'Hobbit' premiere draws thousands in New Zealand

The premiere of the first film in the 'Hobbit' series, 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,' took place in Wellington, New Zealand and was attended by director Peter Jackson and actors Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, and Cate Blanchett, among others.

Ross Setford/AP
Actor Martin Freeman (l.), who plays Bilbo Baggins in the 'Hobbit' films, stands with director Peter Jackson (r.).

The world premiere of the film “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in Wellington, New Zealand drew thousands to the red carpet to catch a glimpse of the stars and the people behind the movie.

An estimated 100,000 fans showed up, including some who sported elf ears and wore the distinctive large and hairy hobbit feet. Some had arrived the night before to make sure they had an area from which to watch the action.

“It’s been a long day, but is it ever worth it,” Cinnamon Tararo, a “Hobbit” lover who came to the premiere with her husband and son and stood for eight hours, told the Wall Street Journal.

Actor Martin Freeman, who stars as timid hobbit Bilbo Baggins, said he was impressed by the fans that attended.

“For a baying mob, they are very well-behaved,” he told New Zealand-based website Stuff.

Before the premiere, Jackson spoke about how determined he was to secure Freeman for the project. Originally, scheduling conflicts arose because Freeman was involved with the BBC series “Sherlock,” on which he plays sidekick John Watson.

“That was one time I was very, very worried because if the casting of Bilbo was wrong, the films wouldn't work,” Jackson said at a press conference, according to the Guardian. “Bilbo has to carry the heart of the film…. I had downloaded the first series of Sherlock from iTunes and was watching it on my iPad at about 4 o'clock in the morning, and watching Martin, I thought there really is no better Bilbo in the world. He's got every quality that we want. I thought, when he needs to go back and shoot the second series ["season" in the US] we'll stop filming and make that work. It was a pretty radical thing to do but I'm incredibly pleased that we did it.”

Freeman told the Wall Street Journal that he loved many aspects of the character of Bilbo.

“I love his vulnerability but I also love his strength of character,” he said. “I love the fact that he feels the fear and does it anyway.”

Some fans at the premiere cheered when actor Andy Serkis, who performs as the character Gollum using motion-capture technology, spoke in the character’s trademark throaty voice.

As part of the event, New Zealand musician Neil Finn performed the song he had written for the movie, “Song of the Lonely Mountain,” with a band and also performed tracks originally done by his bands Split Enz and Crowded House.

While actors including Cate Blanchett, who stars as elf Galadriel, and Richard Armitage, who plays dwarf leader Thorin, attended the premiere, Ian McKellan was unable to go but sent a video message.

“I wish I were there in my spiritual home in Wellington,” the actor who portrays wise wizard Gandalf said in the video.

Celia Wade Brown, the mayor of Wellington, saw the film and gave a rave review to the Wall Street Journal, adding that the 3-D used in the movie “made the cliff paths and the falls in the mountain terrifying.”

While the first "Hobbit" movie will come to the US on Dec. 14, the second film in the series, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," is set to arrive in 2013. The third and final film, "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," will be released in 2014.

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