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Clooney, Madonna Get Behind Camera, Premiere at Venice: Preview

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Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- George Clooney, Madonna and Al Pacino will present movies of their own making at this year’s Venice Film Festival, starting tomorrow.

Sharing the spotlight is Roman Polanski, whose “Carnage” -- with Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet -- is about two sets of parents squabbling over a fight involving their kids.

More than 20 movies will jostle for Venice’s top honor, the Golden Lion, during the 11-day festival on Venice’s Lido island. The seven-person jury, led by “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky, includes musician David Byrne.

One contender for the Golden Lion is the opening movie: Clooney’s “The Ides of March,” starring Ryan Gosling, Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. In it, Clooney runs for president: He’s a suave, silver-haired candidate with a fresh-faced press aide (played by Gosling) who he calls “my brain trust.”

Clooney “knew exactly what he wanted, and he was very specific,” Gosling told New York magazine in an Aug. 21 interview. “A lot of directors aren’t so clear.”

Gosling likened Clooney to Michael Jackson in the movie “This Is It,” where Jackson is “trying to explain to a keyboard player how to play a certain part -- even in the sea of parts being played, he can pick that out. That’s kind of what George is like.”

Madonna’s “W.E.” is an exploration of desire inspired by the story of King Edward VIII and the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, for whom he gave up the throne. In the movie, a Manhattan-based woman, trapped in an unhappy marriage, develops a fixation for Mrs. Simpson, and finds herself another man.

Polanski Arrest

While Madonna’s movie is not in the race for the top prize, Polanski’s is. “Carnage” marks the Polish-born director’s return to the big screen. He was freed from house arrest in July 2010 after Swiss authorities refused to extradite him to California, where he is wanted for sentencing in a case involving unlawful sexual conduct with a 13-year-old girl.

Also premiering at Venice is Pacino’s “Wilde Salome,” inspired by Oscar Wilde and his play “Salome.” Pacino co-stars with Jessica Chastain (recently in Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.”)

The U.K. artist-director Steve McQueen will be in contention with “Shame” -- the story of a promiscuous young man whose errant little sister (Carey Mulligan) moves in. The lead is played by Michael Fassbender, who was Bobby Sands in McQueen’s previous work, “Hunger,” about Northern Ireland.

Out of the official competition is director Steven Soderbergh with “Contagion,” an action movie about a deadly global pandemic. Matt Damon, Winslet and Jude Law star.

To contact the writer on the story: Farah Nayeri in Venice at farahn@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at mbeech@bloomberg.net.

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