Middle-earthers journey for an expected hit
GLIDING along with the grace of her elfin character, Cate Blanchett was a popular figure on the 500 metre red carpet at the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. While not quite so regal, so were fellow actors Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman.
But the real star was Peter Jackson, the knighted Kiwi filmmaker, who resumed his Middle-earth saga nine years after triumphing with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
The long-awaited first instalment of his Hobbit trilogy, which stars England's Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, has been the focus of a week of building excitement in Wellington, Jackon's home city. An estimated 100,000 fans gathered in what tourism authorities are calling ''the Middle of Middle-earth'' for the premiere, many sporting Gandalf hats and signs saying ,"Jackson for PM'' and ''I bags Bilbo".
Graceful ... Cate Blanchett. Photo: Reuters
Blanchett said that even though her Lord of the Rings character, Galadriel, only briefly appears in J.R.R. Tolkien's novel, she was ''absolutely thrilled'' when he called her about working on the new movie. Once the premiere was over, she planned to stalk him about working in the next two instalments.
''I'd do anything for him,'' Blanchett said. ''I think any of us would.''
An amused Barry Humphries, who plays the Goblin King, called The Hobbit ''the most advanced movie ever made'' and joked that the crowd would wonder, ''who the hell I am" as he walked the red carpet.
One of the talking points for the international media who had converged on Wellington was their inability to tell the world what they thought of the movie.
The Hollywood studio Warner Bros ruled that critics hold back reviews until after the North American premiere on Monday. That would allow it to quarantine reviews until closer to the US release on December 14. In Australia the movie opens on December 26.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker said there were times he felt The Hobbit would never be made, starting with when it was delayed by the financial troubles of the Hollywood studio MGM. Later, it looked like Freeman would be unavailable.
Jackosn described himself as ''very, very down'' when it looked like Freeman would film the second series of Sherlock rather the The Hobbit, until he struck on the idea of breaking filming so the actor could fulfil his Sherlock commitments then return to The Hobbit.
''It was a pretty radical thing to do,'' he said, adding to Freeman's performance justified the move.