"The Green Mile" premiere Monday night was accompanied by all of the fantastical effects, glitz and star power a possible Oscar contender deserves.
Director Frank Darabont returns after five years ("Shawshank Redemption") to bring Stephen King's 1996 best-selling serialized novel to the big screen.
"This is really exciting," said Darabont. "It took me this long to make another movie. I was waiting to fall in love with a story again, enough so I would go through the anguish of directing a movie. Thankfully, Stephen King gave me exactly that story."
Set on death row in a Southern prison in 1935, Tom Hanks stars as Paul Edgecomb. In flashbacks, Edgecomb recounts his tour of duty watching over a series of convicted killers awaiting execution in the electric chair.
"Stephen King wrote something that is quite in the realm of fanciful there in 1935," said Hanks. "If anybody is looking for a hard, grim, edgy, realistic look at what it's like to be on death row in a prison, I don't think they should come to 'Green Mile.'"
What audiences should look forward to are the scene-stealing performances by larger-than-life actor Michael Clarke Duncan ("Armageddon").
In his first starring role, Duncan plays John Coffey, a 7-foot inmate convicted of murdering two young girls. Beyond Coffey's massive appearance and simple nature, he possesses a prodigious and mystical gift that alters the life of anyone he touches.
On the red carpet, Duncan was responsible for also stealing most of the red carpet dazzle and Oscar buzz.
"It's amazing that people would equate Oscar talk with Michael Clarke Duncan," said Duncan. "Six years ago, I was digging ditches for the gas company. To hear Oscar talk is like a dream come true. This is just wonderful. I feel like a 6'5" 325lb. Cinderella," he said.
At the premiere in Westwood, Tom Hanks arrived arm-in-arm with wife Rita Wilson ("The Story of Us."). Hanks sported a burly beard, and Wilson looked hotter than ever in leather and crushed velvet.
"Green Mile" co-star Bonnie Hunt, who plays Hanks' wife in the film, discussed some of the challenges posed by her saucy love scenes with Hanks.
"It's the easiest job I've ever had," said Hunt. "She's (Wilson) very jealous of me, by the way. Actually, Rita requested I play the part so he would look forward to going home to her," she quipped.
Despite the premiere never turning into a Jerry Springer episode, celebrities such as Holly Robinson ("For Your Love"), Rick Fox (Los Angeles Lakers) and director Quentin Tarantino ("Jackie Brown") walked the red carpet in praise of the Oscar-caliber cast and writer King.
"He's (King) a terrific writer," said Tarantino. "He writes great characters, characters that actors want to play, and he's got a great imagination."
The film's all-star cast also includes James Cromwell ("Babe"), Michael Jeter ("Patch Adams"), Graham Green ("Dances with Wolves"), Harry Dean Stanton ("The Man Who Cried") and David Morse ("Crazy in Alabama"). Audiences can walk "The Green Mile" starting today.