Actors arrive aboard Hobbit plane
Five months after wrapping up filming, the cast of The Hobbit have reunited in Wellington to celebrate tomorrow's movie premiere.
Four of the 13 dwarfs and wizard Radagast, played by British actor Sylvester McCoy, made their way to the capital in Air NZ's new Hobbit styled Boeing 777-300 and were met by the rest of the cast led by director Peter Jackson.
The plane had made its maiden flight on Saturday from Auckland Airport and has since been to Los Angeles and London.
Tourists arriving at the airport for the premiere excitedly flocked to the windows underneath the massive Middle of Middle Earth sign to catch a glimpse of Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and the rest of the company of dwarves.
"This plane with its 77-metre flying billboard came from Los Angeles and down from Auckland this morning," Air New Zealand deputy chief executive Norm Thompson said. "It's the first time this plane has arrived in Wellington, which is really fitting for the occasion".
While it had only taken two weeks to get the canvas on the plane, a significant amount of planning had gone into it and the airline is confident it will help to convince many people to come to New Zealand.
Media who joined the stars as they boarded in Auckland had the chance for a last quiet chat before the premiere-madness went under way.
"It's all a bit crazy. This is a bit bit weird," Aidan Turner, who plays "hot dwarf" Kili, said about staging a media call on a plane.
"My ears are popping and I keep looking out the window and realising we are on a plane," said New Zealand actor Dean O'Gorman, who stars as Fili, Turner's brother.
The flight's special guests were joined by cabin crew decked out in Hobbit habits: leather arm-pieces for the men and silver crowns for the women. And if they got bored, they could always watch Lord of the Rings on the in-flight entertainment.
But the cast had bigger things on their minds, as they contemplated watching the film they spent a year and a half filming for the very first time.
"We get a cast viewing today in case we hate it," said Turner.
"Then it would be jumping on a plane back to Dublin quickly."
And they brushed aside talks of animal cruelty on the set of the film.
Kiwi actor John Callen, who plays Oin in the film, discounted the validity of complaints horses were treated badly on set.
"The big question has to do with timing. My feeling is, if people were 100 per cent genuine in their intentions, then perhaps something should have been done sooner."
And after less than an hour, the five men arrived in Wellington to join the rest of the cast on the boarding steps of the plane waving to fans who lined the airports viewing areas.
Cecilia Tao, who lives in Christchurch, had just landed in Wellington for the premiere, when she spotted the surprise. "Everybody is a big fan of the Hobbit," she said.
Tourists, who were arriving in scores to get into all things Hobbit in the next days were excited to get a glimpse at Jackson and the cast.
Most named a trip to the Weta Cave, and a stroll over the Hobbit market as their highlights for today and - of course - the premiere tomorrow.
After tomorrow's premiere the cast will start a promotional tour around the world.