By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, in Venice
Brad Pitt and George Clooney talk about their new film Burn After Reading
George Clooney and Brad Pitt have brought a touch of Hollywood glamour to Venice on the first day of its 65th film festival.
The pair are in town to promote Burn After Reading, the latest black comedy from film-making siblings Joel and Ethan Coen, which opens the festival later.
But they also found time on Tuesday to host a charity dinner in aid of their Not On Our Watch initiative to raise money for victims of natural and other disasters.
"I'm very happy to be here," Clooney told reporters ahead of Wednesday's premiere.
"This is one of my favourite places in the world."
In his third collaboration with the Coens, Clooney plays a paranoid federal marshal who gets mixed up in a conspiracy involving a former CIA analyst's missing memoirs.
Also involved are the analyst's adulterous wife, played by Britain's Tilda Swinton, and a couple of gormless gym instructors played by Pitt and Frances McDormand.
"I've been trying to get into a Coen brothers film for many years, so when they called I was very happy," said Pitt.
"But when they said the part had been hand-written for me, I wasn't sure if I should be flattered or insulted."
Change of pace
"After this, George said 'that's it - I've played my last idiot,'" recalled Joel Coen, who both wrote and directed the film with his brother Ethan.
Burn After Reading is Clooney's third film with the Coen brothers
After the Oscar-winning success of their bleak thriller No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading represents a change of pace for the pair.
Joel, though, denies that was the intention. "We did a spy movie because we hadn't done one before," he explains.
"We could have done a dog movie or an outer space movie, but we ended up doing this. There's no conscious pattern."
"We started writing the movie as an exercise," adds Ethan Coen. "We just wanted to do something with these specific people."
'No political intent'
With sensitive information seemingly regularly going walkabout in the UK, it is tempting to view the film as a satire on bureaucratic incompetence.
The Coen brothers enjoyed huge success with No Country for Old Men
Clooney, however, said there was "no political intent" behind the film. "I just thought it was funny," he added.
Nor is the politically-active actor tempted to follow his Venice appearance with a cameo at the Democratic Party convention in Denver.
"I like watching conventions on television," he revealed. "I think the stars there should be the people who've been elected."
Both Clooney and Pitt faced personal questions at Wednesday's packed press conference which they fended off with ease.
"I'm so surprised to hear that question," said Clooney wearily when asked if he had any plans to settle down.
"As it happens, I'm getting married and having children today."
Pitt was equally dismissive when a reporter pointed out he had fathered two children since last year's festival.
"I'll have two more by next year," he quipped. "I'll be sharing them with George."