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How to recruit a superstar... five bottles of good wine

Can't persuade an actor to star in your film? Get him plastered.

Quentin Tarantino's Nazi-hunting spaghetti western comic revenge fantasy, Inglourious Basterds, finally arrived on the Croissette last night – and the director brought Hollywood star voltage with him to the Cannes Film Festival.

The former video store clerk, who won the Palme d'Or here 15 years ago for Pulp Fiction, said he nearly abandoned the film after becoming frustrated about who to cast in the lead. That's when the American plied Brad Pitt with wine and, er... enthusiasm.

Pitt's appearance in Cannes yesterday with Angelina Jolie threatened to eclipse the Inglourious Basterds premiere. The actor said he only had a hazy recollection of ever agreeing to star in the film: "Quentin came to visit some time at the end of the summer, we talked about backstory, we talked about movies," Pitt explained.

"I get up the next morning and see five empty bottles of wine right on the floor. Five. And something that resembles a smoking apparatus – I don't know what that was about – and apparently I had agreed to do this film. Six weeks later, I was in uniform, and I was Lieutenant Aldo Raine."

As the critics sat down to watch Tarantino's offering about a band of Second World War Jewish-American soldiers who execute brutal revenge attacks on Nazi leaders, it emerged that the stars themselves had yet to see the finished flick. The verdict was: suspend your disbelief, hold your stomach, and save your sympathy for the cleaners on the film set, who each night had to mop up Rorke's Drift quantities of fake blood and innards.

Pitt stars as an American army officer who leads soldiers parachuted into Nazi-occupied France. They disfigure, disembowel and dismember key Third Reich officers, in the name of fear-mongering and a little human baseball.

He praised Tarantino's "outrageous" vision for the historically revisionist view on the end of the Second World War. The hysterically camp Hitler is a noteworthy highlight.

Inglourious Basterds was one of the most eagerly anticipated films in competition at the two-week festival, and was warmly received. The Palme d'Or winner will be announced on Sunday. Tarantino's competitors include Ken Loach, Ang Lee and Jane Campion.

The film is scheduled for British release on 21 August.

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