Star-studded opening weekend at Rome Film Festival 2013

John Hurt, Jared Leto, Jonathan Demme, Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara, and Spike Jonze on the red carpet

Jared Leto (with Lapo & Ginevra Elkann)
Arriving in the early afternoon at the Rome Film Festival on Saturday I was surprised to see that the entire length of the Auditorium Parco della Musica's red carpet was already packed. These mostly teenage fans were there to see Thirty Seconds to Mars frontman Jared Leto, in Rome to present the In Competition movie Dallas Buyers Club. His red carpet walk later in the evening was accompanied by screams and scenes of pandemonium, which I watched from the safety of the Auditorium’s Cavea!

British film and theatre actor John Hurt was also back on Saturday afternoon for a wonderfully intimate on-stage conversation as part of the festival's new series of movie talks with actors and directors - CineChat - moderated by Mario Sesti and London Film Festival's Sandra Hebron. A droll and generous raconteur, it was an absolute delight to spend an hour in the company of such a distinguished actor.

Mario Sesti, Jonathan Demme and Giona A. Nazzaro
Autumn arrived very suddenly in Rome over the weekend, however, bringing heavy rain on Sunday. Film director Jonathan Demme was sadly forced to cut short his red carpet walk thanks to a sudden downpour. Luckily, I had tickets for his hugely enjoyable CineChat conversation yesterday afternoon in Sala Petrassi. Moderated by Mario Sesti and Giona A. Nazzaro, the encounter was a fascinating exploration of Demme's career, from his early days as a protégé of Roger Corman, through to his recent return to lower budget filmmaking in his latest film Fear of Falling, which sees its world première screening at this year's festival. His passion for his craft was palpable, and I particularly liked his questioning of the morality of spending inordinate amounts of money on multi-million dollar movies. It was also fun to see Demme's genuine surprise when, after praising the Neapolitan composer Enzo Avitabile with whom he had worked on the documentary Enzo Avitabile Music Life, the musician stood up and revealed that he was sitting in the audience!

The bad weather did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the fans who thronged the length of the red carpet for a glimpse of the biggest Hollywood names at this years festival, Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson, who, along with their co-star Rooney Mara and director Spike Jonze, were in attendance for the In Competition screening of Her. Already an early favourite for a festival prize, the film was warmly received in the packed Santa Cecilia hall yesterday evening with the biggest cheers reserved for the enormously charismatic Phoenix.

To get a taste of the atmosphere at the Her première watch the video below (or click here to watch on YouTube).