The paparazzi pursued Nicole Kidman down the Venetian lagoon in a high-speed boat chase worthy of the movies yesterday.

A flotilla of boats packed with cameramen headed after the actress, determined to catch a glimpse of one of the few superstars due to attend this year’s Venice Film Festival.

Her arrival came amid reports in the Italian press lamenting the dearth of stars at this year’s festival. They seem few and far between beyond Helen Hunt, Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Gene Hackman. 

The photographers and cameramen who descended on Venice airport yesterday endured a long, hot wait in the sun as the flight of Kidman's private plane from Los Angeles was delayed by three hours. The moment she arrived, eight speedboats packed with photographers hurtled across the waves before the police instructed security guards on board to slow down. 

The last time Kidman came to the festival — the world's oldest — she was with Tom Cruise. This time, three weeks after their acrimonious divorce the Australian star arrived alone. Well, not quite alone. The actress was said to have a large entourage — agents and publicists, not to mention make-up artist, hairdresser and a couple of friends. That was denied by one publicist, who insisted the actress was accompanied by only one assistant. 

Kidman was said to be staying at The Cipriani, the exclusive hotel perched on an island away from the eyes of the media. Only official guests are allowed past the guards. The hotel boasts an individual butler service and a jacuzzi in every room. Florists are reported to have filled her suite with gardenias and roses. 

The actress is promoting two films Birthday Girl and the Gothic thriller, The Others, which was co-produced by Cruise. Kidman's itinerary takes her to London on Monday to attend the premiere of another film, Moulin Rouge, in aid of the Prince's Trust.