| The ancient Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, ’The Land of the Long White Cloud’ and, flying low out of Auckland airport in the North Island last week, I could see why. An hour of murk south to Wellington and bumping through the depression, rain splattering the windows, we safely landed on the sodden runway. Northern hemisphere readers should remember it’s winter here. Matt Cutfield, my driver, was there waiting, as he has been so often on this job - because I was back in Middle-earth, to complete work on ’The Two Towers’ movie. Gandalf was home again for a couple of weeks.
Home with friends from the cast - only Orlando Bloom, filming ’Ned Kelly’ in Australia, was too busy to return, but the rest of us have made it back. Elijah Wood and Liv Tyler look ever so slightly older than 18 months ago and John Rhys-Davies has been losing weight, but make-up and padding will disguise these developments. Little else has changed as the local crews return to work, but there is a new shared confidence that with one success out in the world, another one can’t be far behind. Peter Jackson may be exhausted but is still smiling, even relaxed. He tells me ’It feels like we are making a home movie rather than a blockbuster,’ a point I made when we were filming 18 months ago.