Hobbit and co fight their final battle
Orlando Bloom called it a bittersweet moment.
Richard Armitage and Martin Freeman said they felt proud.
Peter Jackson said he could finally relax.
It was a basket of mixed feelings at the press conference of The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armiesin London on Tuesday, as the cast and director bade farewell to a passion project 16 years in the making.
The final chapter of The Hobbit trilogy, which opens here on Dec 18, sees the culmination of hobbit Bilbo's (Freeman) journey with the 13 dwarves.
Led by king Thorin (Armitage), they attempt to reclaim the ancient dwarvish kingdom under the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug.
But there's no happy ending yet as dwarves, men, elves and orcs all want the treasure that was once protected by Smaug - hence the film's title.
This instalment is also vital as it is the bridge to Jackson's Oscar-winning The Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) trilogy, which began in 2001 and ended in 2003.
The series of The Hobbit films, based on the 1937 children's novel by JRR Tolkien, was originally conceived to be only one movie, said Jackson, adding that he wanted to make The Hobbit before taking on LOTR.
"Somehow the order changed," added the 53-year-old New Zealander.
When asked if he would consider delving into Tolkien's other Middle-earth novels, he said it is legally impossible.
"The Tolkien Estate owns the rights to all the writings.
"The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings were the only two works sold as film rights by Professor Tolkien in the late 60s," he explained.
When it is all over, Jackson said, he'll be looking forward to chilling out on the beach.
But if actor Ian McKellen has his way, Jackson won't be able to have that long-awaited vacation.
Said the 75-year-old Brit: "The next moment, I hope, is that Peter is going to devise not more films but a situation you can all go to that is as much theatrical as cinematic - a living museum where you will actually have the experience of Middle-earth."
"Can I have a little break first?" Jackson told McKellen, laughing.
Also reflecting on their life-changing epic adventure alongside Jackson was Bloom.
His elf character Legolas became a fan favourite in LOTR, and was brought back for the second and third Hobbit film.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released in 2012 and The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug in 2013.
So it was particularly poignant for Bloom, as playing Legolas kick-started his showbiz career and turned him into an international star.
"I was 21 when I was cast as Legolas in LOTR, and to be asked to come back for the second time was a great opportunity," said the 37-year-old British actor.
"I'm very grateful and very happy to be on the ride."
McKellen, who plays the all-important wizard Gandalf and was in all six films, said it was a "wonderful" privilege and the opportunity was "a blessing".
"I said goodbye to Gandalf in 2000 when I left New Zealand after completing the final LOTR film, The Return Of The King, and now in 2014, I'm saying farewell again."
He was especially moved at the London premiere on Monday, where he saw a lot of kids who camped overnight just for a glimpse of the cast walking down the red carpet.
"Some of the kids weren't even born when we first started the (LOTR) films. Our work has become a part of their life," said McKellen, adding that that is what their roles as actors should be.
"We are to have an effect on the people watching our films, and that effect could be that crucial, as now they're going to show these films to their own kids."
He said that while their filming journey has come to an end, the Middle-earth - the fictional and fantastical world Tolkien created - journey hasn't ended.
"Now you'll want to watch all the six movies back-to-back, and that will be a whole new experience altogether."
"24 hours of pure joy," Jackson interrupted, laughing.
"We have the extended edition of The Battle Of The Five Armies on DVD and Blu-ray out next year, which is fantastic. There are some really great sequences. I'm looking forward to that."
Lords (and lady) of the red carpet
Stars were out in force for the world premiere of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies at London's Leicester Square on Monday.
Director of The Hobbit trilogy
Gandalf the Grey
Bard the Bowman
Smaug / Necromancer
BY THE NUMBERS
16 Number of years director Peter Jackson spent on the two trilogies
266 Number of days for the entire The Hobbit trilogy shoot
1937 The year JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit was first published
36,000 Number of orcs created digitally for the final epic battle
$2.6 billion Worldwide boxoffice figures for the first two The Hobbit movies
$3.8 billion Worldwide boxoffice figures for The Lord Of The Rings trilogy