One of the most traumatic experiences in my life took place during the Cannes Filmfestival in 2001. We got invited to attend all the Lord of the Rings-goodness around, interviews with the cast in attendance, a truely awesome party on a great location and so and so forth. However; every invitation we saw said very clearly; no cameras allowed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people walking around with cameras on one night as I did during that party, and after that I vowed I’d never leave my camera at home again, because it is very frustrating to walk around all these stars and not being able to get your picture taken with them, as you might imagine.
Why am I telling you this in a report about RingCon 2002? Well, because I’m almost ashamed to admit that I forgot my camera. Stupid me, I’m sorry. In my defence I will say that I had to get up very early and only had about four hours of sleep. As a result I’m afraid I won’t have any pictures to go with my report, but if you want to see some awesome pictures jump over to Irascian’s website and check out his reports on RingCon which will future some great pictures from everyone who was there (and feel free to email him and ask for more pictures with Craig Parker on them, he won’t mind)!
Okay, let’s get down to business; day one of RingCon 2002 in Bonn Germany! The event was set to start at noon on friday with a pressconference for those who managed to get a presscard or a lecture on Tolkiens ‘smaller works’ by a German man who happened to know a lot about these books. Because I had managed to get a presscard, and because my German is a bit rusty I went for the pressconference. Alas for me the first bit of the pressconference was in German as well. This immediatly brings me to the point that for those non-native German speakers in attendance it was slighly annoying and sometimes confusing that the first language used on the convention seemed to be German, except for some of the lectures and all of the panel-discussions with the actors. I think the reason behind the choice as German for the first language (obviously) was that RingCon was organised by the German website Herr-der-Ringe-Film.de and the German Tolkiensociety, nevertheless I hope next year will be more English-orientated. But I’m rambling again, back to the pressconference.
After the part were the two people who started the idea behind RingCon got to say a few things they switched to English and introduced four actors who would be at RingCon all weekend: Cameron Rhodes (Farmer Maggot), Sarah McLeod (Rosie Cotton), Mark Ferguson (Gil-galad/Witch-King) and Craig Parker (Haldir)! They introduced themselves, told a bit about their parts and then it was time for the journalists present to ask a few questions…
For some reason noone present seemed to have any questions. That’s odd.. Well, on the bright side; more time for me to ask questions. So I immediatly asked Craig Parker about his part in The Two Towers. He confirmed his presence (more about that later) but wasn’t allowed to say much more then that. They then were asked about how they got their parts, some nice stories there which I will all save for a few lines further down but all in all the there wasn’t much news to be found here. I taped the entire thing and I’ll have to dig up the tape and transcribe the most important parts but I’ll save that for a later report.
After that I decided to check out the rest of the conference until it was time for the first panel (with Mark Ferguson) later that day. I wandered around the Games Workshop room which futured some amazing ‘sets’ from Helms Deep, Mordor, Moria and more. The Games Workshop room was always busy with people playing the game (unfortunately I know nothing about it but it looked interesting!), there was a table set up where you could paint your own figures and they had the The Two Towers-trailer playing all the time. There’s something vaguely odd about hearing German voices in the trailer and it would not be the first time I would hear people complain about the dubbing of the movies in Germany.
Next up was the retailers room (Bree, all rooms had names from Tolkiens works) which, because of my lack of money, I skipped through very quickly. I can’t stand the sight of all these things I really want to have being spread out on a table, it makes my wallet itch. The center-area of the convention was filled with little stands of various kind such as the German distributor of the Decipher-cards which set up some tables on which you could play the game (much like in the Games Workshop-room it was always busy at these tables as well), Elbenwald.de had a stand, the guys who promoted the Universal Lord of the Rings computer game had a stand and there was much, much more. The first floor of the convention was mainly used for lectures although a few fantasy-movie projects had their own room to promote their movies and the German Tolkien society had a room there.
Shining in absence were the stands from New Line or perhaps the German distributor of the movies (I haven’t seen a single Extended DVD Box all weekend) and Decipher, who both for some reason decided this event was not big enough or not important enough to attend I guess.. Boy were they wrong!
Anyway, after all this wandering it was time for the first panel. First up was Mark Ferguson, who played the part of Gil-galad as well as some scenes from the Witch-King. After his introduction by Master of Ceremonies Marc B. ‘you aint getting your donuts’ Lee he walked on stage (which was beautifully decorated like it was Weathertop!) with a little handcamera filming the fans which was something he would do all throughout the convention (I wonder how many hours of tape he shot).
Now Mark is a great performer, he got along with the crowd really well, he was funny at times but was also very able to tell a good story which made his first panel one of the highlights of the day. During the hour he talked about the prologue and his scenes in it a while. How PJ fought to keep the prologue in and how he thought it was a pity the fans didn’t get to see much more of Gil-galad ‘slaughtering many Orcs very well’. He had a great anecdote about how they scenes Gil-galad’s death scene. Many of you who have read the Art of FOTR-book might have seen the picture of Sauron holding someone up with one hand, setting him on fire and hurling him across the plains of Mordor, well this was filmed exactly like that and Mark Ferguson had a lot of fun telling about how he passed out when they shot that for the first time on a Wellington car park and how sorry he was to see it didn’t make it into the movie (although probably not as sorry as the stunt guy who was set on fire and thrown across the car parc he joked in a panel on sunday).
He talked about the part of the Witch-King, which he got after the actor first casted for the part forgot to mention he was claustrophobic and therefore passed out two times when fitting on the heavy Witch-King armour. And he regretted not being there to shoot the Witch-King scenes on the Fell Beast or the ones with Mirando Otto (Eowyn). He told the crowd he was really looking forward to those, especially since Miranda used to date his brother and had sent him an email saying ‘really looking forward to killing you in LOTR’.
He also mentioned that working with Hugo Weaving (Elrond) was one of the highlights of his work on The Lord of the Rings, especially since the two went to Drama School together, and he joked about how the audience that saw the movie was fooled when they saw Elrond leading ‘his’ (read: Mark’s) army since technically Elrond was only Gil-galad’s personal assistant.
Of course there was much much more being discussed but these were the highlights for me, and the hour went by way too fast. After Mark the stage was cleared for Sarah McLeod (Rosie Cotton)! Now Sarah McLeod would have to be the most charming, sweet, nice person I have had the pleasure of meeting this weekend (of course with all of the other guests being male that wasn’t that hard). Forget about Liv Tyler or Cate Blanchet for a while, Sarah McLeod is it! For some reason though her panel discussion/q&a didn’t go as fluent as Mark Fergusons did, she got a lot of questions that got answered pretty quickly and not a lot of people were asking questions.
However she talked for a fair while about how she got the part after reading for the first time when she was 6 months pregnant and then not hearing anything for a long period of time before she was called and got the part of Rosie. Sarah had worked with PJ before on the documentary ‘Forgotten Silver’ and wanted to be in The Lord of the Rings as well. She also confirmed she had shot quite a few scenes for Return of the King although she couldn’t really say which scenes(I heard something about a marriage, though I could be wrong), or what would be in the movie because it’s too early for that.
A lot of questions were asked about the dance-scene during Bilbo’s Party and Sarah told that it took a week of rehearsing that scene, and that it was a very hard scene to perform on the un-even ground of the party-field while wearing Hobbit-feet! Also she mentioned that Sean Astin (Sam) was a bit of a stumbeling dancer (though thsat was probably acted) and that she had to take the lead. She then continued with telling about all the work she did with a dialect coach in order to get the accent down and that although it was a pity a lot of her lines in the film got cut she was glad she got more screentime in the extended cut, and that her favorite day on the set was the day that she and Sean Astin brought their daughters along to shoot scenes with.
After this panel it was time for a short break before the opening ceremony and we drifted of to the Games Workshop-room just in time to see Craig Parker being wiped of the board by a Games Workshop eployee (apparently he also won a game although I think they probably let him win) before we grabbed something to eat.
During one of the panel discussions Stefan Servos (webmaster from Herr-der-Ringe-Film.de and one of the organisers of RingCon) came up to me and told me the opening ceremony would be very good, but of course I had to see that for myself. Well, I think next time I might as well take his word for it because it indeed was extremely cool! They started playing the soundtrack from The Fellowship of the Ring and on stage eight Nazgul appeared, creeping about and threatening the audience with their swords and then just when you thought that was it Sauron appeared! And I don’t mean we got to see an burning eye on a screen somewhere, no, there was a guy in a huge Sauron-like armoured suit with a mace in his hand and all. It was very impressive! After that all of the guests were introduced (not just the actors but also the people who gave lectures on Tolkien-related topics throughout the weekend), there was the extremely nice Cameron Rhodes (who is a big fan of TheOneRing.net apparently!) who surprised the audience with his line from The Fellowship of the Ring: ‘There are no Bagginses around here..’, there was Mark Ferguson again with his camera, Sarah McLeod (I only know she smiled and then everything else kinda faded, hehehe) and no other then Brad Dourif (Grima Wormtongue) appeared on stage! He just flew in from whereever it was he was coming from and was heavily jetlagged and the crowd went wild when they saw him. And last but not least there was of course Craig Parker who throughout the convention gathered applause by speaking German..
After what must have been like ten minutes of cheering and applauding most of them left the stage and it was time for Brad Dourif’s panel discussion, which was one of the more interesting this weekend.
He started of by telling how he did three auditions for the part of Grima and that in the end he didn’t get it, which was a disappointment, but that he got a phonecall after three or four months with the information that the guy they originally casted for Grima for some reason didn’t want to do the part (which was something Brad couldn’t imagine) and if he was still interested. He then flew to New-Zealand, met with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens and discussed the character with them. He talked about taking the tour through WETA Workshop, which he found overwhelming and one of the most impressive tours in his life, and was full of praise about his dagger (‘it’s the best dagger I’ve ever had’) and his costume and then it moved on to the questions and asnwer-session.
There was quite a lot of discussion about his accent and how he found it very hard to get it right, especially as he was working with all these British ‘Sir’s whereas he was from West-Virginia. And he talked about how hard it was to film all the scenes in the Orthanc chambers, which were mainly exposure-scenes.
Now because Brad Dourif has already seen the finished version of The Two Towers a lot of the stuff he said was very interesting. When asked the question what would happen to Saruman he replyed: ‘I don’t think he’s gonna die soon, but look for things to be different from the book.’ So I’ll leave you all to work that one out.. He also had some very good things to say about how he saw his character; he mentioned he thought Grima really wanted to belong somewhere, that he wanted to be loved and that Grima was an interesting character because he was the only human that ‘turned’. From all of that you could gather he had done a lot of thinking about his character and it all sounded really good and promising!
But of course there was more! He joked about having to wear a dress as a costume and he couldn’t figure out how women put these things on and he told the public it was great to have your own actionfigure and that he thought everyone should be able to have their own actionfigure. He mentioned being very impressed by Miranda Otto (and not just because she was drop-dead gorgeous) and that because Wickerman was one of his favorite movies of all time he was very honoured to work with Christopher Lee. He also had a great anecdote about Christopher Lee who, on set, impressed everyone by being able to throw a rusty nail in the bullseye of a dartboard.
And of course there was the story about his eyebrows getting shaved of for the part of Grima which his girlfriend especially hated and he told that everytime he had to go back to do more shooting or pickup-shots (about three or four times) they had to shave the eyebrows of again, a thing he and his girlfriend always forgot was going to happen..
All in all it was a very, very entertaining hour which really flew by. And with the end of Brad Dourif’s panel the first day of RingCon also came to an end as far as the program was concerned, look back here sometime monday-evening for my report on the second day of RingCon 2002 which will feature the joined panel of Cameron Rhodes and Sarah McLeod, Craig Parker’s hour of fun and games with the audience (oh and there were some serious things being said as well!) and more Brad Dourif!
Meanwhile be sure to check out all the awesome pictures from RingCon that will find their way to this site right here!