Do you think Peter Jackson's Hobbit films will be big successes?
Cate Blanchett ''is passionately in love'' with Sir Ian McKellen, Barry Humphries enjoyed getting nude and Sir Peter Jackson just can't wait. The Hobbit love-in is underway.
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The stars of the show kicked off today's official Hobbit premiere festivities with a press conference at Te Papa in Wellington this morning.
Nearby, outside The Embassy theatre, more than 5000 fans staked out their possies next to the red carpet for when the stars begin their public parade around 4.30pm. Some had been there since 9pm last night, all were terribly excited.
The people they're waiting to see were also in an ebullient mood.
When British actor Martin Freeman, who plays the hobbit Bilbo and his known for his colourful language, was asked if he was a bit like the character and preferred the quiet life, he replied: "If I do I'm f*****.''
Australian comedian Barry Humphries, best known for his role as Dame Edna Everage, is the motion capture model for the goblin king in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
"It's the first film in which I've appeared nude," he said, bringing the house down with laughter.
British actor Sylvester McCoy, who plays wizard Radagast the Brown, explained the mystery surrounding his appearance in the first film, where his hair is caked in white on one side. "I was wearing bird shit on my face," he said. "But I had a blast really."
Cate Blanchett, who reprised the role of elf Galadriel, said a highlight was working again with Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf).
She was disappointed he could not attend the world premiere.
"I'm passionately in love with him.''
Blanchett said she had brought her boys on to the set and was comfortable with it being a film to show to children.
"Grimm's fairytales are wonderful things to read to children. It [The Hobbit] is a wonderful tale."
Richard Armitage, who plays Thorin, the head dwarf, said in terms of detail and image, the film was ''nothing like I've ever seen before".
Jackson said staff had been working up to the last minute to get the film finished.
"It hasn't really sunk in that it's done and I hope to get the real feeling after tonight's premiere," the filmmaker said. "But as long as we have some petrol in the car to drive the movie to the embassy in time, we're fine,'' he joked.
He said finding the perfect actor to play the goblin king was key.
''The character is gross, has some personal hygiene issues and is verbally raw, so it was was quite naturally to look towards Australia,'' Jackson laughed.
"And from all the Australians available to us, Barry Humphries was ideal."
Asked about the new 3D filming technology used for the Hobbit, which was criticised when scenes were shown at Comic-Con earlier this year, he said the film would be released in 24,000 theatres worldwide of which only about 1000 were able to screen in the 48 frames per second format.
"We're just dipping our toe in the water. As a filmmaker I have the responsibility to look at what's around now, and enhance the experience," Jackson said.
The new crisp format was a bit like hearing a CD for the first time. "The sound of music was the scratching of a needle and suddenly it was all clear."
Jackson struck the only real serious note we he reiterated that no animals were killed or harmed during the filming of The Hobbit, as claimed by former wranglers and animal rights organisation PETA.
He dismissed the claims as "pretty pathetic" and said it was ''an insult to the cast and crew".
Elijah Wood, who reprised his role, said returning to New Zealand to film with Jackson was like returning home.
"It was a gift and very unexpected, as Frodo isn't a character in the book. Looking into the mirror and seeing Frodo, that was magical.''
THE FANS AND THE TROLLS
Three massive cave trolls joined the hobbits, elves and thousands of other J.R.R. Tolkien enthusiasts camped out ahead of the premiere.
The 1800kg Weta Workshop installation, which took almost six weeks to model and make, was set up near the red carpet on the corner of Tory St from 7am this morning, Weta assistant Ri Streeter said.
The trolls join sculptures of Gandalf at Bag End on the Embassy Theatre roof and Gollum at Wellington Airport.
Meanwhile, by 8am fans had taken all the prime space in front of the barrier, from Tory St to the Embassy Theatre.
Auckland University students Sarah Reif and Willemyn Dagevos would be keeping their eyes peeled for Andy Serkis, who plays Gollum.
''I've wanted to see him since I was 10,'' Reif said.
Too young to attend the premiere of the Return of the King, she thought she'd never get the chance to be part of the release of a Tolkien film, so was overjoyed when she found out the Hobbit would be made.
''It's fulfilling 10 years of dreams.''
Tolkien enthusiasts Charlie Allan, Elise Hart and Victoria Gridley had camped near Blair St overnight in full Hobbit costume, befriending a group that had brought a couch to sleep on.
The Melburnians had come to New Zealand on a Hobbit premiere tour, but said tonight would be the pinnacle of their trip, despite them getting very little sleep, Hart said.
''Just to be part of the passion of it all is life-changing.''
They had met director Peter Jackson and star Elijah Wood at Monday's pre-premiere party organised by fansite TheOneRing.net, and were now most looking forward to seeing Freeman.
Actor Mark Hadlow, who plays dwarf Dori in the films, and Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown, stopped by Courtenay Place earlier this morning to greet the queued fans.
Pre-screening entertainment in Courtenay Place begins at 2pm, with the stars and VIPs expected to arrive on the red carpet from 4.30pm onwards.
The premiere screenings at The Embassy and Reading cinemas begin at 7pm.
- The Dominion Post