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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Lucas lights up Star Wars première
Christopher Lee (left) with Samuel L Jackson, George Lucas and Hayden Christensen
Christopher Lee (left) with Samuel L Jackson, George Lucas and Hayden Christensen
Die-hard Star Wars fans sang Happy Birthday to director George Lucas at the London première of Attack of the Clones.

Lucas, celebrating his 58th birthday, was among many stars turning out for the latest instalment of the epic science fiction film series at London's Leicester Square.

He said the best present would be "that everybody likes the movie" - and praised the cheering crowds.

"It's very special to be here. It's amazing that it's stood up all these years and it's still as popular as it's ever been."

Actress Halle Berry arriving with her husband Eric Benet
Halle Berry dropped in to support friend Samuel L Jackson
Others turning up at the Odeon opening were Oscar winner Halle Berry and one of the film's stars, Samuel L Jackson.

Jackson said of the film: "It's one of the coolest things I've done.

"My light sabre skills are impeccable, you want to take me on outside the theatre?"

Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin Skywalker, and Christopher Lee, who plays Count Dooku, also turned up.

Christensen said: "I wasn't even born when the first movie came out, so it's amazing to be part of this. This is very exciting.

Light sabre

"I really enjoyed myself, I got along, with a sense of humour, with all the people.

"But I must admit I'm really not that great with a light sabre when they choreographed all the fights. I practised but I'm really not that good."

Some other celebrities, such as pop group Atomic Kitten, Pop Idol judge Nicki Chapman, chat show host Frank Skinner, comedian Johnny Vegas and pop duo H and Claire, were also there.

Characters from the film entertained fans
Characters from the film entertained fans
But lead actors Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman did not turn up because of work commitments.

Thousands of fans waited behind the crush barriers in Leicester Square, some saying they had waited 26 hours for the moment.

BBC Liquid News presenter Libby Potter, at the scene, said that judging from the crowds, Star Wars fever was unabated.

"It's as many people as I've ever seen at one of these events", she said.

Fans have waited three years for the return of Star Wars, many having been disappointed with the last instalment, The Phantom Menace.

Lucas himself has admitted the prequel did not live up to expectations.

Orchestra

Critics have been kinder to the latest film, describing the storyline and effects as much more impressive.

Frank Skinner
Frank Skinner showed off his light sabre skills
Despite The Phantom Menace's critical drubbing it became the third most successful film ever, earning nearly $1bn (£690m) at the box office.

But Lucas told reporters at the première he was not interested in which did better.

"I'm not in a contest. I make movies, I'm not a racehorse."

The London première also featured the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing John Williams' scores from the Star Wars trilogy, for which he won an Oscar in 1978.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones goes on worldwide release on Thursday 16 May.

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The BBC's David Sillito
"25 years on... and it shows no signs of flagging"
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