It’s Hobbit week in Wellington! The action began at weekend with an outdoor artisan market for the five days up to yesterday’s much anticipated premier. The market featured folk that actually worked on the film, including our friend Gen Packer.
Due to dropping my car off at the garage I found myself walking through Wellington town centre shortly after 8am. I decided I’d go and take a look at the Embassy Cinema, where the Hobbit was to be premiered later in the day. I already planned on going down later but I figured now was as good a time as any to take a look at the huge Gandalf and hobbit hole that had been attached to the building. Even to an old cynic like me, this facade was bloody good.
Not surprisingly there were already some elves, wizards and at least one king hanging around the railings. Indeed, the best spots right up near the cinema were already filling up.
Funny how it’s always the beautiful people that people choose to be, no goblins, no Gollum, not unlike the fact that few people have past lives where they cleaned toilets.
I’d heard that the red carpet was to run the full length of Courtney Place, which must be about a third of a mile long. But it’s one thing to be told something, quite another to see it. I wonder if it’s the same carpet they used for Return of the King?
The main events were planned to begin at 4pm, but wafting in at five to four and expecting to get a chance to see anything felt like taking wishful thinking all the way to Middle Earth itself. So we headed down for 2pm, and braced ourselves to stand up for six hours straight.
With such a long red carpet there was plenty of railing spots to go around, but even arriving two hours prior there were no spots left. So we settled for what appeared to be a nice place with relatively short people in front of us.
We were pretty close to the front, just mere feet from the railing, with two loose lines of folk in front of us. If it had been a gig this would have been a prime slot for an opening riff surge to the front, but it was a lot more civilised than that.
Then the quality of our spot was somewhat disrupted by a television crew from the Brunch show, who wafted in and surged to the front. Along came Samantha Hannah and charmed her way to the railing – displacing some long waiters in the process. I’m not sure if any of those squeezed out actually appreciated that they were giving up their spot for the duration. However, perhaps the crew would draw the stars to us.
At 4pm we got some music, in the form of Neil Finn, who I couldn’t really see, except on a video screen, but at least I can say I’ve sort of seen him in his homeland now. I wonder if he ever plays Te Awamutu, his hometown.
Once Neil was finished, we could see on the same faraway video screen and hear on a speaker system that seemed able to broadcast the sounds of words without any of the information, various stars that were being interviewed at the beginning of the red carpet. James Nesbitt, Peter Jackson, Andy Serkis all did some chatter which we could hear but not well enough to know what was actually being said.
We anticipated their release from the press coral with bated breath. Someone should do a film where all the stars are bulls, and have the red carpet premier at Pamplona. The stars would chase the fans down the red carpet. That would be unusual. As would be the ritualistic killing of all the film’s stars in an unfair fight. Still, that’s entertainment.
We waited for some time. We got a supply of people who we didn’t recognise but had probably worked very hard to be on that carpet and then everyone got really excited. There was a countdown and I wondered what the hell was going on. I followed the line of sight of someone more clued up than I and looked behind me and up. There, flying overhead was the Hobbit liveried Boeing 777.
This was pretty awesome and made up for a disappointment of the day before, when it had landed at Wellington airport to disgorge the cast. Not only did I miss it coming in, I missed it going out again, which was pretty shocking when all I had to do was look out the window. I blame Air New Zealand, who only seemed to Twitter and Facebook about each event after it happened. Bastards.
Then was some more hanging about and craning of necks, then they came. And frankly, it was a little like the running of the bulls. James Nesbitt was the first to come down the carpet and he passed us at such a pace that I thought, and still think, that he must have been legging it for the loo. I don’t know what he was like elsewhere but along out stretch he looked pretty grumpy, providing further fuel for the potty run hypothesis. Whatever was wrong, it didn’t last, because he was chatting outside the cinema over an hour later.
Both Jackson and Serkis must have been in the same speed walking team, as they yomped past apace. My two key targets were Hugo Weaving, who I’ve liked ever since I was a kid and he played Douglas Jardine in the Australian mini series “Bodyline”. Given that it was an Australian production I don’t think I was meant to like this rendition of the English cricket captain, but it made me very proud. My other prize was Cate Blanchett. Having seen Nesbitt, Jackson and Serkis going for gold I quipped that Cate would likely pass us on a motorbike.
Well she might as well have done, she flew past, gracefully, but at speed nonetheless. Hugo Weaving, on the other hand, was lured our way by the camera crew and then had a conversation right near us. All things considered, you’d have thought I would get a better photo than I did.
When we thought all the stars had passed we walked up towards the cinema, where we could see on the big screen that many of the stars were still there, being interviewed. This included all the speed freaks. But the crowd was too deep to see anything.
Knackered from standing in the sun for so long we left to get some food and review my snapping efforts. Despite the fact that I was sure I’d failed to take advantage of Martin Freeman’s proximity, it turned out that I utterly stole his soul, which made me actually skip with joy.
But the biggest surprise, and one that I still don’t understand, is that I did mange to bottle lightning and grab a photo of Cate Blanchett.
This was pure luck though, next time I’m going to make my own luck and take a bolas.