THE world premiere of long-lost Peter Sellers films brought out the stars at the gala opening of the Southend film festival.

Stars of stage and screen, and even music, turned up at the Odeon, Southend, on Thursday for the screening of the Sellers’ classics.

Mackenzie Crook, who made his name in hit comedy, the Office, and who has since scored Hollywood success in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, introduced the films as he is a lifelong Sellers fan.

He was joined by celebrities including singer Lisa Stansfield, comedienne Helen Lederer, as well as actors Joely Collins and Vicki Michelle.

The Sellers films, Dearth of a Salesman and Insomnia is Good For You, were lost for 60 years before they were found in a skip in London when the defunct Park Lane Films’ former office building was being cleared out.

Stars were full of praise for Sellers. Vicki Michelle said: “Peter Sellers is part of what’s great about British culture.”

Lisa Stansfield said: “It’s great to be here and a privilege to see these films. Sellers was a genius, wasn’t he?”

Mackenzie Crook, who lives in Peter Sellers’ former house in London, said: “If character actors have a god, it is Peter Sellers, who developed the skill of being a character actor into so much more.

Southend Standard: Will Sellers (grandson of Peter)

“He might have cringed at the idea that these films would be screened at a film festival, but the passage of time has turned them into treasures.”

Film festival director, Paul Cotgrove, said: “Due to Peter Sellers’ iconic status with film fans around the world and the fact that he is sadly no longer with us, any ‘new’ material is bound to produce an enormous amount of interest.”

Mr Cotgrove was joined by the grandson of Peter Sellers, Will Sellers, on the red carpet. Mr Sellers said: “Most people don’t get the opportunity to see a grandparent they’ve never met on screen like this and it’s nice to see people are still interested in what granddad did.”

Southend Standard: Actress - Vicki Michelle

Southend Standard: Robert Farrow - Found film in skip

Also walking along the red carpet was Westcliff actor Darren Kent, who is in the new series of hit show Game of Thrones.

The film festival runs until today and features a number of events. 

For a full schedule, and to book tickets, visit www.southendfilm

Southend Standard: Festival organiser - Paul Cotgrove