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Clooney, Gere boost Rome fest

Film festival kicks off in Hollywood style

The Rome Film Festival kicked into high gear over the weekend as George Clooney and Richard Gere provided a welcome infusion of Hollywood star power while tubthumping two of the Eternal City extravaganza’s biggest crowd-pleasing pics so far.

Clooney, in Rome for Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air,” worked the catwalk on Saturday, accompanied by Italian actress Elisabetta Canalis, his reported girlfriend.

Clooney was feisty during the packed presser where he explained he’s not been doing TV interviews lately to avoid having to “answer dumb-ass questions” about his private life.

However, he did say that his next project would “probably” be directing controversial Guantanamo Bay-themed legal thriller “The Challenge,” from Aaron Sorkin’s script.

Clooney made the trek to Rome from the set of Anton Corbijn-directed thriller “The American” (also known as “A Very Private Gentleman”), the Focus Features production shooting near earthquake-stricken L’Aquila, about 60 miles north-west of Rome.

“Up in the Air,” which unspooled in competish — won by Reitman two years ago with “Juno” — is emerging as a darling with festgoers and critics.

Gere strutted down the red carpet with his wife, Cary Lowell, and the Akita canine protag of helmer Lasse Hallstrom’s sentimental canine remake, “Hachi: A Dog’s Story,” which unspooled out-of-competition.

“Hachi” elicited sobs at the press and gala screenings. The longtime Buddhist, who held an onstage conversation about his career touching on his spirituality, also met Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno to discuss an official visit by the Dalai Lama to the Italian capital in November.

The fest ends Friday.

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