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Thursday, 15 July, 1999, 22:48 GMT 23:48 UK
Neeson headlines Star Wars premier
star wars
Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson star in the new film
Northern Ireland-born Holywood celebrity Liam Neeson headed a list of celebrities at the premier of the latest Star Wars movie in Dublin on Thursday.

The actor who comes from Ballymena, in County Antrim, plays the key role of Jedi Master Gui Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace.

He arrived at the Savoy Cinema in Dublin's O'Connell Street for the premier, along with actress wife Natasha Richardson and other especially invited guests.

The film - which has already smashed box-office records in the US - is being shown in cinemas across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Virgin Cinema in Belfast is staying open until 0300 BST on Thursday to show three screenings of the film.

On Friday there will be virtually round the clock screenings, all of which are expected to attract huge crowds.

Neeson missed Wednesday night's Royal premiere in London because of previously arranged commitments.

But he made sure he was at the Dublin event, where all proceeds were being diverted to the star's favourite charity, Unicef, the United Nations fund for aiding children.

The Dublin opening was set to raise 100,000 for the organisation, for whom Neeson acts as a special patron.

That sum will add to the IR 600,000 already collected in less than two years, on flights operated by Ireland's Aer Lingus airline.

Star Wars: A film which has received mixed reviews
Star Wars: A film which has received mixed reviews
Cinemas throughout Ireland expect the latest Star Wars film to follow the example set by its predecessors and attract near-record crowds of moviegoers.

When it opened in the US in May, the film took just five days to make $100m at the box office, and took a record $28.5m on its first day.

Speaking in Dublin ahead of the premiere, Neeson said: "I am very grateful to passengers for their support and to Aer Lingus and their cabin crews who had the vision to support this very successful way of raising much-needed funds."

He said he was looking forward to the prospect of one day depicting an on-screen version of Democratic Unionist Party leader the Reverend Ian Paisley.

Neeson looks to the future

He was asked whether, after featuring in a film as Michael Collins, and on stage as writer Oscar Wilde, he might consider other Irish roles.

Neeson replied: "Ian Paisley is a possibility. At least I would not have to work on the accent."

Many cinemas are opening all night to cope with the rush of fans to see the Star Wars prequel which also stars Ewan McGregor, Samuel L Jackson and Natalie Portman.

The film takes trekkie fans back 30 years from the first Star Wars in 1977 and shows the early years of Anakin Skywalker who grew up to become the evil Darth Vader.

The film has received mixed reviews with praise for the special effects but scorn for the storyline.

See also:

18 May 99 | Star Wars
The Jedi return
14 Jun 99 | Entertainment
Star Wars games mania
21 May 99 | Entertainment
Star Wars breaks box office record
18 Jun 99 | Entertainment
Great show of Force
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