True-Hearted Easterling

I noticed you posted a link to the Gen Con site but haven’t posted any reports yet. It was a great con. The crowds were generally friendly and well-mannered, the con volunteers were generally helpful and knowledgeable, and we had multiple opportunities to interact with the stars if we were patient. Personal highlights for me:

I hoped to meet each of the LOTR stars and tell him something personal, and I was able to. The first thing that struck me at the Oscar Party when Sean Astin came out was how incredibly good looking he is in person. When my turn came to get something autographed from him (a copy of LOTR at one of my favorite Sam passages) at the guest of honor booth, I told him that he is incredibly good looking in real life (he seemed boyishly pleased to hear that – “Really?” he said while gazing deep into my eyes – eeep!) and that it’s a credit to his acting that I never think of that while viewing FOTR or TTT. First he teased me about not finding his good looks distracting during the movies, but then he said he understood what I meant and thanked me very sincerely.

I also had John Rhys-Davies sign a favorite Gimli passage in my book and had the incredible experience of having him read the closest Gimli dialog outloud to me in Gimli’s voice! I told him that Legolas and Gimli were always my favorite characters from the book, that I knew making the movie was a bit of an ordeal for him, and that I was so happy that they cast a real actor and the right actor for Gimli when they could have easily compromised on Gimli in particular to make the filming with Legolas and Aragorn easier. He honestly seemed to appreciate hearing that. And he tickled me when we got our picture taken!

At the Decipher booth, I told Brad Dourif that I’m a huge Star Trek fan, that the only thing I’d seen him in before TTT was the Voyager episodes where he played Lon Suder, and that I knew he’d be perfect when he was cast as Grima because I knew he could play the bad guy while showing the bit of humanity still left in him. He thanked me politely. Brad Dourif was very quiet and very polite, and he has absolutely beautiful eyes in real life.

Crysolas, a member of the Chicago Fellowship, won second prize in the Fantasy category of the costume contest as Legolas. She looked fantastic and we were able to get into the ballroom and cheer loudly for her as they announced the winners and voted on the best costume overall. When they called her name she came forward and did the little Legolas bow with her hand over her heart that was just perfect. Although we cheered loudest for her, we also cheered for a guy in a great Sauron costume – I must say it was a little weird cheering for the Dark Lord.

There were two Weta seminars, both very interesting, conducted by Daniel Falconer. It was delightful to hear him talk about how exciting it was to see the final films and recognize when his own drawings had made it all the way in. The fat ent who bashes two orcs together was one of his and he was thrilled to see what was done with him in the attack on Isengard. I commented that the Easterlings are the coolest looking bad guys in Middle-earth and was thrilled to hear him say that Peter agrees and we’ll be seeing more Easterlings in ROTK because of it.

The first thing John said at his Q&A session was “No, I do not have Orlando Bloom’s phone number.” I got in line to ask a question almost immediately and started out by saying, “Speaking of Orlando Bloom” which made him roll his eyes. I told him I thought it would be fabulous if they make The Hobbit if he would play Gloin to Orlando Bloom’s Thranduil and asked whether he’d be willing to play Gloin. He emphatically said he would never, ever take a part that involved so many prosthetics again, but that he’d love to play Legolas’s father with the long blond wig. Isn’t that a delightful image! Then he said he’d even play Legolas’s mother and pranced about the stage!

And finally, the highlight of Sean’s fabulous and incredibly personal Q&A. Someone asked him about one of the scenes in ROTK where he and Elijah Wood are at the top of the volcano. He told us that crying on cue was always very difficult for him as an actor up until he filmed Rudy. He had a breakthrough in Rudy during that wonderful scene where he reads the letter that lets him know whether he has made it into Notre Dame on his very last chance to apply, but said at that point he could not control himself. In fact, he said that what you see on screen is him trying not to cry until he was supposed to! So he described filming this scene in New Zealand in which he felt he’d finally graduated – he could cry when he needed to but in a controlled fashion. He said they were given new lines right before the filming and then said something like, “I was cradling Elijah in my arms and saying this incredible poetry” and it all just clicked. He described it as a sacred moment and said he couldn’t believe it when Peter Jackson came over after a take and Peter was crying! We were all basket cases just hearing Sean tell this story! To me it was especially poignant that Sean didn’t describe himself as “Sam cradling Frodo” but referred instead to himself “cradling Elijah,” using his friend’s name instead of the character’s.

And this report comes to us from The Billified One:

This was my first con and I really did not know what to expect. Since others will probably do a much better job describing everything that happened, I will not go into all of that here. But I do want to say it was an enjoyable experience all around.

I was able to meet Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, and Brad Dourif during the weekend I was at GenCon. I have met other celebrities through the years, and I can honestly say that no one I have met could hold a candle to these guys. They are so kind, enthusiastic, funny, genuine, and sincere. They had to have been very tired after dealing with hundreds of fans all wanting autographs, photos, etc. But you could never tell by the way they treated each and every one. They always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. After the first time I met John, they were trying to get him to his Q & A, but he would not leave! They had had to cut some people out of the line, and those people went and got in the line for Sean who was up next. John found out and came over and spent a good 10 minutes more signing, talking, hugging, and laughing with several fans. No matter how many times the volunteers insisted he go, he refused them.

I was able to make it for the last bit of John’s Q & A, and I really enjoyed it. He talked about Treebeard, vintage cars, and politics in the UK. Very interesting man, I have to say. Then came Sean’s Q & A. I really felt like I learned more about who Sean is during that hour. He spoke openly about everything that was asked, which ranged from the usual questions about his family, to a question about his spirituality. He is really a fascinating man, very intelligent and very funny.

At one point as I was looking through the exhibit hall, I came across a huge screen with a demo of the ROTK going on. There was a crowd of about 20 of us standing their with our jaws on the floor! It looks AMAZING! If the movie is anything close to what we saw on there, it will indeed be better than the other 2!

The folks at Decipher were talking about the Tom Bombadil card coming out, along with 3 other characters from the books that were not in the movies. And they said it will actually be somebody portraying Tom on the card as opposed to artwork. He would not tell us who, or what other 3 characters were coming up. But it sounds exciting!

All in all, I would have to say my first con experience was amazing! I want to thank Brad, John, and Sean for their amazing patience in dealing with so many fans, and for their incredible kindness. As much love and respect as was shown to them by fans was returned, and I would say maybe even to a greater degree. Thank you all for making this a wonderful and unforgettable experience for me!

P.S. As I was talking to Sean, his assisstant got a call on the cell. He then told Sean that an autograph he donated raised $762 for Reading Is Fundamental!