By Daniel Rutledge
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is set to premiere in Wellington in late November 2012, director Sir Peter Jackson and Prime Minister John Key announced today at the Hobbiton set in Waikato.
Wellington previously hosted the world premiere of the final Lord of the Rings movie, Return of the King, in December 2003. Over 100,000 people packed into the city's CBD to watch the preceding parade.
“I think Warner Bros in particular were blown away by the Return of the King premiere - no one in the international industry could quite believe how the country got behind that,” Sir Peter said today.
“I think everyone involved is quite keen to let New Zealand have the premiere of the first Hobbit movie based on the reception that we had for the last Lord Of The Rings movie.”
“If you think about the premiere and how large it was for Return of the King, it’s going to be the same in 2012,” said Key. “You can see from the All Blacks with the ticker-tape parade, Wellingtonians and New Zealanders love coming out and celebrating a great news story. And this is a really good news story for New Zealand.”
It was also announced today that the Hobbiton set near Matamata would be left intact permanently as an enhancement to the existing tourist attraction there.
“I’m actually thrilled that a set as gorgeous and beautiful as this can stay here permanently,” said Sir Peter.
“The last set here was mainly polystyrene and was taken away to the tip. So for ten years it’s been the place that Hobbiton used to be and you could walk around seeing where Hobbit holes used to be.
“We’re literally finishing up here today. Our second unit will be shooting here for two or three days next week and then, we walk away. We walk away and leave this place as is, so people can come and see it. “
“It’s magical, it’s a great location,” added Key. “This set is going to be left here now for generations to come and enjoy.”
Sir Peter said that although the pressures on him have changed since Lord of the Rings, he has not: “I’m the same filmmaker and I don’t feel any different.
“The psychological pressure is interesting because with Lord of the Rings we had enormous pressure. They were these huge movies and we were doing three of them at the same time and there was a lot of feeling that they might not succeed and that it was a little bit of a folly.
"Now we’re going back to it and everybody’s got an expectation because people have seen the Lord of the Rings movies. They have feelings about those movies and they expect The Hobbit to be something, whereas before we had more of an open page. But I just figure the only thing I can do is make a movie that I’ll enjoy watching, that’s what I’ve always done.”
Production on The Hobbit was delayed after a threatened actor’s boycott and only remained in New Zealand after a deal was made by the National Government.
“It was literally a year and one day ago that we signed the deal with New Line Cinema,” said Key today. “At the time it was really all about trying to make sure that these movies would be made in New Zealand. There are over 3000 people that will be engaged in working on the set in the production of the two Hobbit movies and I just think that’s fantastic for our industry.
“It’s the only time since I’ve been Prime Minister that people have been protesting to change the law for something that could save their job.”
Sir Peter is adamant that without the Government’s help, production of The Hobbit would have been taken overseas.
“I know at the time there was a lot of hype and people didn’t know what to believe,” Sir Peter said today. “The reality of it a year ago was that Warner Bros were scouting the United Kingdom, they’d scouted Scotland, they’d taken photographs of locations we could use … we were literally preparing to move. That was the actual facts.
“If you want a film industry then that brings in a certain amount of income but it also has a cost attached. If you want a film industry in your country then you do have to compete. Australia wants a film industry, Canada wants a film industry and a lot of the States within America have incentives. England is very aggressive. So if you want to be in the game, you’ve got to be prepared to play it.”
Despite the National Government’s support of The Hobbit, however, Sir Peter is not ready to give them an endorsement.
“I’m not a political guy,” he said when asked. “I support the film industry and I support the people that want to work in the film industry . I’ve worked with the Labour Government, Helen Clark was a big supporter of the film industry. I don’t really have a political affiliation at all. But when we give a cry for help, I do appreciate the way that John and his government helped us.”
Sir Peter says the filming schedule is now well underway and he is very happy with how the rushes are looking.
“It has to be on track or else I get in trouble,” he said today at Hobbiton. “We’re on track, we shot for 110 days in the studio, and now we’ve just shot for five days on location.
“It looks gorgeous. The way our rushes come back in 3D, I’ve got the glasses on while I’m looking at the stuff in 3D, it’s fantastic. The green in this location is what I love about it. This light is fantastic and these colours look crazy in 5K HD.”
Sir Peter says that aside from the Hobbtion set near Matamata, the other locations in the film are all new and he has thoroughly enjoyed finding the new spots.
“One of the greatest thrills these films have ever given me is when we’re location scouting,” Sir Peter said.
“I get to spend seven or eight hours a day in a helicopter flying around, maybe for a week on end, and you land on places nobody has ever been. Well you think nobody has ever set foot there, it’s such a remote place.
“It’s just such a thrill to see my country. Before Lord of the Rings I’d never travelled to the South Island much. It’s just the most unbelievably beautiful place … we’re shooting in paradise here.”
And after all the difficulties faced in getting the film into production, is Jackson finally happy?
“Look, it’s hard,” he explains. “Every time I’m in the middle of making a film like this I kind of dream of being on a beach somewhere, and every time I‘m on a beach somewhere I want to make a film.”
The first Hobbit film, An Unexpected Journey, is set to premiere in Wellington in late November 2012, before opening for general release in New Zealand on December 13 and in the US on December 14.