‘Return Of The King’ Premiere Marks Bittersweet Finale For ‘Rings’ Cast

As trilogy ends, cast members say they've become close as family.

LOS ANGELES — There were at least two members of the “Lord of the Rings” family who were a little embarrassed to be at the “Return of the King” premiere Wednesday night.

(Click for exclusive photos from the red carpet. )

Andy Serkis, or “Gollum” to the fans, recoiled in terror at the sight of an MTV News microphone.

“I don’t want to talk to you guys!” he yelled with mock shame. “Gollum’s not going to come and embarrass me. I will never speak to Gollum again. There are lawsuits flying.”

As cameras flashed around him, Serkis’ thoughts were focused on the very memorable — and super mean — acceptance speech his alter ego gave at this year’s MTV Movie Awards. Luckily for him, “Rings” mastermind Peter Jackson was on hand to clear the matter up.

“I’ve got to apologize to MTV for the behavior of Gollum during his acceptance speech,” the bearded director said. “I was appalled. I told him to behave himself. I was absolutely horrified, and I owe the viewers of MTV a huge apology for that. We were personally really embarrassed.”

Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Sir Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan and several more of their “Rings” cast mates turned out alongside celebrities like Robin Williams, Jerry O’Connell, Jack Osbourne, Kevin Smith, Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz and Adrien Brody.

Screaming fans lined the red carpet, but it was nothing like the crowd that crammed the streets in New Zealand at the international premiere earlier this week. “This is about a sixth of what New Zealand was,” Wood surmised. “There were 125,000 fans. It was unbelievable.”

“At first I wasn’t looking forward to tonight, because it was such a special occasion in New Zealand,” admitted McKellen, who was wearing leather pants and a tie made of metal. “It was such a special occasion in New Zealand, because they think of the films as their own.

“And now, we came out here … and blow me down with the proverbial feather!” he exclaimed. “What are they shouting? The names of the characters. They love the movies.”

For Astin, whose character takes on an even more pivotal role in “The Return of the King” than in the first two films, the U.S. premiere had a special significance. “I grew up a bicycle ride away from here, so being here [as part of] a big movie, it’s overwhelming,” he said. (Click for photos from “The Return of the King.” )

Seven years ago when Jackson began working on the trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings” wasn’t being looked at as the hottest property, at least beyond the fantasy fans who long obsessed over the idea of a proper live-action treatment of J.R.R. Tolkein’s books. But now, after the mind-blowing achievements of “The Two Towers” and the “The Fellowship of the Ring,” it would seem that the fans have taken over.

” ‘Lord of the Rings’ fans are a little different because of the strong connection with the book,” Mortensen observed. “There was already a cult following in place, and it’s only growing.”

“It’s the time of the geek,” boasted self-described nerd Smith, who has immortalized fanboy culture in films like “Mallrats” and has written several comic books. “The geek rises!”

Rise as they may, the “geeks” of the “Lord of the Rings” cast were all very aware Wednesday that their epic journey together was drawing to a close, as “The Return of the King” is, of course, the trilogy’s final installment.

“I’m not ready to accept it yet,” Wood admitted. “It’s sad. It’s the end of four years of all of us working on this thing that has brought us as close as a family.”

“But in a great way, there’s a sense of completion,” he added, “that we can now stand back and look at the entire trilogy and see the actual culmination of our work in the form of the trilogy that we set out to make.”

“I can’t really see it as the end, because we’re always going to be hanging out,” related Wood’s close pal and fellow hobbit Monaghan. “I spend so much time with Elijah and Billy in my private life. I mean, it’s good to come to the end. Change is always a good thing, and we’re enjoying our time together.”

“We’ve been working on it for seven years and I haven’t had much of a life,” laughed Jackson. “My life has been getting up every morning and going to work on ‘Lord of the Rings.’ ”

As he continued to make his way into the theater while being mobbed by fans and reporters, Jackson said half-jokingly, “hopefully I’ll start to have a life in a few days.”