Stephen Colbert Revisits His Trip to New Zealand: "The Magical Land Where Hugs Still Happen"

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert -December 10, 2020 Show
Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

Stephen Colbert revisited — through his memory and some footage — his 2019 trip to New Zealand on Friday's episode of The Late Show, exploring how the country has handled the coronavirus pandemic with such expertise, and the time he got to interview The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.

"We are now in month nine of the coronavirus pandemic in America," Colbert declared at the top of the show. He talked about the "massive travel instructions" in place to thwart the rising cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., which is what got him thinking about his trip last year to New Zealand, a place he referred to as  the"magical land where hugs still happen."

Colbert noted that there have only been 25 deaths and roughly 2,000 cases in the country. "Much of life has returned to normal," he said, adding that New Zealand has the advantage of being a small island nation. "But a lot of the success has come down to the New Zealanders themselves," said Colbert.

He listed several key factors to their success, including the "Decisive government" – in which credit goes to Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, whose strategy, Colbert says, relies on "science" and "empathy" — and the "effective communication" of the citizens.

Colbert went on to joke that Arden instituted a lockdown "so severe" that retrieving a neighbors ball was off-limits. Her handling of the pandemic led to a "landslide" re-election. "New Zealand sounds like a perfect place right now," said Colbert, adding that Americans could be living the "magical" life of New Zealand soon.

Footage of his bungee jump in Queenstown was shown, with the late-night host explaining, "I'm not a huge fan of heights, or drops, really." As his feet were strapped together, Colbert joked that the material was like a cheap cloth from Target.

Colbert also voiced his affection for The Lord of the Rings and director Peter Jackson, showing a snippet of his experience getting into the costume as a character named Darrylgorn and acting alongside Jackson in a parody movie trailer that was cut together with the real footage and featured Gandalf's sword from the movies.

"As a performer, there's nothing I want more than to take someone's beautiful work and make it stupid," joked Colbert.

Colbert also sat down in with Jackson, in a studio full of miniatures, to discuss his career and early projects including Heavenly Creatures — Kate Winslet's first feature —and The Frighteners, an early CGI film. Jackson talked about creating a software to create battle scenes, and the difficulties in controlling so many figures, such as CGI elves, at once. One of Jackson's favorite scenes from The Lord of the Rings was Gollum's introduction, which was written and directed by his partner, Fran Walsh.

Colbert joked that New Zealand's prime minister, Arden, auditioned for The Lord of the Rings, showing him her audition tape.