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Oz cops cuff Darth Vader on his 30th birthday

While LA celebrates Star Wars anniversary

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Fans of Star Wars were treated earlier this week to a marathon 17-hour screening of all six films in celebration of the franchise's 30th birthday.

Several thousand diehards packed the Los Angeles Convention Centre on Wednesday to kick off "Star Wars Celebration IV", which runs until Monday. Attractions for the paying public include the usual merchandise, costume contests, autograph opportunities, and a rather unlikely "Storm Trooper Olympics".

The first Star Wars movie debuted on 25 May 1977 in 32 US cinemas. It quickly became one of the highest-grossing films of all time, and secured six 1978 Oscars - Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, and Best Music - Original Score.

Episode IV was followed in 1980 by The Empire Strikes Back - arguably the best of the bunch. The subsequent films have attracted criticism for not actually being very good, but that hasn't stopped the Star Wars bandwagon or dampened fans' enthusiasm for the cinematic phenomenon.

Indeed, galactic aficionados' devotion to the Lucas money-making machine often stretches to dressing as their favourite characters, as Star Wars Celebration IV spokesman Jonathan Zaleski said of the epic screening: "There are people in costume, families. It's an interesting mix. You get the usual assortment of Storm Troopers running around. I imagine it's pretty uncomfortable to sit for 17 hours encased in plastic."

While LA might have a relaxed attitude to fancy dress, one Oz wannbe Darth Vader found that cops Down Under are less impressed. Said fan was making his way to a 30th anniversary photo shoot earlier today "dressed in black and carrying a backpack with a replica laser blaster poking out the side" when he "alarmed diners at a food court in central Melbourne".

According to Reuters, the 32-year-old was quickly "surrounded by armed police, forced to the ground, and handcuffed", and will now be charged with possessing an unregistered firearm. As Vader himself might have put it: "Do not underestimate the power of the Force". ®

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