What a great evening! Guillermo del Toro, on the brink of being known as "The Director of the Hobbit movie", while still basking in the afterglow of being the "Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth Director", found yet more time in between film projects to publicise his new book, The Strain. I had the evening set aside for the event, together with Mark Fry who until recently was the Book Buyer at the now defunct Wellington Dymocks Bookshop in Lambton Quay.
The official times for the autograph session at the Weta Cave tonight was to be from 6pm to 8pm, so we went to the event 45 minutes early, to make sure I could park somewhere. Only just in time, it seemed - we started queuing only just still inside the door, as the cave was already full of people lining the shop. By the time we left later, the queues went halfway around the block outside.
Also, there were still at least two or three TV interviews to be done, and a few radio ones as well, and finally I saw a newspaper guy there also - watch their websites for their reports. I'll post them here if I see them first.
At 5:50pm, Weta Cave's Tim Launders announced that the interviews were over, and after a loud round of applause, Guillermo began signing books.
Since Weta had done some actual advertising of the event this time, there were a fair few people at the Cave. I estimated about 150-250, but I left before the end of the event. I suspect the official numbers for the night will be much higher.
To compare - there was fairly minimal advertising done for the John Howe event a few weeks ago, who as far as I could tell had no more than about 50 people show up for his autograph session. Even the official numbers were no more than about twice that - it should have been in the hundreds, for an artist of his calibre!
Guillermo seems to be a genuinely nice guy. He appeared to be very happy to meet the public, and press the flesh. (NB - I did hear one amused fan wondering if this was the perfect way to spread swine-flu - get a Mexican guy to go around the world for two weeks shaking hands with everyone... hmmm...)
He said he's loving being in New Zealand, and mentioned he had penguins living under his house at the moment - possibly just rhetoric but actually a real possibility here in Wellington - there's plenty of places where Little Blue Penguins nestle under people's houses on the coastline, especially in Wellywood itself (the Miramar peninsula).
I must admit I did not buy his new book, however, he did gracefully sign my illustrated copy of The Hobbit (which already had Alan Lee's autograph in it). I offered to take him on my tour with his family if he ever felt like a bit of local sightseeing (GDT, if you're reading this - that's a freebie, of course!!! Call me!).
As I walked out of the shop, I got lucky one more time - Richard Taylor had also made an unscheduled appearance, and had been cornered by a small group of fans, for more picture and autographs. Pen still in his hand, he was quite happy to sign my hobbit book as well, leaving me a very happy hobbit indeed.
I ran into a few other people I recognised in the queue outside, among them the lovely Allison and Ian Jack, who decided to come live in Wellington after taking my tour a number of years ago. Ian now works at Weta Digital, proving that nothing is impossible here in Wellington, if you set your mind to it.
Ian has carefully built up a reputation with me of pretending to know nothing, denying everything I say, and faking enthusiasm when I reveal local rumours to him, and then pretending he hasn't already heard them months ago. I know for instance that he saw a 20 minute Tintin showreel by Weta Digital, about 2 years ago, when it was all still rumours and speculation. Even to this day he won't tell me what was in it. What good is a contact at Weta when they actually ABIDE by the confidentiality contract!! Sheesh, Ian! :/
Anyway, I have heard plenty of stuff from other sources, so there's still a few goodies to come.
In the meantime, I'll be at the Weta Cave again this coming Saturday, for the Alan Lee autograph session. I have a lonely Children Of Hurin 1st edition sitting on the shelf that desperately needs a signature in it.
- Jack M.