A-listers to set film festival alight

Key quote "This is the best programme that I have ever had the great fortune to present in my five years here. We aim to surprise, we aim to bring you things you haven't seen before." - Festival's artistic director, Shane Danielsen

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HOLLYWOOD A-listers Charlize Theron and Sigourney Weaver are among the big-name stars who will appear at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival, it was announced yesterday.

Theron, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of a serial killer in the hit Monster, and Weaver, star of Alien, will provide the glamour factor for this year's festival, after years of moans that the event has been weak on the red carpet front.

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The actors will join the festival's patron, Sir Sean Connery, and, in another coup for the event's organisers, Oceans 11 director Steven Soderbergh will also visit the capital for the event.

Weaver will be promoting her new film, Snow Cake, in which she plays an autistic woman opposite Alan Rickman. The film gets its UK premiere at the festival. Theron is promoting her Cuban hip-hop documentary, East of Havana.

Delighted festival staff said yesterday that Soderbergh was breaking off filming on the latest in the Oceans 11 series to attend the 60th anniversary of the festival that screened his break-out film, Sex Lies and Videotape, 17 years ago.

The festival's artistic director, Shane Danielsen, introduced the line-up for the festival, which has been extended by two days to mark the anniversary.

"This is the best programme that I have ever had the great fortune to present in my five years here," said Mr Danielsen, who steps down this year. "We aim to surprise, we aim to bring you things you haven't seen before."

Bond favourite Sir Sean will be one of the main draws at this year's spectacle. He plans to spend ten days at the August event in his role as patron and will be hosting the festival's 60th birthday party

Connery, whose 1967 film The Bowler And The Bunnet will be shown, will take questions from the public after the screening. The opening-night film is The Flying Scotsman, which tells the story of Scottish cycling champion Graeme Obree's battle with depression and his rise to become world champion on a bike he built using parts from a washing machine.

The film, which was ten years in the making, stars Trainspotting actor Johnny Lee Miller, and Casanova actress Laura Fraser, alongside top Scottish stars Brian Cox and Billy Boyd.

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The film-makers struggled constantly to raise enough cash, and several people involved are still owed tens of thousands of pounds. But it is hoped the film festival showing could lead to a distributor buying the film.

The closing night film is the classic Odd Man Out, starring James Mason, and dating back to the first festival in 1947.

Other highlights include premieres of the animated film Hoodwinked, with the voice of Glenn Close, as well as The Oh in Ohio starring Parker Posey, Mischa Barton, Danny DeVito and Liza Minnelli. The festival is hoping that some star names from that cast could appear.

There is also the first UK showing of the provocative US film, The Lost, notorious for its graphic violence and sex.

The US film tells the story of a murderous small-town psychopath who kills two women he suspects of being lesbians.

This year's festival includes 163 films from 37 countries and features 70 UK premieres, along with seasons of US independent and German films. There are 23 documentaries including Al Gore's global warming film, An Inconvenient Truth. The former US vice-president is flying in to introduce the film.

The sporting theme set by the opening film continues with the international premiere of Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait. The art film by the Scottish winner of the Turner Prize, Douglas Gordon, trained 17 cameras on Zinedine Zidane during a single match between Real Madrid and Villarreal. It features a voice-over by the football legend.

Actor Alan Arkin is also coming to Edinburgh for the showing of his Little Miss Sunshine, about a dysfunctional American family's bid to get their daughter into a beauty pageant.

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The line-up of British films is being touted as particularly strong. They include Driving Lessons, starring Rupert Grint and Julie Walters. Dead Man's Cards is the story of a struggling Liverpool boxer by first-time director James Marquand. London to Brighton is flagged as another major film.

Summer Palace, meanwhile, is a Chinese film that featured at the Cannes Film Festival. It is a love story which addresses the Tiananmen Square massacres and was banned in its own country for its sexual and political frankness. The festival runs from 14-27 August with tickets on sale from tomorrow.