Connery Still in 'League' All His Own

09/30/2003 at 12:00 PM EDT

Onetime PEOPLE Sexiest Man Alive Sean Connery made his first appearance in 16 years at one of his own premieres Monday night, when he showed up at the London opening of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," PEOPLE reports from the British capital.

Connery's rare appearance apparently wasn't lost on the hundreds of fans who lined the streets of Leicester Square to get a peek at the screen legend and his costars in the film, Shane West, Stuart Townsend, Jason Flemyng and Tony Curran.

Accompanied by his wife, Micheline Roquebrune, the man who first made James Bond a household name 40 years ago looked exceptional in a gray suit, black shirt and bright blue tie.

"I am overwhelmed with the response," Connery, 73, said smiling. "I thought they were fantastic out there. I must say, I was not prepared for such an answer."

Even under a full beard, Stuart Townsend, 30, turned heads as he arrived, minus his flame, Charlize Theron. When asked about the strains of work on their high-profile relationship, Townsend said: "We make it work. We see each other a lot, actually. It can be hard, though. But it is hard on everybody ... your family, your friends."

Shane West ("A Walk to Remember") is the sole American with a starring role in the film, which quickly came and went from U.S. theaters. "I am really excited," said West, 25. "The film opened in the States and we opened it in Prague, but I am excited to see what the people of London think of it."

Last week, "League" was the subject of a $100 million lawsuit filed against its studio, 20th Century Fox, by veteran "The Lion in Winter" producer Martin Poll and screenwriter Larry Cohen ("Phone Booth").

The men claim that their proposed movie, "Cast of Characters," which Poll allegedly first pitched to Fox in 1993, contains several elements that appear in "League."

Fox reps termed Poll and Cohen's legal claim "ridiculous."

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