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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 May, 2005, 00:39 GMT 01:39 UK
Fan frenzy for Star Wars finale
By Ian Youngs
BBC News entertainment reporter

About 5,000 fans turned out for the UK premiere of the final Star Wars film, Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, with some waiting for more than 24 hours.

Director George Lucas (right) joined cast members on the red carpet
Director George Lucas (right) joined cast members on the red carpet
And after hours of waiting in the cold and rain, the fans finally did what they came to do - worship at director George Lucas' feet.

Some critics may look down on Revenge of the Sith - and the other two prequels - but nobody here cared what they thought.

As one die-hard devotee put it: "A Star Wars fan understands."

When Mr Lucas appeared with Star Wars actors past and present on the cinema balcony, the crowd let rip with three decades of adoration, dedication and gratitude.

Screaming and stretching, they held out their arms as if to get one inch closer to the man who made it happen.

Then a chant went up in the area where the hardcore faction had waited for a day or more.

Fans in Leicester Square
Thousands of fans braved the rain to wait for the stars
It was hard to make out at first - but then the words became clear: "Thank you, thank you."

Some may sneer, but the director has given them something worth being obsessed with - and they wanted to show their gratitude.

"I thought they were chanting R2, R2 - but it could be something different," Mr Lucas said afterwards.

And many of the most fanatical followers were not even on the red carpet.

Another 1,300 had been in a Star Wars film marathon since 0700 BST - and also gave Mr Lucas a hero's welcome when he popped in to see them.

The marathon was one of several events in what had been billed as a "celebration day".

Fans in Leicester Square
The premiere was part of a "celebration day" in Leicester Square
The rain dampened the spirits a little and probably kept some fans away.

"It's got rid of the part-time fans - only the hardcore remain," said Peter Harrison, 31, who travelled from York.

"You're never going to get another chance to be here. To say thanks to George Lucas."

Margaret Kamela, 45, from London, said she was present because the Star Wars films were a "huge, huge" part of film culture.

"This is history. So there's no way I wouldn't be here."

And Nicky James, 31, from Bromley, Kent, was in the crowd 25 years ago for The Empire Strikes Back premiere.

"Star Wars is something else," he said. "It's a cult phenomenon, not just films."

Fans in Leicester Square
Some fans dressed as characters from the films for the event
But Revenge of the Sith "has got to deliver" he said, adding: "I'm going to get pneumonia from this."

Before the stars arrived, many fans who had waited since the early morning - or before - wore looks of weary determination.

Standing in the rain for hours with brief breaks to go to the toilet or get food, they were bored, tired and a bit fed up - but knew they had to stay.

The hours were spent with friendly banter and cheering anything that moved - from the van that came to lay the red carpet to the Stormtroopers that occasionally did laps of the square.

When a woman from a local radio station arrived with a bag of umbrellas, they screamed and stretched almost as hard as they did for the stars.

The spirit of camaraderie kept everyone going - even if hours in the cold and wet shortened some tempers.

'Whingeing'

"I should get an award," said one fan who had been there for 24 hours.

"What, for whingeing?" countered a half-joking neighbour.

The stars paid tribute to the fans' "dedication" - although Christopher Lee, 82, failed to spot those who came in costume.

"People with masks, you say? When you're giving interviews and you're under an umbrella it's very difficult to notice everything that's going on out there."

Of the film's other big stars, Samuel L Jackson and Natalie Portman had been in Cannes the day before but could not make it to London.

And some fans were disappointed Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen did not spend more time with them.

'Overwhelmed'

Soon after the premiere screening got under way, Christensen emerged to renewed screams.

"Hayden! Hayden! Hayden!" one girl shouted. When he took little notice, the excitement turned to annoyance. "Oh, Hayden!" she cried in a cross tone.

The charitable explanation from another fan, Alan Mandell from Reading, was that Christensen and McGregor were "a bit overwhelmed".

While other devotees drifted off, he and his friends prepared for a few more hours in the cold.

Hoping to see the stars when they came out - and hoping the stars would see them - he pledged: "We'll be here all night."


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