Two more people sent in their reports from Collectormania. The event, held last weekend just outside of London, must’ve drawn hordes of LOTR-fans. Probably because it was attended by five members of the cast: John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Andy Serkis, Bruce Hopkins and Sala Baker! The first report is from Mary.

Collectormania 3. Milton Keynes. Saturday 3rd -Monday 5th May. Me. M. R and R. We were there. And my legs now hurt enough to provide plenty of proof of time spent walking round stalls and standing in queues that look so deceptively short until you realise that everyone is actually desperate to have a life-changing conversation with a star.

Collectormania 3. Milton Keynes. A place which seems to be unprepared for the possibility of tourists (understandable if you have ever been there) and needs to be introduced to the concept of SIGNS which might actually help you to know where you are heading for.

But we found the location in the end and in a wonderful quirk of fate managed to park right outside the entrance. Ha! Milton Keynes also needs to be introduced to the concept of long-stay parking and perhaps encourage people to spend more than 5 hours without having to rush out and buy another parking ticket, though without the lure of an event such as this, we decided that 5 hours is probably the peak time for suicide having endured too long in a place that must surely have been designed by Satan himself.

I digress. After the initial period of childish excitement something along the lines of small child finding themselves in the middle of an enormous sweet shop with access to all the bext sweets, it was into the line to see Virginia Hey (Zhaan from Farscape) consisting of one other person; there is no justice in the world that more people were willing to pay Paul McGann £20 and stand in a ridiculously over-long queue than come and talk to this wonderful lady. And a wonderful lady who would write “To dearest [me], tons of love” on the lovely 10×8 free photo selected from the variety on offer. She even spotted that there was a tiny flaw in the picture and carefully picked up a blue pen and coloured it in!

After that it was merely a short hop into the next line to see Warwick Davies – finally the chance to meet Willow himself, and to top it all off I actually had a decent question to ask him about his commentary for the recent DVD release of Willow. He was genuinely pleased that I liked his commentary and added that he now has to do 6 of the things for the Leprechaun movies – not pitying him that job! He mentioned that one line he liked was cut from the commentary, about General Kale, who was named after a movie critic of the time, but after her death it was deemed disrespectful to include it, though Warwick reckoned it aptly summe her up!

Both Virginia and Warwick were allowing people to take photographs, and I cursed the fact that M had made off with the camera and was quite possibly at that very moment supping coffee whilst I was mingling with the stars, unable to preserve the moments for posterity in any form other than my memories (time was spent at night piecing together the order of events, but got unfortunately tangled with numerous other activities from the day… the old memory is not what it used to be… what was I saying?!) and Warwick was even coming round to the front of his table to stand with the fans – and at this point I was somewhat pleased the camera wasn’t available as I would have been slightly embarrassed at my current inability to bend at the knees. Though I will add that having a walking stick at busy events is a great boon. Apologies to anyone who has permanent scarring…!

We checked out the lines to see Billy Boyd and Andy Serkis, but made a cunning plan to endeavour to avoid the queues by arriving early the next day, and instead did the tour of the stalls, being more than momentarily distracted by the stall selling replicas of weaponry from movies… I say to you Arwen’s sword… and please excuse me whilst I mop up the drool from the keyboard. I am sure I really CAN justify nearly £200 on a sword… can’t I?

The stalls were more than slightly crammed in, and the circumstances of the event, with it being an open event in a shopping mall, meant that it was very, very busy indeed, and it was really very hard to browse. But I did at least find a Han Solo action figure for my mother, which goes a small way for refusing to pay out for an actual Milennium Falcon…

The highlight of the day was the screening of Fellowship of the Ring in the evening, a small and select screening in one of the smaller screens at the cinema, and thus a somewhat intimate affair. And sadly there were a number there with whom I had no desire whatsoever to get so intimate with – if you cannot distinguish between watching your DVD at home (“Yes, you CAN scream and talk and shout and quote lines from the movie”) and going to the cinema (“No you may NOT scream, shout, quote and otherwise drive your fellow movie-goers to distraction despite constant requests to shut the **** up”) you should not be going out of the house without your mummy and daddy.

Let me not get sidetracked into the hell that was screaming pre-pubescent girls who should quite possibly have been drowned at birth or at least locked into the toilets for the duration of the evening.

The screening was preceded by a talk from those members of the cast who attended the event – Billy Boyd, Andy Serkis, Sala Baker, Bruce Hopkins and the irrascible and irresitible John Rhys-Davies, who held court for a good 45 minutes answering questions and regaling us with anecdotes from the making of the movies. Nothing new was really revealed, but nonetheless it was delightful to be allowed the privelage of being so entertained by such genuine and talented people who share a common desire to share their passion for an incredible movie.

Day two consisted on my part of large amounts of queuing and waiting. Despite getting there well before the advertised starting time there was already a wait of over an hour for Andy Serkis and Billy Boyd, so it was time to test out the virtual queuing system of “take a ticket and come back when we call it!” Or at least when they call a range that contains your number, which does at least keep actual time standing in a queue to a minimum, though it then results in an increasing paranoia as you realise that 1) You cannot understand the tannoy announcements with the numbers and 2) no one appears to be updating the boards keeping track of which numbers have been called.

But I got there in the end, and first of all saw Andy Serkis, who came across as very natural, very easy going, and not yet requesting the paper to be moved under his hand after signing too many autographs! He was also more than willing to have photographs be taken, and I left feeling that I had met a lovely guy. One then had to battle out through the hoardes of “Boyd-ettes” who were staring fixedly at Billy as he met with those actually queuing and dribbling occasionally with the odd shriek thrown in for good measure. Credit to Billy for not requesting them to be put out of their misery with tranquiliser darts.

It was back into line after that to get my chance to meet Billy, who took a moment before signing my picture to rearrange his tablecloth and make himself pretty again. He was most amiable and when I asked how hard this kind of event was, replied that it could be worse – he could be digging roads! Of all the people there, he seemed the most tired, though one could never say that he wasn’t giving his all. Kudos to these people who slog their guts out making movies that people may not even like, and then take time to meet and greet those of us who genuinely appreciate all that they do. I am sure they know how much we think of them, but thanks again all the same.

Billy came round the front of his table for photographs and then I could grin my way madly off to try and locate Sophie Aldred. There is a reason for this. Honest. Not least that I used to be a huge Doctor Who fan, but my class watch Words and Pictures every week and she presents some of the shows. I could just imagine their delight if I could show them a photo of me with “their Sophie” and tell them how I had met her. But sadly she and Sylvester McCoy had vanished into the ether, not to return until after we had departed to go see X-Men 2, and the realisation that we were spending a large proportion of this weekend in cinemas.

The evening saw the screening of The Two Towers, which was markedly different from the previous night in several ways.

Firstly, we had the honour of getting John Rhys-Davies in a good 10 minutes early to talk and answer questions: “Did you train for all the fighting you had to do?” to which his reponse was an emphatic YES! And he had gotten quite good at it, too, and then arrived on set to be covered in heavy armour, have his face covered with prosthetics AND THEN asked to go on his knees! Can you fight? Argh *falls over*!

We had perhaps some of the best seats available in that we were right above the entrance / exit and thus could see the guests arrive before everyone else, as they waited to come out. This proved most beneficial when they left, and I leaned over the side with my camera, eliciting a wave and a huge smile from the wonderful Sala Baker, and a fabulous funny face pulled by Andy Serkis! Oh if only I had a scanner!

It was the talk before this movie that held perhaps the greatest moment in the entire weekend, as Andy was asked if he could do his Gollum voice, and he proceeded to perform Gollum’s monologue for us all to see. This was an incredible performance, and received a standing ovation which was much deserved and hopefully went some way to make up for his Oscar nomination snub. If anyone should doubt the talents of this guy and think that all he had to do was sit in a studio making funny voices into a tape recorder, they should talk to “Mr Spandex” himself about his experiences, and the fact that even after doing his scenes he knew that he didn’t really have anything “in the can” like the other actors, and indeed wouldn’t until some year or so later.

Fortunately the screening of the movie was a vastly improved experience compared to the previous night, for posisbly several reasons: a number of the screaming-contingent left before the movie to chase after the guests, and of course they do not yet own this on DVD and have thus not had a chance to watch it to death and learn every second forwards, backwards and inside out. Notably, one of the first things Andy Serkis asked US before the Fellowship screening was “Who has seen this movie more than 5 times? More than 10? More than 15?” steadily increasing the numbers, as hands resolutely stayed up beyond 20 times, concluding with “And who of those of you still with your hands up has a life?”Indeed, Mr Serkis, indeed! (And no comments about how many times it was I saw a certain other movie and memorised the entire script before it was even out on video – I was young then… that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it!)

The weekend was wonderful. I cannot extoll the virtues of the guests enough for always smiling, always ready to talk, giving us more than we could ever hope for.

Here’s to many more!