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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Cannes opens with Da Vinci Code
Tom Hanks and Ron Howard

The Da Vinci Code director Ron Howard has told people not to see his new film if they fear it will upset them.

Howard was flanked by his cast at a press conference for the movie at the start of the Cannes film festival.

"Given the controversial nature of this story there's no question the film is likely to be upsetting to some people.

"My advice is not to see the film if you think it will upset you," said Howard, who previously directed A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13.

"Wait and speak to someone who has seen it and then form an opinion."

He added: "This is supposed to be entertainment. It is not theology. It should not be misunderstood as such.

"It stimulates conversation but that's what good fiction does."

Stars of the film, which receives its world premiere in Cannes on Wednesday, were also quick to emphasise the fictional nature of the book.

Tom Hanks, who stars as cryptologist Robert Langdon in the film, said: "This is not a documentary. This is emotional fiction."

Co-star Alfred Molina, who portays zealot Bishop Aringarosa, accused the media of trying to dig up controversy.

Da Vinci code is a work of fiction and should be enjoyed as such
Debbie, Nottingham

"Everyone who bought the book bought it in the fiction section. Everyone who goes to see the movie is going to see fictional entertainment.

"The truth is [the controversy] hasn't materialised.

"Like life movies have an off button. You can make a choice to see it or not."

Howard said: "Audiences are very, very intelligent and often underestimated. They can arrive at their own conclusions."

Monica Bellucci, Wong Kar Wai and Ziyi Zhang
Wong Kar Wai is heading this year's Cannes jury

The Da Vinci Code is among the films showing out of competition, alongside X-Men sequel The Last Stand and United 93, which deals with the events of 11 September 2001.

The annual festival culminates in the presentation of the Palme d'Or prize, with two British directors, Ken Loach and Andrea Arnold, in contention for the award.

Other shortlisted films include Pedro Almodovar's Volver, Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, Fast Food Nation directed by Richard Linklater and Southland Tales, directed by Richard Kelly.

A jury of film-makers and actors including Italian actress Monica Bellucci, British stars Helen Bonham Carter and Tim Roth and American actor Samuel L Jackson will decide the winner.

Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry
Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry will be in town for X Men 3

President of the jury, director Wong Kar Wai told a press conference on Wednesday that his international panel would "endorse films which move us, engage us and enlarge us".

Wong, the first Chinese director to head the jury, said nothing should be read into there being only one Asian film included in the Palme d'Or selection.

"Last year we had a lot of Asian films, but not one film from the UK. This year there are two UK films and only one Asian film.

"It is a cycle but you should not consider it as an indication of what will be a trend."

Bonham Carter said it was a privilege to be asked to be a jury member but admitted her taste in film was "pretty bad".

Watch clips from The Da Vinci Code

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