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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 December, 2003, 22:03 GMT
Thousands attend Rings première
Actress Liv Tyler
Liv Tyler said the atmosphere was electric
The stars of The Lord of the Rings were greeted by thousands of fans at the UK première of The Return of the King in London on Thursday night.

Some had been waiting in Leicester Square for over 10 hours to glimpse stars such as Sir Ian McKellen.

The fan turnout was reportedly the biggest ever for a London film première, despite poor conditions

Director Peter Jackson said he felt "relief and pride but also sadness" the trilogy was over.

"This reception is just amazing. I hear people have been here since five o'clock this morning and that's pretty touching," the director said.

"I'm told it's the biggest crowd there has ever been for the premiere of a film, and considering this is the third Lord of the Rings movie it's simply amazing," said Sir Ian.

The film's stars, which also included Dominic Monaghan (Merry), Liv Tyler (Arwen) and Sean Astin (Sam) were all met with deafening cheers from the crowd.

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen plays hero Aragorn in the film

But the biggest applause was for Viggo Mortensen, who plays Aragorn, and Jackson.

The director spent at least 20 minutes signing autographs for fans who had been waiting all day.

"The fans are so sweet. We've had the most incredible time going around these premieres," Tyler said.

Many fans had dressed as characters from the films, while some had travelled from as far away as Hungary for a look at the stars.

Many had posters, and had been on folding chairs and huddled under blankets in rainy conditions.

The Odeon cinema chain has recorded its biggest advance ticket sales of the year with more than £1m already sold a week ahead of its UK release.

Film critics are already calling for The Return of the King and director Jackson to be honoured at the 2004 Oscars.

Street parade

Elijah Wood once again plays heroic hobbit Frodo, charged with travelling through perilous terrain to destroy the Ring.

At three hours and 11 minutes, it is the longest of the three films.

In a ground-breaking move the three films were made simultaneously in New Zealand over a number of years, and released annually since 2001.

The movie received its world première in New Zealand last week as 100,000 people turned out to cheer the film stars who took part in a street parade.

The Return of the King is released on 17 December.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Matt Prodger
"The Lord of The Rings just keeps getting bigger and bigger"



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