American movies are taking center stage at the Cannes Film Festival, with a fistful of U.S. films and stars in the 2012 line up announced Thursday.
Among some of the most anticipated titles of the year is an adaptation of Jack Kerouac's classic "On the Road."
It's one of 20 films battling for the May 16 to 27 festival's coveted top prize, the Palme d'Or.
Announcing the slate at Paris' Intercontinental Hotel, Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux said, "American cinema is back in force."
A total of 54 features representing 26 countries were chosen from a record-breaking 1,779 films submitted to organizers of the French Riviera festival. There's a possibility for a few late additions in the coming weeks.
"The Artist" star Berenice Bejo will host the opening and closing ceremonies, with Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti chairing the judging panel.
Walter Salles' "On the Road," tells the story of the years Kerouac spent traveling the United States in the 1940s with his friend Neal Cassady and several other figures. Staring Sam Riley and "Twilight's" Kristen Stewart, it also features a performance from Kirsten Dunst, who won Cannes' best actress award last year for her role in "Melancholia."
Other U.S-slanted highlights include Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly" starring Brad Pitt as a mob enforcer, and "The Paperboy," a drama with Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman by Lee Daniels, director of "Precious."
"Lawless," by John Hillcoat, stars Chastain and Tom Hardy in a tale of Depression-era bootleggers.
For Canadian director David Cronenberg, whose film "Cosmopolis" is among those in competition, the festival will be something of a family affair. His son Brandon's debut feature, "Antiviral" is in the festival's secondary competition, Un Certain Regard.
The 3-D animation film "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" also premieres at the festival. The film features voices by Ben Stiller and Sacha Baron Cohen.
For those with more nocturnal proclivities, Cannes will get out its garlic and wooden stakes for a midnight screening of Dario Argento's highly awaited "Dracula" in 3-D.
Several Cannes winners are back this year, including Austria's Michael Haneke, with "Amour," Britain's Ken Loach, with "The Angels' Share," and Romania's Cristian Mungiu, with "Beyond the Hills." Joining them will be Alain Resnais, who, at nearly 90, will present the aptly titled "Vous N'Avez Encore Rien Vu" or "You Haven't Seen Anything Yet."
The out-of-competition lineup includes an offering from American cinema veteran Philip Kaufman called "Hemingway & Gellhorn."Starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen, the film tells the story of one of American's most famous literary couples: Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, his war correspondent wife of five years.
The festival is to close with a tribute to French film director Claude Miller, who died two weeks ago. Organizers are screening "Therese D.," a film he completed shortly before his death. Based on a novel by Francois Mauriac, the film stars Audrey Tautou as a 1920s woman trapped in a failing marriage in Paris.
Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.