Ringer Spy Pippin Skywalker attended the world premiere of Return of the King in Wellington on December 1. Okay, this report is a little late (my fault), but this was her experience.
Dawn touched my eyes and opened them on the morning of December 1st. The waking day was verdant with hope,joy and anticipation. With a fervent and happy spirit I awoke to meet the glorious day–and what a day it turned out to be! I scurried with my hobbit feet to get ready for breakfast and got down to the lobby restaurant as the hour for elevensies was nigh.
I sat down and as is usual with hobbits ordered a rather hearty breakfast of eggs,bacon, and pancakes. As I was downing breakfast and second breakfast my keen hobbit senses noted another hobbit entering the room with a little entourage. The group sat down at a large table nearby and added liveliness to the nearly empty restaurant. The hobbit I have just spoke of was none other than Sean Astin.
Obviously hobbits have a way of eating breakfast late so here was where they came for sustenance. With Sean was his young daughter and the rest of the family who sat down to a peaceful meal without much disturbance. I decided to leave them be since I would most likely see them later, and they would get enough attention later in the day; now was their little time to relax so I let them have it. I was quite pleased however to be in such excellent company. 🙂
After breakfast I traipsed off to the Duxton Hotel to pick up the tickets for the Premiere and then hopped over to the Te Papa Museum to get a Return of the King cap for the occasion. At 3:30 in the afternoon I walked about a block from my hotel to where the parade was going and my timing could not have been better. The parade was not as brutally crowded as I would thought it would be since this is after all the shire and not like the gigantic cities of the Big Folk in other places of the world. I was able to get very close, almost to the point of being able to shake hands with the actors as they passed.
When I arrived nobody had come down the lane yet. Then came a whole army of orcs (some of whom made a snarl or two at the crowd) men of Rohan on horseback, elves and other Middle Earth dwellers. Between all these came slow moving vehicles with the cast and crew riding in them and waving. The first one had the very happy Peter Jackson in it, merrily waving to the crowd. Other vehicles followed with Richard Taylor and his wife in one, David Wenham in another, a car with Billy and Dom, another with Elijah Wood. Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortenson and Orlando Bloom all went by as well all waving and shaking hands.
It was quite a parade and without a doubt it was the best I have been to in my life. You were not crushed in a crowd, and the setup of the whole thing was really cool. When all the VIP’s, elves,orcs, and hobbits had gone by I began to realize like Cinderella I had to get ready for the ball in a hurry. I had to be at the Red Carpet at 5:00 pm and had just an hour to get ready. So of I hobbled with my little hobbit feet making cheerful stride in time with the music of my mood. An hour and a half later, all dressed up with my Return of the King cap on and my Video and Snapshot Cameras, I set off towards where the guests joined the Red Carpet on Alan Street.
I had in hand a copy of the Return of the King Visual companion for the cast to sign, and my hand bag with the cameras inside. As I was in line to show the tickets to the event staff, three teenage girls ran up to me all excited and jumpy, thinking perhaps they were meeting someone from the production. They asked me all sorts of questions like how I had got in, and so forth, and my guardian felt a deep desire to pull me out of trouble (fearing the trio had a mind to rob me of the Premiere tickets).
It turned out alright in the end however–I answered their questions in a friendly manner and moved on (they probably would have kept me there all day hehe). After showing the tickets to the event staff we stepped for the first time onto the red carpet–what a marvelous feeling! I had barely gotten on the NZ equivalent of the Yellow Brick Road, when a young girl of 12 shouted out to me from behind the barriers “You look really cool!” perhaps referring to my Return of the King cap. I thanked her kindly and moved on, excited beyond belief.
I had resolved to walk down the carpet very slooowly, since this entish pace would be more fun and besides who would want to rush a moment like this! I looked about and when I felt I had arrived at the right spot I waved to the webcam that my parents were watching of Courtney Place and the Embassy. Of course to those who DIDN’T know about this webcam it must have looked rather odd like I was someone famous waving to the audience of kiwis and tourists crowding the balconies and windows. Anything for my mom and dad though. 🙂
So I moved onward, and was told later that an ecstatic Asian girl had wanted the autographs of me and my Guardian (what is this! Is it the hat?). That was no doubt one of the funniest stories of the day. As I walked on I spotted Cliff Broadway in the crowd of press seeking to interview the cast. At the moment he was interviewing Sir Ian Mckellan and I was about one hobbit foot behind him! Next Viggo walked up to Cliff’s mic (all this time I’m close enough to tap him on the shoulder and shake his hand) as I wait for Cliff to finish so I can say hi.
By this time someone of the event staff comes to gently hurry me along but Cliff finishes in time and I wave hello and am waved at by the perhaps surprised but happy Entish fellow. From here I waltz on, not for the life of me rushing for the Embassy door. Eventually we arrive and go inside the beautifully refurbished theater full of Return of the King posters.
After checking our cameras in down in the lobby, we proceeded upstairs where on each landing there was an elf in full armor with elvish blades in hand (woah!). Upstairs was a waiting area where champagne and orange juice were served. I picked up a tall glass of the fruity drink and looking about decided to proceed on from the crowded room into the cinema.
Now before I go any further I thought I should explain a bit of the set up of the Premiere so people can understand the whole layout of things. The guest list for the World Premiere originally was for about 700 or so people but this number tripled, so in the end they had a guest list of over 2000 people. Yes, enough to assault the dark lord of Mordor in his tower. Because of this major change, the Premiere was split up and held at two theaters: The Embassy and the Reading Cinemas.
Two rooms were selected from the latter to accommodate the monstrous crowd, cast, crew, and New Line executives were spread out over the three cinemas. For instance Viggo Mortenson, Ian Mckellan, John Rhys Davies, Orlando Bloom and some others were at the Reading. However much of the TV and Media coverage was at the Embassy and so were Peter Jackson, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, and Richard Taylor (Wooh!). I watched on the big screen inside the Embassy as the entire cast gathered together on a podium to make speeches.
Almost the entire principle cast was there as well as some of the smaller roles such as Sarah McLeod (Rosie) and Thomas Robins who plays Deagol in Return of the King (he is actually a friend of mine, we met online and he gave me advice when I had the crazy idea of trying to be an extra in ROTK this year when they were doing pickup shots. Thank you Thomas!).
After this people filed into the theaters and quite promptly (a blessing of the kiwis is their promptness) the movie began. I am going to give a small review here which WILL have a terrible amount of spoilers. If you are just fainting away to know what happens and what is cut from the movie read on. If not scroll way down. 😉 (Spoilers Begin!):
The movie starts with a ten minute sequence of Smeagol and Deagol. We see them fishing together and of course Deagol finds the Ring and Smeagol waantsss it. This scene is done in a very scary, nerve racking way, which was quite well done. Smeagol kills Deagol for the Ring and after this we are shown the slow physical and mental deterioration of Smeagol over time. The last time we see Andy he is in as messed up a state as Smeagol can get and then with an absolutely BRILLIANT use of special effects we go from the Andy Serkis in yucky makeup as Smeagol to the digital Gollum. It is quite amazing.
To sum up the whole movie would take years, and frankly if I said every spoiler in the movie I would be Bilbo’s age at the end of the War of the Ring. To sum up: John Noble is an AWESOME Denethor! I must warn fans of the books though that his death scene IS somewhat different than that of the book. Instead of actually dying on a pyre, he is thrown in the fire by accident and then runs of the tallest part of Gondor and leaps of. Quite dramatic and well done actually. Of course Eowyn fighting the witch king was awesome, and being especially wonderful since I have read that scene over and over again since I was 12 years old.
I am quite sad that the Houses of Healing is ENTIRELY absent from this movie…alas the ROTK DVD will heal over many woes… So what did I think? I share the opinion that many who have seen it feel in their hearts–it is great as a movie but might make fans of the books miss some things (though not as strongly as in the Two Towers). It is a great movie though, but I did think it had to be longer to fully reach its potential as a film.
If they put in-theater beds in the Cinemas maybe we could make it through a 5-6 hour version and have breakfast afterwards. 😉 The film ended both melancholy and hopeful,and was I think a pleasing ending to the journey.
I must say the audience’s reaction truly amazed me. Now remember I was sitting in a crowd of jaded Hollywood people, and various celebrities and business people. At the end of the movie there was sniffling shooting out all over the theater and when the credits rolled there was a STANDING ovation and I would say they clapped through almost half the credits, when some family or friend who worked on the film appeared or certain ones of the major actors names came up.
There was a sense of finality and sadness in the credits and instead of the usual black screen there was conceptual drawings of each of the characters as the actors who played them appeared. (End of Spoilers) The music in the film is beautiful…I mean hearing Billy sing so sadly greatly added to the movie I would say, as did Viggo singing in a sad almost Celtic dirge like tone. Despite it’s imperfections it is without a doubt a lovely film and a fine ending to this trilogy which we have known and loved these 4 years.
When all was over, and almost everyone had left I noticed Peter Jackson still standing at the front (probably trying to figure out how to leave that place without getting mobbed). I really wanted to meet him again so I walked down the stairs with my Guardian Ben in tow. Boldly as a hobbit to another hobbit may, I said to Peter that it was a wonderful film and that I thought Tolkien would be proud. He thanked me and then said no more.
My heart was burning with excitement then, and my statement turned out to have more meaning than I thought at first. My friend Hilary (winner of the AOL Red Carpet Contest) had asked Peter in an interview earlier what he thought Tolkien would think of the film. Part of Peter’s response was that he hoped Tolkien would be proud. This proved to be quite a providential statement since I had not realized that Peter had said that till after I had said “I think Tolkien would be proud”.
There are more wills in the world than that of the Ring and Sauron… The next person to meet Peter was my guardian who is studying to become a Director and so was in complete awe of Peter. He kicked himself everyday afterwords for not saying something more worthy of rhe occasion. All he said was “I really enjoyed your movie.” LOL.
After this we left the theater, and hopped on a shuttle to the After Party which was held at a sports event center on Queen’s Wharf right across the street from the our hotel. We walked into a foyer with a giant black Return of the King Banner, and a large version (sauron size)of the One Ring on a pedestal. Going through another set of doors one finds oneself in another foyer type place with long tables of Perrier and Champagne. On the walls were large pictures of scenes and characters from the film. Moving on we entered the main room that was quite delightfully decorated.
First you are face to face with a white statue of one of the kings of Gondor, and after that you join the army of guests (at least 2,000) and behold the glorious and beautiful white tree of Gondor standing in the middle of the room. Dividing the dining area from the dance floor is a huge bigature of the front walls and gates of Minas Tirith with the gates standing open. Also in the dining area were more large pictures from the film, a large statue of the witch king on his fell beast hanging from one end of a ceiling wall. Later in the event this creature came to life and roared and then swooped over everyone’s head (hey is this Lord of the Rings or Jurassic Park? Totally awesome! 😉 )
To top it all off there was green elvish script laser light on the floor (VERY cool). To move around in this place at this point was almost pointless. There were so many people crowded into that place it reminded one more of Fangorn Forest than a party. One of the first people I met in all that Middle Earth chaos was Barrie Osbourne, complete with his now famous red necktie. I showed him the picture we had taken with him, my mom, and myself two years ago at the London World Premiere of Fellowship of the Ring, and he remembered me and asked after my family. A nice chap, and quite friendly considering the amount of sound that was being generated in there.
After meeting Barrie I met Howard Shore for the second time (my guardian and I had stepped into the elevator of the Duxton Hotel after getting our tickets and he stepped on with us!). I got his autograph but didn’t ask for a picture considering he seemed mighty distracted. He’s also a very quiet fellow. After this I decided to rest my hobbit feet, and sat down at last at a table that had a good view of the room in case I saw someone I wanted to meet.
This vantage point turned out rather nicely considering I had adopted a temporary wallflower like state. A fellow sitting next to me withought any prompting at all introduced himself as Duncan (the Kiwis are very different than the rest of the world in that they like to get to know knew people–they certainly possess that strange curiosity that is common in many hobbits) and said he worked at Three Foot Six!
To my amazement a friend of his sat down on my left and as it turns out she worked for Weta Digital! It was quite fascinating to sit between them I tell you, and Duncan was quite the talker. He told me the sad news that Three Foot Six would fold up after Return of the King (what about the Hobbit!?) since the company only came into being for these films. After a while these two got up and I noticed that Sean Astin was sitting at the table next to me. So I hop over in my hobbit like manner, and with all my Tookish boldness greet him and tell him how wonderful he was in the film.
Since this was my second time meeting him I showed him a photograph of when my mother and I had met him two years ago. He smiled happily and kindly obliged when I asked if I could get another photo with him. At some point in the evening Hilary and her dad crossed my path and I got to meet my good friend in person for the first time (oh joy!). She goes under the nickname of PippinTook, yet another Pip I have metin my lifetime.
Later on I met another hobbit, Andy Serkis, who despite the madness of the scene was very warm, and remembering me from two years ago asked how I was doing. I very boldy told him that they were making movies of the Chronicles of Narnia and I said I thought he’d make an excellent Mr. Tumnus to which he replied “Oh yeah, that’s a good part.” I have had this conviction for some time so here was my chance to tell the man himself and I did. Here begins the official “Andy Serkis as Mr. Tumnus Campaign”. 🙂
I met a number of other actors despite the fact that a lot of them left early because of the immense crowd there. I got to meet David Wenham, Bernard Hill, Sala Baker (for the fifth time mind you 🙂 ), and Laurence Makoare who despite his playing the meanest, nastiest of characters in these movies is actually the sweetest, nicest guy you could ever hope to meet.
One of the last people I met that night was John Noble, who had just finished talking with my friend Hilary and her dad. I stepped right up to him and told him I thought he had done a wonderful performance as Denethor, that it was a very Shakespearean role, and he acted it wonderfully. He was very touched by this and gave me a hug, after which I continued to express my opinion of how good he was. He then wiped his eyes and said “Your making cry.” A very sweet and kind man he is, and I got his autograph as well as a photo with him.
Not many people knew him yet or said how wonderful he was in Return of the King and I was glad (especially as a fellow actor) to be able to cheer him up and encourage him. We left the party at about 3:30 in the morning (the party endured until about 6:00 am). Long will the memory of its grandeur, the last of all the Premieres for one of the greatest films of this decade burn in the halls of memory. At long last, the end of the Trilogy of these beloved films has come and great was its glory, like the setting of the ancient dying sun in the high halls of the immortal sky. Love and thanks to all who made this trip and this dream possible. Hobbit hugs to Mom and Dad. 🙂