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Religion, Politics, Glam Mix At Cannes

Tom Hanks, left, and French actress Audrey Tautou, center, stars in the new movie "The Da Vinci Code," arrive with American director Ron Howard at the train station in Cannes, southern France, on Tuesday, May 16, 2006.
AP Photo/Francois Mori
Weighty issues and ideas will mix with glitz as the film world's grandest red carpet becomes crowded with celebrities for the Cannes Film Festival.

With Tom Hanks comes religious debate as "The Da Vinci Code" opens Cannes on Wednesday. With Oliver Stone comes a glimpse of his upcoming Sept. 11 drama "World Trade Center." With Sarah Michelle Gellar and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson comes a look at Los Angeles of the near future on the cusp of social and environmental chaos in "Southland Tales," an offbeat combination of musical comedy and sci-fi thriller.

With former U.S. Vice President Al Gore comes the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," a dire warning that the dangers of global warming are real, imminent and potentially catastrophic.

Even the comic-book world's favorite mutants are turning somber with a dark, apocalyptic battle in "X-Men: The Last Stand."

Thank goodness talking animals will be on hand to lighten things up, with Bruce Willis as mouthpiece for a rascally raccoon and Garry Shandling providing the voice of a cautious turtle in the animated comedy "Over the Hedge."

One and all will be marching the red carpet that swoops up an imposing staircase to the festival's main theater, running a gantlet of tuxedo-clad photographers who try to out-shout one another to catch the stars' attention.

"It is the red carpet of all red carpets," said Willis, previously at Cannes with "Pulp Fiction."

"That was just completely overwhelming," Natalie Portman said of her first experience on the Cannes red carpet at last year's festival for "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith."

"I've never seen so many photographers and fans. I've never seen anything like that before," said Portman, who co-stars in this year's Cannes entry "Paris, I Love You," a collection of 20 short films set in the French capital from such directors as Gus Van Sant, Alexander Payne, Alfonso Cuaron, Wes Craven and Joel and Ethan Coen.

"Da Vinci Code" director Ron Howard is an old hand at Cannes with such films as "Willow" and "Far and Away." Playing opening night at the 59th Cannes festival caps a huge marketing blitz for the adaptation of Dan Brown's best seller, which debuts in theaters worldwide this week.

"It's going to be kind of nice to go and get it out of the way," Howard said. "It's an honor to be selected. This is a huge international film festival, and this is a very international kind of movie."