The latest instalment of The Hobbit movie series has had a star-studded unveiling in Hollywood.
The premiere of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was preceded by a "black carpet" event that was broadcast live on YouTube and hundreds of other websites.
Instead of a traditional red carpet, director Sir Peter Jackson strolled what turned out to be a black one at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles yesterday alongside stars Orlando Bloom, Martin Freeman, Evangeline Lilly and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Throngs of fans lined barricades around the theatre to cheer their arrival.
Jackson, who was accompanied by daughter Katie, said it felt great to think his films had turned another generation on to The Hobbit. "Whatever liberties people say we take with the books . . . if it makes people read Tolkien's original books then that's great as well," he said. "And obviously we're also inspiring young people to make movies as well."
When asked by a fan what qualities he looked for in his actors, he said he wanted to cast "really nice people".
"Because you've got to be down in New Zealand [and be] part of our family for 18 months, so we do try to cast people who can be there for the long haul and have the right spirit."
He had not changed his directorial style from his Lord of the Rings days, he said. "What's actually interesting is that we shot the movies in sequence so, I think, with the second movie you do get a sense of me finding my rhythm a little bit."
British actor Cumberbatch, who plays the dragon Smaug, said the role required about eight days of motion-capture and voiceover work. "It was long and it was hard work, but at the same time nothing like the amount of work other people put into this film."
The Desolation of Smaug is Jackson's second instalment of the planned trilogy based on The Hobbit. It will be released in New Zealand cinemas on December 12.
- Fairfax Media