The Hobbit's cast geared up to celebrate the film's big premiere Wednesday night in Wellington, New Zealand, but one thing still seemed to rule them all: the shadow of animal-abuse allegations lobbed against the production.
Director Peter Jackson, for one, remains steadfast in his bid to set the record straight.
At a press conference a few hours before the film's splashy debut, the Oscar-winner again denied claims that the production caused the deaths of more than two dozen animals used in production due to poor conditions on a farm where they were housed.
"No mistreatment, no abuse," he said firmly. "Absolutely none."
He went on to slam watchdog group PETA, which vowed to protest screenings of An Unexpected Journey, the first installment in Jackson's planned trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved novel.
"You've got a very radical political organization which has jumped on this," he noted, blasting the group as "pretty pathetic."
Don't expect PETA to back down anytime soon: The organization has stepped up its attack on the production, demanding that New Zealand government officials launch an investigation into the alleged animal cruelty.
"New Zealand authorities must send a message to the international film community that no production, however high-profile, can get away with fatally neglecting animals," PETA said in a letter to New Zealand's Minister of Primary Industries, David Carter.
Jackson and the film's studio, Warner Bros., have staunchly denied all accusations: In a lengthy statement posted on Facebook last week, Jackson slammed PETA for choosing "to make such a serious accusation...without properly vetting the source from which they received this information."
The film debuts in the U.S. on Dec. 14.