.

Howard received permission to shoot inside France’s famed museum but was not allowed to brighten the lighting, permanently dimmed to protect its collection of artworks – which includes Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa.”

Keen to bring more film shoots to France, whose red tape and high labor costs put off many filmmakers, Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres personally intervened to ensure “The Da Vinci Code” received a welcome from Gallic authorities and the keepers of the Louvre.

While in France, Howard and Grazer even had an audience with French President Jacques Chirac.

However, there was embarrassment all around following reports that Chirac had asked them to pay Jean Reno “the best salary possible” and tried to get another actress hired for the role played by Tautou. Chirac allegedly made the remarks in jest, but they were presented as serious in the U.S. media.

French weekly Le Journal de Dimanche reported on Sunday that Howard and Grazer afterwards sent a letter to the Gallic president.

Helmer Wong Kar Wai will preside over the jury of this year’s fest, which runs May 17-28.

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