LONDON (Reuters) - The cast reunited at the premiere of the fantasy epic "The Lord of the Rings" had two things in common -- they all had tattoos and all agreed director Peter Jackson was a genius.
Britain's acting knight Sir Ian McKellen described playing the wizard Gandalf in the first "Lord of the Rings" movie as "the best time I have ever had in my life."
"All members of the cast have got a tattoo. When we had it done in a tattoo parlor 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 Ring."
"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 drew the line at revealing just where he had put his tattoo. "No I won't tell you where it is."
The cast gathered for a raucous group photo on the steps of the Odeon Cinema in London's Leicester Square.
"We had a lot of fun and we had a lot of hard work," star Liv Tyler said of the grueling shoot for one of the most ambitious projects in film history. Peter Jackson, entrusted by Hollywood moguls with a $270 million trilogy, an 18-month shoot and a cast of 2,400, said running the gauntlet of show business reporters from around the world was a scarier prospect.
"Walking through the media is more scary than making the movie," he told Reuters before the 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 Ian Holm paid tribute to Jackson's production: "I think this film is a masterpiece and I think it will make more people read the book."
The diminutive Holm suggested he was built perfectly for the part of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. "I am not far off being a hobbit as it is," he said.
British horror film veteran Christopher Lee also lavished praise on the director.
"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.