Note:A photo gallery follows the text and videos, click for larger versions.
The mill at Hobbiton Movie Set
NEW ZEALAND — During the world premiere of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” New Zealand wisely took the opportunity to show journalists from around the world (and Australia) a lot of the amazing things its island nation has to offer. TheOneRing.net was part of one of the tours and rather than regurgitate all the footage, photos and writing we gathered at once, exactly when all the other journalism outlets of the world did, we thought it would be great to disperse it and share it over the course of 2013 in the lead up to “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”
After all, Tourism New Zealand’s motto is “New Zealand is Middle-earth” and this is true in so many ways and for much longer than just the weeks after the debut of the film. For example, above is the video made for TORn by fellow filmmaker Dan McBride who shot and edited the video tour you probably have already watched. We, and a gaggle of other media, toured the Hobbiton Movie Set and witnessed Prime Minister John Key open the new Green Dragon building accompanied by a bunch of actors who reminded us a whole lot of a company of Dwarves. (Incidentally, we had just talked to him the day before so when he showed up again, we wondered why we were being followed and what we had done wrong.)
The video speaks for itself but this remarkable property is, as far as I know, unique in all the world for its ability to transport visitors inside a book, or a movie for that matter. Being there doesn’t feel like walking on a set, rather it feels like immersion. It looks, smells, sounds and feels like one imagines Hobbiton would if you could take a magic wardrobe to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The Hobbit holes scattered about are, more or less, as they were for filming of “The Hobbit,” movies. It seems safe to assume we will see more of The Shire in subsequent movies and in the Extended Edition on home video before the end of the year.
At the Green Dragon
Meanwhile, not far from Auckland, sits this unique and amazing tourism experience. The still functioning sheep and cattle farm where the now-permanent movie set is placed, is owned by the Alexander family, as it was when discovered for “The Lord of the Rings,” films. Their television rugby match interrupted by strangers led to parts of the family farm being among the most beloved locations in fantasy film and literature. Now visitors take tours daily, either by booking directly through the farm or through travel agents, tours or cruise ships. There are several options available, including overnight farm stays, private tours and lunch options. Matamata, as authentic a small New Zealand town as you will find, serves as a gateway to the farm, offering transportation daily and had just opened a visitor’s center when we visited.
Hamilton is also near with more accommodations and an airport. Not far from Auckland, 160 kilometers in fact, visitors can easily manage the two hour car ride. It goes without saying that driving through the countryside is spectacular as well. My dream would be to meet with TheOneRing.net staff and friends in The Green Dragon, which can be reserved for private functions. They serve food and drink and I just bet you can guess what size the ale comes in. Weddings have and will happen here. The atmosphere and the finish on the place are just as good as you hope they are. In truth, for movies fans and Tolkien fans, the entire movie set experience is simply magic.
Waitomo Caves Black Water Rafting
Some tourists will hop off the cruise ship or land in Auckland and make the farm their only stop in the region and in my opinion if you made it all the way to New Zealand and don’t see more of the region you are doing it all wrong. The tour also provided us the opportunity to visit the world famous Waitomo caves. They contain the exceptionally cool glow worms and there are different ways to experience it all, including the black water rafting experience that I couldn’t resist. Hamilton serves as a good gateway to both spots and neither is to be missed. In the gallery below I will drop in a few Waitomo photos but it is an entirely different story to be told and if there is any need to explain the importance of caves to Middle-earth, you might be at the wrong website.
The region is full of food and drink, excellent accommodations and plenty more worth-while excursions. We will tackle them all in a future story. But add the farm visit and Waitomo Caves to your bucket lists. They really are wold-class destinations not to be missed but especially not by Tolkienites.
While you are here, please enjoy other videos from the premiere. First, actors talking about rings:
And Red Carpet highlights.
A map of the New Zealand region with Auckland and Matamata.
A detailed map of where The Hobbit Move Set is located near Matamata.
The door of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
Seems like a good place for a party
An average human male (Dan McBride) stands in front of a small Hobbit door.
The mill at Hobbiton Movie Set
Water at Hobbiton Movie set
They may not like boats but Hobbits have docks.
The visitor’s center in Matamata, New Zealand.
Flower at Hobbiton Movie Set
Actors look on at the opening ceremony of the Green Dragon
Still water, a view of Hobbiton Movie Set
For scale, an average sized adult (MrCere) at a Hobbit door.
A Hobbit window at Hobbiton Movie Set
Flowers and door at Hobbiton Movie Set
The interior of the Green Dragon
At the Green Dragon
By the lake and the mill sits the Green Dragon
The exterior of the Green Dragon
The bar at The Green Dragon
Detail of the carved green dragon in the Green Dragon
Floor plan on the wall of the Green Dragon of the Green Dragon.
Inside the Green Dragon
Door and menu at the Green Dragon
At the Green Dragon
Interior of the Green Dragon
Waitomo Caves black water rafting with glow worms.
TORn staffer Saystine found us another great interview video from Yahoo! Movies UK in which Hobbit cast members Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, and Andy Serkis discuss how the second film in the trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, will differ from An Unexpected Journey.
“It will get more dangerous and dark as Bilbo gets further away from home and in more jeopardy,” says Andy Serkis, who, in addition to playing Gollum in the films, is Second Unit Director on the trilogy.
Will we enjoy the departure from the more lighthearted nature of Unexpected Journey? Well Richard Armitage will, at least. He says, “Obviously I favor the dark.”
Observant Net watchers from the Tolkien Forever group in Los Angeles spotted these two new videos this week in which cast members, including Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, and Andy Serkis, weigh in on the dragon we’re all waiting for and on the decision to make three ‘Hobbit’ films.
In the first video from IGN, cast members discuss what they know (or don’t) about the mysterious Smaug, and what we can expect to see of the dragon in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Richard Armitage (Thorin) says, “I haven’t seen the dragon, and I begged them to show me the dragon!” And James Nesbitt (Bofur) tantalizes us, saying, “I think it will blow people away… I think it will be an important and exciting cinematic moment.”
In the second video from Yahoo! Movies, cast members address the questions why The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is quite long, and why there was a need for three full films to tell the full Hobbit story. Andy Serkis (Gollum) sums it up by saying, “Pete likes to make long films.” But Richard Armitage assures us that, “come the Battle of the Five Armies, you’re going to be glad you took the time in Bag End.”
We’re not wishing to rub salt in the wounds of those who are not yet able to get their hands on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – but for many folks, Middle-earth is coming home today! If you’re a proud owner of a Hobbit DVD or Blu-ray, and a social media user, show us your pics of you and your preciousss by using the tag #TORNDVD
Meanwhile, to distract those who are still waiting, we’ve been sharing some interviews with various cast members. You can see our chats with Richard Armitage here and with Andy Serkis here, while a conversation with Bilbo himself, Martin Freeman, can be found here.
Our final interview is with the man who brought Bofur to life, James Nesbitt. This charming fellow chatted with staffer greendragon about the delights of being made into an action figure, what he hopes to see in the Extended Edition, and why three movies just aren’t enough. He even has a word to say about TORn’s own Oscar celebrations – and how he might party with us in future!
The wait is over and the day has finally arrived as the official release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is here! Special guest, Mr. Bilbo Baggins himself, Martin Freeman, answers several questions by Ringeer Peter Genovese, including whether or not he ever read “The Hobbit” before he was cast for the movie, his experience when he found out that he landed the role of Bilbo, mental preparations for playing a Hobbit, and his most memorable experiences on set.
Peter: Did you ever read the Hobbit before you auditioned for this movie?
Martin: No, I didn’t, no actually, especially to you, is the wrong answer! <laugh> I didn’t grow up a Tolkien fan. Obviously I knew of him. You certainly can’t be English and not know that name. No, it wasn’t part of my upbringing particularly but I obviously read it before I started the movie. <laugh> I came into it as an adult.
Peter: Do you recall the moment when you found out that you landed the role of Bilbo Baggins and what was your experience with that?
Martin: Well it was slightly staggered because I had found out that I had gotten the part early on. From the moment that I went on tape for Guillermo, when Guillermo was still director, all the way through for months and months there was no other traffic on the road, you know, it was me and I was being told by the artistic team “we want this to be you, there is nobody else we want it to be” but then it came to the point where I couldn’t do it due to my commitments to Sherlock which was a show I was doing in the UK and so I had to walk away, I had to turn it down, I had to not do The Hobbit anymore which was gutting and a very tedious statement of affairs. But, the real sort of changing call was that I was rehearsing a play in London at the time and my London agent Michael had called me and said that “Peter has rearranged the whole schedule around your availability on Sherlock and that you could do both” so I was delighted of course and very excited and very surprised, yeah.
Peter: With respect to mentally getting into character, did you do anything to make yourself feel smaller with respect to the size of a Hobbit, to get into a smaller frame of mind for the character?
Martin: No, because he (Bilbo) doesn’t think he’s small, of course. He is normal sized. You feel smaller when your house is inundated with Dwarves and bigger people and more imposing warrior figures so that makes you feel small but Bilbo is a very reactive character. Part of the pleasure of Bilbo and part of the comedy of it is in the reaction. I do what I do which probably doesn’t really bare a lot of talking about because it would be very boring but one does what you need to do to kind of feel that you’re something else. A lot of that is physical and a lot of that is just the doing of it. There wasn’t particularly a psychological thing, I just felt a way, I knew the way I wanted him to move and I knew that I wanted him to be slightly tentative and slightly cautious and if you walk around tentative and cautious, after a while, you mentally feel tentative and cautious so that was my way.
Peter: Many years from now when you think back on the experiences of making the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and the upcoming two movies, was there anything that really stuck out with the whole experience that you’ll cherish, whether it be the wonderful cast that you worked with or even just the locations/scenery that you got to experience working at?
Martin: All of the above, really. I saw some beautiful geography in New Zealand, met some delightful people who I hope will stay friends with and got to work with one of the main directors of my time on one of the main books of our time. I’m kind of spoiled, really. And then there’s the films that are coming out, you know, that whole experience of going around the world and opening the films and doing the premieres was on a scale that few people get to see with the sort of madness of that, enjoyable madness, but it is still a kind of madness. All of that is so memorable and I’ll never forget any of that. I’m a very lucky man.
Also, don’t forget to submit your questions to Peter Jackson by today. Here’s more info:
Q&A with Peter Jackson
Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson will host a live first look at “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” the second film in “The Hobbit” Trilogy, on Sunday, March 24 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern/12pm Pacific at www.hobbit.com/sneak. Just added: The live event will now include a Q&A with Jackson and fans! Video questions can be submitted beginning March 12 through March 19 on “The Hobbit” Facebook page, or through the Vine mobile app using the hashtag #askPeterJackson. Fans can also Tweet links to video questions using the hashtag #askPeterJackson. The live event will be limited to holders of an UltraViolet™ code, available by purchasing “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and 2-disc DVD Special Edition on March 19. Visit thehobbit.com/sneak for more information.
Still eagerly awaiting the precioussss, aka a copy of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey of your very own? Although the release date in the USA is tomorrow, fans in other parts of the world have to wait a little longer. To help ease the wait, earlier today we shared a video of Thorin himself having a chat with a staffer from TORn. Here’s a second video from that press junket: Andy Serkis talks about what he is keen to see in the Extended Edition, what he’s working on next, and with whom he’d rather be locked in a room – Gollum or Smeagol??
Exciting times for Hobbit fans! Last week the Digital Download of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey became available, and tomorrow (March 19th) is the date when American fans can take home copies of the movie on DVD and Blu-ray; plus of course we’re all eagerly awaiting Peter Jackson’s live first look at The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on Sunday 24th March! To help pass the time till then, TORn has some videos to share!
Staffer greendragon was fortunate enough to meet recently with Thorin, Bofur and Gollum – also known as those charming gents Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt and Andy Serkis. They discussed topics such as how it feels to be part of a billion dollar grossing movie, what they hope to see in the Extended Editions, and what went into creating the roles they play. In the first of three videos, here’s what Richard Armitage had to say.
Over on The Hobbit UK, the cast and crew of The Hobbit have been answering fan questions for the last week or so. So far, Peter Jackson, Cate Blanchett, Jed Brophy, James Nesbitt and John Callen have all answered questions about things as varied as their favourite moment on set, what they’d say to Tolkien if they could have met him while he was alive, and the difficulties of speaking elvish. (more…)
So, we knew that Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield) would be answering your Hobbity questions over on Twitter today at https://twitter.com/TheHobbitMovie, but now Andy Serkis (Smeagol/Gollum) and James Nesbitt (Bofur) are joining him as well. (more…)
Welcome to our collection of TORn’s hottest topics for the past week. If you’ve fallen behind on what’s happening on the Message Boards, here’s a great way to catch the highlights. Or if you’re new to TORn and want to enjoy some great conversations, just follow the links to some of our most popular discussions. Watch this space as every weekend we will spotlight the most popular buzz on TORn’s Message Boards. Everyone is welcome, so come on in and join in the fun!
greendragon with actor John Bell, who plays Bain in The Hobbit movies
On 12th December staffer greendragon was lucky enough to attend the red (well, actually it was green!) carpet in Leicester Square, London, for the Royal Film Performance of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Many of the film’s stars – and other celebs who were there to see the movie – stopped by to say hi, and were delighted to see TheOneRing.net (‘our special friends,’ as Peter Hambleton said) represented there. This is because YOU, our readers, are all so fabulous – everyone involved with the films knows that the best fans are the ones who visit TORn. So here, as a little festive mathom offered to you all from us, the staffers at TORn, is a video of some greetings (and some ‘woohoos’!) to you all, from the folks who work in Middle-earth.
After a little footage of the set up in Leicester Square to set the scene, you’ll see John Bell (Bain) and his parents, Graham McTavish (Dwalin), James Nesbitt (Bofur), William Kircher (Bifur) and his beautiful wife Nicole, artist Alan Lee, Stephen Hunter (Bombur), Peter Hambleton (Gloin), Jed Brophy (Nori), Adam Brown (Ori), and of course Dominic Monaghan (Merry) and Billy Boyd (Pippin)- who were there to see the movie and revisit old haunts! Enjoy! Wishing you all happy holidays!
IGN.com has a great video interview with the dwarven cast of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey‘ that is well worth 8 minutes of your time today. Watch the company squibble and squirm as they try to answer a variety of Tolkien trivia. In-between the humorous answers, you’ll see some great clips from the film. (Who knew Galadriel was the name of Gandalf’s sword? ) Enjoy! [Video]
This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law.