Park City, Utah — Viggo Mortensen is back to his ranging ways, living off the land and keeping an eye on trouble in his new film “Captain Fantastic.” TORn spoke with him on the red carpet at the film’s world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
Mortensen plays a father who, along with his wife, has decided to raise his children off the grid — way off. He seeks to raise his six children to be self reliant in a way that LOTR character Aragorn would be proud of. They can stalk and kill deer with knives, they climb mountains, harvest edible food, learn to make their own clothes and along the way read the best books. They are, in short, philosopher kings.
So did he think back to his character and filming experience on “Lord of the Rings,” with Peter Jackson?
“I thought of it,” he said. “But I also thought of my time as a father in Idaho.”
He spent time with his son there and in the film he has more, but in both he said he was teaching to be aware of nature.
Viggo Mortensen in new film Captain Fantastic
“You are only as good as the team you are working with,” said Mortensen. “It is about a family and made by a family.”
He said the cast spent time before filming getting to know each other and learning the skills needed to be authentic on screen. They camped and learned how to grow food and skin a deer and learned to play music together, all of which were important to the film.
The children’s performances are all excellent, as is Mortensen’s. The film captivated Sundance audiences and good news for Mortensen and film fans, it was also picked up for distribution by Bleeker Street. It specializing in specialty cinema and has this year’s “Trumbo” (Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame as lead actor) and should hit audiences in July.
Its premiere at the Eccles Theater, the largest Sundance offers with over 1,300 seats, responded mightily the film’s opening night. Director and writer Matt Ross, who you might know as Alby Grant from HBO’s “Big Love,” received a standing ovation, as did the children. But it was Moretensen who received the hottest reception. He is a pillar of the film and he is sympathetic and yet outside societal norms. He is perfect for the part.
“Good movies ask a lot of questions but don’t necessarily answer them,” Ross told TORn just before the premiere.
In the film his family must leave their forest paradise and journey into the highly-populated world with all its social expectations and demands. They all must face traditional society and family bonds and the children’s unconventional education are tested.
“I am a dad and there is no such thing as a perfect father and mother and this character is doing the best he can,” Mortensen said.
The film wasn’t rated at Sundance but the unconventional cast isn’t afraid to use unconventional language that may earn it an R rating. And, Mortensen having a cup of coffee in his birthday suit probably erases any chance of it being anything else. Yes, Mortensen gives the film everything he has to offer.
“Captain Fantastic” is full of ideas, exploring family and fatherhood. Some parents will leaving feeling horribly inadequate.
Fans of Mortensen will not want to miss yet another fascinating role in a fascinating film.
Viggo Mortensen has been doing a bunch of press at the Venice Film Festival for a new film called Far From Men — a story about two men, a schoolteacher and a murderer, caught up in Algeria’s 1954 war for independence — that opens in France in January next year.
In another tangential link to Wellywood, the score is composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, who also did the soundtrack for the Peter Jackson-produced documentary film West of Memphis. Read below for an early review from Indiewire, but if the idea of Mortensen speaking French appeals, this is one you probably won’t want to miss. Thanks to Ringer Davidsenex for the heads-up. (more…)
Viggo Mortensen chats with The Age newspaper about his latest movie effort, The Two Faces of January.
The voice on the phone is husky, familiar, and just a little menacing. “I was told to call this number,” the speaker says. I give a little shudder before realising it’s Viggo Mortensen, calling as planned to talk about his new film, The Two Faces of January. Phew. (more…)
Ringer Emma has sent us this interview by The Telegraph newspaper with Viggo Mortensen, where he talks about his latest movie The Two Faces of January. He also talks about filming The Lord of the Rings films saying that he felt that Fellowship of the Rings script was the “better organised” of the three films and discusses the use of CGI in the Middle-earth blockbusters.
Aragorn is an elusive man, who can avoid being seen if he wishes… For those of you who can’t get enough of actor Viggo Mortensen, you can at least hear him this weekend! This coming Sunday, Mortensen will be a guest on the show ‘Culture Club’ on Classic FM radio. According to Classic FM’s website, you can hear him talking about ‘his varied film roles – from the Lord of the Rings trilogy to his acclaimed new crime movie The Two Faces of January.’
The show airs 3-5pm BST (British Summer Time), and Mortensen joins fellow guest, composer Karl Jenkins. You can also listen to the show on the internet, with past shows available as podcasts.
Strider, Aragorn, Longshanks, Telcontar, Elessar, and several other names come to mind for this particular character. But the first impression a non-Tolkien outsider would get from a man who has a dozen aliases is that he was probably a criminal. Maybe they’d think he was constantly moving from place to place, switching names because he was the equivalent of a modern-day “identity thief” who was on the lam! Funny how things in our modern world don’t always reflect clearly on mythology.
Aragorn is the kind of character that demands a closer look. You must remember the speech that Shrek gives to Donkey about ogres being a lot like onions: “We have layers!” I would also like to use the onion metaphor for Strider. But wait — that’s just one layer. Peel away a bit and you’ll find the outcast orphan-lad who was taken in by the Elves; his mother desperate for some protection. Peel away more layers to find within a skillful fighter, a passionate lover, a delicate negotiator with a voice of great wisdom, a healer and master of herb-lore, and yes… in the very center of his heart, underneath it all, is a King.
The Fellowship of the Ring is now complete. As you may know from following our news and reviews of this set, Weta Workshop created a three piece set of The Fellowship as they crest the hill from that memorable scene in The Fellowship of the Ring. You can still order Set 1 and Set 2 from Weta’s website. Tonight, we get to complete the trio of pieces with Set 3 going up for Pre-Order with this piece of the trio containing Samwise, Aragorn, and of course Bill the Pony. This set comes in at $200 like the other two sets and will be shipping in September/October of this year. Make sure to get your order in now to get yours in the Fall.
Reports are everywhere today that Viggo Mortensen turned down a role in Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit.’ The headline implication being he was specifically asked to reprise the role and turned it down. The reports are wrong (in fact, most are removing a critical word in the quote). Here’s the exact excerpt from The Guardian’s interview with Viggo Mortensen:
In Peter Jackson’s Hobbit film, several of the Rings cast reprised their roles. Was he asked to take part? “No. Before they started shooting, back in 2008, one of the producers did ask if I would be interested. I said, ‘You do know, don’t you, that Aragorn isn’t in The Hobbit? That there is a 60-year gap between the books?'”
Viggo’s immediate answer to the question is ‘No.’ He was NOT asked to take part. Secondly, he was asked in 2008, when The Hobbit screenplay and pre-production was in its most early stages. The producer who asked the question probably asked the same to every single LOTR cast member to gage the writing team’s options for the script.
Our good friends over at our partner site Tolkiendrim.com reported here that shooting of pick ups for the next two Hobbit movies begins on May 15th – that’s already today in many parts of the world! And a good part of ‘today’ has already passed in New Zealand – so we’re assuming that filming is already underway. Shooting is scheduled to continue until the end of July.
Of course, the question we’re all pondering is: what scenes will be slated for this period of filming? We already know that 3 foot 7 were looking to cast extras with ‘character faces’, as described in their ad, here. Spanish Tolkien site elanillounico.com and French site Tolkiendrim.com both report that, apparently, these extras are sought for scenes which will take place in Bree; which of course does seem to fit with a need for character faces.
And this is where the wild speculation begins – get ready, because we’re guessing outside the box here! What scenes for The Hobbit movies might be set in Bree? Surely there is no need for An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition material to take us back to Bree on the journey of Bilbo and the dwarves? More interestingly, perhaps it could be a flashback to Gandalf and Thorin’s first meeting on the road, when they passed a night at Bree, as described in The Quest for Erebor? What important information might the film makers wish to disclose in such a scene – more about the back story of Azanulbizar and the disappearance of Thorin’s father, Thrain?
In their article, our French friends go even further and speculate that this may be a chance for some of the oft discussed ‘bridge’ material between the stories of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps we will get to see Aragorn and Gandalf meeting in Bree, during Aragorn’s ranging days in the North, before the beginning of the hunt for Gollum. Viggo Mortensen only recently stated again, this time to Total Film magazine, that he would be keen to play a role in The Hobbit trilogy. He is reported here as having said, ‘Would I play Aragorn again? Sure, if it seemed sensible to do so. He’s not in the book of The Hobbit, but if they’re working with the appendices they may be intending to bridge the 60-year Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings gap.’ Mortensen went on to say, ‘I think I would have heard by now so I have to assume [not]… But Peter Jackson is famous for his reshoots, so you never know!’
Now that is something exciting to think about. Total idle speculation of course; we don’t even know for sure that scenes ARE being filmed in Bree. But it’s fun to dream of a little glimpse of Strider….
What a fun movie! Dominic Monaghan (Meriadoc Brandybuck) came on board to be our wonderful narrator! Actually this film is a time capsule of many decades of pop culture history — giving us the full story on how the world has embraced Tolkien’s masterpiece THE LORD OF THE RINGS over 50 years and more!
Winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Newport Beach Film Festival, RINGERS was produced in association with TheOneRing.net — this remarkable little film was forged BY fans and FOR fans, just like our website, with the production/writing talent of Clifford “Quickbeam” Broadway (who hosts TORn TUESDAY every week), Jeff Marchelletta, and supercool director Carlene Cordova. It was executive produced by X-Men/Transformers guru Tom DeSanto.
With a wonderful rock-driven score and detailing all the outpouring of love bestowed on Tolkien over many generations, this film is a must-have for your digital collection! Get it on iTunes now for only $9.99!
From the original Sony Press Release:
“RINGERS is comprehensive, entertaining and informative pop culture history.” – The Toronto Star
“…Will always be a salient part of ‘LORD OF THE RINGS’ history…
See it, absorb it, love it.” – FilmThreat
Winner of “Outstanding Achievement” Award at the
Newport Beach Film Festival
FASCINATING DOCUMENTARY CAPTURES THE HISTORY, INFLUENCE AND PHENOMENON THAT IS LORD OF THE RINGS
CULVER CITY, Calif. (September 12, 2005) – Sony invites you to return to the Shirewith the release of the feature-length documentary RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS,direct to DVD.In association with the popular fan-site TheOneRing.net, Carlene Cordova produced, directed and wrote this award-winning film with executive producer Tom DeSanto(X-Men, X2: X-Men United and Transformers), which charts the incredible influence and ripple-effect that Lord of the Rings has had on worldwide pop culture over the past five decades.Whether you are a fan or first timer, critics agree, RINGERS, stands as the most comprehensive film documenting the ongoing impact of J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary achievement.
Dominic Monaghan (star of ABC’s Lost and the Academy Award® winning Lord of the Rings trilogy) narrates the documentary as it looks behind the curtain between Lord of the Rings andhow it inspired so many artists of different mediums.The film moves beyond “cult classic” and through different generations unearthing the way legendary rock musicians, filmmakers, professors, actors and authors all unite under the banner of ‘Ringer.’Interviewees included in the film are Lord of the Rings trilogy filmmaker Peter Jackson as well as Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin and David Carradine.Infused with a dynamic rock-driven score, irreverent cut-out animation (á la Terry Gilliam), and a centerpiece audience sing-a-long, RINGERS is a genre-busting documentary that shows how a single literary work continues to spark the minds and hearts of millions.
RINGERS continues the momentum of the motion picture trilogy Lord of the Rings, a winner of 17 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director for Peter Jackson, who made history as the first person to direct three major feature films simultaneously.
From the official synopsis:
Ringers: Lord of the Fans is a feature-length documentary that reveals the ongoing cultural phenomenon created by The Lord of the Rings. Very funny and often moving, Ringers shows the hidden power behind Tolkien’s books — and how after 50 years a single literary work continues to spark the minds and hearts of millions, across cultures and across time.
Shot with groundbreaking new digital technology in 24P, Ringers explores the real foundations of Middle-earth; a community of true fans who share a common bond. Moving beyond “cult classic” and over several different generations, the film unearths academics, musicians, authors, filmmakers, and a plethora of pop junkies — the people gathered under the banner of ‘Ringer.’ From the hippie counter-culture to the electronic age; from the Bakshi animated film to Jackson’s epic trilogy; this documentary brings together extensive footage from across the globe. With units in Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Bonn, Germany, Wellington, New Zealand, and Oxford, England, our cameras capture the most fascinating “Ringers” and Lord of the Rings events.
What began as the private amusement of a tweedy Oxford professor has now become a new mythology for the 21st century. Ringers: Lord of the Fans shows how an adventure story published in 1954 has had dynamic ripple-effects through Western pop-culture. Ringers carefully pulls away the veil between Tolkien’s book and the creations of art, music, and community that have been inspired by it.
Last night in North America marked the launch of the remarkable new nature series Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan; and he kindly agreed to give TheOneRing.net an exclusive sit-down Q&A. The British actor, best known to Ringer fans as Meriadoc Brandybuck, is already receiving rave reviews from The Hollywood Reporter and other press. His show premiered in this country on BBC America and will have a full season of eight episodes at 10:00pm Eastern, 9:00 Central.
With the very funny TORn TUESDAY webcast freshly completed, and Billy Boyd having left the Meltdown Comics studio, Dom took a more reflective moment to sit with host Cliff ‘Quickbeam’ Broadway and discuss his passion for, and desire to get closer to, those creatures least likely to inspire a kiss, yet all the more fascinating for his enthusiasm!
Quickbeam: Dominic, congratulations on the launch of your new show!
Dominic Monaghan: Well thanks. Yeah – I’m nervous about the launch, because it’s just me. You know, it’s not me being incredibly well protected and insulated by a huge trilogy of movies and a big ensemble cast. And also, it’s something that I feel very protective and precious about – you know, it’s like my little ‘precious’ One Ring. The natural world is something that I’m passionate about, and something that I want people to be compassionate about, because of the way that I feel about it … so, it’s the first time I’ve really hosted something – especially something that’s a significant portion of my life – and there’s a vulnerability attached to that. As an actor, you can always say, “Well, they didn’t like my character in Wolverine but maybe they just didn’t like Wolverine, or they didn’t like that character I played; or they didn’t like my character in The Lord of the Rings, but maybe they just didn’t like that character or they don’t like fantasy films … but with Wild Things, if someone doesn’t like it, there’s a pretty high chance that they don’t like ME. And that is something that you have to come to terms with. And you know, I’ve been an actor for twenty years now, so I’m okay with people saying anything they want about me, but it does put you in a much more vulnerable position.
Q: Well, you created this show, and the heart and the concept comes from your love of the great outdoors, and your affinity for the creatures in the natural world, with whom we share this planet. How do you feel about the state of conservation efforts, and protection of wildlife efforts?
DM: I did create the show; it’s something that I’m passionate about. I think the thing that irks me the most about where we’re at right now in our society, is … there’s an automatic rejection of anything that’s put forward as a notion in our society. So, if someone says, ‘Justin Bieber is great,’ someone will automatically say, ‘Justin Bieber is rubbish.’ And that’s just because you can’t please anyone all of the time. My issue with the conservation situation is, people say, ‘We need to change the way that we’re behaving because we’re creating global warming and we’re changing our climate.’ And then other people come out and say, ‘Climate change isn’t real, that isn’t what’s happening – we’re going through a natural change in the planet.’ My argument is, let’s say for the sake of argument, global warming ISN’T real – which I don’t necessarily believe – but let’s say it isn’t real; why wouldn’t we make positive changes to deal with our carbon footprint and how much of an impact we make on our planet? We know for a fact that we create poisons and toxins by working in our industries and by driving our cars and moving our vehicles around. If those poisons are toxic, they have to go somewhere; and even if they go somewhere that doesn’t affect us, it affects the general balance of our galaxy. We create a poison, and we go, ‘Here you go planet – or galaxy – deal with it!’ That’s a negative stance to take. So my whole idea is, you can call us liberal and you can call us mong bean salad eaters, and you can call us hippies – and we wear hemp and all that kind of thing … but what we’re trying to do is the right thing, I think. It’s the correct way to behave. Make less waste, be responsible, be positive. Treat everything living correctly.
Q: And appreciate the synergistic connections you have with other creatures on this planet.
DM: Right. We have a very ‘overfaluted’ idea of what humans are, and our place on the planet. And outside of creating technology and art, we don’t really do anything special, I don’t think. And the most damaging animal on the planet, I would say, is categorically a human. And the most valuable animal on the planet is probably something like a worm, or an ant, or a small beetle. Or a parasitic fly, or something like that – because of what they do. They create fresh air, they till our soil, they pollinate our fruits and vegetables. Humans don’t even feature in the top fifty. But we walk around like we’re the bosses and like we know what’s going on … meanwhile ants, millions of them living in very confined quarters … there’s no murder, there’s no rape, everyone gets fed, they look after their kids, they don’t cause a carbon footprint, they take care of their trash. And we shun them, we throw them off our picnic table! These are important animals!
Q: Indeed. What are some of the most appealing animals you’ve encountered, during the first season of Wild Things?
DM: I really like hymenoptera. Hymenoptera’s a class in the insect species which is bees, wasps and ants; they all come from the same place. Essentially, an ant is a wingless wasp from an evolutionary point of view, and bees fit in there as well; highly social, sophisticated societies … they behave in a way that we understand, because we live in highly social, sophisticated societies. I admire the way that they organize their communities, where they don’t cause as much of a mess as we do!
I wanted to tell those stories, but also I needed to tell – and I wanted to tell – dynamic stories in the invertebrate world, and that led me to things like the world’s largest spider, the world’s most dangerous aquatic insect, the world’s most dangerous scorpion. Nowadays, you have to stick yourself on the firing line a little bit – which I was more than happy to do, because I love these animals and I wanted to tell their stories. There’s an element of shocking the audience; but what I talk about with the world’s largest spider is that, for me at least, that has the same cache as something like a great white shark or a bengal tiger. When you say to someone, ‘I went to find the world’s largest spider,’ they recoil; they go, ‘How big was it, what does it look like?!’ It’s the same feeling as a great white shark. So I wanted to show that you can go to these places. It might not be really easy to access those places; but you can go there, you can have an amazing experience with these animals; and they’re not out to get you! They don’t wake up in the morning and think, ‘Where’s a human? I need a human to eat!’ Spiders don’t act like that. If you hurt them or damage them, or come into their territory, they might protect themselves; but they’re not out to get us.
Q: There’s an interesting approach to telling these animals’ stories; we anthropomorphize them. We attach certain human qualities to some of these creatures; have you noticed that, while you were making the show?
DM: Yeah, we talk about ‘nasty spiders’ or we talk about ‘vicious snakes’ or ‘man killing sharks’. These are animals that have unfortunately got themselves into a situation that they don’t want to be in, which is coming into contact with a human. Sharks do not want to go around us; they’re not interested in going around us. Not only are we not good eating, but we’re going to cause a lot of trouble for that shark; we’re probably either going to – they think – kill it, or the fishermen will come back and kill it later. And with these animals like bees and wasps, and scorpions and spiders – all these things that have venom that can hurt us – that venom is very, very important to that animal. It’s a very sophisticated amount of proteins that they create, and it takes a lot of energy for them to create that venom; so they don’t give it away cheaply. You’d have to really annoy a spider for it to envenomate you, because they use it when they really need it. So my feeling with people when they talk about, ‘Urgh, bees, they’re so scary!’ – I’m just like, look, if you get away from the hysterical four year old that’s living inside you, that was at one point stung by a bee – and generally, you know, it hurts when you’re a little kid – nowadays if you get stung by a bee, it’s annoying, it’s not your favourite part of your day, but it’s not going to ruin your day.
Q: What is the coolest, most exotic place you went to visit?
DM: Gosh … hmmm – the geographical place that sticks in my head from the first season was Laos, southeast Asia. I’ve been to Thailand a few times, loved it; I got told that Thailand was like Laos, fifty years ago. You know, not very built up; great street food; great people – they’re all Buddhist, very very chilled out, very keen to help; amazing natural flora and fauna everywhere – mountains and greenery. The main thing that really struck me about Laos was the food; when we were in Vientiane, which is the capital city, we’d wake up and go for breakfast – and you’d have really fresh, spicy fish soup for breakfast. I love spicy food! I was like, ‘Ah, this is heaven!’ The people were so friendly, they went out of their way to help you – lovely nature; they all love Manchester United, which works for me [laughs] … and you know, it’s very exotic. You’re eating stuff that you’ve never seen before – it’s all so fresh…
Q: You can’t pronounce what you’re eating!
DM: Yeah, you just go [points], ‘Can I have that please?’ Yeah, great country.
I really liked Cameroon as well. Very different, Cameroon. Lots of red and brown clay everywhere, in terms of the colour scheme of the country. The people that we went to see didn’t have a lot; they lived in houses where the electricity was turned off at 9pm … they didn’t have an abundance of food or water, or even clothing – stuff like that … [but] so happy, so sweet. All the little kids just wanted to get picked up, and play, and hang out with you … I was doing silly little magic tricks that they liked … and you know, stray dogs running around everywhere… The food wasn’t fantastic in Cameroon but the spirit of the people was amazing, you know? They’re all very entrepreneurial – they genuinely are. They really have nothing, and you see them making kids’ toys out of little bits of broken wood and rubbish, you know, trash that you would throw out – and these little kids have got these little remote control cars made out of elastic bands and plastic bottles and stuff. Very, very innovative – I loved Cameroon.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you had, in creating and pitching this show?
DM: I think the biggest challenge pitching the show was convincing the people who were giving me the money that I could do the job; because I think all they’d been exposed to, as a general rule, was me in Lord of the Rings, and me in Lost, and maybe a couple of other things that they might have seen … so they’re probably sat there, being very polite, thinking, ‘OKAY, what does this English actor know about tropical species? And why are we giving him an inordinate amount of money to fly a six man crew to Vietnam or Malaysia … and he gets there and goes, “I’m not doing that, and I’m not doing that – and I’m not eating that, and it’s too hot, and where’s my hotel?” ‘ I think there was a feeling of, ‘What is this even going to be?’
So I would sit in these meetings and just talk at length about my passion about animals, and I think that opened people up a little bit; and then I went to the Malibu mountains with a friend of mine, and we shot footage of me catching lizards and catching velvet ants – this type of wingless wasp – and catching snakes, and checking out animal tracks and stuff – just to show that …
Q: You’re an outdoorsman!
DM: Yeah. I mean, I like being outside and I go to Joshua Tree a lot; spend some time out there … whenever I’m countries I tend to go into the wilderness and see what’s available. I know what to look for, where the animals are going to be – and I think people needed to be educated on that. Hopefully, now that the show is going to be available for an audience, the audience will feel the same way.
I also didn’t want to come across as a professor, because I’m not – or a learned guy, when I’m not. I’m a very, very enthusiastic animal lover – and if you put me in a biology class in university, I’ll embarrass myself! But if you put me with a group of people on the street, and they say, ‘Pick a holiday’ – you know, some people might say, ‘Go to Cabo San Lucas,’ or some people might say, ‘Go to Vegas for the weekend.’ But I would say, ‘Where’s the furthest you’ll fly me, that’s the most remote?’ I want to escape – travel for me is all about escape. I want to go somewhere where I don’t know the currency, where I don’t know the language, where I don’t know the food – and just try new stuff. I mean, any time I’m trying new stuff, I’m not bored – and I’m very susceptible to getting bored!
Q: Perhaps you’re a kindred spirit with Viggo, who is also a master outdoorsman!
DM: Yeah, he really is a very, very gifted outdoorsman, and unintimidated by being out there. A true artist. You know, I think my abiding memory – although obviously he’s still around! – but my abiding thought about Viggo is the artistry of the man. He’s obviously a very talented actor, but you know, Viggo’s an accomplished poet, a fantastic painter, a brilliant photographer; he acts in different aspects, in theatre, in film; he’s a singer, he’s a writer … I was inspired by his … almost need to get out his art. And he continues to be like that. I saw him in London, in this hotel room – and he just had stuff everywhere! Letters and posters and paint and scarves and DVDs and books – and he’s passing me this – ‘Read that! Watch that! Do this! Here’s that!’ Every time you see Viggo, you walk out with stuff; you’re like [mimes arms loaded with stuff], ‘Yeah, alright – I’ll see you in a week – I’ll check this stuff out!’ He’s an inspirational guy.
Q: One of the animals that you encountered in the preview [for Wild Things] was the monocle cobra. It was surprising that you were looking for some other creatures, and accidentally stumbled across this deadly snake! Unexpected… and you had a six-man crew with you. Did anybody encounter any bites; what danger was your crew in?
DM: We were lucky enough to not get tagged by the monocle cobra! I think what happened was, we were in the paddy field looking for this giant water bug, and I noticed when we were in the paddy field that we were rustling mice and rats out of the paddy field … because they sleep there in the daytime. They’re nocturnal species, obviously. And I noticed a little [makes rustling noise] moving in the paddy grass, the paddy rice – and I thought, ‘What’s going on there? Oh, that’s probably a mouse – and that’s probably a rat…’ And it happened two or three times … and we were flushing – we were walking, and we were flushing these mice out of this field as we were spreading apart … and what happened was, when we got to part of the end of the field, this snake was coming into the field, thinking, ‘What is going on here?’ There’s three or four mice running around in the middle of the day – and that’s unusual. You’ll hear me, at the start of that scene – I say to the cameraman, ‘Go that way, go that way, go that way!’ And that’s me saying to my entire crew – who were all behind the cameraman – ‘Spread out! Go FAR that way!’ – because it was a venomous snake, and I knew it was a cobra. And as soon as the crew is safe, and my only concern now is protecting me, then I can attempt to control the situation – but I can’t control five other grown men, you know! So you’ll hear me in the show going, ‘Move back move back move back!’ – and that’s me talking to the crew all the time!
No-one got hit by the snake, but my medic, who’s an ex-military guy and has been in a few combat situations, was stung by a bullet ant when we were in Ecuador, and they’re aptly named, because it’s supposed to feel like you’ve been shot by a bullet – and he spent two days in bed! He got stung about 11am, left that day – he was like, ‘I feel awful, I’m going to have to go and take care of this’ – and we didn’t see him until a day later; so all that day he slept, the next day he was in bed sleeping, and then we saw him the day after that! We were like, ‘Are you ok?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I spent two days essentially feeling like my thumb was being constantly hit by a hammer, just pounding, pounding…’ And he took a fair amount of anti-inflammatories and anti-histamines, and it didn’t do any good to him!
Q: I’ve never heard of this creature!
DM: The bullet ant! It is a formidable looking ant! It’s big, it’s scary looking – they’ll come at you! I have one on a stick in the Ecuador episode, and they’ll jump as well – so I’m constantly looking at the camera, looking at the ant, looking at the camera, looking at the ant… [laughs]
Q: Here in America, I grew up watching a show called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. And Wild Kingdom was THE thing to watch, when you were a kid in the Seventies; we didn’t have any other nature documentaries. There were no other shows covering the natural world. It was fascinating! Even though they covered the basics – you know, the great mammals of the Serengeti – things that we’ve seen over and over again since then; but it created in me a lifelong fascination and affinity for the beasts and the birds and the natural world. And I think that’s why a lot of us Ringer fans feel so much towards Radagast; as we feel connected to those descriptions of the natural world in the books.
DM: Yeah, you and I have had almost the same journey with our natural history. When I was younger, I was brought up on David Attenborough and Jacques Cousteau – it was the same. There was a very small amount of nature shows being made, and the ones that were being made were high quality – but it was maybe once every couple of months you’d see something. There’s much more around nowadays. The interesting thing about the ‘good guys’ in The Lord of the Rings – certainly the Fellowship, everyone associated with the Fellowship, everyone associated with the alliance against Sauron and Saruman – they’re all connected to the earth. Hobbits are very connected to the earth; men are; wizards are; elves are; dwarves are. Dwarves are probably the least so, but even dwarves have a connection with the rock and the stone and the mountain; elves love forests; humans spend a lot of time … I mean, Aragorn obviously lives in the forest, he’s an outcast. Arwen controls water; the hobbits know where to find stuff in the forest, and how to eat off the land. And obviously, the relationship with Treebeard is significant. So, I think Tolkien saw that there is a real positive, good element to being connected to your world, to knowing about your local environment – you know, the trees and the plants and the animals and the birds, and how it all works.
Q: Fantastic! I wish you huge success with the North American launch of your show.
DM: Oh thank you. Me too!
Q: I’m really excited to see some of the places that are way off the beaten path – as you described – because of the discovery of something new, that you don’t have every day in your life. Many people go through life in the drudgery of the same routine, without ever discovering new things; it is so uplifting, it will raise your consciousness of the world you’re in – and I applaud you on that.
DM: I appreciate that alot. And thanks for giving me your time. I think that, nowadays, it’s very hard to – not necessarily shock people – but to wake people up out of that feeling that they’re in; nothing is that interesting anymore, and nothing is that shocking, because they’ve seen everything on google, and they can access everything so quickly. And I think we’re losing that almost childlike enthusiasm about things that genuinely awesome. You know, we bandy around the word ‘awesome’ a lot – a hotdog is awesome, or my trousers are awesome or my shoes are awesome – but the natural world, the way that our planet works, the way that our universe slots into place so beautifully — that is genuinely awesome. And I’m hoping that if people watch the show, and they explore around, they’ll find things like a spider’s eye awesome; or that fact that a bumblebee can fly. Awesome.
Q: Thank you Dominic. We’ll see you on the show – BBC America, 10pm Eastern, 9pm Central, Tuesday – Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan.
DM: One episode a week for eight weeks – and then we’re in talks right now to do the second season… and I’ll bring Billy Boyd with me for the second season! [laughs] I don’t think we’d get much work done to be honest…
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