Sarah F writes:
A Letter of Thanks to a Red-Haired Lady: A Tale of Two Sisters Comic Con Adventure
Herein is the account of Sarah and Rachel, and their strange comic-con adventure, and nearly in-expressible gratitude to an anyomous lady with red hair, bright eyes, and an exceedingly considerate nature. You see my sister and I were given the opportunity to meet highly esteemed actors, David Wenham and Billy Boyd last Saturday. That opportunity was provided to us by a lady who works for New Line Cinema, who hosted the panel the previous Friday afternoon, and who helped to create the Return of the King Extended Edition DVD. To this lady we are both indebted, and although I must have shook her hand and thanked her at least a half a dozen times at the event, I do not know her name, because it could not be found anywhere within our event program. So my hope is that this article will serve two functions, to give fellow Tolkienites a glance inside the experience we had, and also as an acknowledgement that we owe it all our mystery benefactor with red hair-who as you will see, appears to take on the role of fairy godmother to us throughout.
We had already been two days at comic con-and had attended both the screening of scenes from the Ringers: Lord of the Fans documentary and the discussion panel held by New Line Cinema for the Extended ROTK DVD. We had excellent seats at both, with thanks to fellow San Diego Ringers, Raquel and Christine, who stood with us in line for three hours on Friday.
I would like to say that the Ringers documentary exceeded my expectations even though they were set quite high to begin with; for if there is anything that fans have learned from Tolkien and these films it is to take the time to bring a high standard of quality to anything that you create. The folks producing this documentary have done that, and the teaser scenes that fans present were treated to speak of a really excellent film. I would encourage you dear readers to do as I did and help support this documentary’s further promotion via T-shirt purchase and to check it all out yourselves at www.lordofthefans.net. As for the extended edition, I could not be more pleased with the scenes that I saw, of which I am sure others will recount in detail at this website. Yes, as an avid fan of the books I would have to say that Peter has done right by us and by Tolkien once again, which is hardly a surprise.
Now to the adventure-on Friday morning we arrived at the New Line Cinema booth at the LOTR Pavilion on the main floor, which was home to so many other Ringers at comic con this year. We had heard about a possible autograph signing by the two actors at the panel we had previously attended, but we were also keeping an eye out for Richard Taylor who we both had the good satisfaction of meeting last year, and who was advertised to appear this year. I asked the red-haired lady at the table, whom we both recognized from her outstanding job hosting the panel and Q&A session the day before, and asked her if Richard Taylor was around. She told us the sad news that he had been forced to cancel due to his work on both the live action Narnia films, and King Kong. Although he was sorely missed, our disappointment was tempered with understanding; a sentiment shared by most fans, after all there is nothing most of us would like better than for Mr. Taylor and all of WETA than for them to continue their incredible work on other projects.
In lieu of his presence Mr. Taylor and WETA sent the next best possible things-gorgeous actual costumes from ROTK which were so amazing many a fan could not help returning to stare a second or fifth time throughout the day at their splendor. I relayed the message to this red-haired lady, that friends of Narnia have both great excitement and great faith in Mr. Taylor and all his fellow creators-a message she promised to relay to him.
The autographs were to be at noon, and where the line was going to begin was not being released to fans. So of course we did what any loyal fan might be expected to do, we loitered illegally as long as possible around various parts of the LOTR Pavilion, and moved good naturedly when we were told to leave. In the meantime we watched FOTR and ROTK on the conveniently provided large screens, and mused among ourselves over the fact that TTT had been skipped.
We gazed upon the costumes the more, and some at each other. There were elves and men, and hobbits and plain clothes fans who can hardly be described as plain, so covered were they in pins, and T-shirts of all kinds expressing their eternal devotion to the lands of Middle Earth, and all things or persons related to it. Some were more relaxed than others, I overheard a group of hobbits singing Afternoon Delight in an attempt at four-part harmony; an odd sight to witness, but then it was just one of many that makes you think, “Only at Comic-Con.”
We were nervous, we were friendly, we were unhappy not to know where we ought to stand, and we all respected each other for our shared goal-to get autographs. I was one of the nervous ones, but I am also a Christian, so I was praying. “Lord whatever You want-maybe You want us to get autographs, maybe you don’t-Your will be done,” that was all I kept repeating within my head and heart, as my sister took more picture of the amazing costumes.
It was around eleven thirty, and I was standing by one of the goodies stations, when the red-haired lady came up to me. I had already watched her flying all over, making arrangements with the other New Line booth workers for something, and they had roped off one area of the booth, but we didn’t know what for.
“Could you…?” she began, and I thought that she either was going to ask me to move, or two tell other fans something, but whatever it was that she wanted I knew that I would say yes, because she had been so kind to offer to pass on my message to Mr. Taylor.
She looked me in the eyes, and presented me with what suddenly became a pretty intense moment. “If you could ask Billy and David one question, what would it be?” My brain was racing, and I knew that this very minute was the minute I would have to swing for the bleachers or it was all over.
“Um, huh,” intense concentration took my face and I hesitated a moment. “Well I know the books have a huge following-everyone has their own interpretations of the characters, I know a lot of fans were unhappy over the changes to Faramir in the Two Towers, and some have complained that Pippin is too cheerful…” I knew I was reaching here but I was also buying time to come up with a question that could be directed at both-so I was recalling complaints I had heard from a disgruntled minority once or twice. “And then Peter has his own interpretations, so I guess I would ask how it is that they arrive at-that they find their character’s essence-how do you find your character’s center?” I gave her a hap-hazard look that fully acknowledged that I was uncertain if this long rambling thing I had just spilled out were a question that she could like, but then she had put me on deck, and that was what I had come up with.
She looked as though she were considering my question’s merits, or lack thereof, but she said, “ Okay…good. Come with me,” and brought me under the taped off area to two young men who were standing there, one prepping a video camera.
“Tell me if you like this question,” she said, and I repeated it for the two guys, whose expressions towards me were both friendly and full of serious evaluation.
“Yes, that will work great, I’m Bryan,” they both shook my hands and asked me to sign and date a release form that allowed them to use the footage of my person asking the question in the interview. They were both very disarming and professional, so I conducted myself likewise, other than shaking their hands repeated times throughout and thanking them for this incredible opportunity.
For those of you whose patience cannot endure the longer to see David and Billy, (I can hardly blame you for I would do the same in one of these articles) you can go and check out the interview with both the actors at ugo.com although I am not certain if it is posted yet-I was assured that it will be.
Here I became slightly distressed-because my sister was still out in the crowd-in fact un-aware that I was gone. I wanted to have her with me-but as it is in such circumstances, I didn’t want to cause any trouble and blow my chance either. I was working out what I might do-perhaps asking for an extra autograph was the best that I could hope for-when once again the red-haired lady somehow knew just what was going on without my saying a word-and came to my rescue.
“You had someone with you,” she asked “your friend?”
“My sister,” I quickly replied. She nodded with understanding.
“Why don’t you go ahead and get her, and bring her back here.”
I managed an affirmative nod with a serious expression, but I was beaming straight through it. I found Rachel nearby.
“I get to ask them a question,” I told her.
“What?” She stared at me in disbelief, as I grabbed her hand. I could see by her dubious expression and because she told me so later, that she was thinking
“Them? You mean them?”
“Yes, come-on,” and we climbed together back under the rope to where the interview was set up.
Of course then I had to tell her everything that had happened to make this situation that was so beyond even our wildest hopes possible. We stood just staring back at each other in disbelief at our own circumstances. It was then that David Wenham and Billy Boyd came into the area, although we had already been altered to their presence by the number of growing screams and cheers issuing from the crowd on one side of the pavilion.
Ah and now comes the part everyone has been reading for, what were they like?
Handsome, well yes that is a pretty obvious given, but more importantly they were kind, friendly, and very ordinary guys. They sat down, and were given cold bottled water (it was very hot on the floor of the convention, even in this cleared space). Billy’s chair was closest to where we were standing, and he wiped his hands on his jeans, remarking that he was a “a bit damp” from the moisture on the outside of the bottle, the effect of which with his scotch accent, was very charming.
I looked over at David Wenham, who looked then at me, so I said “Hello,” and he said “Hello,” back, very warmly, so that Billy looked up, and then the interviewer from UGO that they had just met, and the wonderful red-haired lady introduced me as a fan that would be asking them a question. They both said, “Hello Sarah,” in their unique and yet surprisingly complimentary accents, and I introduced my sister, who they also greeted by name.
They sat a little while waiting for the interview to begin, and Rachel and I stood by the glass to the right of the camera, out of its sight and out of way, doing our best to be the helpfully silent and obedient fans that we felt we ought to be. The interviewers from ugo.com told my sister that she could take some pictures as long as she didn’t use her flash, but she ended up taking less because when the actors are right there, you are kind of content to just be right nearby and watch.
Mr. Boyd made faces at the nearby crowd, who cheered all the more for him. Some of their statements were “We love you Billy!” and “We love Scotland!” to which the very extraverted Mr. Boyd replied, “I love your country too- America!” and gave an approving head gesture and a thumbs up. Meanwhile, Mr. Wenham seemed to be observing the whole scene quietly from his chair, carefully taking it all in with a look of pleasant composure on his face. How either of the two actors were able to appear so relaxed when they are in a tiny roped off area, surrounded on all sides by security and pressing fans, surrounded by an even larger convention floor filled with thousands of people is a wonder to me, and perhaps a credit to their theatrical skills, for I couldn’t imagine either of them to be ill at ease based on their manners and faces.
We just stood around watching. Rachel took a few pictures, and once Billy caught her and made a face right into her camera-quite obliging really. Mr. Wenham was using his own camera to take a few picture of the surrounding crowd, and we were reminded that it was his first time at comic-con.
The interview, which I will not recount to you-lest you not investigate for yourselves a UGO.COM included such questions as what scenes would be on the extended ROTK DVD and if the actors were keen for Peter Jackson to make the Hobbit (If you want this to happen-please check out the “Make the Hobbit Happen” movement on this site’s main page to see what you can do to help).
When it came time for me, I stepped up to the side of the camera, said “Hi Billy, Hi David…” and delivered my question. Billy answered first, and David second-once again –please check out the interview for their excellent answers-each of them looked right at me while answering.
What I found most interesting-that is what I really wanted to know was if they developed the connection to their characters as actors based mostly on their own interpretations of the book and Peter’s direction or if they allowed others in to the process. Obviously each actor works differently, but for all of the performances in these movies to be so universally identified as “real” or “just right,” by millions upon millions of fans who know the books like the back of their own hands, is still miraculous to me. That’s why what I found most interesting in both their answers, was the fact that they talked with others for weeks about how others saw their characters, and they allowed themselves to be influenced by what others had to say. Then to take into account all that feedback, and multiple interpretations and to hone it all in-to know what to do with it and how to translate it into a performance-that is truly a gift.
When the interview was over I stepped forward again and said to both of them, “Thank you, it was lovely of you,” meaning the interview, their presence at comic con, answering my question so well- everything. It was an odd statement, but it was all I could manage to convey my gratitude that was different than the sincere but overly repeated thank you I had given so many times already. They both looked a little surprised but seemed to understand what I meant, and replied “Oh sure,” and “You’re welcome,” with amused smiles.
Earlier the red-haired lady had told us we would get autographed pictures from Mr. Wenham and Mr. Boyd, which she now appeared with for them to sign. David was kind enough to check and see how each of our names were spelt, Sarah with an “h”, Rachel with or without a second “a.” They handed them to us, and shook both our hands as we thanked them very much yet again.
Billy had a cell phone, that apparently had Dominic Monaghan on the other end of it, and they agreed to get together later on that day. It was then I went over for the cameraman to shoot me asking the question again, so that they could cut my face and the faces of the actors listening to the question together for the interview. I did very well, except that I said “Hi Billy, Hi Dom,” instead of “Hi David,” obviously still influenced by the partially overheard phone conversation.
“Ah, I’m sorry, crazed fan on autopilot,” I muttered, and tried it a second time-where I asked the question perfectly. But can I really be blamed dear readers? As my sister pointed out to me later, “those names just go together.”
When they were done greeting the other fans, and Mr. Boyd and Mr. Wenham were gradually drifting over towards the autograph side of the pavilion, I plucked up nerve and asked Mr. Boyd if I could take a picture of him with my sister because I knew it was something she would like. Once again, the red-haired lady magically came to our aide, asking if I would like a picture of the four of us together, which is what I wanted most of all but was too bashful to ask for.
Billy Boyd came and stood between us, and David Wenham hesitated a little, as if to ask if we wanted him in the picture too, since I had only asked Billy, but I motioned and said, “yes please,” with a sincere earnestness that I felt.
We weren’t sure if the camera had taken the shot or not, and so Rachel went forward to check since it was her camera. My arms still behind the two actors, and their arms still on my shoulders, I felt far too shy to look at David Wenham within such close proximity to him, so I turned instead to Billy. He turned to me, only about an inch or two taller (you know that all the hobbits are short-but you don’t really know it until one is standing next to you), and his eyes widened in a very Pippin-esc way as if to say to me “My-isn’t this an interesting situation taking a picture with me;” an observation with which I quite agreed. Standing there with my sister and two gentlemen who I admire so much, let’s just say I have rarely found it easier to smile for a camera.
Then the actors went over to greet other fans who were brought behind the rope with equal consideration and enthusiasm as they had shown towards us. My sister and I just remained standing where we were, watching. Every now and then we would look at each other, the same incredulous expression reflected on both of our faces that said how we still could not believe all of this. A little while later they started to come towards the autographs station, though they weren’t quite ready for them yet. Billy was standing close to us and so I said:
“We’re just hanging around until somebody tells us that we have to leave.”
“Oh yeah-of course.” He said with appreciation of our logic, nodding.
“What I wanted to say before, but I didn’t get a chance too,” I began, as he continued to give us his attention, and to wave to nearby fans, “Was that we were so pleased with your interpretations of the characters having read the books. In fact, I am entering my senior year (of college) and I plan to be an English teacher-and to work these books into the curriculum-now that they are movies I will be more able to do that-as sad as that makes our educational system.”
“Well, anything that helps!” Billy responded agreeably.
“I just wanted to say that your accent is my favorite in the entire world,” said Rachel, who is actually learning several scotch dialects from a tape (though Americans, we are both Scottish by blood).
“Oh, thank you,” replied Billy, his scotch as pleasing as always.
“The Glasgow accent is just fabulous,” she added, and gave him a thumb up and he smiled back before he made his way over to smile at other fans. It was then that Mr. Wenham came over to us.
“I was just telling Billy, what I wanted to say before was that we were both so pleased with your interpretation of Faramir” I began again, amazed that I was actually saying what I wanted most to say, and had rehearsed saying time and again in my head in case we made it to the autograph table. “I know that there was a lot of flak over the changes that were made to the second movie but I really felt like you held on to him.” David looked relieved at what I had to say, and humbly pleased by it as well, which was startling to me. “I’m also so glad that the houses of healing made it back in to the extended version-because as much as I love the theatrical version I felt that there really needed to be a rest, and some kind of peace…”
“Yes, peace,” David said with me, as though he exactly understood and agreed with the thought.
“…for both the characters of Eowyn and Faramir- so I am really pleased with the scene-thrilled to death.”
“That’s great-I’ll tell Peter that-he always likes to hear these things,” Mr. Wenham smiled, obviously very pleased that we were so satisfied with the scene. That statement kind of hit me hard-he knows Peter Jackson-he has access to Peter Jackson. Well, I mean of course he does dear readers, but I was kind of just like “whoa…” awed by reality of it all the same. It took me a minute, but then I added:
“We are all really hoping that he will do The Hobbit, but we understand how attached he is to Hong Kong,” this was my second verbal slip of the day-but I looked a little confused at myself when I caught it and recovered quickly- “King Kong.”
He nodded and took a drink of his water.
“It’s hot in here isn’t it?” David asked, looking at us and then around him.
“It’s even hotter out there,” said Rachel, referencing the exhibition floor.
“There’s so many people,” I added, thinking of a few of my more claustrophobic moments earlier, I can only take so many other people touching me at one time.
“How many people are hear today, do you know?” he asked.
“I have no idea,” I offered.
“This is the biggest day, Saturday. I read somewhere last year that there were about 65, 000 people,” said Rachel. Later she said that she thought that this might have been the total for the whole convention though, that she had the presence of mind to sight a statistic was beyond me at this point. David expressed some amazement to this figure.
“Just try not to think about it too much,” I advised; I know I try not to.
Then they moved on to the autograph area, and my sister and I waited for the crowd to thin around the edge just a little bit so that we could go. We spent the rest of the day with our family and every now and then we two would look at each other, and one or both of us would just start laughing in astonishment of the whole thing. I think it’s a pretty good thing that we have photographic proof; otherwise we still might not believe it ourselves.
So in conclusion, as the road goes ever on, and we have gone back home, my thoughts and thanks remain with all those who made our adventure what it was.
Particularly I am indebted to the mysterious lady from New Line Cinema who orchestrated it all. Our thanks madam, and I can sincerely assure you that any red-haired heroine that I encounter from now on, be it on page or silver screen, will be a reminder to me of you-
Yours truly, a grateful ringer-
Posted in Old ComicCon News
Click for more images
Since 2000 TheOneRing.net has been publishing reports of the biggest, brightest and some say best pop-culture fan gathering in the United States if not the world, and to not keep up the tradition would be just plain wrong! This was the Con’s 35th year in existence, where it has grown from a couple of hundred people talking comic shop into 80,000 (according to un-official reports) people celebrating all things “genre” while still keeping comic books as its base.
New Line Cinema, along with almost every other motion picture studio and most of the free world, has realized that this convention is the place to launch event and genre movie promotional campaigns. What Sundance is to independent films and Cannes is to Oscar nominations, Comic-Con is to blockbuster cinema. Marketing directors and publicists know that getting on stage at the Con vastly improves a film or actor’s chances of being embraced by the enthusiastic or even fanatical core audience. A film can still fail on its own merits after making a Con promotion (Halle Berry talked Catwoman last year and it had a disastrous opening last weekend) but if the right people spread the word about something positive, it can ride the momentum all the way to profitability; and yet there is so much more to the event than just a few movie promotions.
With TheOneRing.net not having a booth or table (due to committing its resources to the Oscar party back in February) it was left to documentarions “Ringers” to hold court. They featured temp tattoos and t-shirts along with footage of the documentary “Ringers: Lord of the Fans.” They presented a Thursday evening panel for the convention detailing their film (in post-production) along with author Peter S. Beagle and actor Sala Baker on hand, but more on all this later!
On the dealer’s floor, New Line, along with Sideshow Collectibles and Decipher promoted from the prominent “Tolkien Pavilion” in the center of the almost 500,000 square foot dealer’s room. (Yes, you read that right, it’s a cavernous place.) New Line also trotted out its most prestigious and profitable film franchise “The Lord of the Rings” as part of a two-hour presentation that owned Friday night’s schedule.
Many of you have read reports of this, but not with some of the details about to be shared. There are spoilers ahead, so stop reading NOW if you wish not to know. The footage available on-line doesn’t have all this; it seems to have started late.
Many studios would have delivered safe promotional footage, but not PJ and not New Line. Instead they showcased many of the key moments from the Extended Edition. Who gets the credit? Either New Line trusted PJ completely and didn’t screen this before it was shown or it was smart on its own. Either way a tasty treat was delivered. The clips were brief but they were crystal clear in many instances. This is your last chance to bail out and some personal interpretations will be peppered amongst the pure reporting.
PJ talks to Comic Con, saying the extended footage will be 50-minutes long and we are the first people to see the preview. It opens with, to great cheers, the Voice of Saruman uttering a threat. (It is a different section than the one that starts the currently available bootleg version of the footage.) There is a money shot of a long camera sweep up Minas Tirith. I believe the White City will be made even grander in the EE.
Frodo and Sam are in Orc gear and they are marching in formation in an Orc company. They were NOT singing “Where There is a Whip, There is a Way.” Frodo stumbles, threatening to ruin the disguise. Sam helps him.
Legolas and Gimli engage in a post-Orthanc drinking game. This footage is actually available on the web if you search hard enough. Or if you know where I live, stop by. Next Aragorn is shown holding a palantir, and not just holding it but using it, with his sword drawn, showing him the same weapon that cut the One Ring from his finger thousands of years and three movies ago. He is casting doubt and fear into Sauron. He is without a doubt contending with the Great Eye.
The statue head wreathed with flowers at the Crossroads is shown next. A photo is also available on the web and has been for months. Next my favorite segment shows up. We witness a Peter Jackson style tight shot on a mouth with jagged yellow teeth and lips and gums that are rotted and in desperate need of Chap Stick. Just like in the Houghton-Mifflin movie tie-in book, this is the very Mouth of Sauron. Further confirming the design, Sideshow Collectibles puts its MoS bust up for pre-order over the weekend along with some shots of the figure.
Anyway, we see a long shot of Mouth riding his horse from between the Black Gates, presumably after Aragorn has called for the Lord of Mordor to come forth and have justice done upon him. We see another shot of the mouth say, and I quote,
“I have a token I was bidden to show thee.” Then we have a shot from behind The Mouth and then he holds up Frodo’s mithril shirt. I believe there was a shot of Merry or Pippin despairing but I don’t know that it was related and the cuts were coming quick as lightning at times – faster than a writing pen at least.
We cut back to Gandalf and friends vs. Saruman, where the video starts and PJ cuts in to say, “Lets face it, Return of the King was always a little short.” This is where he repeats the “50 minutes of extra footage.” He also explains that for that footage there are about 300 special effects shots, bigger than many entire movies.
With some more footage PJ explains that like the book there are appendices that chronicle everything and then there is a cut to a crowd in Wellington at the premier of the film. I have it on VERY good authority from two separate sources that one of the film crews at TORn’s last Oscar Party was also contracted by the New Line Home Entertainment division and was shooting footage for the DVD and there is a pretty good chance some of it will end up on the DVD. But I digress…
There is a section then of the actors, mostly hobbits, talking about the legacy of the films. Billy Boyd sitting by Dominic Monaghan says in his fantastic accent, “And when we have keds, and I don’t mean together of course…” which got a giant laugh. He looked forward to seeing the film in 25 years.
Sam sees beauty in the clouds with Mister Frodo and says, “Mister Frodo, there is light, beauty in the clouds that no shadow can diminish.” very near the end and finally, at last, at long, long last the ancient footage of Merry swearing allegiance to Théoden and Rohan will make the cut. In the first trailer of “Fellowship” (and I think in the first Comic Con footage) we saw this but finally it is good for something besides promotion.
There is a scene of Orcs crashing the gate at Minas Tirith with a good old normal sized battering ram like the one used at Helm’s Deep during Théoden’s last stand. This is a day-time shot and will make the siege and the coming of Grond later that night ring with more significance; we have more fighting it seems, for good or ill.
Aragorn is back agonizing over the fallen Éowyn, obviously in the Houses of Healing and we cut to Frodo agonizing in Orc gear as Merry’s voiceover recounts how he can’t save Middle-earth but he hopes to see his friends again. Then some exterior shots of Minas Tirith (I think) and next Aragorn stands over the sleeping Éowyn quite obviously NOT in the House of Healing but likely back in Rohan. She grabs his hand as he turns to leave.
Then we get a brief glimpse of the Armies of the Dead surging past the three hunters, Saruman striking Grima Wormtounge, Éowyn and Gothmog facing off, lots more fighting around and on Minas Tirith, and finally Gandalf confronting the Witch King and his suddenly flaming sword. There was dialog between them but my pen was too slow, although I believe WK said, “This is my power” or “This is my time.”
It was in effect the best commercial for the EE ROTK that will ever be made. It was better than some movies in fact with its perfect pacing, character development and amazing effects. It was just lovely.
However, the footage wasn’t over, just the initial preview. The panel talked at length (if you haven’t heard) and consisted of Billy Boyd, David Wenham, producer Rick Porras, DVD producer Michael Pellerin and a New Line publicity representative whose name was not recorded in the official TORn notebook.
Before summarizing the content of the panel, indulge TORn with a brief account of what is so vastly different between any of the Lord of the Rings previews at this and previous Cons and the all-too often seen standard promotions for other films.
Have you noticed the difference between the quality of features on the LOTR DVDs (particularly the extended editions) and some other DVDs? Chances are if you thought a “behind the scenes” look at a film was standard, boring or if it felt too commercialized or fake, it was part of an EPK or Electronic Press Kit. Studios hire epk productions to visit the set of a film for a day, film whatever happens to be going on, conduct short interviews with those concerned and then pass off the production to HBO or another electronic outlet who calls the commercial an “HBO First Look” which is actually a 30-minute commercial for a film. In some cases these commercials end up as “documentaries” on DVDs or are shown at Comic-Con. Actors or directors use words like, “brilliant” “genuine” “visionary” and “organic” to talk about their films or co-workers; consumer beware.
In contrast to that, Peter Jackson has put together, for several years now, a special reel for Comic-Con that is unlike everything the previous paragraph talks about. This writer will never forget sitting next to Tookish and Quickbeam at Comic Con 2000 (before I was a TORn staffer) and seeing genuine footage for the first time from Fellowship. This was no EPK, this was a few guys in a far away land laboring on something special and sending a message directly to those in the room saying, in effect, “We hope you like what we have done. We know you are invested emotionally in this project and we hope we don’t let you down. Here is some footage.”
The Wizards, Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee were in chairs along with Jackson on set saying “hellos” to the Con. Lee’s resonant bass voice sent a chill down my spine, confirming for me how obvious and right he was to portray “the voice.” In the years since, Jackson hasn’t let us down with his powerful footage. Actors aren’t paraded in front of the camera to spout off caned quotes for an epk company, they just talk genuinely to a camera and footage that matters gets shown.
Back at Con 2004, during the conversation between actors and producers, more clips were shown – actual segments from the extended edition. The first involved Faramir and Éowyn (Miranda Otto) in the Houses of Healing. Éowyn is depressed by the oppressive darkness and Faramir comes to comfort her saying, “I do not believe this darkness will endure.”
Slyly the two end up holding hands and then she falls into his embrace. Wenham revealed in the chat after, that the two actors worked together previously on an Australian radio play. In the play the two of them were supposed to be making love in a bath and they found everything so funny that the director apparently became quite annoyed when they kept laughing during dialog.
The second clip, shown after Boyd said, “And now I get to be in a scene with David Wenham,” involved the self-doubting Faramir and the self-doubting Pippin. Pippin is heard talking to himself and the two try to help each other feel better. Pip supports Faramir with, “You have strength too (like Boromir and Denethor) but of a different kind. Your father will see it in the end.”
Pippin, doubting himself for swearing loyalty to Denethor, is told, “Generous deeds should not be chaffed by cold council,” and Faramir loans him his own childhood armor. From the discussion, it seems that Boyd filmed the scene with Wenham present but than had to go film his absolute final frames of film (directed by Rick Porras) while Wenham filmed his portion of the film with a memory of Boyd’s work and a body double. There was a segment, either here or back in the preview where Faramir says, “I would not take the ring,” which should help fanatics relax a bit. Boyd also cracked on Porras for filming Pippin looking around a corner so thoroughly. “There are only so many ways you can look around a corner,” Boyd quipped.
Boyd shared a story of a prank being reversed on Monaghan and himself just before shooting the initial Treebeard work. The night before the pair took a five-hour drive to the location, new scripts were delivered for the next day’s work. The version they received (made 100 percent believable with watermarks and other official presentation) was quite different and unusual in that it called for the pair to climb Treebeard only to fall and be snagged on branches as they fell.
Surviving the fall, the pair discovered in the exchange of Hobbits and tree, they had lost all their clothes and were now cold. “Hold me Pippin,” were to be Merry’s words in the faux script. Dom was sporting a fat suit at that point in filming and they wondered how it could possibly work.
The final official clip, with a Jackson intro describing it as “a bit of fun”, was of the three hunters traversing the paths of the dead. After Aragorn shouts, “What say you” the army dissipates and there is a minor earthquake. Following the tremor a few skulls start pushing out of the walls, and they gradually increase until the heroes are fighting to stay out of the Niagara Falls of skulls. Billy Boyd kept one of these for his own collection until recently when he tossed it away on a cleaning day. He regrets the loss now.
Several times during the DVD discussion, Pellerin was characterized as the final authority on the shooting of The Lord of the Rings. He knows and remembers more than the actors do. Boyd and Wenham explained that during lengthy interviews for the DVD (12-15 hours) Pellerin would remind them of anecdotes and experiences they had themselves forgotten about. While 7 million feet of LOTR footage was shot, Pellerin’s crews shot perhaps 12 million feet, documenting the experience.
One final clip was shown that will never be on the DVD apparently, as Pellerin and his co-workers knew this particular interview was a joke. Monaghan related a fictional story where he invited Viggo Mortensen over to his own home for a pre-Oscar celebration but Viggo never returned his calls. Eventually Monaghan found that Mortensen was having his own Oscar Jell-O party with casts of the Oscar statuette in gelatin. Those attending the party were required to smack Mortensen with the Jell-O while saying, “You ARE the King,” “You ARE the King,” “You ARE the King.” A Mortensen reaction with much laughter was also filmed.
Perhaps shooting less footage but no less passionately was TORn’s own film crew the Ringers crew. Technical difficulties delayed their presentations’ video opening but the director Carlene Cordova, producer Cliff Broadway, director of photography Josh Mandel and author of “The Last Unicorn” Peter Beagle entertained while filling time until technical problems could be resolved.
When the glitches were fixed – after Beagle’s favorite joke which drew laughter and simultaneous groans – the crew launched into coverage of their movies. Eventually five separate segments were shown on the screen, with actors, fans and others, all talking about the different meanings and influences of Tolkien. Faces ranged from leather spiked patrons of last year’s Con to Andy Serkis to Ian McKellen. Footage was gathered from all over the world in places like Wellington’s premier for Return of the King and Salt Lake City’s 1,200 people party at the 12:01 a.m. screening.
Anecdotes were shared but most importantly, fans had a glimpse of themselves talking about the book by J.R.R. Tolkien and the films that were a result of it. The film talks with fans who are common and unrecognizable as well as those who have attained fame and often have injected a bit of their Tolkien influence into their work. The list of more famous fans includes several of the “Rings” actors as well as Clive Barker, David Carradine, Cameron Crowe, Terry Brooks, Forest J. Ackerman, Colleen Doran, Geddy Lee, Terry Pratchett, Brian Sibley and Royd Tolkien among others.
The film is hopeful about being shown in a film festivals starting early next year and then perhaps it will be picked up by a major distributor so that it can go into wide release.
(In the spirit of full disclosure I am a credited second-unit director on the film.)
Posted in Old ComicCon News