Nicole splashes out in Venice

Venice's nickname is "La Serenissima" - the most serene - but the lagoon city was anything but calm yesterday as a host of celebrities began arriving for the 58th Venice Film Festival.

Nicole Kidman headed straight for the deluxe Cipriani hotel after arriving - but ran into a slight delay en route.

Her water taxi was stopped by a police patrol for speeding through Venice's canals, the ANSA news agency reported.

The 34-year-old Australian actress' entourage includes her agent, press corps, make-up artist, hairdresser, and a few personal friends.

Kidman appears in two festival films - "Birthday Girl," showing out of competition, and the in-competition thriller, "The Others," co-produced by ex-husband Tom Cruise, who is not expected to attend the festival.

The actress' press office is keeping a tight lid on her agenda throughout the event, although she is expected to attend an AIDS benefit on Aug. 31 with guest-of-honor Elizabeth Taylor.

Charlize Theron, another much-hyped attendee, is scheduled to arrive today. The 26-year-old actress appears in Woody Allen's "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion," showing out of competition.

Martin Scorsese will be in Venice, but not to show a new film he directed. He's in town to promote his Film Foundation, a film restoration association. As the foundation's president, Scorsese will present two recently restored films from the 1930s.

Other celebrities expected to grace the Lido during the festival's 11-day run include Denzel Washington ("Training Day"), Helen Hunt ("The Curse of the Jade Scorpion"), Johnny Depp ("From Hell"), and Ben Kingsley and Mira Sorvino, both in "The Triumph of Love."

A number of big names won't be present for this year's festivities, including "Dust" star Joseph Fiennes and directors Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen, whose films have been embraced by the festival in recent years.

The Venice Film Festival runs until September 8.

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