Rome built on a day of stars

Kidman, Bellucci, DiCaprio, Gere support new fest

ROME — The inaugural RomeFilmFest kicked off with plenty of star power provided by Sean Connery, Nicole Kidman, Monica Bellucci, Leonardo DiCaprio and Richard Gere, as loads of local film buffs flocked to the Eternal City’s new metropolitan event.

Kidman on Friday pranced down the spanking new catwalk of the fest’s Renzo Piano-designed Auditorium to tubthump opener “Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus,” drawing wild cheers from the copious Roman crowd as paparazzi went into a frenzy.

The Steven Shainberg-helmed fictional depiction of the rapport between the freak-loving photog and a hirsute mentor (Robert Downey Jr.) drew a mixed reaction.

Picturehouse pic made its theatrical world bow in Italy on Friday via local distrib Nexo, prior to its Stateside release Nov. 10.

A candid Kidman fielded questions on diverse topics including her nudity in the pic, infidelity, her new Nashville digs with husband Keith Urban and Rome restaurants. During the informal presser, she and Shainberg sat in armchairs on the stage of the 2,700-seat Santa Cecilia Hall.

In the afternoon, the venue had been packed with regular Romans — many from local James Bond fan clubs, plus lots of swooning middle-aged matrons — attending a two-hour public interview with Sean Connery, who is being feted.

Fest’s tortoiseshell-shaped auditorium — its main hub — also comprises the 1,100-seat Sala Sinopoli, as well as the smaller 350-seat Sala Studio.

Downside is that the fest’s Business Street mart, attended by some 250 industryites (about two-thirds of them sellers), is several kilometers away in the Via Veneto, with some market and press screenings in yet another part of central Rome at the Cinema Metropolitan, where the world preem of Lasse Hallstrom’s “The Hoax,” starring Richard Gere, was delayed as organizers scrambled to shuttle over the print.

“It’s a new baby, just out of the delivery room,” said RomeFilmFest fest co-topper Giorgio Gosetti. “Like all newborns, it will be looking better as it grows, though we love it already.”

On Saturday it was local diva Monica Bellucci who galvanized the “festa” doing red-carpet duty in a red gown for Italo helmer Paolo Virzi’s historical comedy “Napoleon (and Me),” in which Daniel Auteuil plays the Gallic emperor during his brief exile on the island of Elba.

Bellucci described her role as “a pleasure-loving baroness who is a bit of a hooker,” while Virzi told journos he instructed thesp Elio Germano — who plays a young radical who wants to kill Napoleon — to use his “deep hate for Berlusconi” to prep for his part.

That detail was ironic because “Napoleon” is financed and distribbed by Silvio Berlusconi-owned Medusa.

Medusa, after snubbing Venice entirely — allegedly because none of its pics made the cut for the Lido — has a robust Rome presence, also including Giuseppe Tornatore’s noir-ish “La Sconosciuta” (The Unknown), and Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” which it will release locally Oct. 27.

“Rome represents a new opportunity for our industry, so we chose to support it,” said Medusa topper Giampaolo Letta.

On Sunday “The Departed” drew standing ovations after both press and public screenings, and DiCaprio had the flashbulbs popping.

Other high-profile titles unspooling include Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige,” starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as dueling magicians; Gallic helmer Guillaume Nicloux’s esoteric thriller “The Stone Council”; and Agustin Diaz Yanes’ Spanish mercenary tale “Alatriste,” for which Viggo Mortensen is expected.

Robert De Niro will be showing 20 minutes of footage of his CIA thriller “The Good Shepherd.”

Harrison Ford is coming to hand out a nod to UTA topper Jim Berkus, winner of Rome’s Patricia McQueeney Award, honoring agents and talent managers.

Helmer Gillo Pontecorvo, who died Thursday, will receive a tribute in the form of a special screening of his 1966 pic “The Battle of Algiers.”

Fest runs through Oct. 21.

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