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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 21:28 GMT
Fans flock to Rings première
Liv Tyler
Her part was small but her première impact huge
Hobbit-mania returned to the UK on Wednesday at the country's première of the second of the Lord of the Rings films, The Two Towers.

Among the film's stars at the Leicester Square screening were Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Dominic Monaghan and Sean Astin.

Cate Blanchett
Blanchett was greeted with cheers
In an atmosphere more reminiscent of a pop concert, director Peter Jackson was greeted with screams that would put the fans of most bands to shame.

The cast have already been to New York and Paris to promote the film, which opens worldwide on 18 December.

Jackson was met with screams of "Peter, Peter" as he arrived and the New Zealand director spent time signing photos, books and autograph books.

Few, if any, contemporary directors have the star appeal of the dimunitive film maker who gave up six years of his life to bring the Tolkien books to the screen.

And there were screams also for Liv Tyler, who plays the Elf princess Arwen.

"That's the most people I've ever heard screaming my name in my life - I can't take it all in," said the star.

Although her role in the new film is brief indeed, fans expressed their delight that she had braved the cold London weather.

But stars Elijah Wood, Christopher Lee and Viggo Mortensen, who play Frodo, Saruman and Aragorn, did not attend, disappointing many female fans who had queued hours to greet their idols.

Cameo

"I've been here since 7am just to see Elijah Wood and I can't believe he is not here," said 13-year-old Jessica.

Cate Blanchett, another actress to make just a cameo appearance, was ecstatic about the reception.

She said: "I've seen absolutely nothing [of the film] so I am really excited. It's like a football crowd outside.

"It's an historic film and it's never going to happen like this again. I think the director Peter Jackson is a genius."

Veteran star Christopher Lee, who plays the wizard Saruman in the trilogy, agrees.

He spoke out in Paris against Oscars chiefs for not giving the first Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, a major award.

It would bring "shame" on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences if the second film was to be similarly snubbed, he said.

'More danger'

The first film was nominated for 13 awards in 2002, including best director and best film, but took just four, for technical categories - cinematography, visual effects, make-up, and original score.

Dominic Monaghan
Actor Dominic Monaghan was pleased to see the Paris crowds

The latest movie "adds more danger to the story, and more complications", said Jackson, describing the episode as "more intense and darker" than the first.

Other guests at the première included Emma Noble, who wore a black and white gown and paraded for the awating photographers, Neil Morrissey, Rachel from S Club and footballers Teddy Sheringham and Trevor Sinclair.

The film's backers hope The Two Towers will repeat the success of The Fellowship of the Ring, which hit cinemas a year ago.

It became one of the biggest films of all time, taking $860m (£543m) at global box offices.

DVDs

The Two Towers will see the Hobbit Frodo, played by Elijah Wood, accompanied by his friend Sam (Sean Astin), continuing his struggle against evil forces.

Also returning will be Sir Ian McKellen, starring as the wizard Gandalf, and Liv Tyler as the elf Arwen.

The Two Towers covers the middle part of JRR Tolkien's story, with the final instalment planned for December 2003.

Most fans will not get to see the film until 18 December - but pirated DVDs of the film have been on sale in Asia for two weeks, according to a film industry magazine.

The DVDs have been on sale for $1 (63p) in Shanghai, China, Variety reported.


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