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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Stars out for Venice film launch
Tom Hanks arriving at the Venice Film Festival
Hanks arrived at the premiere by boat
Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg kicked off the 61st Venice Film Festival in style by arriving at the premiere of their new film by boat.

The director and star of The Terminal sailed to the Hotel Excelsior, on Lido beach, for the European premiere.

Hanks stars in the romantic comedy about a traveller stranded in a New York airport for nine months.

Crowds lined Lido beach as guests, including Scarlett Johansson and Spike Lee, arrived for the gala opening.

Gala dinner

In a festival criticised in some quarters for pandering to the Hollywood elite, organisers also expect Robert De Niro, Angelina Jolie, John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington, Gwyneth Paltrow and Meryl Streep to grace the red carpet.

The Terminal, which has been on release in the US since June, was picked to launch the 11-day festival before the gala dinner on the Lido beach.

It received only a lukewarm reception from critics at a press preview on Tuesday.

Spielberg's movie is being shown out of competition, unlike the 21 films vying for the prestigious Golden Lion for best film.

Awards ceremony

Director John Boorman, who arrived at the gala with actress Dame Helen Mirren, said: "There are some marvellous films, I think, in competition and we're all looking forward to seeing them."

Contenders for the coveted Golden Lion prize include reincarnation film Birth, starring Nicole Kidman, Mar Adentro, a true story about a paralysed Spaniard's attempts to end his life, and Mira Nair's adaptation of Thackeray's 19th-century novel Vanity Fair.

Boorman is heading the Golden Lion jury, which also includes Dame Helen and Johansson.

The awards will be handed out on 11 September at a ceremony hosted by Sophia Loren.

A total of 170 films and shorts from 28 countries will be shown in competitions and special events.

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