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Rings stars leave New Zealand
By: The Dominion Post
December 3, 2003
Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Liv Tyler and Sir Ian McKellen wave to Ringsfans as they leave New Zealand for Los Angeles. Photo: Reuters
With a final flourish, a wiggle and a wave, the Return of the King stars have said their final sad farewells to Wellington.

Liv Tyler (Arwen) was the first on to the tarmac at Wellington Airport yesterday, surprised but delighted at the huge crowd that had gathered to wish the cast of the blockbuster film goodbye.

Grabbing a camera to catch the moment, Tyler said she was "totally overwhelmed" at the sendoff and sad to be leaving.

Hundreds of people crammed every vantage point to catch a final glimpse of their favourite characters as they left on a special Lord of the Rings liveried Air New Zealand 767 flight to Auckland.

"It's amazing. The whole experience has just been the most precious time ever," heart-throb Orlando Bloom (Legolas) said.

Always the crowd-pleaser, Bloom then led co-stars including Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) through banks of television crews and photographers to waiting fans where they performed a final goodbye dance.

Bloom gave a special wave to a clutch of teenage female fans who had the message "We love you Orlando" painted across their tummies.

Others on the flight were Elijah Wood (Frodo), Sean Astin (Sam) and seven-year-old daughter Alexandra (who plays Eleanor Gamgee in the final film), Andy Serkis (Gollum), Billy Boyd (Pippin) and Dominic Monaghan (Merry).

The stars were heading to Los Angeles for the next premiere of The Return of the King.

Looking almost tearful at times, Wood promised he would be back. "I have never seen anything like this. Thank you Wellington for everything you have given us. I am coming back for sure."

Astin, following his speech at Monday's parade in which he praised New Zealanders for their "huge hearts", warm welcome and support, said he had been moved by the number of people who had thanked him. "I was speaking from my heart, so thank you Wellington, see you soon".

Twins Kerry and Caitlin Salter, 10, from Seatoun and friend Abby Vorstermans, 10, staked out a spot early to say goodbye.

Although some debate ensued about who was the biggest fan of the films, all agreed they wanted to say a final goodbye to Bloom.

Kelly Robson, 19, of Auckland, said she had flown down specially for the premiere parade in Wellington on Monday. "It has just been a truly great experience for New Zealand. It is a great tribute to Peter Jackson, to show everyone is behind him and to show respect for what he has done. I just wanted to wave them goodbye. They got a great welcome so it's good to have a huge goodbye."
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