Actress Cate Blanchett walks the red carpet during yesterday's premier of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Photo by Craig Baxter.
A gentle Wellington zephyr flapped flags welcoming the
traveller all the way into the "Middle of Middle-earth" as
Gandalf waved his wizard's staff from atop the Embassy
• Hobbit Premiere
Everywhere, Gandalf hats and elven ears bobbed among the
crowds, some of whom were already dressed as hobbits,
medieval wenches and hairy men.
It was buzzing indeed, and the vibe transferred to the
hundreds of journalists in Wellington from all over the globe
to enjoy gifts and dinners, interviews and tours before
finally joining the happy throng on the red carpet for a few
hours of Tolkien fever before the official world premiere of
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
What was clear to see was that while Sir Ian McKellen might
not have been able to attend the premiere, Gandalf was there
at every turn. Certainly, the city must have sold out of elf
ears and Gandalf hats, and I'm sure, at 27degC, many were
thankful for wide-brimmed wizard headgear.
By 1pm, the fans were one or two deep, sitting, sleeping,
playing cards, reading books, singing or eating lunch all
along the black barriers that would separate them from the
Many came in costume, some came in school uniform, almost all
clutched a copy of The Hobbit.
By 3pm, they were six deep, standing, transformed into an
excited mass, weaving and waving in anticipation.
By 6pm, everyone was caught up in the adrenaline rush of
spotting stars, and, if you were lucky, talking to them.
The stars themselves had been rather reserved at a media
press conference earlier in the day, and were still trotting
out the same "Well it's interesting actually ..." sort of
answers when they arrived on the red carpet, but a 300m walk
and an hour of the adoring public later, they were noticeably
James Nesbitt, who plays dwarf Bofur in The Hobbit,
took a break from gripping, posing and signing to say a few
good things about Otago.
"It's a great part of the country. It's one of my enduring
memories of this film."
He said he enjoyed staying in an old church in Naseby while
filming in the Rock and Pillar Range area, and he took a
fancy to the region's wine while there.
"I'm a big fan of Central Otago wine. A big fan. I certainly
tried a few," he said with a wink as his publicist dragged
Richard "the hot dwarf" Armitage, who plays Thorin
Oakenshield, the would-be king of the dwarves and leader on
the Hobbit's unexpected journey, was a fan too. He made a
point of coming over to the Otago Daily Times' spot to
say: "I like your wine".
The Rock and Pillar Range area was his favourite of all
The Hobbit locations, he said.
"There was a wonderful day, where we were helicoptered up on
to the hill, but we had to stop filming for the day because
this mist rolled it. It was just incredible. It's a wonderful
Then it was time for his publicists' tap.
"I have to go now," he said, "but it was lovely to meet you."
Queenstown, where many scenes in the film were shot, was the
most beautiful place in the country, screenwriter and
co-producer Philippa Boyens said, and the Rock and Pillar
Range area was a total find, and "a bit of a star" in the
"Otago gave us such a wealth, and the people there were just
so accommodating and friendly. It was fantastic."
There were a few more, including Stephen Hunter (Bombur), who
said he would like to inform his host Barry Williams, of
Middlemarch, that the first 30km of the rail trail out of
Middlemarch is not downhill all the way. And then they were
Sir Peter was whipped past half the crowd in a blur, after
spending far too much time signing, talking and shaking hands
further down the line.
The biggest cheers were reserved for Sir Peter, Andy Serkis,
Martin Freeman, Elijah Wood and Cate Blanchett, but they were
whipped off; the frenzy was over.