Regal mania gripped the Lido following this weekend's world premiere of Stephen Frears' The Queen in competition at the Venice Festival. Frears, Helen Mirren and the film's producers received a standing ovation at their press conference.

There was a whiff of republicanism as Frears met the British press in the gardens of the Des Bains Hotel on Saturday morning.

"I think the institution (the Monarchy) is problematic and I imagine that when the Queen dies, there will be changes," Frears commented, adding the caveat that if he was given a choice today between the Queen and President Blair, he would opt for the former.

"But that's because of Blair's peculiar relationship toward democracy."

The veteran English director insisted that it had always been his intention to shoot The Queen for cinema, not TV. He joked that the Queen would be pleased to have been played by "such a handsome woman as Helen (Mirren.)"

Mirren, meanwhile, came up with an outlandish metaphor to describe the Queen's place in British public life.

"She is this extraordinary person who has always been there. She is like your parents' sofa that you grew up with as a child.

When you were young, it was new and you bounced on it like a trampoline and it got wine spilled on it.

Now, when you go back to your childhood, you realise that it is the most familiar thing in your life."

Producer Christine Langan confirmed that the filmmakers had approached both Downing Street and Buckingham Palace to offer private screenings. "They haven't (responded) so far and I don't imagine they will," she said.

Langan dismissed as "nonsense" the rumour that lawyers representing the Royal Family had come to Venice to see The Queen, pointing out that they could easily have seen the film in London.

The filmmakers are billing The Queen as "intimate without being prurient" and insist that it offers a "positive portrayal" of both Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth II.