London was transported back in time for a taste of the swinging Sixties, to celebrate the release of writer/ director/ all round Working Titlesman Richard Curtis' new comedy The Boat That Rocked.
Showcasing the largest number of Brit stars at any single UK film event (outside of the BAFTAs and this weekend's Jameson Empire Film Awards, of course), the premiere boasted an almighty guest list including a bespectacled Bill Nighy, nice-guy Nick Frost, rabble-rouser Rhys Ifans, King of thesps Kenneth Brannagh and newbie Tom Sturridge. To accomodate such a raft of talent, the red carpet was extended from its usual run along one side of Leicester Square to completely encompass the park in the centre. Here the crowd were entertained with a heady mix of bobbing bob-haired girls and pumping Sixties pop.
Not to be outshone by the bevy of go-go booted dancing girls were Bond girl Gemma Arterton - like a gorgeous brunette Dusty Springfield in her asymmetric turquoise mini dress - and newly platinum-haired fellow St Trinian Talulah Riley, both of whom star as the good-time-girls who steal the hearts of the radio DJ crew of said rocking boat.
Taking the decks on deck are a cracking comedy ensemble. Frost takes on the ladies in his role as silver tongued, big-boy - DJ Dave. Philip Seymour Hoffman brings a taste of America as bad-ass beatnik The Count. The IT Crowd's Chris O'Dowd gets the laughs, and the tears as hapless daytime host Simple Simon; Flight of the Conchords' Rhys Darby is Antipodean odd-man-out Angus, and the decidedly mono-syllabic Rhys Ifans as devilish dandy Gavin. Helming the ship - and the pirate radio station they operate on board - is Curtis favourite Bill Nighy, playing mover and shaker and general money maker, Quentin.
Amid the flashback to a bygone era, Empire stopped a few of the stars for a chat about their own journey back in time on the good ship Radio Rock.
First off was Kiwi comic Rhys Darby, whose turn as The Seekers advocate Angus extends the lovably irritating twit qualities of Murray, his siganture role in cult musical sit-com The Flight Of The Chonchords. He fuelled speculation that there might be a movie spin-off of the HBO show in the pipeline: "[Co-creator] James Bobin likes the idea of doing a film. When you do a film, you've got to have a really great story. I'd definitely love to do it, but we'll have to wait and see."
Also out for the night was seriously cool, dapper chap, Bill Nighy: "I didn't have to think about it at all. I said yes before I'd even seen the script, and he said, 'Well, aren't you going to read it?' And I said, 'Well, I'm going to say yes anyway. I know it's only going to be good.' I knew what it was going to be about, and I was around when pirate radio started, and it was close to my heart because I love all the music, so there was nothing that wasn't attractive about it."
Nick Frost told us about his numerous love scenes: "Easiest day's work I ever did. I like to think of myself as a gentleman. It's not just me getting off with women - it's another actor where you have to brush your teeth and put on deodorant. It's very important."
And he was especially blase about getting naked for the part: "I just take my pants off, et voila: ready to rock! I played rugby for many years, so it is par for the course that you will have to take your kit off in front of thirty men, which is just what a film shoot is."
And then twenty-two year old star of the film, Tom Sturridge - who has a little of the floppy-haired shyness of a young Hugh Grant - told us a bit more about the experience of working on the movie: "It was amazing, going to work on a boat every morning, with the sun coming up over the ocean - it's not really work. Listening to all that music every day. It was beautiful. It was kinda terrifying, but fortunately, my character was going on a boat to live with his idols and I was doing the same thing so it was apt."
And finally Curtis got in the last word: "The overall message is that we're very lucky that every generation has pop music playing through all our lives - and we should enjoy it while we can."
Once inside, Curtis talked more about his love of pop, and almost choked up when he noted that Paul McCartney, one of his childhood heroes, was there in the audience for the film. Given that the film is a celebration of Sixties music as much as anything else, it was appropriate that Sir Paul was there to see it - accompanied, incidentally, by many of the original pirate DJs.
As much as I love seeing what frocks the girls are wearing, Gemma looks fab, there's a fantastic cast in this film but where are your pics of these people? No Kenneth Brannagh, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport, Nick Frost etc. Shameful. More