'Two Towers' Launch Helps Plant Trees

08/26/2003 at 10:49 AM EDT

Franklin Canyon off Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles -- not far from where Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando and others call home -- became Middle Earth on Monday night for the launch of the home video of director Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," which arrives in stores Tuesday.

The party carried an environmentally friendly theme, with the evening benefiting the ecological group TreePeople -- sort of a tip of the wizard's cap to the Mighty Ents in "Two Towers." (To the uninitiated, the Ents are the guardians of the forest in the J.R.R. Tolkien mythological series.)

TreePeople, started 33 years ago by environment advocate Andy Lipkis, re-forests urban areas of L.A., "restoring life to the planet," Lipkis told the hundreds of guests.

To aid the cause, New Line Home Video donated a small forest of trees. The hundreds of seedlings were presented by celebrity donors who marched into the party led by a Gandalf lookalike atop a white steed.

Donors included Michael Badalucco of "The Practice," "American Beauty" actress Thora Birch, "The West Wings"'s Richard Schiff and wife Sheila Kelly ("Singles"), Sean Patrick Thomas of "Barbershop," former "Doogie Howser, M.D." star Neil Patrick Harris and Lorenzo Lamas.

The highlight of the evening was a 10-minute preview of this Christmas season's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," the finale to Jackson's epic trilogy.

This time out, Aragorn (Viggo Mortenson) has his work cut out for him, having to decide whether he wants to become king. He also has a haunted mountain to scale, while Pippin (Billy Boyd) has to hide out in Gandalf's sanctuary of Minas Tirith.

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