CANNES, FRANCE — European audiences love Hollywood hits as much as anyone, so it's not surprising that an early attraction in the Cannes filmfest was the thriller "Entrapment," which goes by the more charged-up title of "High Voltage" on this side of the ocean.
Also unsurprising was the huge crowd of international journalists who turned out for a session with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, both of whom are proud of their European roots. Connery is as famous for his elegant Scottish burr as for his ruggedly handsome face, and Zeta-Jones has a sprightly Welsh accent when chatting off the screen.
A topic on everyone's mind was the standout scene of the movie, when Zeta-Jones's character, a young sleuth who may be in cahoots with the experienced thief she's chasing, slithers through an intricate web of laser beams to reach a forbidden treasure.
Performing those maneuvers was "kind of Zen-like," according to the actress, who's also a trained dancer. "It was like a cross between ballet and tai chi," she added, with a smile that showed how much she enjoyed the challenge.
Connery was confronted with a handful of questions about his many years as Agent 007 in the legendary James Bond series, and with more serious queries related to his well-known interest in Scottish nationalism. He set up a trust for Scottish education two decades ago and is working on a Scottish film studio, in partnership with two English movie companies.
He also supports the British Film Council now being developed to consolidate Britain's motion-picture industry. "The problem is that there is no British film industry as such," he says, "because it has no infrastructure or foundation. Until we get it built so it's on a par with [British] steel or the motorcar industry, it will always be waiting for American money...."
Connery has recently made public appearances in support of Scottish nationalism, earning headlines for his political commitment and for what some perceive as his lack of Hollywood polish on such occasions. He doesn't refute this description, but tosses it off as irrelevant.
Returning to the subject of acting, what's next on Connery's agenda? It could be playing the wizard Gandalf in a new adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein's great novel "The Lord of the Rings," but it could also be one of several other projects.
Right now his only immediate goal is to finish publicizing "Entrapment" and take "a bit of a break." Admirers in many lands will be watching to see what he chooses to do next.