*** NOTE: As you can imagine, the last few days have been quite hectic! Here is the first report and look for another tomorrow. Eventhough we are not allowed to bring cameras to the official events, I do have some pictures of Cannes and Nice to share. Expect them tomorrow. . ****Want to jump to the footage review without reading my dribble? Click here.

Friday May 11th, 2001 – First Report

I woke up 3 times in the middle of the night just to be sure I would not miss my train. After all, there was no way in heck I was going to miss the Lord of the Rings press footage and a chance to talk with the cast members. Each time, I actually insisted it was 6am while staring at a clock that said otherwise. Finally, thanks to a wonderful wake-up call from Leo and Maurice (lordoftherings.nl) I jumped in the shower, checked my email, and Amy (my girlfriend), and I booked out the door to catch the express train. Apparently, it was really express, because we missed it. After reaching Cannes, and meeting up with Leo and Maurice (now nicknamed ‘the Giants’), we decided to get a head start on the day and get some breakfast before the New LIne office opened for business at 9. While waiting for the New Line office to open, and right in the middle of a serious call, I was shat upon by one of Cannes’s glamorous pigeons. The shatting was not as traumatic as trying to get one of the street vendors to lend me some napkins. After being rejected I finally shelled out the 2 franks to open one of the public rest rooms and grab some toilet paper.

But anyway…back to Lord of the Rings…

I arrive at the New Line press office to claim my badge and bag of cool stuff. So whats in the bag? Well, first off, there is a REALLY unique map of New Zealand. One side of the map is designed in a Tolkien style with markers denoting where certain scenes were filmed. The other showcases New Zealand’s diverse landscape, and lists the famous movies that have been filmed in this beautiful conuntry. Next in the bag is a well designed book that showcases the entire movie with full page images and a review of the whole project. Later on, I was lucky enough to have Ian Mckellen sign mine! A page of slides, a movie synopsis, and some other random, not too critical, things round out the pack. The synopsis is absolutely amazing. While I can’t just send out the text of it, I can say that the changes in the story are very minimal. The film will flow wonderfully. On a scale of 1 to 10, this adaptation is at least a 9. (The Only reason I don’t give it a 10 is because of the absence of Bombadil.)

So back to the Cinema Olympia. I have never been in a theater that had leather lounge chairs as its main seating. Those huge US theater chains should consider this extraordinary luxury for us normal folk. Even so, the theater was gorgeous. Perfect to experience our first look at LOTR on screen. Also, Peter Jackson had a sound system flown in from Paris just for this screening.

It’s at this point (10 minutes before the film begins) that I met Harry from AintitCool and Joram from Ringbearer. Both were just as excited about these films as I am. Harry was particularly interested in hearing some of Howard Shore’s score before the day had ended. By the end, he got his wish.

And so it begins…

Rob Shea, a big wig at New Line, took a few moments to remind the audience that the footage was not finished and not representative of the complete movie. To quote him, “THIS IS NOT A MOVIE.” I guess the traditional media usually take these screenings and review them as if they were the movie. So the point was made, and Mr. Shea then introduced, the man, the myth, the legend…

Peter Jackson!

(rounding applause)

PJ, like Shea, emphasised that the footage was in its early stages, but very close to done. He described the three parts to the footage and mentioned that the music for the second clip (The Mines of Moria) was in fact that of Howard’s Shore.

The first clip was about 6 to 7 minutes long and emphasised the story, the plot, and the characters of Fellowship of the Ring. The major highlight of this clip was the scene with Gandalf visiting Bilbo before his 111th birthday. The use of forced perspective, and human to hobbit scale was absolutely perfect. Any doubts that this process would not work should be laid to rest now. It is seamless and completely believable. To quote Maurice, sitting next to me, “It was just amazing!” More details on this clip to come in the future.

The second clip was simply mind-blowing. 14 minutes of the Mines of Moria scene! I can safely say, Lord of the Rings will surpass mine, and your expectations after seeing this footage. The character interaction, fight sequence, and CG (even in its unfinished state) worked so well. I honestly believed that I was in the Mines of Moria being hunted by hundreds of orcs, a cave troll, and the balrog. Yes, I said the Balrog. I HAVE SEEN THE BALROG! But anyway, this clip is absolutely amazing. With Aragorn and Legolas wielding bows, and Gimli raging with Dwarfish anger, the orcs charging Balin’s tomb didn’t have a chance… until the Cave Troll showed up. Talk about identifying with the characters in peril. Peter Jackson masterfully edits this scene to bring you into the excitement. You will not be disappointed. But what about the score Calisuri? Tell us about the score!!! Well, the music definitely fit with the images and mood on screen. As it turns out, the music from this scene was deliberately made to be ‘dwarfish.’ Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to listen for really fine details, but I do know that Harry was listening for that. I’m sure he will write in detail about it in the future. The only possible negative was a quick couple of seconds that sounded like the beginning of the ‘Hercules’ theme. I’ll try to find the clip online in a few days to explain more.

The last section of the footage was a montage of clips from ‘The Two Towers’ and ‘Return of the King.’ Basically, we had a lot of quick shots of armies, the remaining characters, and some absolutely beautiful landscapes. We saw Frodo talking to Faramir about the Ring; David Wenham is perfect for this role. Leo, Maurice and I actually mistook him to be Sean Bean as Boromir! There are also a few shots of Eowyn, and a grizzly shot of Theoden, in a very old and degenerated state (almost to the point of diseased looking). At one moment, in the montage, I think we actually saw Wormtongue being tossed out of Edoras down some stairs. There was so much in this footage that it is nearly impossible to relate it all. When I get back in the States, I will try. Everything ended with a quick glimpse of Frodo in Mount Doom.

And that was it. The audience, made up of mostly hardened media, burst out in applause. Everyone was psyched. Not a nay-sayer in the bunch. If there is any proof that these films will rock the world, just look at how the print press relay their experience. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of positive responses and down-right excitement in the near future.

With the screening over, we boarded a bus and headed to the Chateau de Casdelleras to the interviews. At the time of our arrival, they had lots of LOTR props and scenes under construction. I’ve just seen a hobbit hole in real life, and I don’t think I’ll forget it!

Tomorrow look for our reports from the interview circuit with Dominic Monaghan, Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee and John Rhys-Davies.

Then on Sunday, the Party.