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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 December, 2003, 22:32 GMT
Rings fever in Leicester Square

By Stephen Dowling
BBC News Online entertainment

Fans dressed as the Fellowship
These fans from Bristol dressed as Lord of the Rings characters
Thousands of fans braved the rain - some of them camped all day - for a chance to glimpse the stars of The Lord of the Rings at the UK première of The Return of The King on Thursday.

Leicester Square has never seen anything quite like it.

Evenings of unashamed Hollywood glamour to open the latest blockbuster are a common occurrence - but this was something special.

The hordes included some who had been here since the early morning - and stared jealously in the rain as media types swanned by for a pre-lunch screening.

But now they are making up for those long hours of shivering.

Every Rings cast member, back-room boffin or minor soap star walking down the carpetless "red carpet" were met with a deafening scream that rattled the protective railings

It was a noise which would have done a battalion of orcs proud.

Of course, not everyone in the crowd could see. By some reckoning the fans were eight deep, and in front of them were posters confessing undying love to stars such as Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen.

"Who's that? Is it Viggo?" a middle-aged woman asked repeatedly.

Even if it was, her views were blocked by the press. It was strange to be at an event, but to be able to see a fraction of what you could on the TV in your front room.

There were excited screams for the slightest turn of a star's head.

When director Peter Jackson went on a lengthy signing walkabout, pen in hand, it was like The Second Coming.

Rings fan Alan Mandel
Rings fan Alan Mandel aped Legolas, played by Orlando Bloom

Some came just for the fun of being there.

Student Alan Mandel, 19, from Reading, came dressed as elf Legolas, played in the film by Bloom.

"I'm a big fan, but not as big a fan as those screaming girls over there," he said. Unfortunately for Mandel and the screaming girls, Bloom was in LA rather than at the screening.

Mr Mandel had turned up to all three of the London Lord of the Rings premières, and said this was by far the biggest.

"There are five times the amount of people - and ten times the amount of mayhem," he said.

Others have gone ever further. An eight-strong team from Bristol descended on Leicester Square dressed as some of the film's major characters, including dwarf Gimli, wizard Gandalf, hobbit Sam and elf leader Elrond.

They spent the day on a sponsored walk and raised £700 for the National Literacy Trust.

Vicky Sleap, the group's Legolas, spent the last year making the costumes.

Raquel Provencio
Spanish fan Raquel Provencio: no premières back home
"We turned up at The Two Towers première last year, and we just thought we'd do something different. We just thought it would be really good if we showed we really supported the films," she said.

One overseas Rings fan was Spaniard Raquel Provencio, from Madrid, a huge fan of Tolkien's books.

"I'm told the film is the best of the three - I have read the books and I know what happens in the end. I was a fan back in Spain but there we do not get any premières," she said.

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