ORGANISERS of the Cannes Film Festival dismissed claims by Tourism Minister Kim Howells yesterday that Hollywood stars were too scared to fly.

Mr Howells said US action heroes did not have the "balls" to fly to Europe for fear of a terrorist attack.

But there was little evidence of that in Cannes, with Arnold Schwarzenegger' Keanu Reeves and Kevin Costner all jetting in to the French Riviera.

Other A-list names attending the festival include Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Laurence Fishburne, Jackie Chan and Meg Ryan, while Clint Eastwood will appear on the red carpet later this week.

A festival spokeswoman said: "I do not know what this man is talking about because we have many big American stars here.

"I do not understand why he would say this when actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kevin Costner have flown to Cannes.

"If there are less American stars than previous years, that is simply because more of the films in competition this year are European. Every star who has been invited to Cannes is here."

Mr Howells singled out "swashbuckling heroes like Tom Cruise" for being more frightened of flying than "grannies from New York".

According to girlfriend Penelope Cruz, Cruise was unable to accompany her down the red carpet because of filming commitments.