Wed 14 July, 2004 13:50
By Rachel Sanderson
ROME (Reuters) - Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta Jones unknowingly mingled with mafiosi while filming in Sicily, say police.
Police swooped on 23 suspected Mafia members near the Sicilian city of Trapani on Tuesday, close to where Pitt and Zeta Jones have been working on "Ocean's 12" -- a sequel to the 2001 crime caper "Ocean's 11".
Among those seized were members of a well-known mob clan dominant on the idyllic stretch of Sicilian coast where filming took place, who used their contacts to try infiltrate the set.
"Three members of the Castellammare del Golfo Mafia family made rounds of the set all day and night, keeping close to the set and the actors in the hotel where they slept," Giuseppe Linares, a police chief in Trapani told Reuters on Wednesday.
No one was immediately available to comment from the film's production company.
Judicial sources said the mafiosi were suspected of seeking protection money from the film's producers.
Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Matt Damon also star in "Ocean's 12", which is directed by Steven Soderbergh, but they were not involved in the Sicily shoot.
Linares said neither the actors nor the crew were in any danger during their stay on the Mediterranean island.
"The three mafiosi were monitored by police via global positioning satellite systems and by plain clothes officers who were ready to swoop if there was any meddling or particularly suspicious activity," Linares said.
The Mafia round up is one of the few nuggets of news to escape the tightly closed set of "Ocean's 12" that has moved between Sicily and Rome. Filming in Italy has now finished.
In Rome, paparazzi frenzy at the appearance of Julia Roberts, who is expecting twins, recalled Italy's movie-making heyday of the 1950s and 1960s when stars thronged the Via Veneto, made famous by Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita".
One of the few photos to circulate showed Pitt and Zeta Jones sharing an ice cream on the banks of the Tiber.
-- Additional reporting by Wladimir Pantaleone in Palermo