The acclaimed film director behind the classic "1984" television commercial that launched Apple Computer Inc.'s (AAPL) Macintosh computers will soon promote yet another gadget icon.

Palm Inc.'s (PALM) Treo smart phone will play about as prominent a role that a gadget can play in Ridley Scott's new film, "A Good Year," according to the filmmakers.

"Every once in a while, there's a prop that helps define a character, and the Treo is his key tie to the world, his lifeline, as he decides whether he's going to commit to his new life or go back to his old one," said Fred Baron, the executive vice president of feature productions at News Corp.'s (NWS) Twentieth Century Fox.

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The romantic comedy opens Friday. Russell Crowe plays an investment banker from London who winds up in Provence tending to a small vineyard he inherited.

In the film, the multipurpose phone appears dozens of times, its signature ring sounding off repeatedly. It's used for phone calls, photos, video conferencing, e-mail and even wine selection — akin to its real-world capabilities.

Although companies typically pay thousands of dollars to get their products featured on-screen, Palm said it does not pay for its TV or movie appearances, relying instead on the Treo's reputation.

Sunnyvale-based Palm, which faces stiffening competition among smart phones, plans to chalk up this Hollywood treatment in a press release as its latest in a string of Hollywood roles, including "Snakes on a Plane," "Law & Order" and "ER."

Scott could have chosen rival gizmos for the film but didn't, Baron said.

"We wanted the highest tech and the sleekest phone out there that could do all these things," he said, adding that the phone's ability to work across Europe was a plus.

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