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Thousands celebrate Hobbit premiere in New Zealand

Updated: 2012-11-29 10:19

Most of the film's stars attended the premiere, including British actor Martin Freeman, who plays the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, and Elijah Wood. Ian McKellen, who plays the wizard Gandalf, was absent.

Freeman, known for his roles in the comedy The Office and Sherlock Holmes, said he looked for a different, lighter, slightly pompous Baggins from the older, wiser character played by Ian Holm in the Rings movies.

"Between us - Peter (Jackson) and me -- we hashed out another version of Bilbo. There'll be others, but our version is this one and I hope people like it," he said.

The production was at the center of several controversies, including a dispute with unions in 2010 over labor contracts that nearly sent the filming overseas and resulted in the government stepping in to change employment laws.

The only sour note at the premiere came when animal rights activists held up posters saying "Middle Earth unexpected cruelty" and "3 horses died for this film", after claims last week that more than 20 animals died during the making of the film.

Event organizers tried to block out the protesters' posters with large Hobbit film billboards. Jackson has said some animals died on a farm where they were housed, but none had been hurt during filming.

The movies have been filmed in 3D and at 48 frames per second (fps), compared with the standard 24 fps, which Jackson has likened to the quality leap to compact discs from vinyl records.

The second film "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" will be released in December next year, with the third "The Hobbit: There and Back Again" due in mid-July 2014.

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