RonHoward's The Da Vinci Code has been selected to open the 59th Cannes Film Festivalthis May, where it will be presented out of competition.

Organisersannounced the news on Saturday in Paris, where some of the film's crucialscenes were shot.

StarringTom Hanks as a Harvard professor who gets embroiled in a murder mystery ofbiblical proportions, The Da Vinci Code also features two of France's best-knowninternational stars, Audrey Tautou and Jean Reno. British actors Ian McKellen,Paul Bettany and Alfred Molina round out the high pedigree cast.

Dan Brown'sbestselling book, from which the film is adapted by Akiva Goldsman (who alsowrote the screenplay for Howard's Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind), has sold over 30 million copiesworldwide.

The plothinges on the inflammatory conspiracy theory that Christ was married to MaryMagdalene and fathered a daughter - a secret that has been covered up bythe Catholic Church ever since.

Notsurprisingly, Church groups including The Catholic League have objected to thisportrayal of Christ and demanded a disclaimer on the film that would emphasizethe story's fictional nature. The film's studio, Sony Pictures, has so farbeen non-committal in response.

In aninterview published in Newsweek earlier this year, Howard hinted that few concessions wouldbe made to soften the book's more controversial elements.

"It would be ludicrous to take on thissubject and then try to take the edges off. We're doing this movie because we like the book."

The filmwas shot in Paris in 2005 notably using the Louvre museum, where a grislymurder takes place at the apparent hands of a zealous monk, and the St Sulpicechurch as settings.

The filmalso shot extensively in the UK, using Temple Church in London, Lincolnshireand Scotland's Rosslyn Chapel among its settings.

Ron Howardalready has seen three of his films screened at the famed festival: Willow in 1988, Far And Away in 1992 and Ed TV in 1999. Far And Away closed Cannes.

Openingon May 17 in France, The Da Vinci Code, released by Sony, will go out worldwide immediatelythereafter on May 19.