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Impressions from the biggest red carpet in the world: Urban Cinefile’s hobbit-like reporter with big ears and bulging eyes (and perhaps large feet but we didn’t look) attended the world premiere of The Return Of The King in Wellington and captured these verbal snapshots for a virtual postcard.

The cheekiest Elf: Orlando Bloom, who decorated his conversation with a constant flow of cheerful obscenities and when companion Liv Tyler was pondering what to do with an ornate costume which had been given to her by Peter Jackson, Bloom immediately muttered: “E-Bay”.

The star who was everywhere: Viggo Mortensen, who not only opened his own exhibition of photographs at a Wellington gallery but gave, along with some local poets, a reading of his poetry.

The quiet charmer: Andy Serkis, whose tales of cat fur balls inspiring the voice of Gollum won him a heap of new fans among pet lovers. He also admitted that he remained somewhat outside the group of Hobbits and other actors because of the role he played. His secret aid throughout the film: Gollum Juice, a potent mixture of ginger and lemon which he drank constantly. “It helped my throat but tore my guts to pieces,” he noted. And he did note without comment that there is now a Gollum porn site on the net.

The unabashed promoter of New Zealand: Bernard Hill, one of Britain’s best character actors (Boys From The Blackstuff and No Surrender) who was constantly enthusiastic about the country and its people. “They say New Zealand is the way the world used to be and they say the South Island is the way New Zealand used to be. People here respect each other and have time for each other.”

Hard decisions 1: Producer Barry Osbourne who had to decide whether to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars making a sealed road so that one small section of the film could carry on or risk bad weather putting the schedule far behind. He made the road.

Hard decisions 2:
What Peter Jackson had to leave out, including a song by Liv Tyler which might, or might not, be in the eventual extended version of Return Of The King. She wrote it and performed it. Billy Boyd’s Pippin however, does get the song he wrote and performed in the cinema version.

Typical: as well as the signs along the red carpet calling for Peter Jackson to be Prime Minister, Jackson himself noted that when he arrived at the end of the red carpet he was 10 minutes ahead of schedule, so he went back to meet some more fans.

Surprising: the thousands of fans who flocked to Wellington from all over Europe, America and Japan to see the red carpet event without a chance of seeing the film for another fortnight. They had their own parties and later at the One-ring party Sean Astin, Ian McKellen and John Noble turned up to have a few drinks, pose for photographs and sign countless cards for the devoted ones dressed in a variety of Middle-Earth gear.

The Danger: Elijah Wood, after a vigorous day’s fighting with Gollum (Andy Serkis)
found himself with broken blood vessels all over his face and heavy bruising around his throat.

It’s more than a job: The Amiable Weta Workshops boss Richard Taylor who during a pickup shot in June was called upon to make an extra 1000 skulls for a shoot the following day. Within a short time the order grew to 20,000 skulls.

The Hobbit: While Peter Jackson admits he would not like to see any other director make this prequel, it depends on two studios sorting the matter out: New Line has the rights to the book; Universal has the all-important distribution rights to North America.

Best line in the new film: Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), the pugnacious dwarf on being told of a desperate plan to help Frodo: “Certainty of death? Small chance of success? What are we waiting for?”

Published December 18, 2003

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