updated 05/15/2013 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 05/15/2013 AT 11:00 AM ET
Under unseasonably cloudy skies and dodging a few raindrops, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire kicked off the 66th Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday just hours before walking the red carpet for their blockbuster film The Great Gatsby, which opened the star-studded 12-day extravaganza of movies and parties on the French Riviera.
“Every time I go to Cannes it feels like I’m entering the helicopter scene in La Dolce Vita; it’s an insane experience,” said DiCaprio, who posed for photos on the fabled Croisette next to his Gatsby costars.
Emma Watson, who stars in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, premiering Thursday, was spotted among the early celebrity arrivals at Nice International Airport on Tuesday – along with Paris Hilton, Cannes jury member Nicole Kidman and British singer Florence Welch.
Other stars expected to walk the red carpet in support of their films this year include: Ryan Gosling (Only God Forgives); Justin Timberlake (Inside Llewyn Davis); James Franco (As I Lay Dying); Michael Douglas and Matt Damon (Behind the Candelabra); and Rooney Mara (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints).
Many previous winners of the festival’s prestigious top award, the Palme d’Or, such as Steven Soderbergh, the Coen Brothers and Roman Polanski, are also returning with new films this year.
On the party front, one of the most lavish soirees ever to grace the festival is expected to take place Wednesday night after the festival premiere of The Great Gatsby.