Hobbit premiere: Live from Wellywood

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Last updated 19:20 28/11/2012

Sir Peter Jackson talks with fans

The Hobbit premiere red carpet
HENRY COOKE/Fairfax NZ Zoom
A view of the end of Courtenay Pl near the Embassy Theatre as the premiere event for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey heats up.
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Review our live coverage from the red carpet today after the stars turned out in Wellywood for the premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

7.20pm: And in the words of that famous lapine movie star: "That's all folks."

7.15pm:  And Sir Peter Jackson takes the stage for his big moment in front of the home crowd. "Jackson for PM," says several signs in the crowd. If John Key spots them, there'll be no more tax breaks to keep the movies on shore. He'll be happy to see the back of him.

Sir Peter makes his thanks to all the movie folk, his family and also Mayor Celia for organising the celebration and John Key for all his support.

He thanks wife and movie-making partner Fran and kids Billy and Katie for their support.

Then up come the actors, Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Andy Serkis (Gollum), and Elijah Wood (Frodo).

"We needed someone quite grotesque to play this role so we looked to Australia," he said when introducing Barry Humphries.

Then it is the dwarves, Adam Brown, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, Stephen Hunter, Jimmy Nesbitt, Graham McTavish, Dean O'Gorman, Aidan Turner and Richard Armitage. Finally, it is the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, Martin Freeman.

Sir Peter thanks everyone for coming, and finally introduces a video message from Sir Ian McKellen in London. Sir Ian says he wishes he were there in his spiritual home of Wellington and gives his love to everyone...plus a mysterious greeting to "his favourite dwarf, you know who you are?" Good trick that Ian. Now they will all think they are the special ones.

7.03pm: Here come the Warner Bros execs. Barry Meyer, chairman and chief executive of Warner Bros, thanks Wellington and NZ for embarking on this journey with them. They loved working with our genius-in-residence, Peter J, and are very excited to launch the first film with us in NZ.

"It is hard to imagine a more fitting backdrop for the launch of the premiere of The Hobbit than downtown Wellington," Meyer says.

He does seem genuinely very happy to escape from Hollywood to come here. Who wouldn't love a city where women can not only frown if they want to, but don't have silicon valleys under their tee-shirts.

Our John, Key that is, praises all involved in the movie, and lets us know that the crew spent $830,000 on coffee.

7pm: Avatar director James Cameron earlier appeared on the red carpet with his wife, on a break from script writing for the second and third instalments at his Wairarapa home. He said that he needed the solitude so he could give the scripts his full concentration, however he was enjoying his new home and the Wairarapa so much that it was distracting him - in a good way. He and his family had also meet their neighbours and felt welcomed.

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6.55pm: Now it is Prime Minister John Key's turn. The big question is, at what stage did the SIS know about the pistachio green tie the PM has chosen to upload to his neck and could they not have asked the FBI to help them take it down before its public screening?

6.51pm: Mayor Celia Wade-Brown takes to the stage to open the official speeches. She welcomes everyone to Wellington.

"Today is the day we've been waiting for. Today is the day we go on an unexpected journey."

She thanks Sir Peter Jackson, and thanks John Key and Warner Bros for making it happen with their partnership. Also, she thanks the council staff for cleaning the streets this morning.

Yes, they were particularly shiny, I thought.

She urges everyone to celebrate Wellington as the middle of Middle-earth.

6.48pm: The VIPs are heading inside to watch the movie but the crowds are still surrounding the red carpet.

6.42pm: Former Lost star Evangeline Lilly whomps up the glamour factor in her pinky bronze metallic mini dress. Her Hobbit character, Tauriel, wasn't in the Tolkien books but someone somewhere made the inspired decision to add her to the largely male cast. Tauriel is the head of the elven guard but I reckon Miss Evangeline looks a bit more Christmas fairy in her glittery dress. The kind of Christmas fairy your boyfriend wants to find under the tree. 

6.40pm: Peter Jackson  is still making his way up the red carpet. It's been almost two hours and he's moved about 400 metres.

6.35pm: Martin Freeman is getting towards the end of the carpet and is losing his voice, but he says he is feeling very loved. "For a baying mob, they are very well-behaved."

6.20pm: Did Martin Freeman and John Key deliberately co-ordinate wardrobes? Dark suits and green ties both, although John has taken the bowtie option.

6.17pm: Here comes Princess Beatrice in the ribbon hat she wore to Kate and William's wedding.
Just jokes. If only. Not enough fashion disasters on this red carpet.

6.14pm: Prime Minister John Key is working the red carpet and has been signing hundreds of autographs.

6pm: The reporters at the end of the carpet are just getting their turn with the big stars now. Richard Armitage, who plays dark, moody, dwarfish prince Thorin, gets another turn in front of the camera. The Heathcliff of dwarves, I say. (Note to self. Time for a top 10 hottest screen dwarves story).

The major stars have all arrived and the TV guys at the beginning of the red carpet have resorted to intervewing the children of bit part actors. Carol Hirschfeld asks Huia, the small daughter for Manu Bennett what she thinks of the red carpet. "Nice," she says.

5.56pm: Apparently there are almost 100,000 people in downtown Wellington for the festivities. The online audience watching the proceedings via livestream around the world is estimated in the millions. No idea where that figure came from but we're taking it and running with it. 

There goes the other big Wellington-loving blockbuster-making Hollywood director, James Cameron. Nice to see him out supporting Sir PJ and company. Of course, he has a close relationship with Weta Digital through Avatar.

Andy Serkis puts on his Gollum voice to say hi to "precious" Wellington.

It is slow going down the red carpet for most of the stars. Everyone is in high spirits and stopping to shake hands, sign posters and photographs, and greet old friends.

5.45pm: We can see the delectable Cate Blanchett coming. She is utterly utterly gorgeous in a dress with a red chiffon top, white midriff and  long black skirt.  We also love her chic blonde bob (simple side part, silver barrette holding it back). Very appropriate for a Wellington afternoon premiere.

She apparently has two of her three boys with her and is making slow progress down the red carpet because she is signing so many autographs. She is excited to see the movie, but sad that Ian McKellen isn't here for it.

Cate says it is a privilege playing Galadriel and working with the rest of the Hobbit crew. The crowd are going gaga for her.

Yao Chen - a big movie star in China (she has also got 26 million followers on Twitter) - is also walking down the red carpet.

5.44pm: It’s the Kircher family! William Kircher, who plays Bifur, has brought his lovely wife and daughter. I applaud our William for breaking the mold and wearing a quite flamboyant cream suit with chocolate brown striped shirt and tie. Very best-dressed at Ellerslie. He says that he thinks of himself as the Keith Richards of the dwarf kingdom - very rock'n'roll. Are dwarves smart, he is asked. Well they make jewellery and have fights, he says, so make up your own mind.

Mrs Kircher says being involved with the movie was a "wild ride". She said it was great meeting the other movie WAGS, or perhaps that should be WADS...wives and dwarf sweethearts.

5.37pm: Sylvester McCoy, who plays Radagest, is wearing a very "dramatic" jacket. Lots of stars and moons all over it. I think it is his way of rebelling against playing a hermit in the movie. He seems to be saying his characterisation was inspired by Prince Charles' habit of talking to plants.

5.30pm: Vrooom chugga chug. As I am sure you can tell, that was the Air New Zealand Hobbit plane flying over. Great, wasn't it?

5.27pm: A very nicely turned-out Adam Brown (Ori, another one of the many dwarves) arrives next. He is so enthusiastic about Wellington, beaming to all the people in the crowd. Humorous little bow-tie there, Adam. Love the polka dots.

He says he has pledged to come back every year for the rest of his life. Aah, bless.

5.27pm: From Weta Workshop's Twitter account: "The Weta crew are now in party mode, so our posts will slow down a little, as we celebrate!"

5.21pm: Oh my, it is the elvish Hugo Weaving. The man responsible for female cross-species fantasies everywhere. I need to take a moment.

5.18pm: I don't know about you, but I think we need some glamorous ladies to make their appearance on this live carpet. Only so much one can say about men in dark suits. How many dwarves can there be in one movie?  Where is the luscious Cate Blanchett?

5.16pm: New Zealand actor Mark Hadlow, soon to be better known as the dwarf Dori, says the movie was the most extraordinary experience of his career so far. He seems to be getting a bit emotional. Talks about how extraordinary Sir PJ is, even though "we're not friends or anything, just work colleagues".

5.14pm: Barry Humphries, aka Dame Edna aka the Great Goblin, likens the buzz around the premiere in Wellington to that of Gone with the Wind, when Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh travelled in an open car down the streets of Atlanta. (For you young sprats who don't know what Gone with the Wind was, it was a movie made about the fate of the Wellywood sign.)

And what did he think of this film? "I've never seen it. I'm hoping I am still in this film."

Peter Hambleton, or Gloin, is looking snappy with a blue bowtie. Great day for him to have the premiere in his hometown of Wellington.

5.09pm: We want Orlando. We want Orlando. Where is he?

5.08pm: Sir PJ is asked what his favourite bit of the movie was, but surprisingly, says he hasn't seen it properly yet. That's procrastination for you. He says he loved Bilbo and Martin Freeman.
Jackson says the premiere has reenergised him. ‘‘It's the home crowd isn't it? You can't do better.’’

5.06pm: Next up is Kiwi John Callen, or Oin the dwarf. He couldn't believe his luck getting the part. He says he had just told his agent he needed something to set him up for retirement. Two days later, while he was vacuuming dog hair off the carpet, he got the call from his agent to tell him his ship was in.

5.02pm: Now it is Elijah Wood, our Frodo. "This is echoing in the past for me. We've been down Courtenay Place before with the Return of the King. There is a lot of muscle memory."

He says Martin Freeman was just the perfect casting for Bilbo. "After seeing the film, he was brilliant. The right amount of funny. He has strange qualities but also real heart. He is the heart of the movie and he really pulled it off."

He makes a plea for a Kiwi passport. Go on John, you can arrange that surely?

4.59pm: Weta Workshop's Sir Richard Taylor arrives and is in high spirits. He said going back to Middle-earth was incredible and describe working on The Hobbit as the big one. His favourite thing to design was the 13 dwarves, he said. He loved them as a child in his head and it was an amazing thing to create them for real. Sir Rich modestly denies any responsibility for creating the ultimate special effect - a sunny, windless Wellington day.

4.59pm: Andy Serkis, who plays Gollum is there now. Like the others he is so excited. Found it weird to see the big statue of himself at Wellington Airport. The crowd is happy and Aidan Turner, who plays Kili, describes the premiere as the wackiest St Patrick’s Day ever. I think he confusing his magic folk. Leprechauns and dwarves are not the same Aidan.

Yuss! Our first Shorty St veteran arrives. Dean O'Gorman, who plays Fili to Aidan's Kili arrives. Carol Hirschfeld describes them as fellow cutie-pies They are hugging each other. A fine bromance.

Elijah Wood has just arrived, too.

4.55pm: More eye candy arrives. Thorin, Richard Armitage. He talks about learning to move and sing as a dwarf. Hi ho, hi ho, its off to work we go. There is some mention by the reporter about the heavy costumes making him a hot dwarf. Yes indeed.

He adds: "I learned to sing like a dwarf. It takes a long time to shake off the character."

4.50pm: Here comes Bofur the dwarf, aka that lovely Irishman James Nesbitt. James raves about how much he and his family love Wellington.

"Wellington was a great place to be. I can't say enough of Wellington and New Zealand. You have a better pace of life, a good education system and good wine."

He had a great amount of fun with the other dwarves (even though there was the odd tense moment).  "We as actors went on a journey like the dwarves. There were challenges, odd fights and quarrels but we came through and have two more filims (that's how those Northern Irish people say it) to get through." He talks about dwarf boot camp and how the shorter actors had it easier, but it was still fun. "I tell you what, it beats working for a living."

4.52pm: Martin Freeman talks about how great the Bilbo role is because you can be serious, you can be funny and you can fall over. I can do at least one of those but does anyone throw their underwear at me when I walk down the street. No they do not.

4.43pm: Ooh, ooh, it's Martin Freeman! Isn't he just so lovely? Martin, aka Bilbo Baggins, is looking very handsome and dressed up in a dark suit with a mint green tie. Truly scrumptious.

4.40pm: Katie Jackson says she hasn't seen the film and tonight will be her first time. However, she adds she is a big Tolkien fan.

Next up is Philippa Boyens, screenwriter and, I have to say, a bit of a fox. She is looking very lovely all glammed up. Cue gushing about Peter and the actors and how fab everyone was to work with etc etc. Lots of adoration from the crowds. Carol Hirschfeld wishes her Happy Premiere.

4.35pm: Katie Jackson, Peter's daughter, gets a huge cheer in her beautiful gold mini dress. And she looks very lovely. It is a bit like Obama's girls. Last time we saw her she was just a little child and now she is this lovely gazelle of a girl. So does she want to be in the movies? "You never know, you never know," she tells the reporters. "I might carry it on." Her dad beams with approval. Wonder if she'll be on youth rates?

4.34pm: Okay, so Peter Jackson has arrived. I guess the least important people don't always arrive first. Unless he was hoping to catch a glimpse of Anna Hutchinson and co. Big cheers from everyone anyway, and he is looking a bit Hollywood, a bit Kiwi in his nice black suit with a slightly crumpled white shirt. No tie, naturally.

4.28pm: Neil Finn says he'll be handing over the stage to the man himself (who do you think he means?) soon but encourages the audience to join in a rousing encore of ay yie yie yie ya, or however that Hobbit Lonely Mountain music goes. Christmas Number One? Meh, mebbe not.

4.23pm: It is going to be interesting seeing what order all the celebs arrive in. The later you arrive, the more important you are. And then there is the matter of which cinema you get to attend.

The premiere is actually being held in two different cinemas - the most important people will be at the glamorous Embassy cinema and the overflow gets sent to Reading further down the street. Imagine the anxiety in celeb land when the invites arrived. Is it worse to be sent to the number two screen, or not to be invited at all? And which one will the Shorty St lot be sent to? Too, too tense.

4.13pm: The red carpet is stretched all along Courtenay Place. Do you think someone has warned the hobbits about Wellington's notorious buses? Look both ways little ones.

4.08pm: Something So Strong! It certainly is a crowded house on Courtenay Pl, and Neil Finn's making everyone welcome.

4pm:  Neil Finn kicks off with History Never Repeats. Although in the case of Tolkien movie premieres in Wellington, that is not quite the case. We've all been here before but this time is bigger and better.

3.57pm: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey trailer is playing on the big screen above the Embassy theatre.

3.56pm: Extras are parading down the red carpet. Staff are handing out copious amounts of Gandalf hats.

3.36pm: Now we're seeing a parade of Air New Zealand employees on the red carpet, some of them are half dressed in Middle-earth costumes.

3.26pm: Chris Winchester of Pukerua Bay came as a generic Middle Earth man. He spent 30 days working as an extra on the set but doesn't know if he made the cut in the film. "It was just superb being in that environment," he said.

3.17pm: Trevor from New Plymouth is dressed as Gandalf so convincingly fans had photos taken with him, as did hundreds of others. 'I'm just amazed at what weta workshop has done,' he said. Meanwhile, a woman is entertaining the crowd by cracking her whip.

3.00pm: Thousands of people are mingling with giant cave trolls and elven warriors on the Courtenay Pl red carpet in Wellington as they wait for the stars' arrival about 4.30pm.

There are conspicuously more people in costume than for The Return of the King. With the sun, little wind and reggae music blasting from speakers it feels like a party already.

The stars and VIPs are expected to arrive on the red carpet from 4.30pm onwards.

The premiere screenings at The Embassy and Reading cinemas begin at 7pm.

A 1800kg Weta Workshop installation of three cave trolls has been set up on the corner of Tory St, while two huge elven warriors stand guard outside Reading Cinema. A shire market with flowers, food and barrels of ale is at Allen St.

Earlier, 30 cars were towed and a further 90 tickets issued in and around Courtenay Pl overnight as the roads were cleared for the premiere.

MetService forecaster Peter Knudsen said the estimated temperature was expected to peak at 20 degrees Celsius later today.

The first fans camped from 9pm last night, and nearly 100 were there by 10pm, one group on a tour from Melbourne said.

By 8am all the prime space in front of the barrier, which surrounds the red carpet from Taranaki St to the Embassy Theatre, was taken.

University students Sarah Reif and Willemyn Dagevos had come down from Auckland for the premiere, and would be keeping their eyes peeled for Andy Serkis, who plays Gollum.

Too young to attend the premiere of the Return of the King, Reif said she thought she'd never get the chance to be part of the release of a Tolkien film, so she was overjoyed when she found out the Hobbit would be made.

''It's fulfilling 10 years' of dreams.''

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.

The stars of the show kicked off today's official festivities with a press conference at Te Papa in Wellington this morning.

Sir Peter 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.

- The Dominion Post

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