Ewoks and Jedis mingled with tourists, lightsabers clashed with selfie sticks and John Williams’s rousing theme tune boomed out over the red carpet as thousands of fans descended on Leicester Square, for the Star Wars premiere in London.
The spectacle was opened by a patrol of stormtroopers, led by Darth Vader, who marched onto the red carpet, followed by a parade of characters, including rebel pilots, Jedi knights and Chewbacca.
The full cast were out in force in Leicester Square for the European premiere, who arrived in London from Los Angeles in an R2-D2 themed plane. John Boyega, one of the new stars of Episode VII, said he was overwhelmed to be finally able to bring the film to his hometown of London. “I’m a boy from Peckham and I’m in Star Wars!” the 23-year old roared to the crowds. I’m here to celebrate. This is Star Wars, this is the biggest film franchise of all time and this is a movie that I’ve lived with all my life – and now I’m a part of it. I’m so happy to be here, in London, the place I was born.”
He said: “Honestly, for a guy from south-east London, I think I did alright. I auditioned for seven months but there was a light at the end of that tunnel, and I’m so happy they gave me the opportunity to be involved. When I heard i got the part as Finn, I walked through Leicester Square, so it’s amazing to be here today. Harrison Ford is a great guy. In order to break him into the London culture I took him to the Old Kent road for some Nigerian food and he loved it. I love that man.”
The man who started it all, director George Lucas, said: “It’s great, all of our premieres have always been in London so it feels like coming home – though this is the biggest one we’ve done so far. It’s great that JJ has taken the reins, I felt that I needed to pass on the baton before I passed on. He took one tour and said ‘I’m out of here’, so now we have other great directors coming in. I think this is a movie that will really please the fans.”
Daisy Ridley, who takes the lead role as Rey in the film, said: “It’s so special to be in London. The audition process took a long time, it was a roller coaster there were many tears. JJ was amazing and made me feel like I could do the job. We started in Abu Dhabi which was amazing, but a baptism of fire. JJ Abrams was so encouraging and made me feel like I could do it and brought out of me the best performance I could give, so I am forever grateful. And John and I got on really well from day one.”
Warwick Davis, who played Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi, said: “It’s amazing to be here. I’ve been a fan since I was seven years old when I went to see the film in 1977, and I never thought I’d get a chance to be in it, let alone in three Star Wars films. This is particularly exciting because this film will tell the story beyond the Return of the Jedi, which I think is the most intriguing part of the story.”
The cross-generational appeal of the films was also apparent, as fans of all ages queued for hours, having heated discussions about their predictions of what director Abrams had done with their beloved franchise.
Katie Coates, nine, and her brother Alexander, 13, had travelled with their mother, Rachel, to catch a glimpse of the cast, both old and new, on the red carpet. “I would like the Ewoks to return” said Katie, who sported a Princess Leia hairstyle. Her brother nodded, adding: “I’m very excited. I love the lightsabers and particularly the characters from the dark side, so I hope there’s a lot of that in the new film.”
The whole family would be going to see the film together on Friday, said their mother. “Just look around” she said, indicating to the crowds, “It doesn’t matter how old people are, we can all take something to enjoy from Star Wars. It transcends generations.” Abrams echoed the excitement of the cast. “It’s a remarkable relief that the world can now watch the film,” he said.