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I arrived early for the Fellowship of the Ring showing at Lincoln Center as it was all I could get tickets for at such late notice. Elijah and Sean introduced the movie, commending us for our fortitude in braving the cold. Elijah advised us to all “make the theatre [our] home” for those of us who planned to stay through the entirety. Then FOTR:EE unspooled in all its glory. On a whim, I decided to stay in the area to see if I could get tickets for ROTK, if not TTT. The box office kept insisting that “tix are sold out, dammnit! But come back at 6:30 p.m. anyway.”
I showed up at six for the standby line, with about six people in front of me. At around 6:45, they all got tickets and went in. I proceeded to wait first in line until 8:14, at which time they gifted me with 2 tickets of a supposed 6 or so available. I rushed in to see the film introduced by Elijah, Sean, Andy, and Bernard. They were all quite warm and funny and commended us again on our fortitude amidst the cold.
ROTK played to probably the best crowd ever; an entire auditorium of die-hard fans knew just when to laugh, cheer, cry and shut up to augment every scene. The applause at the end of the film was deafening.
Finally, after credits, the big moment came. Sean, Elijah, Andy, Bernard, and the local host all came out and sat down, and Peter Jackson joined in live via satellite. There was a bit of a delay in his responses, which made for a few awkward moments of hilarity. As soon as he appeared, the actors all got down on hands and knees and starting bowing before the three-story “altar” of Peter JAckson. He responded with humility and laughter, as expected. After a few rounds of mutual congrats (the actors just won an ensemble Critic’s Choice acting award, and ROTK won best picture and best director from the broadcast film critic’s circle), they ripped into the questions from the audience, some of which I will try to remember.
1) They all chose their favorite lines from the movies, both their own and others. Nearly all chose Sam’s “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you” line. ASfor their own character choices, for Frodo, Elijah chose “We set out to save the shire, and we did-but not for me.” Amid chants for “my precious,” Andy Serkis ignored the rules and chose Gandalf’s line in FOTR about “do not be so quick to deal out death and judgement-some live who deserve to die, etc…” Bernard Hill chose, “I know your face.” Peter chose, well, everything.
2) Peter spoke a bit about his chances for adapting the Hobbit. New Line has production rights, but not distribution, and thus far, he says he’s a bit out of the loop. He also noted that adapting the Hobbit would be a bit of a strange process for film, since the whole story is constructed around this quest for Smaug, and then a new character comes out of nowhere to kill him. Then we move on to a battle afterward. He was concerned that it lacked the weight of LOTR to cover for its gaps in logic. But he did say he hoped New Line straightens things out and that he gets a call when they do. He admitted seeing someone else do it would be really “weird.”
3) An audience member complained about the absence of Tom Bombadil and the scouring of the Shire, to boos from the audience. Peter basically went on to reiterate why those segments were best cut, which we’ve all heard a thousand times.
4) Someone complained about the lack of Merry in ROTK, and Peter described a new scene for the EE DVD in which Merry and Eowyn take a break with the Rohirrim on the way to Pelennor and have a “nice conversation.” He mentioned something to the effect that we’ll get much more of each character, esp. Merry and Pippin. He reconfirmed that it would be 4hr. 15 min, although later he alluded that they might only use 40 min. of the extra hour shot for ROTK EE.
5) Bernard Hill had a nice commentary on all of the coincidental parallels between LOTR and the modern “good vs. evil” situation in the world. He said that no matter what side of the fence you stand on, it’s amazing how relevant LOTR is. He also brought up the fact that midway through the press for TTT, Peter had commented to him that the berserker orc at helm’s deep who runs in with the torch to break the deeping wall was essentially a “suicide bomber.” Hill noted that This is a common worry and occurence in our time now, but not at the time they were filming, and he thought it incredibly ironic how that cultural context could actually sneak in.
There were a few other questions, and if I remember, I’ll post again. Near the beginning of the interview, someone yelled “King Kong!” and PJ proceeded to act like KONG (since he was three stories tall) and acted like he was grabbing the actors and throwing them around. They played along and dodged his hands or flung themselves through the air. It was quite a bit of fun, and poignant; it really illustrated just how much of a bond and sense of gratitude there was between everyone who labored on this magnificent gift. They all seemed like such genuine, talented people, and I’m so happy they’ve achieved so much.
One extra tidbit- At one point, Elijah mentioned that Sean Astin was deeply interested in politics and headed for world domination, and PJ started chanting, “Sean for President!” And everyone joined in! After the laughter died down, Sean rubbed his hands together and said in a sinister voice, “All in good time…”
First I should tell you that ROTK remained sold out with no hope of tickets being released when I finally left at 8pm, despite my day-long attempts. Still, there were people waiting (there is always hope!) and they were waiting OUTSIDE in the zero degree temps. I actually hope to read later that some of them got in, as would befit such sturdy hobbits types.
But on to more cheery news.
OK, there was a huge line buying leftover tickets when we arrived but still there were scattered empty seats (it’s a big house). I would say probably 25-30 seats went empty for Fellowship – 10-20 for Towers (and seemingly none for ROTK). The good thing is that you really can see from any seat, the screen is so huge, the sound is perfection. Just after 10AM, a very cute and cheery Elijah and Sean were brought on to introduce Fellowship. My favorite part of the day was how huge the audience response for them was. It was truly thunderous applause, went on a long time, embarrassing both of them, and THEN people stood up and kept clapping even more. I really liked getting to see them experience that. They sort of hung back on the edge of the spotlight rather than moving forward. I think the size of the room and our enormous love for them was a bit intimidating. Anyway, they were sweet and humble and Sean said when he thinks of The Lincoln Center he usually thinks of Lawrence of Arabia or Gone With The Wind and the audience went nuts, clearly believing that LOTR is already worthy of such company. Elijah asked if this was anyone’s first time and got a big laugh. Then he asked if anyone had been at Trilogy Tuesday and about a fourth of the audience waved and yelled. Then they both gave us some advice about how to avoid muscle damage (from sitting so long) and wished us well and off they went. Someone tossed an envelope and Elijah trotted back to pick it up. He held it up and then dashed off to more applause. The movie started, and when the LOTR title came up the audience roared happy applause again. It was an attentive and enthusiastic crowd. Very well behaved. All of Bilbo’s, Pippin’s, and Gimli’s jokes played well and Aragorn’s vanquishing of Lurtz got its usual big reaction. Seeing Fellowship after having seen ROTK is especially pleasing as the hobbits’ innocence is so beguiling when one knows what hardships lie ahead for them.
After Fellowship ended (to more thunderous and sustained applause, there was about an hour’s break. Many people had brought lunch with them and the Lincoln Center staff permitted us to sit and eat right there in the lobby. I ran into a few folks I have come to know from LOTR midnight showings, etc. It was fun to stop and chat about our favorite subject!
Then, for the Towers introduction we were treated first to Bernard Hill. His theatre training showed, as he walked right to center stage, holding a mike and getting the best of the spotlight. He spoke about how he loved working with Peter and playing Theoden, the gorgeous locations and said something with a funny referrence about his neice falling in love with a “horrible man” who needed a shave. We gave him a thunderous welcome and standing ovation, too. Then Andy Serkis was introduced and instead of coming out, we heard Slinker and Stinker arguing about whether to go out or not. Then out bounded Andy, with his coat still on, and we roared for him, too. He talked about how what happened in the world affected the writers and the work, he was very complimentary of Fran and Phillipa. Then he and Bernard stood together with their arms around each other and waved as we applauded all over again. Someone yelled “Thank you!” and I wished it had been me. Then Towers started and again, when the title came up the crowd clapped its mighty approval. It seemed to me that lots of people in this audience were seeing the extended version for the first time. There were big reactions for nearly all the extended scenes; the ones I remember were for “roast chicken” and Gollum’s “ashes and dust scene”, The Eowyn/Aragorn Dunedain scene (featuring stew! heh heh) and HUGE APPROVAL reactions to Legolas/Gimli “43” (every line got a laugh and there was applause at the end). Then even BIGGER approval reactions came for Merry & Pippin in waist-deep water (every line, every reaction got laughs), and then their follow-up scene in the storeroom brought the house down, a real “thank you for that” applause. It was a great day.
I will try not to be too jealous when I read about the post ROTK cast Q & A.
Flourish reports from the Lincoln Center LOTR event:
What a wonderful day! We had not just the very great pleasure of seeing the three films back-to-back in a superb theater with an adoring audience (and with the luxury of meal breaks in between) but the chance to see the actors in person and feel the thrill that ran through the house when they walked out on stage, and the rush of excitement and affection for them that brought the entire audience to its feet to cheer and applaud them. And this was a pretty sophisticated New York crowd, mind you! We basically went wild.
Elijah Wood and Sean Astin introduced FOTR, Andy Serkis and Bernard Hill introduced TTT, and all four of them introduced ROTK and did the Q&A afterwards.
The actors spoke a lot about their surprise and pleasure in finding that people are grateful to them for “getting Sam right” and so forth (someone shouted “Thank you!” from the back of the house), and about their amazement at how big a phenomenon the films have become and their assured place in film history (enthusiastic applause). Elijah asked the FOTR audience how many had already been to Trilogy Tuesday and it looked like about half the 1100 people there were hollering and waving their arms in reply. He appeared quite happily astonished.
Before ROTK he asked how many in the house had already sat through FOTR and TTT, and of course virtually everyone cheered madly. Sean said something about how insane we were, and how we would probably sit through even more if it were possible (loud cheers and applause), but I didn’t get the same sense of pleasant kidding from him that I got from Elijah on the same subject. Sean went on a little too long about “idiots” for tact, I thought.
Elijah also asked the audience whether they thought the EEs were better than the theatrical versions (we had just sat through the EEs of the first two films). Immense cheers!
When Andy Serkis was announced to introduce TTT, he didn’t come out right away–instead there was heard a brief but acrimonious backstage discussion between Gollum and Smeagol about whether to “go out there” or not. Andy won and came out to a very enthusiastic reception.
The films were wonderfully presented and the audience was great. We cheered and laughed, and most of the last half-hour of ROTK was accompanied by huge bursts of happy applause.
For the Q&A the actors were joined by Peter Jackson in the form of a huge video picture live via satellite from New Zealand. They all were relaxed and happy and took questions from the audience with grace and good humor. When the image of Peter appeared on the screen the actors got silly and were bowing down before it, which PJ said was quite appropriate. (I’m not sure he could see the proceedings as well as hear them; I don’t think so.) Then they had him hold his hands out and make scooping gestures while they pretended to tumble about in his fingers. That was pretty hilarious–and probably the cheapest special-effects shot I’ve seen in quite a while.
There was nothing original in any of the questions or the answers–at least not if you’ve been reading about the films even a little bit on the Internet or in the print media! Someone asked about the omission of Tom Bombadil and the Scouring of the Shire and the audience booed him, but PJ gave his usual calm and rational answer. Other questions for the actors that I can recall off the top of my head were about what they’re doing now, whether they had any difficulties working in NZ for such a long time (Bernard Hill said the hardest thing about it was leaving), and what was the most memorable or resonant line they felt their character had in the films.
Sean said, “That’s easy, it’s ‘I can’t carry it but I can carry you.” (huge applause)
Bernard Hill said, “I know your face.”
Andy made a joke about Gollum’s lines that I didn’t quite get because of laughter from the audience, but he said he particularly liked Gandalf’s line, “Do not be too ready to deal out death and judgement. Some who die deserve life…”
Elijah didn’t seem to have an answer ready, but Sean suggested, “The Shire has been saved but not for me,” to which Elijah agreed.
Early in the Q&A Bernard Hill got into a long and solemn monologue–I think in answer to a question about the relevance of the films’ themes of good and evil in today’s world–in which he spoke in rather oblique terms about the way the real world has changed in the last four years and how that gave scary prominence to those themes, and finally he worked himself up to mentioning 9/11 and the Two Towers-Twin Towers thing. There was no reaction from the audience–perhaps it was respectful silence (this was New York after all), but I had the idea that the evening had had such a party atmosphere until that point that just no one wanted to hear about the World Trade Center right then.
I think it was PJ (or perhaps Bernard Hill) who said something about Sean and politics, and PJ was chanting, “Sean Astin for president” which got a big round of applause. Sean responded by saying that there were quite a few New Zealanders at the ROTK premier who were promoting PJ for prime minister “and they weren’t kidding.”
Andy talked a bit about the “addiction” theory that motivated his characterization of Gollum’s little problem with the Ring, and he gave generous credit to the screenwriters Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh (more applause) and to all the technical people he’d worked with. He also mentioned that when his agent called him about a “three-week voiceover job” for an animated character on the Lord of the Rings films, at first he told his agent he wanted to turn it down and said, “There are lots of parts in that movie–can’t you get me a better one?”
Peter had combed his hair and wore a striped polo shirt that the actors kidded him about because they said it was dirty. Honestly, I couldn’t tell.
All the actors have made quite a few films since LOTR wrapped so it’s amazing that they’re still willing to talk about their experience so often and so readily. They each spoke a little bit about what they’re doing next–I think if I understood him correctly that Andy said he would like to continue exploring CGI and motion capture roles as a sub-genre of acting (one very interesting thing about watching ROTK and TTT back to back was seeing the huge improvement in Gollum’s articulation that was possible in a single year). Sean said he had a lot of scripts to look at, and Bernard Hill said he was leaving the screening early “to go to Sean’s room and nick a few of those scripts.” He went on to say that he was very reasonably priced and was sure that Peter would vouch for his good working habits. Solemn nods from huge Peter!
Elijah said he’d shot “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” this year and paid Jim Carrey what seemed like a very backhanded compliment on his acting performance in it–I can’t remember exactly how he worded it but I thought it was one of those damning-with-faint-praise things and it raised Peter’s eyebrows for a moment. Elijah then mentioned the film he’s making in England this spring called “Hooligans.”
Sean said he’d met with Robert DiNiro that day and characterized him as “shy.” He said he hoped they’d be working on something together soon. The audience seemed to agree.
Peter answered a question about a possible film of “The Hobbit” by saying that it is a somewhat problematic situation at the moment since New Line has the rights to make it but not to distribute it, and they would like to have both. He also said the storyline is far less complex than LOTR, which presents filmmaking problems because it is such a linear tale. What would also make it hard to adapt, said Peter, is the ending, in which after all the fuss about defeating the dragon Smaug, he is killed by a character who appears out of nowhere and the story continues on to a huge battle in which the dragon has no part. New Line hasn’t spoken to him about “The Hobbit” at all, said Peter, but if they got the rights he hopes they will because, as he’s said before, it would be “strange” if anyone else made the film.
There were flashbulbs popping all over the place during every appearance of the actors on stage, but virtually no opportunity for autographs during the event unless you were in the front row and caught the actors as they were walking off the stage. No matter–it was enough of a thrill just to be there!
The conversation via satellite with PJ worked reasonably well. As you see,one of the funniest photos is of the 4 cast members on stage kneeling to PJ on the giant screen behind them.
Small scoop: In response to a question about Merry and his character development, PJ said that in the EE there is a good scene between Merry & Eowyn in camp on the way to Minas Tirith and another one later between Merry and Faramir.
The first audience question, can you believe it, was about Tom Bombadil and the Scouring of the Shire. PJ’s response , “Are people still upset about that? They’ve has three years to get over it.” He then repeated his explanation that Tom is just not central to the spine of the story and the Scouring is anti-climactic.
The discussions were quite good – I have a ton of notes. I transcribed a lot of it last night and will finish up after the conversation which is at 2PM today.
Roughly a thousand people attended. it was extremely cold in NY. People arrived just after 9AM and left after the Q&A at 12:45AM Sunday morning.