Saturday, December 1, 2012

Special Report from Wellington, NZ: Ground Zero at "The Hobbit" World Premiere

Elven statues guarding the red carpet area
Maybe one day Red Dot Diva will get to attend a Hollywood red carpet premiere.

For now, she has only been to very few glitzy ones held here, and those were mainly because she was working the media beat during Screen Singapore last year.

Until the time when international media marketing folks warm up to the idea that Red Dot Island may be a suitable stage for such glamourous premieres (in reality, the tropical humidity and heat doesn't quite help!), she will probably keep on dreaming of such large-scale star-gazing opportunities.

Wellington native Elizabeth E. Scrivener though, is a lucky gal to be living right where fantasy movie-style Middle-Earth is being created.

Naturally, she was at the sidelines of the exciting red carpet premiere for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" this past week. Here's her report:

One of the chapters in "The Hobbit" book is called ‘A Warm Welcome’ and that’s certainly what Sir Peter Jackson and his cast were given in Wellington, New Zealand this week, at the World Premiere for the first film in the trilogy.

Here's a perspective -- The red carpet (pic by Reuters)

As early as the night before, people began staking claims on the best positions beside the red carpet at the Embassy Theatre this past Wednesday, 28 November. When I arrived in the mid-afternoon, it was already fairly crowded. However, I still managed to get a good spot with only a couple of kids (over whose heads I could see) between me and the barrier.

The two-hour wait for star-action was filled by chatting with fans. Most of the ones near me were locals, including a family of mum, dad and five kids who had been there since 11 a.m. A lovely camaraderie developed with people holding places for the person standing beside them, so they could nip to the toilet or to buy a drink or ice cream.

I chatted to a couple of German girls nearby and one of them got us all to sign her autograph sheet as a memento of the occasion.  Some of us played ‘spot the celebrity lookalike’ among the fans on the other side. I saw ‘Jon Snow’ ("A Game of Thrones"), and ‘Carrie Mathison’ ("Homeland") but the outright winner was a ‘young Brad Pitt’ lookalike, who kept up a dreamy expression while he waited.

A Hobbit woman giving out flags
From time to time, free stuff would be handed out: Air New Zealand flight crew, wearing their uniforms with elf ears, handed out postcards featuring a Boeing 777-300 with hobbit-themed paintwork; New Zealand Post staff, again with the ears, handed out paper flags for waving; and, best of all, folk dressed as hobbits gave out Gandalf hats stamped with the details of the premiere. For people who had forgotten a sunhat, it was a welcome souvenir in the 22 degrees Celsius heat.

At around 3.30 p.m. Neil Finn, ex-Split Enz, ex-Crowded House, and one of the country’s most talented singer-songwriters, and his band began a set of 6 or 7 songs, ending with ‘Song on the Lonely Mountain’, the theme tune he has written for the movie.

Around that time, excitement was building up as hosts arrived and television crews geared up with random crowd shots. Finally, in the evening, the VIPs began to make their way very slowly along the red carpet.

The kids in front of me leaned out as far as they could and reported back on who they could see coming. After the obligatory sound bites for TV and internet feeds, each star began the 500-metre walk toward the Embassy theatre. Basically, it will take about two hours to walk the entire length of the carpet! And the stars were very generous with their time – posing for photos, talking to fans, and signing autographs on books, posters, and souvenir cards. 

Martin Freeman
If you are wondering if I managed to meet any of the stars... I am ecstatic to say that I sure did! My first interaction was with Bilbo Baggins himself, Martin Freeman. He made a comment about us all waiting out in the sun for so long, and I tried to tell him we were used to it, as it was always like this in Wellington. He responded that he’d have believed me if he’d been here only a week, but that he’d lived in Wellington long enough to know that wasn’t the case. Talking to an Englishman about the weather – what can I say?

Aidan Turner and autograph!
My second encounter with a cast member was one I was hoping for but didn’t truly expect. Aidan Turner (one of the two actors who are bringing sexy back to dwarves.. the other being NZ actor Dean O'Gorman) was getting awfully close to us. I took my chance and told him, ‘I loved you as Rossetti’ – going for the more obscure "Desperate Romantics" reference rather than the obvious "Being Human" series. He said to me, in his lovely Irish accent, ‘Thank you, you’re very kind’, and he gave me his autograph – the only one I wanted that day.

Richard Armitage

And yes, I also managed to spot the very handsome Richard Armitage too, as well as Elijah Wood.

Sir Peter Jackson, accompanied by his 16-year-old daughter, Katie, and Sir Richard Taylor, creative director of Weta Workshop, was naturally there with his family. He paid particular attention to the children in the crowd and both men chatted to the ones in front of me. One of the boys, who had been standing there for over six hours by then, was thrilled to have Sir Peter sign his copy of "Return of the King". And Sir Richard impressed the women amongst us with the Elvish lettering on his white shirt and his green velvet suit jacket. 

In an attempt to keep to the gruelling timetable, Andy Serkis, Sylvester McCoy, Hugo Weaving, were hurried past us by minders, so I didn’t manage to grab good shots of them with my camera. Just before 6 p.m. my thirst was winning over my desire to see Cate Blanchett and Barry Humphries in the flesh, so I squeezed my way out of the crowd and found refreshments. I then headed to a nearby park, which had held a hobbit artisan market for the last five days, and watched the formalities on one of several big screens dotted around the area.

The stage at the red carpet
I haven’t been to any premieres outside of New Zealand, but I’m not sure they usually feature the Prime Minister (or the equivalent) and the Mayor, as well as officials from Warner Brothers, in attendance. The dignitaries said their bit on a stage designed to look like a couple of hobbit holes; a door opened and out came Sir Peter Jackson (looking more like a hobbit than ever!). He then introduced his cast as they followed him through the door, one by one. Even Sir Ian McKellen was announced, and he popped up on the big screens in a recorded speech from London.

Then, all too soon, the star-studded moment of the red carpet began to winding down. It was time for all the VIPs to head into the cinemas (the Embassy for the A-list; another for the B-list).

The stars are now heading off to the movie's premieres in other cities and I can’t wait until the movie opens here in a couple of weeks’ time. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to hold the World Premiere for the second film.

Well, I can dream can’t I?

A nice souvenir!


Special Thanks to Elizabeth Egan Scrivener for the report!

Credit: All pics belong to Elizabeth Egan Scrivener

1 comment:

  1. What a great experience!!! It sounded very fun. Would love to be at the premiere for the next one!!!