At the recent Ring*Con 2003 I got the chance to catch up with Rohan-extraordinaire John Leigh (Hama). It was an early Saturday morning, yours truly was still recovering from the night before, spent talking about the fast and dangerous life of a Rohirrim!
Disclaimer: the sound on my tape has turned out to be quite useless so this is a best-of interpretation of what was said, bear with me…
John Leigh as Hama in The Two Towers
John can you tell us how you got your part in the movies?
Well we auditioned.. a long time ago now. We all did in New Zealand, all the actors. About a year and a half before I actually got the part. I originally auditioned for Sam Gamgee. Obviously I didnt get that part… So a year and a half later into filming they came to shoot the part of Hama, and they hadnt casted it yet! So I auditioned again and got the part.
If you could have picked any other part to play, would Sam Gamgee be the one?
Yeah I think so. I would have loved to play him..
Its a good role because in a way he is the heart of the picture, you know. Hes the every man that has to make the sacrifices.. hes the hard worker. Hes not the Ringbearer but without him it would never have happened.
What was your most memorable experience on filming The Two Towers?
Meeting Christopher Lee. And Ian McKellen. Those are two actors I have admired for a very long time, and getting to work with them was just… (the next word sounds a lot like woah but I dread using it for obvious reasons. Lets just leave it at the fact that John loved working with them!)
This is your first fan convention, right?
Yeah, yeah it is.
Are you having a good time?
Im having a great time, thank you.
You are obviously very popular here, even though your part in The Two Towers was not that big, how do you feel about that?
Well it is very nice if people appreciate what you do, so thats a good thing. It doesnt happen in my country, heheh…
Did you expect peoples reactions to be like this?
Not for me, certainly. Im good friends with Craig Parker and Mark Ferguson and theyve done it before so they were telling me about it. But when I came out, man.. hahaha… And its just.. we can give the fans a little bit more then just being there. I mean we can entertain people…
You are quite an entertaining man, I mean weve seen you on stage and you make people laugh..
Well you made me laugh…
The panel you did with Bruce Hopkins; that was just improvising or did you plan anything?
We didnt know what we were going to do. But hes done so many so I thought; Ill just follow Bruce! And he so enthusiastic so I just kinda grabbed on and we rode the horse!
John Leigh during his panel
Tell us what it was like being on set, filming your part. How did your day look?
It was pretty long actually. We had hair and makeup too of course, though not as much as the Elves and Orcs and Uruk-hai with the ears and all the prosthetics… We had long wigs and beards, I didnt have my own beard this is a much better beard… And I think the wig I had was human hair, worth about 8.000 dollars. And the beard was expensive as well so.. you had to be careful when smoking, heheh..
And after makeup youd go to the set?
Yeah.. first thing we did of course was to put our costume on, which wasnt much for us because mostly its armour. Then we did the makeup, the wig and the beard and also we got dirt on us.. because we ride around on horses a lot. I dont think the Rohan wash a lot heheh.. Well of course theres more important things to do. Like killing things.
And then wed go through and get our armour put on and finally the cape. And the helmet! We got that too if we were to be wearing them, but I never got to wear mine which is a shame because it was a beautiful helmet. Not as beautiful as Eomers or Theodens but after that it was the nicest! I kept carrying it around so people could see how beautiful it was.
Did you film a lot of scenes that didnt make it into the final cut?
Not many no. There was one scene in which I am informing Theoden about what we think we should do. And because in The Two Towers Aragorn is the one that says: We should go to war. And me and Bruce (Hopkins Gamling) were going like Yeah we should probably go to war. But they probably didnt need it. As well as the funeral-scene of Theodred thats on the Extended DVD, I might be in that briefly as well…
Were you sorry that your character, well, died?
Yeah, very sorry. I would have liked to have made it to Helms Deep. That would have been nice to have fought alongside the King.. yeah.. But you know, its a fast and dangerous life, being a Rohan. And Bruce did a good job of looking after the King anyway.
How hard was it to film the scene where the Warg attacks you? Most of it mustve been computer generated?
Yeah most of it is. I pretty much.. I fell of the horse and I looked back up. Thats was pretty much all I got to do. The rest was all CGI. And it was only when I first saw the film when I thought: Ohw.. so thats what happened. I probably should have looked more scared.
You said you read the books when you were young, were you a big fan?
Oh yeah I loved them! I read them for the first time probably when I was about eleven, and then again in my early twenties. I wondered if the magic was still there because you know as a child your imagination is so much freer. It was still there.. Getting the part was actually like a dream come true.
But I, like a lot of people, thought it would be too hard to make. The film. But you know, you come to a point where the technology has also allowed us together with some of the vision and some really great actors.. to bring it to life. And you have this amazing landscape that offers all the scenery you need to create that world. And suddenly it could be done!
Is there something you would like to share with us? This is my hung-over way of interview people by the way…
Yeah! If you havent already been here: come to this convention. Come to Ring*Con! Its fantastic. And Im working, and Im still having fun, so there you go, hehehe…
Okay thats great, thanks John!
You are welcome. And look, you go through it, you made it. I thought you were very good!
I was, yeah. Hahahah…