Tributes to Oscar winner Mike "Hoppy" Hopkins are flowing in from around the world as his family prepares to farewell him with a funeral service at his Wairarapa home today.
Hopkins, 53, drowned on Sunday when his inflatable raft flipped after hitting an eddy on the Waiohine River in the Tararua Range.
He and another male rafting companion were sucked under but Hopkins was unable to resurface. His wife Nicci was thrown clear of the raft and spent two hours clinging to a ledge in the water before being rescued.
A large number of people are expected to attend "a celebration of Michael's life" at his lifestyle block just south of Greytown at 1pm.
Kiwi film director Geoff Murphy said Hopkins was a popular figure in Kiwi film circles. "They'll all turn up to the funeral. It should be quite big."
Hopkins made a name for himself in Hollywood with his work on Sir Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which led to work on Hollywood hits Transformers, Dreamgirls and Kung Fu Panda.
He and American Ethan Van der Ryn won sound editing Oscars for their work on The Two Towers in 2003 and King Kong in 2006.
News of his death has been widely reported in international media this week, with the BBC, Fox News and the New York Daily News all picking up the story, among others.
The internet has also lit up with tributes to Hopkins. United States-based Kiwi actress Melanie Lynskey tweeted: "Just heard about Mike Hopkins . . . so sad. He taught me everything I know about ADR [automated dialogue replacement, or dubbing] when we did post [production] on Heavenly Creatures. Such a sweet man."
An online tribute book last night contained about 20 messages to Hopkins' family, including one from Kiwi actor Jed Brophy, who plays Nori in The Hobbit movies.
"He was the most generous person I ever had the pleasure of working with, but more than this, he was just an amazingly warm man," Brophy wrote.
American sound designer and Oscar winner Randy Thom, who has Star Wars, Forrest Gump, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter among his many film credits, wrote in an online article that Hopkins' talents were "world class".
"Mike Hopkins was as kind, generous, and humble a man as you might hope to meet . . . everybody who spent time with him liked him. I'm a better man for having been around him, and a better sound designer too."
- The Dominion Post