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Damon, Timberlake Movies to Compete for Cannes Palme d’Or

Liberace, Michael Douglas
In this composite image a comparison has been made between pianist Liberace (left) and actor Michael Douglas. Michael Douglas will play American pianist Liberace in an HBO film biopic entitled "Behind the Candelabra" directed by Steven Soderbergh. Liberace image by David Ashdown/Keystone/Getty Images via Bloomberg; Douglas image by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for IMG via Bloomberg

Michael Douglas plays Liberace, Justin Timberlake a 1960s folk singer and Ryan Gosling a Bangkok drug smuggler in three of the 19 contenders for the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, which starts on May 15.

Steven Soderbergh’s “Behind the Candelabra” is the story of the flamboyant pianist Liberace’s stormy six-year affair with a younger man (played by Matt Damon). Competing with it for the Palme d’Or is Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Inside Llewyn Davis,” in which Carey Mulligan co-stars with Timberlake.

Gosling -- star of Nicolas Winding Refn’s violent “Drive” (2011) -- will be back in Cannes with another Refn movie, “Only God Forgives.” He plays a character called Julian whose drug-trafficking life in Thailand is disrupted when his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) urges him to avenge his brother’s death.

Organizers announced the lineup to reporters at a Paris news conference and released it online. Steven Spielberg will steer the jury at Cannes, the world’s leading film festival, which ends May 26. The opening movie is Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby,” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan; it will screen out of the official competition.

Cannes Festival President Gilles Jacob stressed the festival’s role as “the home of endangered artists.”

“Our door is always open,” said Jacob, whose words were reported on the festival’s website.

Arrested Filmmaker

One movie premiering at Cannes -- Mohammad Rasoulof’s “Anonymous” -- was shot secretly and smuggled out of Iran. Rasoulof is one of three Iranian filmmakers who were arrested in March 2010, and released on bail the same month.

Another Iranian director -- Asghar Farhadi, whose “A Separation” won the foreign-language Oscar last year -- is an official Cannes contestant with “The Past,” shot outside Iran, with Berenice Bejo (“The Artist”) in the lead.

Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” inspired by a true story of teenagers robbing celebrities, will premiere in Cannes, though it was not selected for the main competition. Emma Watson plays the lead.

European directors in the running for the Palme d’Or this year include Roman Polanski, with “Venus in Fur,” featuring his wife Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric; and Francois Ozon (director of “5x2”) whose “Jeune et Jolie” has Charlotte Rampling in the cast.

Stephen Frears’s “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight” will get a special Cannes screening. It stars Christopher Plummer and Danny Glover.

The first Cannes Festival took place in 1946, a year after World War II ended. Among the event’s earliest award winners were directors Orson Welles, Luis Bunuel, Ingmar Bergman and Satyajit Ray.

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