You could be forgiven for thinking that the title of ''The Return of the King,'' the final installment of ''The Lord of the Rings,'' refers to director/coscreenwriter Peter Jackson. At the movie's world premiere in Wellington, New Zealand, on Monday, the Kiwi filmmaker was treated like a conquering hero, complete with a victory parade that included the cast and an escort of armored warriors riding black horses. A cheering throng estimated at 100,000 greeted the marching Middle-earthers, Reuters reports. ''We couldn't believe it. This is way bigger than the Oscars,'' said Liv Tyler, who tossed her shoes into the crowd, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Jackson and his cast addressed the multitude before the screening at the Embassy Theater, making a point of thanking the city for its hospitality during the long shoot. ''This city played host to 'The Lord of the Rings' for nearly 18 months while we were shooting,'' Jackson said, according to the New Zealand Herald. ''We had a group of actors come from overseas who fell in love with this city, the bars, the cafes, the women.'' ''And the men,'' added Ian McKellen. Gollum portrayer Andy Serkis imitated his split-personality character, saying, ''Wellington sucks. No, we loves it. Wellington is our friend. Oh, OK, just this once.''
While Jackson's next project is a remake of ''King Kong,'' ''LOTR'' producer Mark Ordetsky hinted to reporters that Jackson may yet film ''The Hobbit,'' J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel to the trilogy, saying ''There could be a movie about the hobbit. Enough said.'' For his part, Jackson said ''LOTR'' studio New Line hadn't yet approached him to film ''The Hobbit'' and added that there would be some difficulties securing the rights. ''But certainly if they want to talk to me about it I'd be keen,'' he said. ''It would be wonderful to complete the set of films.''