The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cruise clash awaited at Cannes

Cannes, May 15 (Reuters): Penelope Cruz took to the red carpet yesterday in the battle to be the Queen of Cannes and faced some tough comparisons with Hollywood darling Nicole Kidman.

Cruz, star of the rollicking 18th century drama that opened the 56th Film Festival, had to fend off questions from the press over the “fluffiness” of her roles, planets away from those of Kidman, Oscar-winning former wife of Cruz’s partner Tom Cruise.

She was also quizzed about the conspicuous absence of Cruise, who had been widely expected to accompany her to her latest film premiere. Asked repeatedly why he was not there, Cruz smiled coyly and said he had stayed away “to work”.

Mudslingers were hoping for a “Duel on the Croisette” — as one tabloid headline put it — as the alabaster Australian ex-wife met dusky Spanish girlfriend. But Cruz will be long gone before Kidman arrives to flag her new film Dogville. The battle will still be played out in the media, which has swung behind the divorced Kidman as she has soared from a B-list actress known best for being Mrs Cruise to a master of demanding and gritty roles.

Cruz, inevitably cast in saccharin roles on the international stage due to her looks and beguiling Spanish accent, describes her character in Cannes opener Fanfan la Tulipe as “a romantic” who just “wants to fall in love”.

“I felt it was a really good character for me. I fell in love with this movie. It had a lot of energy,” Cruz, sporting a new bobbed haircut and a Chanel jacket, said.

Dogville, directed by the iconoclastic Lars von Trier and filmed in a lugubrious set empty of decor is slated to be the most radical film to hit Cannes this year.

Kidman says she was “psychologically stripped naked” during filming.

Unlike Kidman, Cruz will be safe from jury scrutiny in Cannes, with the swashbuckling Fanfan la Tulipe shown out of competition as a lighthearted romp to start off the festival.

But critics are eager for her to show some punch.

Cruz plays an inmate in a mental institution in a dark new film called Gothika, but only in a supporting role.

“I don’t look at roles in terms of how many minutes they last, but in terms of whether they will help me learn. I want to be free to choose material and take risks,” Cruz said.

“Like music, comedy can look easy, but it’s tricky to do.”

Kidman, who has long shed her image as just a pretty face on Cruise’s arm, is snowed under with offers, including plans to make two more films with Denmark’s Von Trier.

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