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Some More Collectormania Reports

May 11, 2003 at 10:55 am by leo  - 

Two more people sent in their reports from Collectormania. The event, held last weekend just outside of London, must’ve drawn hordes of LOTR-fans. Probably because it was attended by five members of the cast: John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Andy Serkis, Bruce Hopkins and Sala Baker! Next up there’s a blurb from Gillian

4th May, 2003. Sunday night in Milton Keynes. A small cinema that seats around 120 people, if that. Scheduled – a talk with visiting actors prior to a special screening of The Two Towers.

The cinema was almost full when I entered at 17:45, and managed to secure three seats together about five rows back in the stadium seating. The night before had seen a talk with the same actors followed by a special screening of Fellowship of the Ring. The obvious group contingent of young ladies from the night before was again very much in evidence. They were generally excited and obviously enjoying themselves

Although they were mercifully quiet during the film as opposed to their behaviour the night before during FoTR when they had whooped at every appearing of Pippin and Legolas. It was amusing for the first 20 minutes, but eventually their distracting ‘enthusiasm’ prompted many of the audience to start yelling “Shut up!” and “Oh, grow up!

At 18:00 my accompanying friends entered in a hurry, one muttering something about barging into John Rhys-Davies at the door. As last night’s talk had started a good 30 minutes late due to the actors’ signing commitments, and we were still 15 minutes from the start of tonight’s talk, this confused me, for about ten seconds, because then JRD himself strolled out of the access corridor, takeaway coffee in hand, booming “Good Evening.” He leaned his elbows on the railing at the front of the tiered seating like an old friend leaning on a wall to chat to his neighbour. Apparently the other actors had gone for their promised drink in the bar after their long day of signing but, despite having one of the longest queues of all, JRD had foregone his drink to come straight to the talk.

The first words out of his mouth after the greeting, delivered in a mock patient drawl were “For you young ladies, nooo, I do not have Orlando Bloom’ s telephone number and yeess, if I did I WOULD give it to you!”

After the laughter had subsided he continued, “Now we’ve got that out of the way does anyone else have any silly questions?” He accepted the offer of a mini Toblerone and managed to talk around it quite effectively as he mentioned his antipathy for the producers of Helen of Troy (although he didn’t labour the point) and gave details of the accident in Croatia while filming Musketeers. I remember that he broke his arm and that, when the wall fell on him, he was initially afraid that both his hip and back were broken. I can’t recall all the specifics about injury, but the story of a long line of men silently holding up the remnants of the wall for the next 30 minutes before he could be rescued from the heap of rubble was very moving.

JRD was obviously still suffering and confirmed he wasn’t quite recovered. In fact, after the initial friendly leaning gesture, he mostly wandered around in front of the stadium seating, with his hand in the small of his back. He did indulge in one physical display, when asked what it was like learning to fight with an axe. He answered that the fight training had been great, but then they got onto the set, and they dressed him in many pounds of armour, put a 14(?) pound helmet on his head, handed him two heavy axes and then told him to fight, “Oh, and do it on your knees!” JRD got down on his knees at this point to demonstrate, swung an imaginary axe, and promptly disappeared from the audience’s vision as he overbalanced. Much laughter.

At another point in the talk, John stated his opinion that Gimli doesn’t recognise that he is short. He also shared a few notes on the “Toss me” exchange between Gimli and Aragorn at Helm’s Deep. The “Toss me” line was because they thought there needed to be some pay off from “Nobody tosses a dwarf” in the first film. He added that “Don’t tell the Elf!” was his own interpolation. He referred to the humour in the second film with the observation that there is a need for occasional lightness in a drama on screen, as opposed to the book where there is battle after battle, setback after setback with no respite. That can be done in a book, but the needs of drama are different.

People continued to enter the cinema during John’s talk, some of them attempting polite tip-toe, others just wandering past and up the central stairs right in front of John, while some remained at the side. John took this in his stride. I was quite annoyed for him, even if he had turned up fifteen minutes early but perhaps I missed any quiet apologies as people walked in front of him.

His monopoly on our attention was finally broken by the mass arrival of Billy Boyd, Andy Serkis, Bruce Hopkins (Gamling) and Sala Baker (Sauron), along with another influx of audience. As the steward started to announce the actors’ arrival, two more audience members came around the corner instead and there was mild amusement. John turned this to full-on laughter by teasing the couple in a booming voice as they hurriedly ascended the stairs to find a seat, “I bet you’re really embarrassed right at this moment, aren’t you? I know I would be!” The rest of the actors therefore entered to general good humour and all helped themselves from the multipack of mini-Toblerones that was again handed towards them. I think ‘Sauron’ took two. I suspect one young lady is currently framing an empty sweet packet.

The cast moved to the front of the cinemas and positioned themselves immediately below the screen and JRD appropriated a seat in the front row, his back to the audience. Throughout the remainder of the talk he could not be seen but continued to interject. On each occasion of that I could see one arm waving gently in emphasis, accompanying a disembodied but still commanding voice.

The questions this session were rather more intelligent than some of those in the last session (of which a transcript has been posted at theonering.net so I won’t repeat). The order I’ll relate them in is not the right order, but the order they came into my memory when I was making notes afterward. There will, of course, be omissions due to the faulty nature of my memory.

[spoiler]Billy told us that the most difficult part of his role as Pippin was the moment when he has to swear fealty to Denethor. Gandalf is making a grab for him and he has to dodge around furniture to reach Denethor. Now this would all have been okay if the scene wasn’t blue screen, if Gandalf had been there (which he wasn’t), if Denethor had been there (yep, he wasn’t) and if there had actually been any furniture to dodge around!

Billy also wouldn’t confirm if Pippin got to look into the Palantir, which was a little disappointing considering his previous ‘inadvertent’ spoilage about the Denethor scene. (That was my question and I’ve made a note to myself to phrase spoiler questions more ambiguously in future, or ask Ian McKellen, who let slip a fairly major spoiler in his latest talk ) However, since we now know he gets to Gondor, I suppose there’s still a chance that the Palantir gazing will take place, and I can still see a place for that in the story, even with the changed circumstances regarding Gandalf’s knowledge of the Palantir.

Andy Serkis was asked to do his ‘Gollum voice’ and obliged with a whole scene, the conflict between Smeagol and Gollum in Ithilien. Before he started, he told us that the entire scene had been filmed in one two-minute take. The man was a good twenty yards or so from us, but we could see his face and as we watched him alternate between the two personalities effortlessly, I couldn’t help feeling it was a pity that we didn’t get to see the real Andy Serkis in the film. His live performance left tears in my eyes and not even the first viewing of the relevant film scene did that to me. I can understand that PJ cut between the two personalities during that scene to emphasise the two persons/dual personality thing, but the in-between effect, as AS’s face flipped from one character to the other, was stunning and I wish that PJ could have found some way to retain that.

The audience asked for spoilers and after hesitation, Sala Baker announced that in ROTK, Sauron turns into Legolas. Bruce quipped that Gamling becomes king of Rohan, and JRD quickly added that he was sharing no spoilers but did think that the early death of Legolas was a scene that was sorely missing from the first film. (The ‘griping’ at the popularity of Legolas was a running joke throughout the talks on both nights)

Someone asked the actors to tell us about the thing they found most difficult. Bruce Hopkins had confessed (the previous night I think) that he wasn’t exactly an accomplished horseman (possibly not at all), but this wasn’t picked up until he was on a skittish horse in the middle of the ruins of Isengard and someone bothered to ask him. By that time they had decided to extend the character of Gamling far more than originally planned, so they sent him for horse-riding lessons. This session, he added that he had problems with one particular horse. He was attempting to control the horse but it wasn’t working and he wasn’t happy, to put it mildly. Someone later commented offhandedly, “Oh, were you trying to back rein(?) him? That horse doesn’t back rein.”

For his ‘difficult’ story, Billy Boyd referred to the pain and hassle of hobbit feet, especially when it was cold and wet.

Andy Serkis described the major problems he had with playing Gollum, all issues that are a nightmare for an actor. For one, he had no costume to help him get into the part. In addition, he did not feel he owned the character as the performance relied on other factors beside himself and, although at the end of each day Elijah and Sean (with whom he spent the most time) could leave knowing their performance was mostly in the can and perhaps feel some pride in the finished performance, he could not. He knew his work was not finished and that he had many more hours and days of work before he would be finished with that scene. JRD quipped that for a job that was originally touted as one that appeared the most effortless of any of the actors, that is a couple of weeks of voice-over work, Andy Serkis had ended up with one of the most difficult.

The ‘unitard’ that AS wore for his performances as Gollum became known as the ‘Gimp’ suit and he described the embarrassed feeling of walking onto a set full of “hairy-arsed chaps” while wearing “spandex”. Sounds like he got some ribbing for it too. He quipped, “I felt like a right… unitard.”

Sala Baker is scheduled for more work on Sauron and described his most difficult issue being with the costume and the fact that it ended up being redesigned. A most uncomfortable experience in both guises.

To questions on the Extended Edition, BB confirmed (as elsewhere) that the storyline with the Huorns (“the evil trees”) has been reintegrated into the story line. He added that so much had to be removed because to take only small snippets left the storyline confused and they ended up removing a huge chunk of the Treebeard stuff. He’s glad it’s back in, including the Hobbits drinking the Ent Draught, which he thought was a nice nod towards Tolkien.

In regard to questions about the relationship between him and Dominic Monaghan, BB mentioned that a mischievous approach was not discouraged on set because it helped to promote a relaxed attitude and this made it easier to cope with the long hours. The tendency to informality also made it easier for people to bring out their own ideas and suggestions but also not to feel slapped down when those suggestions were rejected. The general consensus was that it was a marvellous atmosphere and they would work for PJ again in a heartbeat.

Bruce Hopkins added that their good experiences were one of the reasons they were so keen to appear at events such at Collectormania and talk to fans. He also added, as if necessary, that PJ really cares about the fans too.

Someone asked if they could ask Tolkien one question, what would it be? After only minor hesitation, BB answered, “I’d ask him why he didn’t give the Hobbits boots in Rivendell!”

That’s all I can remember, but I’ll finish with John Rhys-Davies final quip from the Saturday session, “Thank You for not throwing boiled sweets!”

Posted in Old Special Reports on May 11, 2003 by

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