The movie hadn't even started and he was already looking forward to it finishing.
Because, while anticipation around the London premiere of the first The Lord Of The Rings movie back in 2001 had been feverish, Sir Richard Taylor was even more excited about the woman he was sitting next to: "I'd probably been a bit too besotted with her as a boy."
Taylor had got the okay from his pregnant wife back at home in Wellington to invite her - in fact, Tania Rodger had given her Thunderbirds-fanatic husband explicit orders to remember every moment, so she could be regaled with tales upon his return.
Even in her early 70s, Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward was all Taylor had hoped she'd be. And she was no puppet - this was Sylvia Anderson in the flesh, one half of the husband and wife team behind the greatest children's television shows ever made and the real-life voice and face of International Rescue's glamorous English agent, Lady Penelope.
"It was just the most extraordinary evening," says Taylor, "just an incredible, magical experience. She is still the character, the essence of Lady Penelope, this sophisticated, beautiful, high-spirited, effervescent human being. What can I say? We had the most extraordinary time."
He also had an ulterior motive. If everyone was abuzz over their first glimpse of the first of Peter Jackson's Rings trilogy, The Fellowship Of The Ring, Taylor was also quietly hoping to kick off a project of his own, a new version of Thunderbirds. A fanboy of the series since he was a small boy, he first and foremost needed the blessing of the people behind the original. And even if the Andersons no longer owned the show's rights, they still held its soul.
He'd already met Gerry Anderson when he was making a hypermarionation reboot of Captain Scarlet, Anderson's last show before his death in 2012. After considerable discussion, Taylor sent him examples of his previous work along with a restatement of his deep desire to see the project done properly. Gerry was on board immediately.
While he didn't broach the subject seriously with Sylvia until after the premiere, she was equally enthused and, in an interview with AAP, said how much she appreciated having her permission sought. So much so she agreed to a cameo appearance in
the first episode as Lady Penelope's great-aunt, Secret Agent Sylvia.
With his idols' endorsement, Taylor returned home, assembled a team and three weeks later a test screening was on its way to Carlton, the company that owned the Thunderbirds rights.
Which was all of 14 years ago. There has been a long, trying path between then and the show's first New Zealand screening of Thunderbirds Are Go next Sunday. Which is why we're sitting in a tiny room at Pukeko Pictures in Wellington, reminiscing about some favourite programmes from our youth.
Sir Richard Taylor is deadly serious about kids' stuff. At a guess, I'd say he's deadly serious about everything, but even more so when it comes to Thunderbirds. One of his earliest memories is as a 4-year-old, watching the show on his parents' black and white television in the English rural county of Cheshire. It wasn't until the family emigrated to New Zealand soon after that he realised the show was in colour and the vibrancy he discovered pushed his fan status to obsessional. He soon realised he didn't need the toy replicas that began flooding stores - if you watched closely enough you could see how to make them yourself. Which is exactly what he did, and still does. "Talk to anyone working out there in our [Pukeko Pictures] workshop and they'll tell you the same thing," says the 50-year-old. "We were all inspired by the Thunderbirds." As have been plenty of others, judging by the ongoing barrage of pictures fans are sending Taylor of their own models since the new show's reboot was announced.
But few are as dedicated to the art as Taylor, who, surrounded by nothing but splendid isolation as a youngster in rural New Zealand, lived and breathed Thunderbirds.
After arriving in New Zealand, his mother was determined for her family to enjoy a rural life. She found an available sharemilker's cottage in Te Hihi, a blip on the map just past the old Kingseat Hospital site in Karaka. While she got a job at the local primary, the location meant Taylor's dad had to endure a two-hour daily commute to and from his engineering job at Auckland International Airport, much of it on gravel roads.
When Taylor was 11, his parents bought a 4ha block in nearby Patumahoe, where they built a home, mostly with their own hands.
With the nearest entertainment being a slightly dodgy cinema in Papakura, the young Sir Richard was left with plenty of time to wander the banks of Whangamaire Creek looking for kauri gum, watching television and making stuff, mostly inspired by television. His material of choice was creek mud.
He wasn't only sculpting, he was also experimenting with special effects. When applied correctly to his sister's arm, he discovered that a little sticky tape and red paint was great way to scare Mum.
And it was all fuelled by children's shows, to the point that he and his wife still collect every series from that era they can find.
Dr Who, Time Slip, Thunderbirds, Sapphire & Steel, UFO, Children Of The Stones and Caroline's Dream ... these were shows that thrilled and terrified him in equal measure. "I don't think anyone would be allowed to make anything like them now. Like Sapphire & Steel, that was bizarre and really bleak. People died and the ending [they are trapped in a cafe floating in space forever], that was grim. Really, we were spoiled in this country, we got the best shows from everywhere and they made me realise at an early age how emotionally charged television could be for young people."
Talking to Taylor is much harder than you might imagine. It's fair enough that he avoids mentioning Sir Peter Jackson because of the way those comments can overshadow what he really wants to talk about, but his manner makes it easy to walk away thinking him brusque and oddly joyless. I suspect this is due to being permanently preoccupied with so many things at once.
I had assumed the earpiece he was wearing was attached to his phone until he tapped it, saying: "I'm told we have five minutes left." He then explained there are 18 onsite team leaders connected by one open channel and they had been constantly babbling away in his ear the whole time we were talking: "It takes about three weeks to get used to." It apparently speeds up decisions, reduces the need for meetings and makes it easier to find one another. He has even worn it while delivering speeches.
So, yes, Taylor is a multimindedly driven man, which makes it no surprise 14 years of up and down negotiation wasn't enough to kill off his Thunderbirds dream. Or that it's being done his way - as he says, these projects end up swallowing such large chunks of his life they have to be creatively fulfilling. Even during their most difficult times, he and his wife - co-founder of Pukeko Pictures - continued to turn down lucrative work if it didn't match their tastes.
With Carlton, who owned the Thunderbirds rights, keen to make the new show happen, everything seemed on course - until the company unexpectedly sold the rights to ITV. It seemed a simple matter of kicking off talks again with whoever was in charge of such matters but despite repeated attempts, the Taylors couldn't find who that person might be.
Still, their toes had been dipped enough. By 2008 they decided they wanted to get involved in children's television regardless of what happened with the cult puppet show and if that meant creating something completely new, well, all the better. Within a week of that decision, Martin Baynton knocked on their door. He was a children's book writer keen on getting into television work and, not knowing who else to approach, he thought he'd try the folks at Weta Workshop. An hour later everyone shook hands in agreement that his book series, Jane And The Dragon, would make an ideal starting point, and all of a sudden Pukeko Pictures was born.
The new company was thriving off the back of Jane's adventures as well as new series, The Wot Wots, when in 2011 Pukeko CEO Andrew Smith decided to have another crack at Thunderbirds. After a lot of back and forth, he eventually started talking to ITV's head of brand and product development at ITV Global Entertainment, Giles Ridge. And wouldn't you know it, he was a total Thunderbirds-head. They were go, yet again.
Now the real torture could start. As mentioned, Taylor sees his favourite show as the Crown Jewels and he was all too aware that if they didn't get it right, well, it didn't bear thinking about. It's for good reason that he insists his version is not a remake. "No, it's an adaptation. You could never remake the original ... " - if only because the Tracy boys smoked like chimneys, the Hood was inscrutably Asiatic and the show thought nothing of flying to Mars and exterminating the first living things they encountered.
But those were mere details, Taylor's biggest worry was figuring out how to appease two completely difficult audiences. First, there are the, erm, grumpy oldies who grew up with the originals and may only dip in to see if they should be grossly offended, especially given how lamentably lame the most recent movie version was. At least this isn't a new pressure, the Taylors have already had a hand in meddling with cultural mega-taonga like The Lord Of The Rings and King Kong.
Then there's his real audience, the kids. Taylor is very keen on giving them a taste of what he loved about television at the same age - the trick is delivering it in form they can accept. If today's children's shows, not to mention the Marvel and DC stables of superhero movies, are fast to the point of overstimulation, how could he make the Thunderbirds' comparatively ploddy old ways palatable?
"Yes, there has been a lot of challenging debate. Of course, we'd all have loved to have worked with marionettes again, but you have to be realistic, it's not about our appeasing sense of nostalgia and what thrilled us as kids, it's about what kids want to see in their heroes now."
The result has been their own international rescue effort. The model backgrounds are built and shot in New Zealand, the CGI is done in Korea, the script is written in America and the music and dialogue is recorded in England. Taylor's lucky they're not all tied into his earpiece as well.
In an odd way, he's also lucky the project was so long in coming together - technology has come a long way in 14 years.
All the same, the strings might be gone, but the CGI has retained the faintest hint of the old puppet wobble. Then there are the models. The miniature buildings hold tight to the original's modular 60s look, the aircraft still carry Concorde in their DNA, and they've kept the Mole. Taylor has even hinted we might see the return of Thunderbird 6, but I'll stop there before my internally ageless fanboy gets overheated. I guess it's people like me who have the highest expectations.
"Have we set ourselves up for a hammering?" says Taylor. "Well, that always happens in creative industries, people like to hammer for some reason, but in this case it'd be about something that's meant so much to so many.
"We wanted it to be respectful, well-crafted, beautiful with solid messaging, and hopefully, sheer fun. And, yes, I know there will inevitably be disappointment that we haven't replicated the original exactly or that we've even made it at all, but I hope they'll appreciate why we've made the decisions we have and that I have carried around the same level of anxiety that they have. All I can say is that I feel very good about what we've done."
It certainly helps steady his nerves that a second series has been approved before the first has even screened, and that the response to a sneak preview at Cannes almost overwhelmed him. Jeff Tracy's sonorous "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Thunderbirds are go" countdown had tears flowing from the get-go.
"It was just joyous," says Taylor, "and these were marketing and press people, industry types, so seeing that reaction, the cheering, the clapping ... that was special."
But then this is the kind of response that's earned him a knighthood, even if he'd clearly prefer not to discuss it.
"Look, I don't have Sir on my card and I don't use it in any way, except where it might help with charity work. Coming from England and immigrating here, it wasn't something to take lightly ... as fantastic as it was to have it offered, it's a very complex concept, a significant thing to get my head around. But it hasn't changed me, it won't change me. I still go down into the workshops and I feel humbled and respectful to have been acknowledged. Nothing has changed."
Except that the next time he meets Lady Penelope, he'll be the one with the real title.
• Thunderbirds Are Go screens at 7pm on TV2 from April 12.