On the red carpet of 'The Hobbit' world premiere
Stars including Martin Freeman, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis premiere the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' in Wellington.PT2M46S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2agwt 620 349 November 29, 2012
"Wellington, what can I say," sneers Andy Serkis as Gollum. "I can say it's nice to be back, isn't it."
Tens of thousands of fans give a rousing cheer on the 500-metre red carpet outside the city's Embassy Theatre for the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
For a day, Wellington has turned into Orcland.
Walking the red carpet at The Hobbit's world premiere
Peter Jackson arrives at the world premiere with his daughter Katie. Photo: Getty Images
The Middle of Middle-earth, as tourist authorities are calling it, seemed like the middle of everything yesterday.
Like all Lord of the Rings fans, they love Gollum in New Zealand. In high spirits for the launch of Peter Jackson's new Middle-earth saga on a day hot enough to leave your correspondent sunburnt, the crowd loved pretty much anyone connected to the films.
They loved Neil Finn singing the theme song. They loved the flyover by the Air New Zealand Hobbit plane. They loved the staff handing out Gandalf hats and the entertainers dressed up as hobbits.
They loved Martin Freeman, who stars as Bilbo Baggins in An Unexpected Journey. And despite his initial reluctance to relocate to New Zealand for 18 months, and a conflict shooting the second series of Sherlock that threatened his casting, he genuinely seemed to love them back.
The crowd - some dressed up in Middle-earth outfits, many carrying signs and just about all taking snaps on their phones - loved every one of the actors who played the 13 dwarves in the movie, despite the fact most of them were relatively anonymous before getting one of those calls from the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit casting crew that changes lives.
Stephen Hunter, a Kiwi who has been living in Sydney for a decade, admitted telling the filmmakers he was from Auckland on the way to being cast as Bombur, aka the fat dwarf.
Barry Humphries, who plays the Goblin King, had a highly amused expression on his face at a media conference at Te Papa Museum and again on the red carpet.
The veteran comic said he had been coming to New Zealand since the late 1950s, "before most of the people here were born", and likened the day to the premiere of Gone With The Wind in Atlanta.
The crowd especially loved Peter Jackson, of course. And while he looked tired, the Oscar-winning director made a gracious speech in front of a model of Hobbiton and beamed as he was interviewed with his 16-year-old daughter, Katie, who showed an interest in going into the family business.
"It would be fantastic," Jackson said. "She's extremely clever."
As he moved slowly along the carpet, he sent a greeting to Chinese Lord of the Rings fans via a film crew then, 10 metres on, answered, for no doubt the 19th time in the previous hour, what it was like returning to Middle-earth.
For the Hollywood studios behind The Hobbit, the hometown red carpet premiere ramped up the international promotion ahead of premieres in London and New York.
The stars, all genuinely thrilled to work with Jackson on the trilogy, signed autographs, posed for photos and answered media questions in short grabs before being steered away by their minders.
Journalists, directed way too early to an appointed position (a card on the other side of a barricade allowed the talent to read "Garry Maddox, Fairfax Media, Australia"), are asked for who they particularly want to interview. A publicist earnestly writes my preferences on a sheet of paper.
Then, after a long wait, there is suddenly a rolling maul of interviews that bears no relation to those requests. I want to talk to Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving for current and future stories but as they sail past under the direction of their minders, I end up with two dwarves I half recognise then, suddenly, Jackson, James Cameron, who is writing Avatar 2 and 3 after relocating to New Zealand, and Martin Freeman.
For a frenetic 20 minutes, Middle-earth is Muddle-earth.
When the filmmakers and actors head into the cinema to watch the movie, your correspondent asks that common journalist's question ("anywhere with wifi around here?"). Then as workers dismantle barricades, he files a story from the reception area of a Youth Hostel around the corner.
It doesn't always feel like proper journalism but it's never dull.
Garry Maddox travelled to Wellington courtesy of Warner Bros and Tourism New Zealand