Cruz, Bellucci, and Ryan help kick off Cannes. A Cruise-less Penelope, who starred in the opening-night film, led the pack of stars

By Gary Susman
Updated May 15, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Penelope Cruz
Credit: Penelope Cruz: Arnal Nebinger/Abaca Press/KRT/Newscom

Despite U.S.-French tensions, the organizers of the Cannes Film Festival are happy to have a quotient of Hollywood glamour, even if it’s Hollywood-by-way-of-Europe. As the festival kicked off on Wednesday, the big stars in attendance included Spanish Hollywood transplant Penélope Cruz, Italian Hollywood transplant Monica Bellucci and most of her costars from ”The Matrix Reloaded,” and actual Yanks Meg Ryan, Steven Soderbergh, and Andie MacDowell.

Alas, Cruz, who starred in the opening night feature, the swashbuckler ”Fanfan la Tulipe,” came without boyfriend Tom Cruise. ”He’s working,” she told reporters, though she didn’t say on what. Gossips speculated that he’s avoiding running into his ex-wife, Nicole Kidman, who’s coming because her film ”Dogville” is in competition.

Ryan and Soderbergh, both members of the nine-person awards jury, dismissed talk that Hollywood stars might boycott Cannes because of France’s lack of support for America’s war in Iraq. After all, conservative celebs Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger are both coming; ”Mystic River,” directed by and starring Eastwood, is in competition, and Schwarzenegger plans to promote this summer’s ”Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.”

Bellucci is the honorary hostess of the festival, but Wednesday, she was also part of the ”Matrix” contingent, promoting the film’s worldwide opening on Thursday. The film’s top players, including Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Jada Pinkett Smith, Hugo Weaving, and Lambert Wilson, were all there as well. Missing were publicity-shy writers/directors Larry and Andy Wachowski; producer Joel Silver told reporters they were hard at work finishing ”The Matrix Revolutions,” the trilogy’s concluding installment, due in November.

Also present was 75-year-old Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, the Monica Bellucci of her day. Fifty years ago, the young bombshell became an international star when she starred in the original ”Fanfan.”