Hobbit fans mob Hobbit fan

Last updated 07:34 29/11/2012
tdn trev woud stand
FAIRFAX
Trevor Woudt dressed as Gandalf at the premiere of the Hobbit yesterday.

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They lined balconies and window ledges, they perched on poles and rubbish bins - anything to get a peek as the cast of The Hobbit walked the red carpet.

Such was the mania that people merely dressed as Hobbit characters were besieged by fans keen to get a photo.

Trevor Woudt, of New Plymouth, dressed as Gandalf, had a steady stream of photos taken with him.

Even at Park Rd Post in Miramar earlier in the day, he had animators popping out to get a photo with him.

For him, it was just about the love of the project. "I'm just amazed at what Weta Workshop has done."

Tour guide Derek Carver, also dressed as Gandalf, was popular with photographers too.

Florian Letsch, a Tolkien fan from Germany, who came dressed as a dwarf, just happened to be in New Zealand.

"It's kind of the best timing for me," he said.

For Chris Winchester, of Pukerua Bay, dressed as a "generic Middle-earth man", eventually seeing the film was the big goal. "I'm actually waiting to see if I'm in the film," the extra, who did about 30 days of filming, said.

Crowd basks in real magic

A crowd estimated at near 100,000 turned out on the streets of Wellington yesterday for the world premiere of the made-in-New Zealand Hobbit movie.

As if there aren't enough special effects in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the real magic lay on the streets of Wellington, where people had come from near and afar to do some star-gazing.

Throughout the sweltering day - by Wellington standards that is, with the mercury nudging 22 degrees Celsius - the crowd kept growing, eventually getting close to an estimated 100,000. And they weren't disappointed.

From about 4pm, the red carpet turned into a conveyor belt of the rich (Sir Peter Jackson), the famous (Elijah Wood), the hunks (Richard Armitage and Aiden Turner), the gorgeous (Cate Blanchett), the important (John Key and Celia Wade-Brown) and the crowd favourite (Martin Freeman, aka Bilbo Baggins).

The big names mixed freely with the little people (incidentally, the ones who ultimately fund the movie), autographs and photo opportunities were easy to come by, and Bilbo seemed charmed that so many young women, some overcome with emotion, wanted to "bag him".

New York, London and Tokyo are next on the premiere circuit, but there was no doubting that the affection of the hobbits, elves and wizards - in fact, everyone involved with The Hobbit project - lies deeply in the heart of the capital.

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Barry Meyer, chairman and chief executive of Warner Bros, said: "It is hard to imagine a more fitting backdrop for the launch of the premiere of The Hobbit than downtown Wellington."

The film's director, Sir Peter Jackson, said there was no better place to release the film. "It's the home crowd isn't it? You can't do better."

He did, however, admit he'd had little choice in where the premiere would be held. "I do know that if I didn't have a movie here for the premiere, I'd be in awful trouble. I'd be in the poo, as we say."

Work on the film had gone down to the wire, and he had seen a full version only a few days ago. "It was OK," he joked.

Bofur the dwarf, aka Irishman James Nesbitt, raved about how much he and his family loved 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."

Even Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf in The Hobbit but could not make it to the capital for the premiere, said in a video message from London that he wished he was "there in my spiritual home in Wellington".

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade- Brown tapped into the mood of the tens of thousands of fans when she said: "Today is the day we've been waiting for. Today is the day we go on an unexpected journey."

And Australian actor Barry Humphries liked The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to the same fervour over the release of Gone With the Wind in 1939. The comedian, who plays the Goblin King, said a few years ago he was performing in Atlanta and met "old timers" there who had attended the Gone With the Wind premiere and saw Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh come down the main street in an open car. "That is very similar to today in Wellington, New Zealand. It's an event the kids are going to remember I think."

Despite the huge crowd around Courtenay Place, few problems were reported.

Jackson's daughter premiere stunner

The wide-eyed child from The Lord of the Rings has blossomed into a red carpet talking point.

Katie Jackson, who played small children in all three Rings movies, accompanied father Sir Peter yesterday on what was her coming-out event.

The 16-year-old quickly caught the eye of the television cameras, and became a hot topic on Twitter. "Katie Jackson looks amazing!" wrote one, while Casey Goranson tweeted: "Katie Jackson has become a beautiful young woman. She's gonna have to take fencing lessons fend off the suitors!"

Katie said she was looking forward to a first glimpse of her dad's movie, after he convinced her to wait for the premiere.

"He wanted it to be completely finished."

She said growing up while her father and mother, Fran Walsh, worked on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for years at a time was "incredible". She got to know Sir Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood when she was only a toddler.

"I'm a big Tolkien fan myself so it's great to have a whole family that are Tolkien-obsessed."

Asked if she had any aspirations of joining her father in the movie industry, she said with a laugh: "You never know. I might carry it on."

Her father said: "It would be good, it would be fantastic. She's extremely clever."

He also praised Wellington for responding in such great numbers for yesterday's premiere.

"The home town has turned out again. I thought the premiere for The Return of the King would be a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, but it's just such a great feeling to be a Wellington film-maker."

Jackson still has two more Hobbit movies to complete. Fairfax NZ

- Taranaki Daily News

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