adam brown, afi, aidan turner, dean o'gorman, dwarves, graham mctavish, ian mckellen, lee pace, mark hadlow, news, oakenshield, peter hambleton, peter jackson, richard armitage, steven mcmichael, tami lane, thorin, thranduil, ziegfeld
The U.S. premiere of The Hobbit was held on December 6 at the Ziegfeld theater in New York, as a benefit for the American Film Institute. I decided that after two years of intensely following this production I might as well go to a premiere if possible. This one was pricey, but attainable. With little information given out in advance, there was no telling if any special guests would be attending, so I went into it without expectations. The guest list was announced the day of the event on AFI.com (“Keep it secret, keep it safe” must have been their motto). I was pleasantly surprised when all these folks showed up:
There were also a lot of crew members at the after-party, such as movement coach Terry Notary, and probably many more I did not recognize.
Regular cameras were not permitted at the screening, and taking photos at the after-party was strongly discouraged, so I did not feel any overwhelming urge to push my luck, and left the event undocumented, with the exception of snapping a pic of the tickets which awaited us at Will Call. Finally getting them in hand seemed cause for a minor celebration.
Having passed security, we filed into the theater like a herd of docile sheep while the guests began to arrive outside for the red carpet. Twitter reports gave me hints about who would be joining us, but it was still a wonderful surprise when Peter Jackson, Andy Serkis, two hobbits, a wizard, and most of the dwarves appeared before us in the theater (the only one missing was Ken Stott). After going through introductions, the cast dispersed throughout the theater and we watched the film. My opinions on the film itself will have to wait for another post, and another week. [I have issues with the high frame rate format that I won’t go into here, but which affected my perception of the film. Because of this, I’m not weighing in on anything until I can view it in a 24 fps format. This article by a staff member of TORn sums up my feeling on HFR almost perfectly.] But just to give an opposing viewpoint, my friend said they saw nothing at all wrong with it.
Let me say here that this premiere was very different in tone than the ones you saw in New Zealand and Japan. I think the majority of the audience was composed of the rich and jaded (the type who attend benefits rather than fantasy conventions). This audience possessed nowhere near the level of enthusiasm that I’ve seen in almost every other Hobbit-related venue. But of course they were polite, and it probably made the after-party much more manageable because it wasn’t composed entirely of fans such as myself who know all the dwarf actors’ faces by heart, which equated to less competition for their time.
Shuttle buses took guests from the theater to Guastavino’s. Built in 1909, it is now a unique location for private events, but was originally an open space made up of Catalan vaults under the Queensboro Bridge.
Upon entering the gala, it didn’t take long to determine that all the cool people were on the upstairs floor. First off I spotted Oscar winning prosthetics supervisor Tami Lane standing near Aidan Turner and Dean O’Gorman. OMG! (I will omit all subsequent moments of OMG, but needless to say, they happened often). Since I genuinely did not think I would meet these people, I was quite unprepared, and fell into the trap of being starstruck rather than taking advantage of my good fortune and asking them good questions. Blah. Oh well, I’m sure all the questions I might have come up with will be answered in future Hobbit interviews.
Tami Lane was very sweet, and easy to converse with, and I did manage to ask if her work as a dwarf extra made it into the film. She said it had, and that she was the dwarf woman who was about 3 people away from Thorin on the side of a hill. She said you can just see her “big hair”. I don’t know exactly which scene this is, but I’ll be looking for it on the DVD!
Aidan Turner was in a conversation with someone, so I waited my turn to offer congratulations, and mentioned how I enjoyed Kili and Fili’s interactions on screen. He was very cheerful, and introduced Tami, who was still near by, and another makeup artist who he had been talking to (I don’t remember the last name, but I think it might have been Katy Fray). I think I said something like “So these are the ladies who make you look so good” which we all laughed at since that is not a difficult task.
Not wanting to take up too much of anyone’s time, I moved on to Dean O’Gorman, introduced myself and said something along the lines of “Mr. O’Gorman, I promised someone I would try to meet you” (an awkward but true statement.) So we shook hands, and he said “I’m Dean.” Which is lovely, since it implies that I wouldn’t know it already. I said simply that I really enjoyed him as Fili, and hoped we would get to see a lot more of him in the next film. He replied that he hoped so too, since they never really know what will make it into the final cut.
Dean was very nice, but I didn’t want to overstay my welcome, and with the nephews met, it was time to search for their uncle.
I didn’t have long to look. Richard Armitage was ensconced in a shadowed alcove chatting with someone. I only had time for a mental OMG! (sorry, just had to say it) before he looked to us. I was lucky it was a slightly darkened section, because if not, I would have been confronted with this in full light (which would have chased all coherent thought out of my mind):
The truth is, he seemed very approachable, so I shook hands and introduced myself as a fan of his work, and of Thorin in particular. I was a bit gushy and said something like they should consider renaming the film “Thorin”, to which he laughed and said thank you. [In all seriousness, this film focused on Thorin as much as it did on Bilbo, so the idea isn’t that far fetched.] My friend was wearing a Noble Collection replica of the Key of Erebor, and Richard held it in his hand and said something like “Oh that’s a nice one,” and then mentioned that he had the original, as well as Orcrist. I asked if it was true if he also had the oakenshield, and he said yes, further mentioning that he helped design it, and was happily surprised it made it into the film. *A bit of a spoiler to follow* In the film, the shield starts out as a solid log which Thorin uses after his shield is broken in battle. They don’t really get into the details of what happens to it after this, but he keeps this log as a good luck item, and it either wears down over the years, or he purposely carves it into a shape that is more manageable. In one scene, the shield slips from his arm and is lost. I mentioned how this really pained me to watch, but that not everyone will appreciate it unless they know what it means to Thorin. Richard was pleased to know that someone else recognized the poignancy of that moment. My friend commented on how emotionally moving certain parts of the film were, but Richard gave the credit back to Tolkien as the source of it all. I got the feeling he could talk about his character and the book for hours without finding it a chore. But of course he needed to go mingle with more than just us. We thanked him for his time, and reluctantly let him go.
I have yet to read a single negative word written about this man by his costars, or his fans, and even in the short time we had to chat, it was obvious he was a genuine and unassuming person. My friend and I were very lucky to have met him.
With the heirs of Durin accounted for, it was time to look for the the rest of the Company.
I noticed that Peter Jackson was seated on a sofa surrounded by loads of people. He may be a casual king, but he is still the ruler of all things Hobbit, and was not very accessible. Just as well, since I doubt he wanted to hear my opinion on HFR.
There were a few others who were hanging out near the center of the room, such as Martin Freeman, Elijah Wood, and Andy Serkis, all of which I never attempted to talk to. Perhaps if I had a lot of patience, but there were more dwarves I needed to track down.
I spotted Lee Pace, and told my friend (who is a big Legolas fan) to see if she could talk to him. She doesn’t follow this movie like I do, and wouldn’t know Lee Pace from Adam, but I told her he was the Elvenking (who appears in the film very briefly). She reports that he was very friendly and pleased to hear that she thought Thranduil’s entrance was impressive, and that she looked forward to seeing more of him in the next one. He joked that he does remember filming a bit more than that, so hopefully she will get her wish.
I had seen Ian McKellen, along with Patrick Stewart (*omg*, sorry) near the center of the room, busy talking to everybody. There was no way I was going to butt in just to say “Hi, love you” to either of them. But my friend managed a brief but memorable moment with Ian, so I’ll just have to live vicariously through her.
I think I said congratulations to Jed Brophy and Stephen Hunter, while James Nesbitt, John Callen and William Kircher were closer to the overly busy center of the room. I’d almost stepped on the train of William Kircher’s wife’s dress earlier, and didn’t want to risk it actually happening.
Spotting Adam Brown near the periphery, I made my way over and told him how adorable he was as Ori. He thanked me for saying so. Seems he is also really adorable in person.
Mark Hadlow was in a conversation when I came up, but stopped to chat. He introduced the person he was talking to as swordmaster Steven McMichael, who was responsible for training everyone to fight on the film. I told him he did his job perfectly since they all looked like naturals. Steven joked that everyone always listened to his lessons, except for Mark. Mark demonstrated his own preferred way of fighting by striking a typical Errol Flynn fencing stance. Not the most appropriate look for a dwarf. I asked him if he found the motion capture work (as one of the Trolls) difficult. He said he had already done similar work on Tin Tin, and that it wasn’t that hard to imagine what you are supposed to be interacting with because Peter Jackson is so good at conveying his ideas to the actors.
I then found Peter Hambleton, who was also very nice and answered my question about which role did he enjoy doing more in the film, Gloin or one of the Trolls. He said Gloin was wonderful, but he also had lots of fun with the motion capture experience.
The people we were sitting next to in the theater were already talking to Graham McTavish, so we joined their conversation. Graham has a great sense of humor, and had been joking about possible scenes for the extended editions, such as all the dwarves bathing in Rivendell, and how much of a shock that would be to poor Lindir coming around a corner and seeing it. In discussing the mess the dwarves made of Bag End, he maintains that dwarves are actually quite housebroken since they ultimately cleaned everything up (except for the broken plumbing in the bathroom, which he asserts was not his doing). I asked if a younger Dwalin was present at Erebor (since I did not see him in the flashbacks) but he said he was at Moria later on, sporting a bit more hair on top. Another person asked if all the actors got tattoos to mark the occasion of filming, but he said they all got rings with secret inscriptions on the inside. He happened to be wearing it and took it off to show us, saying it was made of bronze, which he selected because he felt it was an ancient metal, stronger and more distinctive than gold.
The day before the premiere, the world learned that the infamous Naughty Dwarf Calendar was actually the brainchild of Graham (I missed this bit of news or I would have further grilled him about it). This video by ET.com gives a description of what will never see the light of day, and also more information about the secret of those Company rings.
On that note we felt it was time to call it a night. The whole thing was a once in a lifetime experience which we felt privileged to have participated in. Before leaving NY, we made a pilgrimage to the dwarf mural painted on the side of a building at Park Avenue and 24th street. It is actually pretty impressive in person and certainly worth the extra cab fare to see it.
Video of fan coverage by TORn of the red carpet: