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Final "Harry Potter" film premieres in London

Daniel Radcliffe, J.K Rowling, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint at the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" world premiere on July 7, 2011, in London. Dave Hogan/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) - With thousands of fans gathered around, Tuesday's world premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" in London turned to be an emotional event for its stars and creator.

Speaking from a stage erected in Trafalgar Square, 21-year-old Daniel Radcliffe, who has played the boy wizard since he was 11, told fans that Harry's story would never end.

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"Each and every person, not just here in this square but around the world who have watched these films for the last 10 years, they will always carry the films with them for the rest of their lives," he said.

Author J.K. Rowling wiped away tears as she thanked the actors for "the amazing things they did for my favorite characters."

The fans, who chanted "thank you" as Rowling and the cast took the stage, came from around the world. Many had camped out overnight, some for days. Most were young adults who grew up with the boy wizard and his adventures, and could not pass up the chance to say goodbye.

"It's our childhood - we made friends because of Harry Potter," said Luis Guilherme, a 22-year-old graduate student from Sao Paolo, Brazil. "I don't know how my life would be without it. I would be less imaginative, for sure, and less adventurous. I would never be here in London.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" depicts Harry's final confrontation with the forces of evil Lord Voldemort - an epic showdown rendered, for the first time in the series, in 3D.

Despite the rain, the eighth and last film in the made-in-Britain franchise was getting a lavish premiere, with huge screens and banners in Trafalgar Square and a nearby street transformed into the magical shopping thoroughfare Diagon Alley.

Lewis, a student from Brentwood, east of London, sheltered under an umbrella behind a handmade "We Love Helena" banner - her tribute to Helena Bonham Carter, who plays bad witch Bellatrix Lestrange in the movies.

"I love Harry Potter," she said. "It's been such a big part of my life. I don't know what I'll do without it."

The feeling is shared by the film's stars, who like many of their fans grew up with the series.

Rupert Grint said Wednesday he felt "a little bit lost" without the movies in his life. While Emma Watson, who was dressed in a floor-length and tiered Oscar de la Renta gown at the premiere, said she'd miss playing plucky Hermione Granger, who was "like a sister."

The premiere marks the end of an era that began when the then-unknown Rowling published "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" in 1997. The book blossomed from well-reviewed children's tale to global phenomenon, launching a seven-book series that has sold 450 million copies around the world.

It also ends a movie institution that has employed dozens of British actors and hundreds of crew members and technicians since the first film came out in 2001.

"It's created such an infrastructure and such an industry, and it will be sorely missed," ''Deathly Hallows" director David Yates said Wednesday. "It's been a mini-industry employing hundreds and thousands of people."

He said he didn't expect to see its like again.

"I think lightning doesn't strike twice," Yates said.

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