On Wednesday I was lucky enough to be one of the 100,000 or so individuals packed along a 600 metre long red carpet in central Wellington. Why? To see some Hobbits, Dwarves and Elves of course! And the most important Hobbit of them all – Sir Peter Jackson.
As soon as I heard there would be a big premiere for The Hobbit in Wellywood I resolved that I would go. I wasn’t around for the Lord of the Rings parades and missed out on all the hoopla. And I wasn’t going to miss out again. Why? Well, I am not a massive Tolkien geek. I am not even a massive Lord of the Rings geek. I really enjoyed them, but only own one on DVD (The Two Towers – in my view the best of the three – unusual for the middle film in a trilogy…). And I can’t speak any Elvish. But, as you will know from previous blog posts, I am a big fan of all things cinema, and am also immensely proud of our wee country at the bottom of the world that consistently punches above its weight. And this seemed like a great coming together of the two.
Of course, The Hobbit’s tie into New Zealand is not lacking in controversy. Over the past week the various dramas around labour laws, government incentives, John Key’s overly close relationship with Warner Brothers as well as left field and probably unfounded allegations of animal abuse have been doing the rounds in the media. When it comes to the first few, I won’t say that they don’t concern me. I still don’t fully support us paying Warner Brothers for the right to promote their movie, and I am not sure whether Tourism New Zealand or Air New Zealand will get the return on their marketing investments. However, all that was far from the minds of most of the 100,000 people on Wednesday, including myself.
Myself and fellow Hobbiter Justine took a half day’s leave and started by scoping out the red carpet – identifying where we would be best placed to stake our claim (by then the crowd was already 1 to 2 deep along the entire carpet). During our scoping exercise we stumbled across one of my delights of the day – Neil, Liam and Elroy Finn doing sound check for their performance later on. We were amongst a crowd of about 50 people who got to enjoy Distant Sun and History Never Repeats – performed on a purpose built Hobbit mound in front of the Embassy. Neil remains my FAVOURITE MUSICIAN EVER, so it was fabulous to get a free and thoroughly unexpected mini-concert.
We eventually chose a space about half way down the red carpet, near some teenage girls who had made signs professing their love to Elijah Wood. The Wellington weather had clearly been paid by Warner Brothers as well, and it was one of the hottest days I have ever experienced in the windy city (Welly people – this isn’t just me being a Jafa, I lived in Wellington for three years so I KNOW about the weather, so don’t try telling me it is like that ALL THE TIME ;-)). The sun beat down for two hours as we waited for the stars to appear (thank god for Justine bringing a spare hat and sunscreen – due to aforementioned weather bias I hadn’t thought to pack either!).
And appear they did. I was impressed that Sir PJ was the first to show up – explaining that he wanted to give something back to the thousands of fans who had been waiting. He was joined by his daughter Katie (was it me, or did it seem a little bit like she was a debutante making her first steps out into society? Lovely girl though I am sure), though wife and partner in crime Fran Walsh elected to skip the festivities. Soon after PJ there was a wave of dwarf action – Martin Freeman, Jimmy Nesbit, Aidan Turner (aka the hot dwarf), Richard Armitage (aka the seriously hot dwarf) and Elijah Wood. I was super impressed too at the number of kiwi actors that are part of the 13 strong dwarf collective that go on this wee mission (sorry people, I have never read The Hobbit, as you can probably tell…) – including Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy and Dean O’Gorman (aka the Ryan Gosling-esk dwarf) . Other Middle Earth beings were in attendance too – including Hugo Weaving and a radiant Cate Blanchett.
Unfortunately we discovered that mid-way down the carpet wasn’t an ideal place to be – as they did press interviews at one end and the other, and due to time constraints had to rush through the middle. Note for next time – get a spot near the press as the talent will definitely stop there. But god bless Elijah Wood, who stopped for a while next to the teenage girls near us, and even took THEIR photo – presumably to tweet it. Aidan Turner also gave some people his John Hancock near us, and confirmed that he DEFINITELY is the hot dwarf.
At the end of the day we were hot, had sore feet but were very pleased with our outing. The vibe of the crowd was very enthusiastic but equally chilled – not too much screaming and yelling but just a general murmur of happiness and support. I believed all of the cast when they spoke of their love for New Zealand, and Wellington in particular, and how stoked they were to be at this very special event. So I will grant John Key this one win – he did ensure that this happened in New Zealand, and made this country a special place in the hearts of many cast and crew and Hobbit fans. So now we wait until December 12th and the release of the film. BRING IT ON I say 🙂
(Unfortunately I was a muppet and when trying to take pictures of famous people pointed my camera in the wrong direction (#thatactuallyhappened). But my friend Ethan has posted some fabulous pictures on his blog, which he got from just a few metres away from where we were. Click here to check them out).