31 AUGUST 2006

Venice is a city steeped in history and romance and its latest A-list visitor managed to embody both when she stepped out in a stunning vintage-style gown. Hollywood starlet Scarlett Johansson got a resounding thumbs up from Italy's discerning fashion police when she helped kick off the city's annual film festival on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old set flashbulbs blazing outside the Venice Lido when she arrived on the red carpet in a retro-style silk creation. The blonde bombshell, who is in town to promote her new flick The Black Dahlia, said she spent three whole days searching for just the right outfit. "Hidden away I found a Forties embroidered silk dress that is a perfect fit, not just for me, but for the era my film is set in," she revealed.

Set against the backdrop of Hollywood's golden age, the movie takes an unflinching look at the darker side of the film industry. Veteran filmmaker Brian DePalma, who directed the flick, said he wanted to resurrect the old-fashioned murder mystery as a genre. "They don't do many of them today, these obsessive stories, these femme fatales, these dark depressive characters," he explained.

Also in attendance for the premiere was Josh Hartnett, who plays the police officer assigned to uncover the truth. The 28-year-old's onscreen chemistry with Scarlett has not gone unnoticed in the Tinseltown press, not least because the pair struck up a real life romance on the set, but his leading lady says their steamy love scenes shouldn't divert attention from the film itself. "Of course it's nice to be considered sexy as a young woman in my prime," she said. "But I try not to think about the sexiness, and I never think about it being distracting from a scene."

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The 21-year-old actress, who revealed she spent three days searching for her gown, makes her entrance at Venice Lido. She said the dress was "a perfect fit, not just for me, but for the era my film is set in"Photo: © Getty ImagesClick on photos for gallery
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Also on hand was Tinseltown heart-throb Josh Hartnett. Her co-star in the film, he has become Scarlett's real life leading man, too Photo: © AFP
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