BRAZIL'S Fernando Meirelles and US director James Gray have been added to the list of talent to compete for the top prize at this year's Cannes film festival, organisers said today.
The coveted Palme d'Or, which crowns the May 14-25 event, will be handed out by Robert de Niro.
Niro will be stepping up the Cannes red carpet among a bevy of celebs as the star of Barry Levinson's film What Just Happened in which he plays the role of a fading Hollywood producer.
That film will close the world's paramount film festival, to be opened by Blindness, a drama by Meirelles - best-known for his Oscar-nominated City of God or more recently The Constant Gardener - about a city whose residents are struck by a mysterious loss of sight.
Also a last-minute entrant to the competition for the Palme is Gray's Two Lovers, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a New Yorker torn between Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw, a first sentimental drama by the maker of mafia crime chronicles such as Little Odessa and We Own The Night.
A third French film - Between The Walls (Entre Les Murs) by Laurent Cantet - has also been selected, bringing the total number of films running for the honour to 22.
Other top contenders in the race are veteran directors Clint Eastwood, Steven Soderbergh and Wim Wenders.
Much awaited also are the movies selected to be screened out of competition and getting their world release, including the latest from top-name directors Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg.
Spielberg will be bringing the year's most-awaited movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - the fourth installment in the box office-busting series starring Harrison Ford as the archaeologist adventurer who had his first outing way back in 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Woody Allen, a longstanding favourite at Cannes, brings his Spanish-set Vicky Cristina Barcelona, along with its stars Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem for a walk up the red carpet.