It’s just over a week before The Hobbit, the long awaited follow-up to the Lord of the Rings, reaches Singapore. So I thought I’d add to the already feverish anticipation with my very own Hobbit experience. Here’s a recap of what happened at The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey panel at this year’s San Diego Comic Convention in July, where I was present.

The panel consisted of director Peter Jackson, co-producer Philippa Boyens, Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Andy Serkis (Gollum), Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins). But the excitement began long before the panel even started.

The Hobbit, SDCC

The enormous Hobbit booth at SDCC 2012

Things started buzzing WAAAAY early at around 130am, when McKellen a.k.a. Gandalf and Magneto walked the enormous line for Hall H at the San Diego Convention Centre, where the panel was being held. Around 1,000 people had already gathered in line by then, even though the panel only commenced around noon. To be fair, Hall H was also the place where panels for Django Unchained, Man of Steel, Pacific Rim and Iron Man 3 were all being held, which pretty much guaranteed overnight queuing by fans.

Ian McKellen, The Hobbit

I wonder if this is what happens every day of his life.

Sadly, we only started queuing at 230am, because my cray-cray-ness is not quite up there. This meant we missed out on seeing McKellen. But the girlfriend did get some swag which was handed out later in the morning: her very own wizard hat.

The Hobbit, SDCC

She looked particularly fetching in that hat.

While we had to queue for eight hours and sleep on the sidewalk (eliciting my favourite comment of SDCC from a passerby: “This homeless problem in San Diego gets worse every year.”), the experience of bantering and hanging out with fellow fanboys was actually pretty fun. Especially when people tweet stuff like this: “One does not simply walk into Hall H”.

Come the panel, the biggest reception from fans was reserved for Jackson, who occupies a very special place in the pantheon of geek gods, alongside the likes of Chris Nolan (blessed be his name) and Joss Whedon (please don’t get cancelled again).

Peter Jackson, The Hobbit

His mere presence could cause geeks to spontaneously combust.

And of course, there was a special cheer for Wood, everyone’s favourite hobbit.

Elijah Wood, The Hobbit

Frodo’s back!

We were shown about half an hour of behind the scenes footage  from the 266-day production shoot, as well as brief moments from the film, which caused the 6,500 capacity crowd to go more or less mental. As if this wan’t a big enough nerdgasm, Jackson then announced that an extended clip with footage from There And Back Again (the second installment of The Hobbit) would also be played. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to film or take photos of any of this.

But the man of the hour was undoubtedly Freeman, who follows up his enormously successful role as John Watson in the BBC series Sherlock, with the lead in what may be THE biggest franchise in the world. Here’s Freeman answering a question from the audience on whether he drew on any personal experiences to play Bilbo. The response seemed a bit tart, to be honest:

If you want to hear more from Freeman about his role as Bilbo, you can find another clip that I filmed here.

My favourite moment came during the Q&A, when a fan from Brazil who was literally TREMBLING as he stepped up to the mike, began gushing uncontrollably about his love for McKellen. His monologue went something like this (spoken in exotic foreign accent):
Oh, Sir Ian! I love your movies. I have waited my whole life to meet you! I come all the way from Brazil, because your movies, they are so inspiring! And I have a gift for you, I want to give you this Corinthians jersey signed by Sonny Anderson.
At this point, he took a step towards the stage. About half a second later, one of the minders stepped into his path and gave him the where-the-f***-do-you-think-you’re-going look. Fortunately, McKellen smoothed things over with his broad smile and that crisp British accent: “Thank you so much, I’ll be sure to have someone get that to me later.”
So that’s that. 10 more days to The Hobbit. I can’t wait!
On a scale of 1 to 10, how big will your nerdgasm be when you finally watch The Hobbit?