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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 21:12 GMT
Magic night for Rings première
Liv Tyler and Elijah Wood
Liv Tyler and Elijah Wood attract the crowds
Liv Tyler, Elijah Wood and Sean Bean were the main attractions at the world première of the first part of the much-awaited film adaptation of JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

The stars were joined by fellow cast members Christopher Lee and Viggo Mortensen and director Peter Jackson at the launch of the film, at Leicester Square, London.

The film premières amid intense hype over its box office potential and its clash with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which is also adapted from a phenomenally successful book.

Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ian McKellen stars as Gandalf the wizard

Both films feature sorcery, are adaptations of massively popular novels and will be followed by sequels.

Tyler, who plays an Elf princess, said of the première: "I've seen nothing like this ever before."

A crowd of about 2,000, markedly less than the numbers at the Potter launch, were on hand to cheer the stars.

Sir Ian, who plays the wizard Gandalf, said: "It's indisputably a landmark in movie history. It's biblical."

And Chrisopher Lee declared: "I think it will go down in cinema history - this and the next two - because no one has ever seen anything like it."

Cate Blanchett, who also stars in the film, did not attend after recently giving birth to a son.

Filming took place over more than a year in New Zealand, and unusually all three films were shot at the same time to save time and money.

The story follows the fortunes of Frodo, a diminutive hobbit who embarks on a quest through Middle Earth under the guidance of Gandalf and a fellowship of travellers.

Frodo's task is to destroy the all-powerful ring that the dark lord Sauron covets.

The Fellowship of the Ring premières amid speculation over what the writer himself would have thought of the adaptation.

Michael White, biographer of the Oxford professor and Lord of the Rings creator, said the author would have hated the film.


"I think he would have just closed his eyes to it," White said of Tolkien, who died in 1973 aged 81.

"He had a hatred of all things Hollywood and did not believe in the idea of imitation being the best form of flattery."

However, Tolkien's son, Christopher, who owns the rights to his father's literary legacy, denied reports that he was unhappy with the way The Lord of the Rings films are being made.

He had remained silent about the films, but reports claimed he was unhappy with the way the film-makers interpreted his father's books.

Tolkien sold the film rights to his cult fantasy books in 1969 for just £10,000 - meaning his family, and those in charge of his estate, were left with no control over how the movies were made.

The première attracted a typical crowd of celebrity guests, including Frank Skinner, Richard E Grant, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, Hear'Say and Sir Cliff Richard.

The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring is released on 19 December.

The BBC's Rosie Millard
"It took seven years to make"
BBC News Online's Jayne Douglas
"Thoroughly star-studded affair"
See also:

10 Dec 01 | England
England's 'hidden' Tolkien history
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