After months of icy relations between America and France over the Iraq war, Hollywood is sending its two Republican big guns to the Cannes Film Festival this week to remind the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" – as they are called in The Simpsons – who's boss.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the ultimate gung-ho hero, will promote the third instalment in the Terminator franchise. And, Clint Eastwood will lead the US assault with his latest movie, Mystic River, billed as a quintessentially American take on loss and family loyalty.
But if either expects Cannes to submit without resistance, they could be wasting their time. A survey has confirmed what many film pundits have long suspected: that no film will win at the festival if it does not have a French connection.
The research, to be published in Variety magazine tomorrow, reveals that the 10 films to win the Palme d'Or in the past decade – among them Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Roman Polanski's The Pianist – had at least one Gallic company involved in the production or distribution. The same is true of 103 of the 110 movies entered for the award over the past five years.
An insider who has been attending the festival since 1991 told Variety: "It's not a conspiracy, but it's not a coincidence."
There is every sign that France will dominate the serious business at the 56th festival. Five of the 20 films entered for the Palme d'Or are French, just three are from the US and one, Peter Greenaway's The Moab Story: The Tulse Looper Suitcases, Part One, is from Britain.
Whatever the truth behind the French conspiracy theory, it is unlikely to deter Hollywood's hotshots.
While Eastwood, a one-time mayor of Carmel, California, is expected to keep a low profile, Schwarzenegger intends to do no such thing.
Two Terminator 3 parties are planned for the opening weekend, and Arnie has told friends he will set the French straight over their stance on Iraq. Though officially convened to showcase the new blockbuster, the events are expected to launch the actor's campaign to become the next governor of California. ACannes veteran said: "I don't think Arnold will do anything heavy, but he might make some good-natured cracks."
Elsewhere, there is every sign that the A-list stars will turn the festival into one of the showiest in years. Tom Cruise will escort Penelope Cruz at the premiere of her new film, Fanfan La Tulipe. His ex-wife, Nicole Kidman, will attend the screening of Dogville, the first film by Danish director Lars von Trier since he won the Palme d'Or for Dancer in the Dark three years ago.
Other stars include Keanu Reeves, for the launch of his blockbuster sequel Matrix Reloaded. Meg Ryan is on the Palme d'Or judging panel, and Ewan McGregor will publicise his latest film, Young Adam.