Leah Jakusovszky writes:

My Adventures as “Estella Bolger” at the WETA/New Line Panel

Behind the Scenes at Comic-Con
How I Got There

A few people have asked me how I got to be chosen as the Hobbit Costume model during this panel. Well, it all started in November of 2002 when

I was one of the winners of the costume contest at New Line’s FOTR Extended DVD Marathon in LA. (I was Samwise Gamgee….that’s my one and only costume!) Someone remembered me as a Hobbit from that event and my name got dropped later at New Line. I’m also a member of the One Ring Circus costuming group which boosted the name recognition. Other than also being willing to spend most of Saturday at the Con in makeup, that was it. (Thank you Laura, Adrianna, and Sharon!!!!!! You guys rule.)

Behind the Scenes at Comic-Con

I was escorted from the exhibition floor to a curtained section at the back of Ballroom 20 by New Line Staff. I was allowed to enter with Sharon who is working with New Line right now on some projects. Security was very tight and once I entered it was obvious why. An interview was just finishing up, with Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Elijah Wood and Kevin Smith of “Clerks” and “Jay and Silent Bob” fame, wearing Hobbit ears, about ten feet in front of us. We were quite stunned and were unable to get the camera out in time to get a shot of this. (Drat!) Before we could shake ourselves back into awareness, Elijah had ducked out of the curtains and was heading for the Main Hall to enjoy the Con, followed closely by two sprinting bodyguards.

This prompted a lot of security-related discussion backstage. Everyone else vanished somewhere in that high-security celebrity way. Little did I know this was only the beginning!

For another couple of hours we were prepping for the panel itself. I was introduced to the WETA guys, including Richard Taylor, Greg (costumes) and Ben (makeup/prosthetics). Greg showed me the costume and gave me a list of what was in the costume and what order they should be put on. I was very pleased. Butterscotch, Gold, Apricot, and Green plaid! Very pretty and super-Hobbity….and I couldn’t wait to put it on.

But…..problem. In the restroom everything went on okay but the
bodice. Um….hello…..a size 8 maybe? It was so small and I couldn’t fit my arms in too well…..but Richard and Greg paid close attention to my costuming dilemma and made it fit. I really appreciated how nice WETA people were to me during the whole thing. In a while I had some brief instructions from New Line, some pizza and soda, and was well-dressed. It was very interesting watching the Elf Warrior and the Rohan Warrior get dressed into their armor while I waited. But the coolest thing ever was watching Sala Baker’s transformation into the leader of the Uruk-Hai. Super-scary and super-cool!

I anticipated what I was to do onstage while sitting at the makeup table on a tall chair that was still warm from Sala Baker. It seemed pretty easy, I was just supposed to get up on some boxes and pose. I had been told something about “interaction” with Dominic Monaghan and I wondered what that was going to be. During my musings I chatted happily with Ben who started in on my feet. My feet took the majority of the makeup process. First, my feet were put in the squishy foot-slippers (I loved the fact that they used the Pippin feet for me….apparently Billy Boyd and I have the same food size!) and very cold silicone-based glue was painted on my soles and heels. Two people were working on me, one for each foot. After pasting, the techs glued thin strips around my ankles to smooth out and to fill gaps. Then they sponged makeup on my feet up to my legs in three different skin tones to blend everything in. The foot hairpieces and the final touch-ups were going to be done onstage as a live demo. But looking down, my feet already looked like they had naturally grown about five inches longer! And the hair on my toes was already in…..and boy was it long. I laughed about this and many other things with Ben, we had a lot of fun chatting.

Then it was time for ears. These were latex ears that were molded for Elijah Wood. I thought they looked very natural and Ben pointed out they had a slight translucence to them. No additional painting was needed. They went on quite easily, around my entire ear, and just a little gluing and disguising along the edges was needed to transform my ears into Hobbit ears! Hooray! I got a rather girly brown curly wig with bows in the back. Ben test-fit that and then saved it for the onstage demo. He was also saving the foot hairpiece for the demo, and he showed it to Sharon and I beforehand, and we both were very excited that the box was labeled “Sam-Hero”…….Yay! This meant that I got Pippin’s feet, Frodo’s ears, and Sam’s foot hair! I felt very very lucky to see and wear all the real Hobbit items!!!!

Ben and Sala both declared me Hobbity….done!

Backstage time. It was dark and I could not wear my glasses, so Ben and Sharon had to take good care of me and lead me around. I instructed Sharon to tell me if any celebrities showed up. I also let her know that I had a book to give to Sean and told her where it was. We sat and listened to the Orc chant that was raised during the panel. The audience sounded very large and I was a little nervous.

Ben and I walked up to just behind the curtain to wait for our cue.
Then Dominic walked up the steps alone behind us. I turned around and recognized him even with my poor eyesight, and called “Dom!” and waved excitedly. His response to this was to walk up and kiss me right on the lips. I learned, one, that Dom is a great kisser. And two, that he doesn’t believe in wasting time! Immediately after the smooch, I walked onstage into some very bright lights. I probably looked a little dazed. Um, yeah.

Behind the Scenes at Comic-Con
The Panel

Aside from the fact that I couldn’t hear or see anything, I had a great time posing on the little platform and being Hobbity. I held up my skirts while Ben talked about my feet and worked on attaching the foot hair. Then he carefully applied different colors of liquid makeup to my feet and ankles using a spatter brush technique. The wig went on and made a huge difference in my appearance. I became aware that Dominic was then supposed to check out what a good job they had done making a Hobbit. He came over and checked me out down to my feet, then lifted up one of my hastily applied foot hairpieces and called Ben out on it, all in good humor, of course. Then he commented on how Hobbits had bosoms and Elves didn’t. Dom then quickly gave me a hug and another stealth kiss on the way in. I made a sound similar to “Whoop!” (the dialogue for this little episode was covered more completely by TORN’s earlier article on the subject. I was a little dazed, still…..) Neither Dom nor I could hear very well nor could we see because the audience was basically too dark. Dom squinted for a while into the audience while the talking went on and tried to wave to some people. Dom looked warm so I fanned him a little with my scarf and he laughed. Andy Serkis said something funny at one point, and Sean and Elijah came out which was of course a huge uproar. I couldn’t believe I was standing on the stage with all of them! The best part was when Sean moved in to talk to me for a second, he leaned over and said “Thank you *so* much!!” It turns out that backstage my dear friend Sharon had gone and retrieved the book and given it to Sean himself, at which point he had opened it AND read my letter on the spot before he got onstage. Sharon also got to meet Elijah briefly on the way in, while he was attempting to peek out the curtain to check out what was going on. The report from her is that his eyes are indeed amazing in person. Everyone was in good spirits. Go Hobbit actors! We love you all. *thumbs up*

As I said before, Dom and I were kind of at loose ends up there since we couldn’t hear anything so we started talking a bit. I’ve had some requests for a complete transcript of what Dom and I were gossiping about on stage. I think I’ll just keep that between Dom and I. Let’s just say that Dom darling, our ten-minute whirlwind romance was something I will never forget. *saucy wink*

Behind the Scenes at Comic-Con
WETA Booth Photo Shoot

Then it was time to head down to the main Exhibition Hall to cause a little hubbub at the WETA booth. I followed Sala, because he was tall, but I was such a tiny Hobbit that I kind of felt lost behind him. No matter, it was fun parading and watching all the stares he and the Armored folks behind me got!!!!! The four of us were placed behind stanchions next to the incredible Gollum statue, and the photographers moved in. We all posed in our various ways. The Elven warrior struck poses with her sword and was very impressive. Sala Baker, the mighty Uruk-Hai, posed and growled and was generally the belle of the ball. He growled at me a little bit too, I cowered, and the crowd though that was kind of funny to see. I worked it and did the best I could to get attention with my furry feet and actually got some gawking and furry foot close-up snapshots. This lasted for the better part of an hour and then we were all escorted back.

To the curtained area to have my feet and ears removed, which was a quick and enjoyable process. Basically, having your feet massaged by charming New Zealanders is a fine way to top things off! Ben, did I thank you already? 😉 I also got to watch the incredible Orc leader strip all the stuff off to turn back into Sala. Richard Taylor thanked me for being such a good subject and everyone wished me well and said goodbye. It wasn’t the last I’d be seeing of everyone that weekend, though, since the One Ring Circus still was up to perform at the Masquerade. I joked with Ben as he was removing my feet that I was just going to go off and put new ones back on for Sam! I had been informing everyone about our LOTR costumed group the whole time and they were really interested. Sporting a One Ring Circus T-shirt, I reminded Richard and all the WETA folks once again to be sure to come and see us with a “One Ring Circus! WHOOOOOO!” sort of goodbye as I exited the curtain. As it turns out, they did attend the Masquerade…..and stood up and cheered for us….Wow! Thanks Richard and WETA guys, I’m glad you all could make it and I’m so glad you enjoyed yourselves!!!!! And thanks to New Line for making it happen for me. It was truly one of the best and most exciting experiences in my entire life!!!!!!

(THANK YOU SHARON for taking all those pictures with my camera…..) (SPECIAL THANKS TO EMMA ABRAHAM and IAN SMITH for granting me permission to use your photos in this report.)