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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
Star Wars footage leaked
Natalie Portman as Amidala
Natalie Portman returns as Queen Amidala in Episode II
Production footage of Star Wars: Episode II showing Ewan McGregor battling with a light-sabre has been removed from an unofficial internet site.

Just hours after the film was posted on the TheForce.net site a message greeted fans telling them it was no longer available.
Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker in Episode I
Anakin Skywalker grows up in Episode II

The site had boasted exclusive camera shots from inside the Star Wars studio showing new characters and fight scenes.

A spokeswoman for Lucasfilm told BBC News Online that the footage had been put together for an awards ceremony but had been illegally copied and posted on the site.

"We put together a small piece of footage to be shown at the MovieLine awards when Hayden Christiensen received an award as a star to watch.

'Poor quality'

"The awards ceremony was not to be broadcast and news crews there turned off their cameras.

"It was probably someone with a camcorder - that is why the quality is so poor."

A spokesperson for the TheForce.net site told BBC News Online: "Unfortunately we cannot comment at the moment."

The film is not due for release until May 2002 and director George Lucas is staying tight-lipped about what to expect.

The footage shows director George Lucas directing Ewan McGregor and Hayden Chrstiensen, fighting with light-sabres against a blue screen.

The Lucasfilm spokeswoman said she did not know why the footage had been removed.

"We are not happy about it and it is completely illegal.

"If it is put up again on the site we will contact our lawyers."

The title of Star Wars II still remains a mystery, although tentative guesses on fan sites have included The Shadow Falls.

Light sabre

Filming so far has taken place in London, Seville, Spain, and Australia.

Producer Rick McCallum confirmed most of the UK shots are done with blue screens.

Using the blue backgrounds allows the film-makers to add in special effects and scenery at the editing stage.

The smuggled footage on The Force site showed Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, played by Hayden Christensen, fighting with light-sabres on the same side.

A fight director and Lucas were also visible discussing the scene.

Casting

Other shots were fuzzy and it was difficult to make out who was who, but actors were seen flying through the air as if knocked backwards in a fight.

The first in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, The Phantom Menace, was one of the most eagerly awaited releases when it came out in 1999.

It grossed around $922.3m (634.8m) at the box office and overall, the Star Wars films have generated around $2.9bn (1.9bn).

The secrecy surrounding the making of the film and the huge fan base it commands constantly leads to rumours and speculation.

The casting of the movie has already been released by Lucasfilms.

British actor Christopher Lee has also been confirmed to appear along with Samuel L Jackson and Natalie Portman.

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