The Fellowship of the Ring London Premiere

"Lord of the Rings" cast unite for tattooing
By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - The cast of the fantasy epic "Lord of the Rings" united for a double celebration -- they all had a tattoo and all agreed director Peter Jackson was a genius.

"It is the best time I have ever had in my life," said Britain's acting knight Sir Ian McKellen who plays the wizard Gandalf in the first "Lord of the Rings" movie.

"All members of the cast have got a tattoo. When we had it done in a tattoo parlour in Wellington, New Zealand, we all swore never to tell anyone," he told Reuters Television at Monday's glittering world premiere of "Fellowship of the Rings."

"It wasn't painful. In fact it was joyful. It was symbolic of the friendship that kept us together for over a year. For the rest of my life I will be proud to wear this little badge of Lord of the Rings," he said.

But McKellen did draw the line at revealing just where he had put his tattoo -- especially on television. "No I won't tell you where it is."

The cast were all re-united for a raucous group photo on the steps of the Odeon Cinema in London's Leicester Square.

Much rowdy jocularity greeted the late arrival of Hollywood star Liv Tyler. "Sorry, I was just going to the bathroom," she explained as they all cheered.

"We had a lot of fun and we had a lot of hard work," she said, reflecting on the gruelling shoot for one of the most ambitious projects in film history.

Peter Jackson, entrusted by Hollywood moguls with a $270 million (188 million pounds) trilogy, an 18-month shoot and a cast of 2,400, admitted that he was far more terrified running the gauntlet of showbusiness reporters from around the world.

"Walking through the media is more scary than making the movie," he told Reuters before the glittering premiere packed with film and pop stars.

But the bearded and diminutive director who bears a striking resemblance to the film's hobbit heroes had no doubts about his ambitious vision.

"It had to be three movies as you needed that time to tell the story of the book," he said.

Actor after actor -- from McKellen to Ian Holm, from Sean Bean to the star hobbit Elijah Wood, paid tribute to Jackson's directorship.

Holm said: "I think this film is a masterpiece and I think it will make more people read the book."

The diminutive Holm, mocking his own size, clearly felt he was perfect for the part of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. "I am not far off being a hobbit as it is," he said.

Perhaps the most fulsome tribute to the director was offered by British horror film veteran Christopher Lee.

"What Peter has done is miraculous. No director in history has made three films at the same time," he said.

Now the 79-year-old Lee has just one ambition -- he hopes to live long enough to see the next two films in the trilogy when they come out in 2002 and 2003.

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