PARIS - American movies are taking center stage at the Cannes Film Festival, with a fistful of US films and stars including Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain in the 2012 lineup announced Thursday.
Among some of the most anticipated titles of the year is an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s Beat classic “On the Road.’’
It’s one of 20 films battling for the May 16-27 festival’s coveted top prize, the Palme d’Or.
Announcing the slate at Paris’s Intercontinental Hotel, Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux said, “American cinema is back in force.’’
A total of 54 features representing 26 countries - from the US to Syria, Iran, and Brazil - were chosen from a record-breaking 1,779 films submitted to organizers of the French Riviera festival. There’s a possibility for a few late additions in the coming weeks.
“The Artist’’ star Berenice Bejo will host the opening and closing ceremonies, with Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti chairing the festival’s judging panel.
Walter Salles’s “On the Road’’ tells the story of the years Kerouac spent traveling the US in the 1940s with his friend Neal Cassady and several other figures who would go on to fame in their own right. Starring Sam Riley and Kristen Stewart, it features a performance from Kirsten Dunst, who won Cannes’s best actress award last year for her role in “Melancholia.’’
Other US-slanted highlights include Andrew Dominik’s “Killing Them Softly,’’ starring Brad Pitt as a mob enforcer, and “The Paperboy,’’ a drama with Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman by Lee Daniels.
“Lawless,’’ by John Hillcoat, director of “The Road,’’ stars Chastain and Tom Hardy in a tale of Depression-era bootleggers.
For Canadian director David Cronenberg, whose film “Cosmopolis’’ is among those in competition, the festival will be something of a family affair. His son Brandon’s debut feature, “Antiviral,’’ is in the festival’s secondary competition, Un Certain Regard.
Screenings are expected to be packed to see if Cronenberg junior has the cinematic prowess of his veteran father, who came to fame with visceral films such as “Videodrome’’ and “Naked Lunch.’’
“Cosmopolis,’’ based on the Don DeLillo novel, features Stewart’s “Twilight’’ costar Robert Pattison.
For the young at heart, the 3-D animation “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’’ will also premiere at the festival, marking Cannes’s continuing friendship with Hollywood’s DreamWorks studios. The film features the vocal talents of Ben Stiller and Sacha Baron Cohen of “Borat’’ fame.
It is not the only 3-D offering included in the festival. For those with more nocturnal proclivities, Cannes will get out its garlic and wooden stakes for a midnight screening of Dario Argento’s highly awaited “Dracula’’ in 3-D.
Several Cannes winners are back this year, including Austria’s Michael Haneke, with “Amour,’’ Britain’s Ken Loach, with “The Angels’ Share,’’ and Romania’s Cristian Mungiu, with “Beyond the Hills.’’
Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.