Director Peter Jackson has given fans a sneak peek of his latest Tolkien epic, revealing he is working non-stop to get The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ready to premiere in December.
Jackson took a break from editing to host what was billed as a "world fan event" on Tuesday, featuring question and answer sessions with stars from the movie streamed online from cinemas in Wellington, New York, Los Angeles and London.
Barefoot and relaxed, the New Zealander said contact with his fans, many of whom were dressed as Tolkien characters, helped re-energise him during the gruelling editing process ahead of the movie's December 13 debut.
"We haven't finished the movie, it's pretty intense at the moment," he told the audience at Wellington's Embassy cinema.
"I was up until 2am yesterday morning, working all night during the weekend - there's five weeks to go and an awful lot left to do. So this is really enjoyable, it's really good to hear your responses."
The highlight of the event was a 20-minute preview of the movie - the second instalment in The Hobbit trilogy - which was screened to cinema audiences but not streamed online because of piracy concerns.
The preview, which prompted cheers and applause from viewers, included a scene featuring Lost actress Evangeline Lilly as the elf Tauriel, who was a controversial inclusion in the movie for Tolkien fanatics, as the character is not in the original novel.
"Don't hate, don't hate," Lilly joked from Los Angeles as she was introduced to the franchise's global fan base via the live stream, revealing she took inspiration for the character from Tinkerbell in Peter Pan.
"Tink is a badass little fairy, she's tiny and she's cute but she's fierce, you don't want to get on the wrong side of Tink," Lilly said.
"So somewhere in my brain those things connected and she ended up one of my inspirations for the role."
Orlando Bloom, speaking from New York, said he had "a riot of a time" reprising his role as the elf Legolas a decade after the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.
"And my costume still fits," he said.
Wellington-based fan Shirley Jones arrived at the event with her pet lizard Hermes, which was used by the movie's digital animators to help create the dragon Smaug.
She said the preview showed the latest film matched Jackson's previous Tolkien epics, which have garnered Academy Awards, critical acclaim and valuable box-office dollars.
"He's a director who's obsessed with quality and that shows in his films," she said.
"He's also very good at keeping his fan base engaged through events like these - it's probably because he's still a fanboy himself."
The first film in the series, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was released in December last year with the final chapter The Hobbit: There and Back Again scheduled to come out in December next year.
Production of the trilogy has so far cost US$561 million (NZ$676m), according to the Hobbit website.
An Unexpected Journey took more than $US1 billion at the box office.