Wellington was treated to a dose of Hollywood glamour this evening as the stars of Peter Jackson's new movie descended on the capital for the premiere of The Lovely Bones.
Thousands of fans gathered in Courtney place to catch a glimpse of the kiwi director and cast members from the movie version of the critically acclaimed novel by Alice Sebold.
US actress Susan Sarandon was one of the first stars to arrive on the red carpet, wearing a black dress and bare feet. There were loud cheers as the Thelma and Louise star greeted fans and signed autographs and slowly walked her way towards The Embassy Theatre.
Saoirse Ronan, who plays the lead role of murder victim Susie Salmon in the movie, also spent time signing autographs for fans and speaking to media before entering the theatre for the official New Zealand unveiling of the Jackson's latest work.
New Zealand actresses Rose McIver and Carolyn Dando were also in attendance, and so was the movie's screenwriter Philippa Boyens.
Other Kiwi personalities who attended the premiere include ex-Shortland Street and Lord of the Rings actor Craig Parker, Kimberley Crossman, comedian Rhys Darby and television presenter Brendon Pongia.
The promotional juggernaut that surrounds The Lovely Bones landed in New Zealand this afternoon.
Cast and production members from the movie version of the bestseller by Alice Sebold descended on the capital this afternoon to talk to the media about the process of translating what is a much-loved novel into a big screen movie.
During a press conference attended by the talent involved with the movie, including Susan Sarandon, Saoirse Ronan, New Zealand actresses Rose McIver and Carolyn Dando, special effects wizard Joe Letteri and screenplay writer Philippa Boyens, Jackson revealed how this evening's premiere in central Wellington feels like a homecoming.
Asked if he felt nervous about premiering a movie on his home turf, Jackson said it "feels like coming home and the heart of the film is here".
"This is the fun premiere tonight," he said.
Jackson also addressed the Oscars-hype surrounding the movie, playfully saying that his money's on fellow director James Cameron gaining a nod for his soon-to-be released sci-fi epic, Avatar.
"Avatar is the movie to beat, if you ask me. I've seen it and it's extraordinary."
Ronan, who plays murdered teenager Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones, was equally bashful about the Oscars buzz, saying: "It would be fantastic, but I try not to think about it. If you think about that stuff for too long it kind of gets in the way. To be honest I don't think any of us are thinking about it."
More than 6000 fans are expected to descend on Courtenay Place to catch a glimpse of the film's stars. Around 758 guests are expected to arrive at the event from 6pm onwards.
Portions of the film were shot in New Zealand and the US.
The film has opened to mixed reviews overseas, with some critics panning the film's overuse of special effects to depict murder victim Salmon's "in-between" world.
A media screening of the film was held at The Embassy last night, and I was one of the lucky few in attendance.
Auteur Jackson is renowned for his flair and attention to detail in his body of work, and The Lovely Bones bares testament to this.
It is a visually stunning movie that's beautifully crafted and executed. Running the gamut of emotions from grief-induced melancholy to euphoria (courtesy of Jackson's vivid and saturated interpretation of Salmon's afterlife), the movie also bears more than a fleeting resemblance to Jackson's other cinematic wonder, Heavenly Creatures.
Oscar nominee Ronan has won universal praise for her take on the murdered girl, and it's not hard to see why - she's excellent in the role and one can only predict very big things are ahead for her.
Sarandon, who plays the role of Grandma Lynn in the movie, also adds another stand-out performance to her already impressive CV. She's fun, sassy and hugely entertaining as the booze-soaked grandmother who helps glue the family back together after Salmon's murder.
If I was to level a criticism at the film, it would be the portrayal of Salmon's parents - played by Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz - I couldn't help but feel the depth of their characters wasn't fully exploited, thus making any real empathy with the grief-stricken pair a challenge.
All in all, it's a good movie, albeit one some might find hard to swallow. In fact, it's probably one of those that needs repeat viewings before you can truly dissect and disseminate its message.
The Lovely Bones opens in New Zealand on Boxing Day.By Myrddin Gwynedd @ohthatwelshguy Email Myrddin