Abbey Henson, 9, gushed in an adrenaline-fueled stream of consciousness, her hands fluttering, her braced teeth chattering, just seconds after hugging Skandar Keynes, who plays Edmund Pevensie in the Narnia films.
"I've liked Narnia for like three years. ... I've saved pictures ... I've made PowerPoints, I've drawn pictures of them. I've dreamed of them. And now I got to meet them, and Edmund is like my favorite character!" said Abbey, who encountered her idol Thursday at a Lexington premiere of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. "I really think I need to sit down," she said, swaying slightly, clutching the ticket Keynes had autographed.
The Lexington girl was among 550 fans getting a chance to meet Keynes and co-star Georgie Henley, who plays Lucie Pevensie, as well as see the movie. It opens nationwide Friday.
Twentieth Century Fox and Walden Media, in association with Operation Christmas Child and Regal Cinemas, offered schools a chance to win a premiere at a hometown theater by filling the most shoe boxes with presents for Operation Christmas Child. The non-profit shipped 8 million shoe boxes around the world last year.
Louisville Christian Academy won by filling 1,734 boxes, but because there is no Regal Cinema in Louisville the premiere was held at Regal Hamburg Pavilion 16 in Lexington.
The students actually filled the boxes apart from the contest, as they do every year as part of mission work, said Dawn Shouse, spokeswoman for the school. The school, which entered the contest after a parent heard about it, learned of its win this week.
Three motor coaches brought about 150 Louisville Christian children and their parents to the premiere. The rest of the fans came from Asbury University and other Christian schools.
Henley has grown up since she first starred in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 2005.
The British actress, 15, walked a short red carpet in a flirty yet demure cream-colored dress accented in black with seriously tall, faux-croc designer heels with peep toes. (Designer: Rupert Sanderson, if you must know.)
Henley met Queen Elizabeth at Dawn Treader's London premiere last week. She said the royal encounter was a bit surreal. "We never thought we'd be cool enough to meet her," Henley said. "It was amazing."
Girls stretched across the nylon tape barrier to get Henley's autograph, and many in the crowd cited Lucy as their favorite character. "Lucy is a great role model, so it's great girls can get excited about her," said Henley, who joined Keynes in signing autographs for more than 30 minutes. "If I can be a little bit of a role model, that's all the better."
Keynes, 19, who since filming finished has been focusing on Arabic and Islamic studies at Cambridge, had his share of fans, mostly squealing teenage girls. He posed and smiled and hugged, responding to an endless stream of requests with a quiet "no worries."
Christie Sitlinger, 17, a Louisville Christian student, was determined to get a message to the star. She tried to break through the four-person-deep line on the red carpet. She lingered after other fans had gone into the theaters. She asked security guards and theater staff to hand Keynes a note, scribbled on a scrap of a magazine.
She found no takers.
But she did manage to position herself in the front row of the theater. After Henley and Keynes briefly introduced the film, she sprang up and handed Keynes the crumpled piece of paper.
"Text me," it read, with the number of one of Sitlinger's friends.
"My friends didn't think I could do it, and the sheriff said I might get arrested," Sitlinger said, adding she did it as a bet.
Will Keynes respond?