Wristbands and dressing up
On Sunday, November 30th, the wait for the Hobbit World Premiere on London’s Leicester Square was beginning for me (for others it had already begun a few days earlier). At 4am in the morning, I got up to start queuing for a wristband, at 5.40am I arrived at the square and had a number written on my hand. A few hours later, security decided to hand out the wristbands sooner than announced (most likely because they wanted the hundreds of people off the square). During the wait, I had met some of the people from two groups I became a member of just before the premiere (one was a group especially for the premiere meeting, and one a Tolkien cosplayer group). One of them was a Tanja, who – like me – wanted to dress up in a costume for pub moot organized by theonering.net. I asked her whether she was interested in dressing up right away and walk through London in our costumes. She agreed, so we went to my accommodation (which was a room above a pub, proper Middle Earth style living when on the road!), changed and then walked around London for a while until we thought it was time to go to the pub moot.
The ToRn pub moot
First, of course, we got “lost”. But two nice English men noticed that we looked a bit lost and guided us into the right direction. Once we arrived in the pub, there were already quite a few people there even though the official start time was only 6pm, and it was just a bit after 5pm. We both ordered a drink (I had something called “Blue Moon”, I just liked the name – I know nothing about drinks, I usually find places like pubs incredibly intimidating and never really had a reason to go into one), and talked to a few people. It became busier and busier and the first other cosplayers turned up, too. I was hoping for ONE Thranduil and a few Bards, maybe even an Elrond. Then the first Thranduil turned up. Then the second. Then the third. Then a fourth one…. No Bard, no Elrond. A few dwarves, plenty of Hobbits. And even a very good looking Smaug. It was an interesting mix of cosplayers to say the least. I was the only person from Rohan though (twice I was asked whether I was from Laketown….). The people were great. I’ve hardly ever felt so normal in my life before. Finally, there were people who understood what I was talking about, and who did not judge me negatively because of my passion for Tolkien’s world.
Luke Evans, Billy Boyd, and John Bell
Later that evening, Luke Evans turned up. Unfortunately, I kind of almost missed him. I only just saw him when he already was on his way out. I did not want to be too annoying, so I only asked him whether he had time for a photo. He tapped me on the shoulder and said that he was sorry but he had to go. Of course, I would have wished to have a bit of a chat with him, but actually seeing him was more than I had expected. A bit later, Billy Boyd also turned up, and then there also was John Bell, who played Bard’s son Bain. The young man was a very pleasant character. He stayed until every single person either had a photo or an autograph from him. I wonder whether he will still be the same if he was still famous in ten years.
After the pub moot
A bit after 10pm, quite a few people decided to leave as the following day would be a long day – and Tolkien fans seem to be a rather civilized lot (even the drunken Scottish Hobbits who were quite delightful). Tanja decided to stay a little longer, but I was ready to leave. I wanted to find my way back to the Docklands and Sunday night is not exactly the best time for public transport in London – especially not for someone like me who is used to rural areas, rivers, and forests. Fortunately, a Bard-look-a-like (we’ll turn him into a cosplayer yet) was so nice to walk me to the right bus station. I would have been a bit lost (again!) if it had not been for him. The people I met during the pub moot restored my faith in humankind a little.
I still had a letter to write when I arrived back “home”. A letter to Ian McKellen. I only got to be at 2 am in the morning because the first three tries ended up in the rubbish. But then the letter was done. This night I was getting 4 hours of sleep (better than just three the night before).
Before the premiere
Tanja and I decided to meet at around 9.30am to check what is happening (though we’ve been told to only turn up at 11am). Tanja was a little late, and when I heard people say that security had been chasing people around, I was worried she was hiding somewhere. Fortunately she just turned up when I wanted to go and start looking for an elf maiden in hiding. We met one of the Thorins, got some breakfast, and then Tanja disappeared to… uhm… glue her ears on. While she was gone, security told us how we would be queuing according to our wristband numbers, and I went to find Tanja to tell her. We went to our places (we were both in the group 1 to 500), and suddenly SAURON turned up.
Sauron was my queue mate. Oh my. A few minutes later, a woman without cosplay turned up behind us. She looked somehow familiar, but it took me a few minutes to realize: My favourite of the Thranduil cosplayers was my other queue mate! So even though waiting was a very cold affair (I had to put on my jacket), I did enjoy the experience. Because when do you ever get to hang out with Sauron and Thranduil? Later on, we even had a short break in a pub with Tanja…. Sauron, Thranduil, another elf, and a Rohan outcast walk into a bar…. What kind of joke that would be!
Finally – getting into the pens
When we finally were able to get into the pens, we all got separated. I thought I had a good spot: first row, a few metres from where the actors would get out of their cars. I had a Thorin beside me, and a Thorin behind me. One of them even had a dragon with him. The bad news was when they stopped laying the green carpet. They were discussing for a while, and then moved stuff around. We had actually asked them whether the spot we thought would be the drop off was the drop off. And two security guards said “yes”. But then things changed. There might have been some problem. I do not know. All I know is that the drop off point suddenly was a few metres away from us – the OTHER way, so we were behind the drop off point, so stars would walk right on the green carpet without even looking at us. We were gutted because many of us had very low wristband numbers and had spent so much time waiting. My hopes of seeing Ian McKellen and getting my letter to him plummeted. I did not care much about the other actors to be honest. I do like and respect them, but Ian McKellen is the one who really matters to me – for more than just being Gandalf.
The actual world premiere event
Then it started. The cars started arriving, the first actors ignored us. Some just signed a few things right behind the cars where they got out of the cars (i.e. opposite the car doors) and then went right on the green carpet. Because which star can resist being right in the spotlight, right? I did not even catch a glimpse of Luke Evans, Lee Pace, and Martin Freeman. To my surprise, the guys I thought would be absolutely cocky – Orlando Bloom, Aidan Turner, and Benedict Cumberbatch (oh, please don’t murder me, not everybody has to love Legolas and Kili, and Mr. Snufflebuff) – were the ones who actually did come to the neglected area and tried to sign as much as possible. Manu Bennett also walked past us (but did not react to my polite Maori greeting – no, not just a simple Kia Ora, I used a proper polite greeting), and we saw some other actors, but they did not come to us either.
Suddenly people went REALLY crazy. Ian McKellen was there. I had my letter, I still had hope. After all, Gandalf often says things along the line: We are usually where we are supposed to be. But then he walked on the opposite of where I was, and when he suddenly was surrounded by other “famous” people, I thought that was it. Yet, he moved on and then was on the other side, coming towards where I was. He was very focussed on signing as much as he could. I held my letter towards him, and almost signed it. Then I told him it was for him. He took it (looked a bit surprised), and said “Thank you.” So he did get the letter. Whether he actually read it, is another question. But I did all I could do.
He was meant to get my letter, and so he got it – so there might indeed be other forces at work in this world. The content of the letter, however, will not be shared here – unless the content would ever be a reason for Ian McKellen to get in touch with me.
After the premiere
I was waiting around a bit after the premiere to see whether I could find some of “my” people. But there were so many. I ran into Legolas again, and took a photo with another Thorin. But then I decided it was time for me to go home. I was incredibly tired, but also quite relieved that I achieved my goals for the premiere (all to do with Ian McKellen). I often make myself lists with things I would like to achieve – who knows, this might very well be a reason why I do achieve quite a bit. I know what I want, and once you know what you want, you can take the steps needed to get it. One step at a time.
Now, life is back to “normal”. Well, as normal as the life of an “outcast” ever will be. The Hobbit fans have all gone home, and I am left in London (until the end of the year) and I do not know whether or when I will meet them again. Some of my favourites I might never meet again. There might be other meetings, but life has taught me to never be too hopeful. But who knows what the future may bring. I never thought I would ever get the chance to see Ian McKellen that close, yet I did. And I even had a few close Thranduil encounters!