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‘Star Wars’: Daisy Ridley Is Belle of the Ball at ‘Force Awakens’ London Premiere

After Monday’s spectacular Hollywood premiere, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” took over London’s Leicester Square Wednesday in similar fashion for its European premiere, commandeering three theaters (the Odeon, Vue and Empire) to host Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Adam Driver and Gwendoline Christie. 

Huge video screens and fans lined the red carpet around the Square. Darth Vader led a legion of Stormtroopers through, with C-3PO and R2-D2 soon to follow. Warwick Davis, who made his acting debut as Wicket the Ewok in Episode VI as a 12-year-old, crouched down to ask to take a photo with BB-8 as the droid rolled down the carpet. Davis pulled out his selfie stick and proceeded to have a conversation with the ball.

London was home base for Episode VII, starting with open auditions and shoots at Pinewood Studios; Ford also fractured his leg on a hydraulic door while shooting at Pinewood. “There’s a real history of ‘Star Wars’ being made here in the U.K.,” said Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy.

Disney’s Bob Iger and Alan Horn greeted Abrams and the stars as they exited their cars, and the cast’s Brits were especially excited to greet the hometown crowd.

“I’m a boy from Peckham and I’m in a ‘Star Wars’ movie!” said Boyega. “Turn the camera to my people,” he said, as the livestream showed his family embracing him with hoots and hollers. “Look guys, I’m here to celebrate. This is the biggest franchise of all time, this is a movie I’ve lived with all my life and I’m a big part of it!”

Ridley, dazzling in bespoke Roland Mouret and top knot, also couldn’t help but give love to the Londoners. “May the Force be with you!” she yelled to the crowd.

Ford, Hamill and Fisher were also happy to be returning. “It’s a worthy effort,” Ford said in very Han Solo style.

“I had a beginning, middle and end,” said Hamill of his Luke Skywalker, whose absence is felt in all of “The Force Awakens” trailer footage. “Even if they made new films, I didn’t think they’d need me.”

“I’ve never felt more relaxed in my life. I come here to just be myself and feel real,” said Fisher. She was escorted by her French bulldog Gary, who is frequently the star of her social media accounts. “It’s fun when things go well,” she said of the movie. “The critics liked it, Gary my dog liked it. You can tell because of his tongue, that’s five stars for a dog!”

Carrie Fisher and her dog Gary
Richard Young/Rex Shutterstock

Fisher also praised Ridley and compared her debut to Audrey Hepburn’s in “Roman Holiday.” “She carries the whole film!”

Kennedy concurred and hoped the fans agree. “They’ll see what an incredibly powerful and wonderful female heroine we have in this movie,” she said. Kennedy also promised that the “Star Wars” universe would continue to seek diversity in front of and behind the camera. “It’s important that we have a very diverse cast and it’s going to continue throughout the ‘Star Wars’ movies.”

The cast and crew couldn’t help but acknowledge the deep history and devotion of “Star Wars” and its fandom.

“There’s an amazing thing that George Lucas did,” said Abrams. “We tried to go backwards to go forward,” he said, of shaping the story and characters in “The Force Awakens.”

Lucas has given his blessing on the films and handed the keys to Kennedy as CEO of Lucasfilm. “I felt I needed to pass it on before I passed on,” he said. Lucas confirmed that he has met the directors on the franchise’s next films. “I have some idea of what they’re doing.” The next film is a standalone called “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” slated to be released in December 2016, directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Felicity Jones, who was in attendance. Episode VIII will be directed by Rian Johnson and Episode IX will be directed by Colin Trevorrow.

“This story has followed me from the beginning, not just me, but also my children,” said Max Von Sydow. “It had made a big impression on our world — of hope. Our world does not have hope — this series gives us some. We need the good guys in ‘Star Wars’ to take care of the world. We need the spirit of ‘Star Wars.'”

“I feel like it’s the Twilight Zone. It’s 40 years, but it looks like it may go on another 50 years or 100,” Lucas said.

After the cast and crew were introduced on a makeshift stage in the square, Nelson’s Column was lit up like a lightsaber and Abrams then invited the fans to a screening of the film.

“Star Wars: The Cast Awakens” cast and crew
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Nelson’s Column was lit up like Luke Skywalker’s blue lightsaber
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Kenny Baker (who plays R2-D2) and George Lucas
Richard Young/Rex Shutterstock
Felicity Jones stars in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
David Fisher/Rex Shutterstock
Lupita Nyong’o
David Fisher/Rex Shutterstock
Sophie Hunter and Benedict Cumberbatch
Richard Young/Rex Shutterstock

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