Hobbit journey starts in Matamata
Film crews are now at Matamata's Hobbiton film set as location shooting on Peter Jackson's two-part fantasy epic The Hobbit begins in earnest – and the movie's stars might not be far away.
One of two convoys laden with film gear arrived in Matamata's Buckland Rd at the weekend, while the other headed to Queenstown from Sir Peter's Miramar studios.
While production company 3 Foot 7 retains a tighter grip on information than Gollum on a certain ring, one nearby resident who declined to be named said the convoy started arriving on Saturday afternoon.
He estimated about 50 trucks and smaller vehicles towing caravans and a mobile generator wound their way up Buckland Rd and onto the film set over 24 hours.
As if by some Gandalf-esque spell, or perhaps because of Sir Peter's keen eye for secluded filming locations, none were visible from the road or neighbouring properties once at the set. Nor were any stars.
"Knowing what they did last time this is like a prelude to get things set up," the resident said. "I expect they'll helicopter them [big name actors] in."
The film crew is already in Matamata, and on Sunday about six of them called in for a coffee at the Espresso To Go cafe on Broadway.
"They were a really artistic bunch, fun with a lot of energy," said cafe owner Jackie Anderson. "But we didn't realise who they were until they were leaving and one of them mentioned something about waiting for the sets to arrive."
If the Hobbit stays true to its literary origins Martin Freeman of The Office fame (Bilbo Baggins) and acclaimed British actors Sir Ian McKellan (Gandalf) and James Nesbitt (Bofur) could be expected to appear, as their characters meet in Hobbiton.
However, there seemed to be little Hollywood buzz so far in Matamata.
A security guard materialised at the front gate late last week once the Hobbiton set had been closed to visitors and a few traffic signs and road cones had sprouted like Middle Earth mushrooms to deal with an expected increase in traffic on the narrow country service road.
"There's certainly no rubberneckers," remarked the Times' observer. But even during The Lord of the Rings filming in the summer of 1999-2000 few had attracted much attention.
"Some of the stars used to walk through Matamata and not be noticed. There was little public interest last time. I think that was because there was this guy called Peter Jackson dreaming of doing three films together and no-one knew much about him or about Lord of the Rings."
The filmmakers have consent for shooting at Hobbiton lasting no more than 15 days before November 8, with other crews also working around the country, including the western side of Mt Ruapehu from November 6, when crew will be based for two weeks in the Turoa skifield car park.
Hobbit-like feet also look set to make an appearance in the King Country with Te Kuiti motels also well-booked with crew for the first week of November.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be released on December 14 next year. The second film, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, is slated for release on December 13, 2013.