Sitting in the same room with the guys from Middle-earth is as entertaining as it sounds; after all, the original Fellowship was famous for its off-screen camaraderie (for the love of God, those guys got "Lord of the Rings" tattoos together!). The cast of "The Hobbit," anchored by returning "LOTR" veterans Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis and Elijah Wood, continued their pre-release press tour with a stop in New York City, joined by newcomers Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins) and Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield).
Here are the most hilarious and/or fascinating things we learned at the press conference:
1. "The Hobbit" co-stars Ian McKellen and Cate Blanchett didn't meet while filming the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy ... but they're basically besties now. McKellen said, "We met at a party. We had such a congenial relationship [during "The Hobbit"]. We had so much to talk about. We got extremely close and affectionate with each other. [Laughs] Her husband wasn't around. She adjusted my hair -- I think it was Cate, not Galadriel, but I think it made it into the movie. I'm still shaking."
2. Peter Jackson said his decision to try 48 frames-per-second on "The Hobbit" was influenced by George Lucas' high frame rate Star Tours ride at Disneyland -- as well as a New Zealand tourism movie.
3. The well-publicized critics' dissatisfaction with the 48 FPS situation is exclusively #oldfogeyproblems, according to Jackson. "Anyone under the age of 20 or so doesn't care, doesn't understand [the issue]. They just think the 3-D looks cool."
Visual Effects supervisor Joe Letteri defended the choice, saying "It gives that sense of reality, of immersiveness," and co-writer Phillipa Boyens noted that she's seen audience members walk out of the theater with their 3-D glasses still on, because the 48 FPS feels so natural.
"Usually, taking off the glasses is the first thing you do, but people forget they're wearing them." Including, she said, her parents.
4. Sir Ian McKellen is a helpful resource in matters of "LOTR" trivia: "Every single character in 'LOTR' and 'The Hobbit' wears a wig, and many of them wear a prosthetic." (Andy Serkis quipped, "I wear a digital prosthetic!")
5. Richard Armitage (who looks gritty, grimy and very, very hairy as a dwarf) is insanely handsome in real life. Thought you should know.
6. Martin Freeman almost missed the chance to play Bilbo Baggins due to scheduling conflicts with his show "Sherlock" -- he was cast, returned to the BBC during delays in production, and was nearly recast when "The Hobbit" finally started rolling.
"I tormented myself by watching 'Sherlock' on my iPad," Jackson said. "And I thought, there's nobody better, we're insane."
Keeping Freeman in the role meant a four-month break in the filming schedule when the actor returned to his "Sherlock" duties, but Jackson claims the hiatus provided a more "civilized" way to shoot a movie.
7. Jackson was so keen to cast Freeman as Bilbo, in part, because of Freeman's "fuzzy, English, slightly repressed quality."
8. Martin Freeman's first scene filmed -- on his first day as Bilbo Baggins -- was with Gollum. Jackson said, "I felt sorry for Martin. He had this character coming at him full energy."
9. Andy Serkis filmed his Gollum scenes in real-time for "The Hobbit" -- unlike the process during "LOTR." Serkis was on hand for all of Gollum's scenes in the original trilogy, but only to give the actors a point of reference -- the motion capture filming was done much later. "This time," Serkis explained, "the motion capture was happening while filming [the scenes]."
10. McKellen thinks future audiences will watch the whole six-film series in chronological order by story, not year of release -- and therefore they'll watch the technology get worse as the films progress. "Won't that be alarming?!" he asked.