French President JACQUES CHIRAC is facing a political backlash after reports he tried to altar the casting of The Da Vinci Code, promoting family friends for the lead roles.

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH star Sophie Marceau, 39, was allegedly touted by the French head of state to star as young cryptologist SOPHIE NEVEU - the role ultimately won by AMELIE actress Audrey Tautou, according to British newspaper The Times.

Marceau, who is a close friend of Chirac's daughter CLAUDE, was a staunch supporter of Chirac during his 2002 presidential campaign.

The casting scandal was leaked by the film's director Ron Howard, who also revealed Chirac demanded higher pay for actor Jean Reno, who plays detective BEZU FACHE in the adaptation of Dan Brown's bestselling novel.

In return, the veteran politician offered to facilitate filming in Paris' historic Louvres museum.

Howard says of the President's request, "That was hilarious. Fortunately, the deal was already closed."

A spokesman for Chirac denied the allegations, but admitted that a meeting between Howard and the film's producer Brian Grazer had taken place.