A record six women directors will compete for the Palme d'Or at Cannes in May, organisers announced Thursday, with the film festival promising a who's who of Hollywood A-listers and award-winning filmmakers.
The world's top cinema shindig had already secured some glitzy Hollywood premieres, including the new Indiana Jones and Martin Scorsese movies, as well as Johnny Depp's comeback film.
Among the 19 films competing for the top prize Palme d'Or from May 16 to 27 is Wes Anderson's Asteroid City, which alone will bring a cavalcade of stars to the red carpet, including Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie and Scarlett Johansson.
The presence of six women directors, including Italy's Alice Rohrwacher and Austria's Jessica Hausner, beats last year's record of five.
Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore are expected for May December from director Todd Haynes, who wowed Cannes with drama film Carol in 2015 starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, the latter winning the best actress award.
A fiery start is guaranteed thanks to opening night film Jeanne du Barry, which sees Depp play French king Louis XV in his first role since an explosive defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard involving bitter allegations of domestic abuse.
Depp will be joined by his daughter, Lily Rose Depp, who stars in The Idol, a TV series playing out of competition, produced by musician Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye. It has had a tumultuous production with reports of major rewrites and re-shoots.
As if that was not enough to inflame social media, the star and director of Jeanne du Barry, Maiwenn, had a criminal complaint lodged against her last week for allegedly assaulting a journalist by yanking his head back and spitting in his face in a Paris restaurant.
Star of the moment, and so-called Internet Daddy, Pedro Pascal is also expected alongside Ethan Hawke for a short film by Spain's Pedro Almodovar.
The competition is packed with previous award-winners, including two-time Palme laureate Ken Loach, and other past winners such as Nanni Moretti, Wim Wenders and Hirokazu Kore-eda.
Critics have been gushing, with The Hollywood Reporter calling it "an all-killer, no-filler program".
Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, currently has an out-of-competition slot but may end up in the contest, festival director Thierry Fremaux said.
Also playing out of competition is a documentary about wartime Amsterdam, Occupied City, by celebrated British director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), which Fremaux described as "a very radical film".
Arthouse fans are particularly excited about the return of British director Jonathan Glazer (Under the Skin) with a Holocaust-set romance, The Zone of Interest, based on a novel by Martin Amis.
Victory in Cannes can give a major boost to arthouse cinema, such as last year's winner Triangle of Sadness, which went on to pick up several Oscar nominations.
Its director, Sweden's Ruben Ostlund, heads this year's jury.
Hollywood loves the French Riviera as a launchpad for its glossier fare, with Top Gun: Maverick and Elvis getting their world premieres at the festival last year.
This year will see Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, with Harrison Ford as guest of honour for his fifth and final appearance as the iconic adventuring archaeologist, alongside Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Antonio Banderas.
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