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If you can imagine more than 500 people standing outside in the nippy February air, in a very long queue that wound on forever; all of them being forced to wait for 6 or more hours with nothing but gruff security guards scowling at them and pesky T.V. cameras sniffing them up and down – and if you can imagine these people HAPPY…. just thrilled to endure all this for the chance to meet Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Sean Astin face-to-face, then you’ve got a good picture of the reality. This past Monday these joyful fans swarmed the Century City Shopping Center in Los Angeles, and they didn’t mind any gauntlet of evil they had to endure to get in.

The payoff was spectacular.

When folks finally got inside Brentano’s, they headed for the special seats that were set up in a comfortable nook of the store. Appropriately, it was the Fantasy/Sci-Fi section. Only the first fifty people from the front of the line were allowed in for the special Q&A Discussion, the rest had to wait outside while PJ and Company revealed many fascinating secrets!

These were very lucky fans, and they knew it. Keep in mind they were among the first to meet with the filmmaker since The Fellowship of the Ring was released in North America. They would be the first public audience giving him direct questions and feedback about the movie.

When the guests took their seats there was a riot of applause. Really unusual to hear that kind of noise in a quiet bookstore! You could feel tremendous energy in the room. PJ was likewise just as happy to be surrounded by so many Tolkien fans. His partner Fran had a glow about her that was unmistakable. Then again, I’ve met her before and she always has this magical Elf-like glow around her, but this time it was special. Philippa was looking smart and fresh, with a bright smile that would flash across her face every few minutes. As always, Sean was warm and genuine, the picture of laid-back comfort…. he still seemed to be in “Sam” mode. It was delicious to see them all sitting there.

And, no surprise here, PJ had all eyes on him! I mean, look, his film just received a stunning 13 Academy Award nominations just a week ago, and now he was sitting in front of the people who most wanted it for him. He was truly in his element.

I’m sure you’ve already read the wonderful report from Rosie and Stef of the Official Fan Club – who presented some beautiful handmade artwork to the speakers. Very classy, very sweet gesture. The delightful Lia represented the store and moderated the event with aplomb. She took a variety of questions that fell somewhere between the drooling and the literate.

PJ talked with us about all this and more:

Storyboards were difficult to maintain early in the production, because certain sets were not yet constructed. Specific movements of characters had to be reworked for the camera AFTER the mini scale models were built, giving PJ an idea of how to storyboard the sequence all over again. [Revelation #1: Barbie dolls in Middle-earth costumes were used on the scale models to help plan camera movements. The “Gandalf” Barbie doll had strands of cotton balls for a beard!]

The reforging of Andúril (which everyone has been squawking about being absent from Fellowship) will be the first thing shown at the beginning of The Return of the King in 2003. It will be a great way to reintroduce Aragorn’s subplot and bring it center stage. [Revelation #2: PJ admitted he had a problem with how audiences would relate to a stern, serious Aragorn standing in Bree and dramatically pulling out a sword only to have it be a broken piece…. assuming they knew nothing of Tolkien, he might unintentionally get laughs.]

Plans have been made to have Sam and Frodo reunite in the summer. Sean Astin and Elijah Wood will head down to New Zealand for additional shooting in June. Other cast members may also be required for pick ups. [Revelation #3: Fran Walsh has scripted some brand new scenes for the hobbits that heretofore did not exist.]

Andy Serkis is a very busy Gollum these days. And that makes PJ even busier. After WETA is finished with their work, many hundreds of Gollum effects shots will be edited into the existing footage shot over a year ago. Mr. Serkis is actively involved in the motion-capture process, where his physical performance in a special optic suit is recreated with the Gollum effects, his unique voice to be added in later. [Revelation #4: Mr. Serkis has recently claimed that Gollum was “a Ring junkie” and he constantly needed his “fix.”]

PJ had a unique problem with the Stone Street Studios being so close to the Wellington International Airport. Many days they had to stop shooting and wait for a plane to go roaring overhead. There was a special “look-out” person who sat up on a hill overlooking the airport and surrounding suburbs. She would sit there all day long, checking the skies and the runway to see if large jets were coming or going, then would radio down to the soundstages to clear the shot for the crew. [Revelation #5: Fran asserts that nearly 100% of the original actor’s work had to be re-recorded later in ADR!]

The super special edition DVD is going to have plenty of material put back into the movie. Retailers plan to have a regular edition out in August, which will contain only the version of the film now playing theatrically…. but later in November/December a huge 4-disc edition will appear with about 30 minutes of additional story! PJ has also just finished recording the director’s commentary track. [Revelation #6: PJ admits that special scenes with Aragorn and Boromir will be included, as will the “gift giving” from Galadriel to the members of the Fellowship. Spontaneous applause broke out when we heard this! There will be lots more that PJ described as “good stuff.”]

Many people directed questions to Sean about Samwise Gamgee, all of them raising the flag in support of my argument – that Sam is truly the most important and heroic character of the story. Sean has a wonderful way of downplaying everything. He had to gain 40 pounds or so to play the character, which he said “wasn’t really so bad,” and laughed.

Philippa took the last question, describing her satisfaction working with an open-minded creative team of writers and actors. She is an intensely smart woman, and she impressed the crowd with her descriptions of the collaborative process. When one of the young ladies gave her a beautiful portrait of the final parting of Sam and Frodo at the Grey Havens, she pointed at Sean and said, “Oh, just you wait until you see him in this scene, he’s so completely brilliant!” Personally, it is the one cinematic moment that I am most looking forward above all others.

The four speakers then moved over to the signing table and got out their Sharpies. For the next two hours, they would sign many books, posters, t-shirts, VARIETY magazine ads, and even a mouse pad or two. A zillion happy fans filed through the store peacefully, all of them showering gratitude and compliments on the filmmakers.

I was the very last person to get up to the table. I shook PJ’s hand and gave him my large red leather edition of LOTR to sign. After such a long day he was still in excellent spirits and we had a warm, but all too brief, little chat. I’m still impressed with how calm and collected he is, even in the middle of this media frenzy that has exploded around him. Down at the end of the table I scooted up close to Fran and said good-bye.

When I looked inside my book later, this is what she wrote:

Hi Cliff – thanks for all your support – you’re the reason we made these movies: thank God for the FANS!
All the best,
Fran Walsh

And it couldn’t be more true.

Much too hasty,

P.S. – Check out our rather large gallery of 30+ Images from the event. [Gallery]

P.P.S. Speaking of fans, what follows is a list of all TheOneRing.net fans who attended this special event…. we wanted to include all their names here on the site and so passed around a little black diary book down the entire queue. Here are all the people who signed:

Beth Case “deliz”
Diana Kellett “di”
Stephanie Newsome “Stef Baggins”
Nan Morris “Rosie Moderator” – LOTR Fan Club
Donna Harclerode ‘Eridona’ – LOTR Fan Club
Ingrio Aquino-g “ialegolas”
Rita Del Cid
Jessica Yeo “Eoweniel Starsley”
Catherine Frizat “Strider-Girl”
Angela Panamaroff
Kritina & Kim Morales
Sara Crowder – Las vegas
Jason Crowder – Las Vegas
Elizabeth Crowder – Las vegas
Douglas Dunning
Josh Rubinstein
Abra Mitchell
Mavra Reilly
Monica Huffman
Amalia Wortscheaftion
Steve Marine
Bill Wu
Yu Kailin
Larissa Smith
Chelsea Smith
Michelle E. Burgoyne
Kim Burgoyne
Lisa Gansky
Robin Hunter
Aileen Cho
Mike Waugh
Miguel Herrandez
Valerie Parker (grbggrl)
Ernest Membrere
Nikki Membrere
Aimee Nance
Lap Nhen Tnang
Stacy Tolbert
Janna Longworth
Irene Ochoq
Zena Kapsoff
Dave Hirsch
Jon Britton
Reggie McBride
Steve & Hiromi Gibbs
Keiko Kawanabe
Kyle Fukumoto
Jerry Guanzon
Marianne Minn
Jennifer Guthrie
Connor Kelly-Eiding
Colleen Kelly-Eiding
Melissa Cober
McKenna Kelly-Eiding
Erica Mer
Karen Felice
Mike Brennan
Nancy Brennan
Carol Chapin
Norman Lao
Alexandra Franklin
Chloe McCloskey
Simone McCloskey
Adrienne Herbst-Holmes
Dave Clary
Robert R. Legare
Adam R. Rakunas
William Salguero
Kim Wethe
Amanda Gillispie
Tom Flynn
Jake Flynn
Brett Shulman
Deborah Vaughn (dvaughn)
Michelle Ringler
Michael Bonitatis
Lord of the Fangs
Valarie Vogel
Daniel Kagan
Danielle Martell
Alanis J. Henson
Jill Pesayco
Maurice Daigle
Margaret Kingman
Cailey Hall
Helen Vera
Lois White
Colleen White
Allene Kim
Catherine Hur
Katherine Quan
Jenette Sovilla
Rebekah Sovilla
Rachel Sovilla
Hannah Sovilla
Elizabeth Sovilla
Diana Sovilla
Molly Sauerwald
Ann Zeller
Laura Monjoy
Denver & Jean Carter
Peggy DuVall
Julie DuVall
Maleine Simon
Marbir “The Wood-Elf”
Lotho Sacksville-Baggins (Danny)
Barry the Winkle (SmitGin)
sarah Stueland
Shon Encinas
Michael Bilach
Kate Cammack
Kamala, Nicole and Stephen Slight
Jessica Edwards
Matt Egan
Sara Martinez
Nick Pappas
Molly Walsh
Sean Kreycik
James Raleigh Campbell
Alex Martinez
Abe Aquino
Daniel Goodland
Darlene Levin
Samuel Levin
Kimberly Levin
Danielle Annanel
Lindsey Pruitt
Phil Juarez
Brian Harkins
John A. Zebieta
David Eaton
Angeza Crotts
Beatrice Bollon
Emily Podany
Molly Lewis
Louise Adler
Ben Bolton
Greg Bolton
Jerry Podany
Nicholas Podany
Josh Poslusny
Molly Minus
Mike Woltz
Elaine Cameron
Adriana Roze
David Roze
Steve Lainer

(Sorry to those of you who signed the book and do not see your name here. Some of the writing was not legible enough for us to actually attempt the name.)