Star Wars creator George Lucas said being at the European premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in London was like coming home.
Lucas, who created the franchise in 1977, told red carpet host Alex Zane: "All of the premieres have always been in London. It's like coming home to an event we've done for the last 40 years but this was the biggest by far."
He joined a host of stars including the new director, JJ Abrams, and old and new cast members at London's Leicester Square.
Abrams said he was struck every day while filming by how lucky he was to be working on the movie.
Abrams directed, wrote and co-produced the film and praised newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, saying: "These are two incredible actors, watching them together is amazing."
Harrison Ford, who reprises his role as intrepid traveller and smugger Han Solo, said "it feels good" to play the character again.
When asked if he had a message for fans, he said: "I hope they enjoy the movie. I think it's a worthy effort. I'm very proud of it, thank you."
Newcomer Ridley, who plays Ren, shouted out to her fans on the red carpet, saying: "May the force be with all of you."
She said being at the premiere was "particularly special because I'm from London, it's good to be home".
British actor Boyega, who plays Finn in the new movie, could not contain his excitement at being in London.
"I'm a boy from Peckham and I'm in a Star Wars movie," he enthused to vlogger Jim Chapman, adding: "I'm here to celebrate, dammit."
He joined a bunch of his friends for a momentary celebration of whoops and returned to Chapman, saying: "I'm in my home town, the place where I was born, London!"
American actress Carrie Fisher, who reprises her role as Princess Leia, brought along her French bulldog, Gary.
Asked how she felt about being at the premiere, she said: "I've never felt more relaxed in my life. I feel relaxed, as I said, and I come here to just be myself and feel real."
Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker, said he was overwhelmed.
"It never gets old, it's hard to believe the excitement after all of these years."
He also said he had a "very special affinity" for London, revealing his son was born here while he filmed The Empire Strikes Back.
A group of stormtroopers from the First Order opened the red carpet.
The first "stars" of the film to arrive were droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, who ambled down the red carpet taking in the scenery.
The newest droid in the Star Wars family, BB-8, got a cheer from fans as it rolled down the red carpet.
BB-8 is one of the highlights of the new movie and is sure to gain a legion of fans.
Actor Warwick Davis, who starred in a few of the earlier Star Wars films and the latest one, could not resist posing for a selfie with BB-8 on the red carpet.
Actor Peter Mayhew, who plays Han Solo's sidekick, Chewbacca, said being at the premiere was "absolutely wonderful", adding: "We've had a great weekend, we were in Los Angeles last night and we're here in London tonight, what more could anybody ask for?"
Critics have hailed the latest instalment in the series as a tour de force to rival the original trilogy.
The film - which is set for general release on Thursday - has already made UK box office history, selling more than half a million tickets for its opening week at one cinema chain alone.
Other stars of the film walking the red carpet included Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson and Gwendoline Christie.
Many fans at the event arrived in fancy dress, while dozens were carrying red and blue lightsabers which were handed to them as they arrived.
The seventh instalment in the Star Wars series comes 10 years after the last film and reunites the original trio who were absent from the prequels.
The film's Hollywood premiere earlier this week saw an army of stormtroopers on the red carpet, while fans camped out ahead of the first public screening.
British fans with tickets for the first UK screenings will get a head start over devotees in the US, where the movie is not released until Friday.