Pictures: Prince William at premiere of The Hobbit

21:35 12 December 2012

Cast members Cate Blanchett (3rd right), Sir Ian McKellen (right), Martin Freeman (centre), James Nesbitt (3rd left), Andy Serkis (left) and Richard Armitage (2nd right) with Peter Jackson (2nd left) arriving for the UK Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

Cast members Cate Blanchett (3rd right), Sir Ian McKellen (right), Martin Freeman (centre), James Nesbitt (3rd left), Andy Serkis (left) and Richard Armitage (2nd right) with Peter Jackson (2nd left) arriving for the UK Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

The Duchess of Cambridge “would have loved to have been” at the premiere of the first film in The Hobbit series, her husband said.

The Duke Of Cambridge arriving for the UK Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Picture: Ian West/PA WireThe Duke Of Cambridge arriving for the UK Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

The Duke of Cambridge joined the stars of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for the screening in London’s Leicester Square tonight while the Duchess, whose pregnancy was announced last week, continued to rest at St James’s Palace as she is suffering acute morning sickness.

Tessa Street, the general manager of the Odeon cinema which hosted the star-studded event in aid of the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund, met William as he arrived.

She said: “It’s really exciting to have his support for the film and the charity.

“I was a bit nervous being on my own to meet him, but he was very friendly.

The Duke of Cambridge meets Richard Armitage (3rd right) and James Nesbitt (2nd right). Picture: Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror/PA WireThe Duke of Cambridge meets Richard Armitage (3rd right) and James Nesbitt (2nd right). Picture: Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror/PA Wire

“I passed on my best wishes to Kate and he said ‘She would have loved to have been here if she could’.”

After walking down the special “green carpet” which replaced the usual red for the night, Prince William went inside to meet the cast and was presented with a Hobbit goodie bag to take home to Kate.

Meeting the film’s stars, the royal joked with Australian actress Cate Blanchett, who reprises her role as the elf queen Galadriel from the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

Talking about the ease of travelling from her native land to New Zealand, where The Hobbit films were shot, he said: “When I go to Australia I’m always winding up the Kiwis and vice versa. You always get a reaction.”

The Duke of Cambridge meets Cate Blanchett. Picture: Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror/PA WireThe Duke of Cambridge meets Cate Blanchett. Picture: Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror/PA Wire

Blanchett commented on the weather. Speaking outside the cinema she said: “The weather is enough to drive anyone away but it is great to see so many fans.”

Also attending the premiere was The Office Star Martin Freeman, who plays the title character, the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

He admitted it was a challenge to take on the role, and said: “I loved playing it. I really loved playing it.

“I hope people like it. There’s nothing more you can do. It’s in the hands of Peter Jackson and the editors.”

Cate Blanchett and Sir Ian McKellen reprised their roles from The Lord of the Rings films. Picture: Ian West/PA WireCate Blanchett and Sir Ian McKellen reprised their roles from The Lord of the Rings films. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

But he admitted travelling between New Zealand and his home in the UK where he lives with his young family had been the greatest challenge.

“That was probably the major test, the mental and emotional test of actually leaving your home for that long,” he said.

“But the gig itself was a real pleasure and a challenge in all the best ways.

“Sometimes they’re hard challenges, but sometimes they’re fun. It was an amazing job, I’ll never do another one like it.”

Richard Armitage plays the dwarf prince Thorin. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireRichard Armitage plays the dwarf prince Thorin. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Sir Ian McKellen, who reprises his role as the wizard Gandalf, was also there. He said it was “lovely to put on the pointy hat again” and great to be in London for a film with a strong British presence.

He added: “Its cast is basically British and from the Commonwealth, Tolkien was an English writer, here we are in the capital city and it feels proper.”

The 73-year-old actor defended Sir Peter’s decision to make the film into a trilogy.

He added: “Peter just told us on the last day of filming ‘I’ve got so much material, I can’t bear to cut any of it. We’ll have to turn it into three films’.

Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd played hobbits in The Lord of the Rings films. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireDominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd played hobbits in The Lord of the Rings films. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

“So we’ll have to go back and do a bit more filming in May, back in New Zealand, no grumbles there. I’ve seen the first film and it looks pretty good to me.”

He also praised the 3D technology used to make the film. “I love it in 3D. It’s not crude 3D, it doesn’t bang out the screen at you. It beckons you in to Middle Earth. It’s spectacular.”

Also in attendance were Andy Serkis, who plays Gollum, Spooks star Richard Armitage, Cold Feet’s James Nesbitt and ex-Dr Who Sylvester McCoy, who all play dwarves in the new trilogy, were also present.

Serkis confessed he had not been able to miss his role as Gollum in the time since he made the Lord Of The Rings trilogy as he is still always asked to do the voice.

Andy Serkis with wife Larraine Ashbourne (left) and his daughter arriving for the UK premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireAndy Serkis with wife Larraine Ashbourne (left) and his daughter arriving for the UK premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

He joked: “I never thought he was ever going to go away. He’s never really drifted very far from me. But it was lovely to play the scene with Martin, it was day one of 276 days of shooting.”

Serkis only makes a small appearance in The Hobbit but ended up staying on to work behind the camera.

He said: “My unexpected journey on this was thinking I was going Down Under to reprise the role of Gollum for two weeks, and then Peter asked me to direct the second unit, so I ended up going for a year and a half.”

The royal film performance was being held in aid of CTBF, which supports film and television industry employees and their families in times of hardship.

Ian Holm reprises his role as the older Bilbo Baggins. Picture: Ian West/PA WireIan Holm reprises his role as the older Bilbo Baggins. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

Other celebrities in attendance included Olympic long jump gold medallist Greg Rutherford, boyband McFly, television presenter Stephen Fry and Corrie star Antony Cotton.

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