Fans fill square for worldwide preem

LONDON — Odeon Leicester Square theater was transformed into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Sunday for the worldwide premiere of Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Hordes of fans filled the square for a glimpse of pic’s stars, author J.K. Rowling and guests including Cher, Ben Stiller, Cate Blanchett, Emma Thompson, Jerry Hall, Richard Branson and Sting.

“Have you ever seen anything like it?” asked the film’s John Hurt of the assembled international press. “I don’t think I’ve seen Leicester Square so electrified since the Beatles.”

Twelve-year-old star Daniel Radcliffe, who arrived without his trademark Harry glasses, seemed overwhelmed. “It’s surreal,” he said. “I’ve been using this word a lot recently, but it’s just … surreal.”

Radcliffe confided that nerves had woken him up at 3, 4 and 6 a.m. the previous night. “I’ve gone numb. But I’m just going to try and enjoy it.”

Rowling said she was “happy and relieved” by how closely the film had adhered to her vision, and that her insistence on an all-Brit cast had been heeded.

Other cast members attending the premiere, many excited to be seeing the film for the first time, included Stephen Fry, Julie Walters, Richard Harris, Zoe Wanamaker, Robbie Coltrane, Fiona Shaw, Richard Griffiths and Radcliffe’s young co-stars Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.

Kenneth Branagh, who will play Gilderoy Lockhart in the next installment of the series, said, “I hope they can all give me tips on how to be a wizard.”

Director Chris Columbus and producer David Heyman, introducing the film, thanked Rowling for trusting them to bring the first “Potter” book faithfully to the screen. Present also were AOL Time Warner’s Gerald Levin, Alan Horn, Barry Meyer and Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

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