[info]aldiara wrote
on December 14th, 2012 at 06:47 pm

My week of Hobbit madness

Aaaaaah. I KNOW, I KNOW, LATE LATE LATE. It kind of sucks that I didn't get the chance to write this all up a couple weeks ago when it was completely fresh in my mind, but between visitors and work and crazy commuting, there just hasn't been any time.

Anyway, better late than never! I'd decided a while ago that even if there was no way I could shag, bribe, threaten or otherwise cheat my way into receiving an invite to the world premiere of The Hobbit on November 28 (really, and here I thought I was famous *snort*), nor, alternatively, pay for one (tickets went for $2000 each, apparently - youch), I was still going to be in Wellington that week, come hell or high water, and soak in as much Hobbitsphere as I possibly could.

The timing worked out well since the lovely [info]alsha and I had tickets to see Avenue Q in Palmerston North that week anyway, so I just extended my stay to make sure I'd be in Welly on premiere day.

A note on picspam: Some of the photos are a little too wide for my IJ layout but this post has already taken way longer than it should and I am not resizing the damn things now, lol. If you want to see the pics properly, look at them while on the "leave a comment" screen!

It was well worth it, people! Wellington had been gearing up for the premiere for months, with the giant Gollum sculpture at the airport:

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...the not-quite-as-ridiculously-giant-but-still-pretty-enormous Gandalf display at the Embassy Theatre:

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...and the Hobbit flags all over town, on every lamp post, pole, and other vaguely flag-compatible item:

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I spent most of the days leading up to the premiere at the Hobbit Artisan Market at Waitangi Park, right at the waterfront of Wellington Harbour (unfortunately, Alsha had to work the days before the premiere, so I accomplished most of this exercise in extreme fangirl flail by myself). The market was pretty cute, although tbh I'd expected more cool geeky things - while the folks from Weta had stalls there and there was LotR jewellery/clothing galore, a lot of the stalls were just the generic Kiwi things you find at most markets hereabouts. There were a few costume competitions and a bunch of activities for kids, and on Sunday there was one very nifty make-up/prosthetics workshop where one of the Weta artists demonstrated the process of turning an actor/stunt guy into an Orc, while the actor patiently answered a plethora of questions. Pretty cool.

In general, though, the main appeal of the Hobbit Fair quickly turned out to be the giant open-air screen where they were airing the production vlogs, behind the scenes featurettes, and interviews pretty much round the clock. A lot of these are probably either already online or will turn up on the DVD sets eventually, so I won't go into too much detail, but as with Lord of the Rings, the team has once again done an AMAZING job documenting the journey of producing a trilogy on this scale, and really succeeded in making you feel a part of it all. The sense of cameraderie, humour and just all-around awesome shared by absolutely everyone involved in the making of these films, from PJ himself to catering assistant No. 47, is just wonderful and so well reflected in the footage.

And the dwarves! I honestly didn't expect to be as charmed by these guys as I was. I can't wait to see the film and how it all came together on screen \o/

Another highlight was the open-air screening of the three Lord of the Rings films on consecutive evenings at the park. I had to miss out on Fellowship the first night, because as usual I had absolutely failed to acknowledge that Wellington weather is very very different from Nelson weather, and that even if it isn't raining, it WILL be windy, and if you've already spent about 5 hours exposed to a sharp chilly blast off the sea while wearing no more than a tiny summer dress, you are not going to last another three hours sitting still in the same blast after the sun has gone down, lol. So I gave up after a day of Hobbit Fair-ing and spent the evening with Alsha instead (even so, it took me hours to get properly warm again, and in Alsha's professional opinion, I may have had a legit touch of hypothermia - oh Wellington, your idea of summer amuses).

Having learned my lesson, I came PREPARED to the screening of The Two Towers the next day. The friend I was going with was very amused when he met me and I was carrying an enormous bundle composed of a sleeping bag, a duvet (yes, a duvet), a camping mat, and three extra blankets. He stopped laughing soon when we settled down in the grass and the wind started its incessant icy blasting. I got plenty of amusement back when he started out with one of the tiny thin blankets draped casually across his lap and then every time I looked over at him during the film, he'd have snuck another layer, lol - by the end of the night, he honestly looked like this, I couldn't see his face at all!

Watching the film(s) in the park was brilliant. It was hilarious and touching seeing all these people camped out on the green, most with blankets and covers like us because it was that cold, some even taking it several steps further with pillows and chairs and inflatables. It was a wonderful crowd - there was applause for things like the March of the Ents and the Rohirrim charging down towards Helm's Deep, and when Sam did his "There's some good in this world, Mr Frodo" speech, there was mad cheering and you could just feel the love.

They were screening the theatrical versions, which was interesting since I'd not seen them since they were in theatres. With Fellowship I can take or leave the extended edition, but I have to say Two Towers suffers a bit when you know what the extended stuff is - I did rather miss those extraordinary extra scenes between Faramir/ Boromir and Denethor, especially. But it was fantastic to see the film on a big screen again, and in such great company. Even the weather held, just barely - the cloud cover was quite thick and there was the occasional smattering of raindrops but we didn't get seriously rained on, and just as the film ended, the clouds broke up and we got this amazing blood red sunset. It was crazy beautiful.

The third evening at the Hobbit Fair and the screening of The Return of the King was... well, indescribable, really, but I'll try. To be honest, I was mostly going to the screenings to soak up the atmosphere and hang out with the like-minded - I've seen the movies themselves so many times that I honestly didn't expect to be drawn in again. But that night was so moving and so special. By the third night, everyone was pretty much a pro at knowing what kind of layering to bring to stay warm, and I was super-snug and comfy with my giant pillow and warm duvet (lolol, a DUVET. In SUMMER.)

I was spellbound by the film, and the location added some extra poignant/fabulous effects that I'd never reckoned with, like the scenes when there were Fell Beasts on screen and the colour of the real sky blended exactly with the colour of the sky on screen so you really felt like you were in the same world; the sound was on so loud that you felt the ground vibrating under you with the charge of horses, and we were all cheering ourselves hoarse for the lighting of the beacons and the ride of the Rohirrim towards the siege of Gondor. The most intense for me, though, was to see the ending with the Grey Havens set under the open sky in an actual harbour, with real seagulls keening overhead. Feels were had, and also tears.

On my way home afterwards, I happened to pass by the prospective red carpet stretch for the next day (no really, it was on my way, lol) and stayed a while to watch the giant trucks blocking off the road and large numbers of competent burly men lugging barriers and giant rolls of red carpet around, security setting up their equipment, etc. I'd kind of been wondering if anyone would camp out overnight for prime red carpet spots, but once again I hadn't reckoned with Wellington, lol. In Hollywood or London, sure, you'd have to if you wanted to see anything. Here, though, everything tends to be a lot more relaxed and almost cosy, even world premiere events.

The public screenings were the perfect primer for the day of the premiere itself, which, after days of grumpy cloudy raininess, dawned bright and sunny and perfect. Poor Alsha had just come off a night shift - I let her sleep for a couple of hours before I dragged her off to stalk the red carpet but she was still a wee bit groggy (and possibly the only person who has ever attempted to catch a nap while leaning against a red carpet barricade, lolol <3)

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You can't see it but she is actually asleep behind those shades.

The action was supposed to start around 4pmish, and we got there shortly after noon. We were probably some of the last people to get a spot all the way at the front, which again would probably be unheard of anywhere else in the world if you showed up only a few hours before everything started!

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You can see the Embassy Theatre, towards which the actors/guests were going to make their way from another theatre a few blocks up the road. There's a stage just in front of the Hobbit hill.

We were too late to get a spot on the opposite side of the red carpet, where there was only one barrier between the carpet and the spectators - ours had a press area between the public barrier and the red carpet area, but we snatched spots right up against the barrier:

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I actually really like where we ended up, because we could see the stage itself, as well as the giant screen that broadcast red carpet coverage from the start of the street so we could see who was coming and estimate how soon they'd be getting to our spot.

This is the screen (complete with Aidan Turner and Dean O'Gorman):
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It got a lot more packed later on, but in general everyone was super-friendly and considerate, there was no excessive shoving, people made room so those further back could get pictures, and everyone was having a grand old time.

This was the view directly ahead of us:
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As I mentioned, there were camera teams between us and the red carpet area, which you can kind of see here:
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We thought at first this might become problematic, especially when one crew of three set up directly in front of us with a ginormous camera, but it actually turned out to be perfect. The press pit was too wide to reach across comfortably, but we were mostly keen on seeing the actors, not necessarily groping them or having things signed, so it was ideal, since most of them actually stopped for "our" news team, so we had the majority of the cast stand directly in front of us and could hear what they were saying, as opposed to the right-up-against-the-barrier side, where fans were mostly just screaming for attention and/or autographs and by necessity got ignored by a lot of actors since there was so much red carpet and press to get through and they were on a schedule.

We chatted with the people near us and ended up bonding with "our" camera team, lol.

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Philipp the camera man and reporter Joanna (Renee, her cute assistant, is in some of the pics further down). They deserve love because they made sure to position themselves so we had an uninhibited view, kept asking if we could hear the interviews well enough, passed back some of the souvenirs that got tossed into the crowd, and even snuck a few items through the press pit to the actors for autographs. They rocked!

Oh right, I suppose you're more interested in actors and such than our press buddies ;)

Things heated up and everyone got very excited when the screens announced that the guests had started down the red carpet, but it took absolute AGES for anyone to make their way down the few blocks. There were lots of bouts of sudden cheering that had everyone stand on tip toes and crane their heads, but we quickly learned that these were just orchestrated cheers at the requests of various news teams. There was a flood of other guests who came first - politicians and local celebs and such. I expect this will be the first and last time that I've heard phrases like "Oh oh, who's that? Anyone important? Get a picture! Oh wait, never mind, it's only the Prime Minister *sigh*"

I was tickled to see the Air New Zealand team arriving - they'd invited all the folks involved in the making and acting of the Hobbit-themed Air NZ safety video! (I lust that elf hostess something wicked).

Eventually though, actors and directors and other familiar faces finally made it to our area of the red carpet, announced by much excited cheering. The first one to take up position directly in front of us was Graham McTavish, who plays Dwalin:

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(I did a shameful amount of "oh, get a pic of that bloke, IDK his name right now, but he's a dwarf!" - I've tried to get better at actors' names since but thirteen is a lot of dwarves!)

Here's Royd Tolkien (one of JRR's grandsons) and his Very Snazzy Manly Hairband:

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Mark Hadlow, who plays Dori:
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Then James Nesbitt arrived, stayed in front of us for ages, grinned at me, and Alsha went a little nuts with her (very handy) iPhone:

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(hi Jo. You sexy thing.)

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"I am suave and my face is made of rubber."

Adam Brown, who plays Ori - I only recognised him when he was almost gone past, but he's lovely.

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Some bloke with his eyes closed:
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(Aidan didn't get interviewed by our crew so he didn't come as close *sadface* However, I have seen plenty of him since then as he is now installed in my basement. [info]lilithilien, he's getting a bit grumpy so you may need to come pick him up soonish.)

Then this happened:
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And kept happening...
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...right in front of me:
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...and I may have gotten a little unfocused for a little bit. He's so smart and soft-spoken and modest and lovely and guh. Guh guh guh.

(I am roughly trying to do this in the order that we saw people but at some point it all ran together into a massive blur of awesome, so chronology may go out the window.)

Eventually, after a long, long time, Peter Jackson came along:
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The poor man looked pretty exhausted by the time he reached us but graciously talked to ALL the news teams:
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That's his daughter Katie, whom you may recognise from her cameos in the LotR movies, when she was TINY:Photobucket
She's all grown up but still adorable!

PJ got pretty close:
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Alsha swears that when she gave him a sympathetic smile because he looked so tired, he smiled back at her and gave her a little nod. It's totes canon.

I don't have pics of this, but just as Peter Jackson turned away from us and back to the red carpet, he was approached by a white-haired guy and a blonde woman whom I recognised as James Cameron's wife, actress Suzy Amis. I kind of blinked and stared and then the white-haired guy hugged PJ and I realised it was James Cameron. I have since learned that apparently he lives in New Zealand now so it wasn't weird for him to be there, but at the time, James Cameron was definitely not someone I expected to see, so it felt pretty surreal!

Cate Blanchett didn't stop anywhere and just rushed through - it's only because we'd seen her distinctive dress on the big screen that we noticed her at all as she dashed by:
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Apparently she had a premiere to get to or something.

[Sidebar: I found out after the fact that Evangeline Lilly had actually been at the premiere and we missed her. I was really sad for about 5 seconds until I saw what was going on on her head. Then I consoled myself that I'd rather not see her at all than with bad hair #hairisallthatmatters but still, bummer.]

We got over our disappointment pretty quickly, though, because then this happened:
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And this:
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And this:
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And also this:
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And, maybe best of all, this:
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Oh Martin Freeman, why so dapper! <3333333333

And then there was this, of course:
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I have always had mad love for Andy Serkis, but I'm doubly excited to see the hobbit films now, knowing that he was Second Unit Director. It looked/sounded like he developed a really great rapport with PJ over working on the movies and I'm so impressed with his relentless multi-talentedness. The man is simply amazing.

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At the very end, when everyone had already gone inside, Andy came rushing back out and RAN along the perimeter of the red carpet with his arm outstretched, high-fiving as many people as he could reach in passing! He was wicked fast, too. I don't know if he was insane enough to run back the entire length of the red carpet (several blocks, several thousands of people) but it took a long time for him to come running back high-fiving the other side, so he might just have done. I LOVE HIM.

Alsha tried to get a pic as he whooshed past but he was so fast she missed him. Here, this is the vacuum he left behind in the air, lol:
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And here's Alan Lee - appropriately, with a pen!
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One of the very last people to make their way towards the theatre was Elijah Wood:
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This is significant because he was one of the very first who'd started down the red carpet and it took him the longest to get to the end because he was trying so hard to give attention to as many people as humanly possible - he kept bouncing back and forth from one side to the other, signing things, shaking hands, talking to the press AND to the fans, and doing it all with such boundless energy and such exuberant, honest charm that you just wanted to scoop him up in a hug.

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(YOU ARE THIRTY YEARS OLD. WHY DO YOU STILL LOOK SEVENTEEN. AAAAAH.)

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Must. Sparkle. On. Everyone!

Finally, here's Hugo Weaving's facial hair, and also maybe Hugo Weaving somewhere under it:
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The sun was getting low in the sky by that point, hence the glare:
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And I think that's pretty much it! I have more pics but they're all variations on the ones I've posted here. It was a fabulous day, the atmosphere was great, everyone was lovely beyond belief, and I'm pleased as pie that we got to go, that we got such a good spot, and that everything worked out so beautifully. The city went all out for the entire week and being able to be a part of it just about made me explode with fangirly joy. Now all that's left to do is ACTUALLY WATCH THE DAMN MOVIE, which we're doing this Sunday (in 3D, because 3D means Richard Armitage will reach out of the screen and snog me, Y/Y? /science). I CAN'T WAIT.

And if you've made it through this massive post, you deserve a cookie, or at least some Lembas bread:

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And Richard Armitage singing, because reasons.

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