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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 19:31 GMT 20:31 UK
Stars come out for Da Vinci debut
Da Vinci Code cast in Cannes
The blockbuster film kicks off the 12-day event in France
Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou were among the stars at the world premiere of The Da Vinci Code, on the opening night of the annual film festival in Cannes.

They were joined by co-stars including Sir Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany and Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown.

Directed by Ron Howard, the adaptation of Brown's best-selling thriller has been met with disdain by critics.

But Howard brushed aside the poor reviews. "I stopped prognosticating a long time ago," he told reporters.

Fans lined the red carpet in the French resort to see celebrities including Samuel L Jackson, Juliette Binoche and Sidney Poitier, who officially launched the event, attend the Da Vinci Code's debut.

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"As I stand here in this atmosphere where the genius of so many of the world's great cinema auteurs still lingers, I am honoured in the extreme and privileged beyond words to welcome the present generation... who will surely come with a genius of their own," said veteran star Poitier.

There was little evidence of protesters at the ceremony, despite the controversy which has surrounded both the book and the film.

The plot revolves around the theory that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and their descendants survive today.

Tom Hanks and Ron Howard
Hanks and Howard played down the controversy around the film

It has caused outrage among many Christian organisations, including senior officials at the Vatican and leading Catholics in the UK.

The Indian government has temporarily halted the film's release amid mounting protests, saying it must address concerns before the movie is screened.

Thai censors want to cut the last 10 minutes, having been persuaded by critics that they are "blasphemous".

While the plot worked its magic on the pages, it does not transfer well to the screen - here, it is long and it is dull

At a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Howard advised people not to see his new film if they fear it will upset them.

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

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

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

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

"People who think things are true might be more dangerous than those who ponder the possibilities."

The Da Vinci Code is among the films showing out of competition at the event, 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 top award.




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