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Archive for January, 2004

Viggo’s Prank Call

Thanks to everyone who sent in this quote from People Magazine: The Lord of the Rings crew (including Elijah Wood, Sean Bean, Peter Jackson, and Dominic Monaghan) celebrated their best-picture win at the New Line party by calling Viggo Mortensen- tending to family business elsewhere in L.A.- collect. “He accepted”, said Monaghan. “We gave him a whole load of abuse and then hung up on him.”

Posted in Old Main News

360 Degrees of Wellington

Wistari writes: I know its old news but the image is pretty cool -360 panoramic (mouse moveable) image from the Welllington premier. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

Life, the Universe, and Everything In Utah

Heather writes: From February 19-21, Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, will host Life, the Universe, and Everything: the Marion K. “Doc” Smith Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy. That is a very long name for a fun and educational event that’s now on its twenty-second year of existence. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

Life, the Universe, and Everything In Utah

Heather writes:

I love your site. You do a wonderful job of keeping it up-to-date, interesting, and user-friendly.

For once, I have info you may wish to add to it. From February 19-21, Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, will host Life, the Universe, and Everything: the Marion K. “Doc” Smith Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy. That is a very long name for a fun and educational event that’s now on its twenty-second year of existence.

The symposium will feature a number of panels and presentations related to the Lord of the Rings, as well as the movies, artwork, and related works of fiction. There will be a presentation on Tolkien’s linguistics. At least two panels will focus on the movies’ costumes. One panel will discuss the movies in the context of translating works of fiction to film. Friday evening’s variety of activities will include LotR trivia games. In addition to the LotR-related activities, the symposium also features panels and presentations on writing, art, gaming, media, and CYOW (create your own world, à la Tolkien–topics covered this year include social movements, politics, the history of warfare, a weapons demo, and creating a believable magic system). We’ll have several writing workshops. We’ll have dancing, feasting, spontaneous filking, an art show, and all manner of good, wholesome fun. Guests include Jim Conley and Bill Widder, representatives of the prestigious Writers of the Future contest; Bob Defendi, rising star in the RPG business; Sam Longoria, the actor who brought the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man to life and has done amazing amounts of interesting stuff; Michael R. Collings, professor and poet extraordinaire; Dave Wolverton, well-known sci-fi author; and David Farland, well-known fantasy author. Best of all, the symposium is free to the public! Registration, as well as most events, will be on the third floor of BYU’s Wilkinson Student Center. [More]

Posted in Old Special Reports

Making The Biggest Film Production Of All Time

Nazz writes: Richard Taylor (Visual Effects Supervisor is head of the Weta Workshop) and turned out to be one of the great surprises and delights of the entire press junket. Richard’s eyes sparkle as he discusses what he loves. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

Making The Biggest Film Production Of All Time

Richard Taylor (Visual Effects Supervisor is head of the Weta Workshop) and turned out to be one of the great surprises and delights of the entire press junket. Richard’s eyes sparkle as he discusses what he loves and he’s immensely passionate ­ much more so than (where I must admit I felt he was a bit of a windbag, since every interview seemed to catch him in stern and stoic mode, sounding somewhat like he was practising an Oscar speech ­ sorry Richard! It was for this reason that I, and so many others, fell under his charm so quickly). I just like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Richard for being so generous and personable.

Since we’ve done the round table, how’s about taking a different focus for this one-on-one interview?

“Now’s your chance,” Richard grins.

You’re about to work on a remake of King Kong. I would imagine that for you, as head of FX, this would be a mighty challenge. Were you, like stop-motion guru Ray Harryhausen or even your mates Peter Jackson and bigatures’ king Alex Funcke inspired back in the early days by the original (Funcke revealed his excitement to me personally about working first on a movie trilogy of his favourite books and now an as faithful as possible’ remake of his favourite movie; and especially creating the great gate which protects the natives of Skull Island from Kong. , after a chance meeting ­ of all places – at the toilet door of the Wellington Howard Shore symphony)?

“Unfortunately I can’t talk about Kong, contractually! But I can tell you that I didn’t actually see Kong until much later in my life because we had no access to it on the TV and had no access to the movie houses. I didn’t actually see my first video on a video player until 21 years-old; so I was fairly unaware of it. Other Ray Harryhausen movies, most definitely inspired me [it’s a common misconception is that Harryhausen was the FX genius behind Kong. He wasn’t. However it was during his childhood first viewing that he made his critical decision to pursue stop-motion filmmaking as a career].

“My biggest inspiration in fact came from the Thunderbirds. The works of Derek Meddins, who was the special effects technician that made the models and effects on the Thunderbirds. That was a huge inspiration I had a real crush on Lady Penelope for a while ­ little hottie that she was [laughs].”

It’s great you can umm, admit that (actually I did too when I was knee high to a grasshopper but I thought that was a purely English thing).

“So King Kong came later in life. Peter introduced me to King Kong.”

Did you enjoy the rest of the Gerry Anderson series, like Joe 90, Captain Scarlett et al?

“Oh yeah, without out a doubt. Absolutely. I was a Space 1999 buff. I was so into that show and so loved the technology and the models. So I didn’t ever really relate to how I could be a model-maker in the TV or film industry when I was a teenager but I just knew I wanted to make models for a living. I thought it would end up being more to do with the theatre or shop-window displays, things like that. I really was inspired to make models for a living never thinking I’d ever end up here [laughs].”

Can we go over some of the initial steps that brought you along this path?

“Sure. I’ve always enjoyed making things. I’m not wildly artistic. I’ve made an artistic life from hard work as opposed to artistic genius.”

Richard’s characteristic modesty doesn’t necessarily carry over to testimonials from friends and associates. I bumped into a Uni-mate friend of Richard’s on the way back to the airport, who freely described Richard’s college/Uni work as outstanding, amazing and incredibly diligent ­ noting one particular occasion when he turned up with a project he’d made overnight for an assignment that left everyone else’s work for dead and unintentionally made them all seem very amateur hour. That Uni-mate is now a daring, photographic reporter who makes his living travelling to and shooting some of the most thrilling and/or unseen wilderness of NZ.

But I digress

“But I’ve enjoyed making things. And if you’ve got a mind full of fantasies, growing up in New Zealand and you want to realise them, you’re going to have to make them with your own hands. You’re not going to find them at the corner store. So that gave me the impetus to start doing things. I met my partner, Tanya, when we were 13 but ultimately, at the age of 15, we decided that we would try building a career out of making things. So we were making models, though we didn’t know what they were for.

“But when we went to Wellington and discovered the television and film industry, it was a revelation and realised there could be an outlet for our efforts. We were captured by the idea of creating models for film and about three years into our careers we met Peter Jackson. And he, likewise, was utilising miniatures, models and puppets to create the worlds in his head. I would like to think that we saw in each other a very similar and interest in trying to realise these ideas.”

Would you say there was an instant person-to-person chemistry between you? I imagine it would’ve been great to find another like-minded person after all that time.

“It was. He was the first person we’d met that was just INTO it, that sat and watched cool movies and really introduced us a great deal to the world of special effects and the special effects industry. He was so intrigued by the history of special effects and knew so much about it. Unlike ourselves, he had been a filmmaker since the age of eight and had the intention of, one day, becoming a special effects technician. I don’t think he had ever originally thought he might be a director.

“But there was a wonderful feeling that we had found someone who could inspire us and, in turn (hopefully), we would assimilate that inspiration into the product Peter needed to tell his stories.”

It’s easy for us in journalist land to wax rhapsodic about how you were always meant to work together ­ because working relationships with long-term filmmaking buddies rarely go back as Tanya, yourself and Peter’s does ­ but can you put your finger on an early moment when you realised you really had to hang onto this relationship?

Well we never really talked about that. We never would it’s not quite like that as such. But we just knew by the fact that we were in the same vicinity, we had no intention of ever leaving Wellington and we had exactly the same goals; which were: using our creativity and technical ability to the highest levels that we could that ultimately our paths would cross. And 10 years ago, we cemented that by going into business together: Peter, Tanya, Jamie [Selkirk] and I, all set up Weta as a company and then Camperdown Studios as a company ­ which has really given us the tools to realise the film projects we want to work on.”

And that’s grown exponentially.

I now live in Adelaide ­ and it’s given me a theory about smaller, more remote cities. Do you mind if I sound you out with it?

“Sure.”

In isolated places, you tend to do things only because you want to not peer pressure or for fame, but because it’s what you want to do. And genuine, original voices tend to emerge a lot better in that isolation. But also the amount of determination you need to have is enormous, because if you are going to ­ for some reason ­ make it, it’s going to be against all odds.

“Correct. That’s exactly it ­ and very well put; because we went seven years before we met another person that did what we did. So we were working in a vacuum and a vacuum to the world that was Wellington, New Zealand ­ and never reckoned that we could possibly do it some other way or even that this was unachievable. I never stopped to say, “gawd, this is harsh. Should we really do this?’ We just did it. And it was bloody hard at times and it still is hard. We do challenge ourselves all the time, but we never, ever thought that we shouldn’t be doing it because we hadn’t been told how to do it.

“Ignorance is often a great ally. Embracing the unknown and just charging in is a good way to work in life. You can come unstuck or trip yourself up but it’s better that you trip yourself up occasionally than that you never get on the road at all. And the people we continue to hire from New Zealand predominantly come from rural upbringings; outback New Zealand where they’ve developed a culture of giving it a go. There’s a cliched New Zealand phrase that describes the mentality: you grab what you’ve got and you give it a go. There’s a New Zealander called Richard Pierce that arguably flew before the Wright Brothers [perhaps this provided the inspiration for Colin McKenzie’s flight’ in Peter Jackson’s excellent mockumentary Forgotten Silver, which starred Thomas Robins aka Deagol]. I think that that the immensity of him has been lost in the debate over whether or not he flew before them.”

Colin McKenzie?

“That’s right. Forgotten Silver suggested it. Good, I’m glad you saw that. But what was truly great about Richard Pierce is the Wright Brothers were living in an aeronautical community, discussing aeronautical concepts and theories with other people, the world over. They were collaborating and were well financed ­ and all tribute to them, they got off the ground. This guy, Pierce, woke up one morning in New Zealand and decided that he would throw himself into the sky ­ and stay there. And endeavoured, therefore, to build a contraption that would do just that ­ with no influences; in fact the opposite: he had extreme levels of uncertainty around him. Was he completely mad or foolhardy? But he did indeed achieve it. And that’s the testament to that kind of tenacity and vision that exists in the Perths, Tasmanias, Adelaide, New Zealands, and the outback areas of both our countries.”

That leap of faith can be assisted by that fact that, you mightn’t know if what you’re attempting is possible but you don’t know you can’t do it either.

“No. Until you fall on your face, you didn’t know it was going to hurt. We’ve always operated on that mentality.”

I’ve been so proud that these movies have been made in our part of the world by people from this part of the world. But I always had a suspicion that with you guys, it was a case of discovering you had the chance to make The Lord Of The Rings so you just went for it and worried about the gravity of it later; if at all.

“No we never went into it with that mentality. It’s hard to believe it today, but we never thought, this is a great chance for New Zealand to showcase itself, to prove to the world that Weta can do it , that New Zealand can do it.’ We never thought that. We always thought, shit, this is a great opportunity to make a lovely movie as well as we possibly can.’ That was the challenge. You don’t head off with the intention of winning a war. You head off with the intention of challenging yourself and making the best product you can. The results we have today are the relative to the way we challenged ourselves, not how the expectations of the world challenged us. I think that, ultimately, that’s what made it the movie it is. It’s come from the hearts of the people that made it, as opposed to the expectations of the audience, the punters, the peers and critics.”

So much of the films captured the Zeitgeist of the way the fans imagined the world of Middle-Earth. We’re talking about everything from the way you used the art of Alan Lee and John Howe when you could have sourced any of the other thousands of artists that existed (it’s arguable that in he true hearts and minds of Tolkien fans, only the work of Lee, and to a lesser yet formidable extent, Howe and Ted Nasmith, caught the spirit best while still leaving room for the imagination of fans. The one artist I personally had bothered to hang on my wall was the one artist you used. In hindsight it seems like the only choice, but that’s just not the way it was back then) to the music you used. There were so many fears.

“I’ve got something to add to that. When I was at this country boarding school, I won an art award. I was 15 and there was one book shop in the one town that I was living near and it had one art book in it and that art book was Faeries. I sculpted those characters, I drew those characters, I put them on my wall. Twenty years later, Alan Lee walked into our lives.” There’s a distinct moment of lingering disbelief in Richard’s voice here.

Do you think you’ll be able to continue working together?

“I’m sure about it. He is an English person that wants to return to his home n England. He’s been away on a long working holiday but I don’t think he considers himself to be a Kiwi. He wants to return back to the beautiful village in southern England where he lives. But I think we’ve forever cemented a relationship that will bring him back to our shores. As we hope with John Howe as well. All testament to John, for he mustn’t be forgotten in it all, because he did great things.

“But you’re absolutely right. It was somewhere in the ether that these films were going to be made by this group of people at this particular time. Technology took until the end of the 20th Century to catch up with Tolkien’s vision. Peter Jackson, coming from English parents and upbringing; his aesthetic, mentality and ethics were just right at that time, to tackle a work of this stature.”

And that’s all we have time for.

“Well thank you. And a special thank you for those questions. They were very good.”

Well thank you Richard.

Posted in Old Special Reports

‘Rings’ characters discuss Oscar snub

Jan. 27, 2004 MINAS TIRITH (AP) The city of Minas Tirith has been abuzz today over the news that ‘The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King,’ while receiving 11 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, did not receive any nominations for acting. [More] Story by Molly J. Ringwraith

Posted in Old Main News

‘Rings’ characters discuss Oscar snub

Sadly, I don’ t know where this came from. Bouquets to the writer Molly J Ringwraith, whoever you are!

Jan. 27, 2004 MINAS TIRITH (AP) The city of Minas Tirith has been abuzz today over the news that ‘The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King,’ while receiving 11 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, did not receive any nominations for acting.

“Eleven nominations?” said Pippin Took, of the Shire. “Well, that’s good news.”

His friend Meriadoc Brandybuck responded by swatting him over the head with the newspaper and protesting, “But the cast is a part of this movie! Aren’t they?”

Their kinsman Frodo Baggins shared Brandybuck’s dismay. Upon reading the list of nominations, Baggins commented with an ironic chuckle, “They’ve left out one of the chief characters: the cast. I want to hear more about them.” Waxing solemn and soulful, he added, “The movie wouldn’t have got far without the cast.”

“You almost don’t want to watch the awards ceremony,” contributed Baggins’ gardener and loyal valet, Samwise Gamgee, “because how can it be happy? How can the awards go right when so much bad has been nominated? Folks in that Academy had lots of chances of voting for these actors, only they didn’t.”

Legolas Greenleaf, of the Mirkwood realm, commented somewhat cryptically on the Academy’s choices, “A red sun rises. Lame decisions have been made this night.” When asked to clarify his opinion, he told reporters that he had not the heart, for the grief was still too near, and retired for a walk in the forest.

His companion, Gimli son of Gloin, had sharper remarks to make upon the chosen nominees. “Mystic River? What madness drew them there? You’ll find more cheer in a graveyard!”

But wizard Gandalf the White urged a more optimistic approach. “Do not be too eager to deal out Oscars in judgement,” he advised. “That is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the Oscars we are given.”

Meanwhile, his colleague Saruman the formerly-White was in favor of retaliation against the Academy: “Too long have those peasants stood against us,” Saruman said, referring to the Academy’s failure to give any fantasy film the Best Picture Oscar yet. “Leave none alive! To war! There will be no dawn for film critics!”

Treebeard, of the Ents, told reporters after much deliberation and exchanging of long names, that he was in agreement with this proposed course of action. “There is no curse in Elvish, Entish, or the tongues of Men for this treachery,” he declared. “My business is with Beverly Hills tonight. With heads made of cotton candy and rock.”

“I do not doubt their hearts,” Eomer of Rohan conceded. “Only the size of their brains.” He then returned to the task of loading up forty of his men and horses with toilet paper and Maps to the Stars’ Homes, for a “secret midnight mission” that he regretted he could not give details about.

At least one individual, calling himself Smeagol, claimed to be making plans to steal the Oscar statuettes. “Oscar is sooo pretty, sooo golden,” said Smeagol. “We will take the statuesss once the Hollywood snobses are dead! Ye-esss, precious!” He then quickly added, groveling at the feet of reporters, “No! No! We were only joking! Smeagol wouldn’t hurt a fly! Nice movie industry.” He crawled away before he could be questioned further.

Still others appeared not to care about the snub. Lady Eowyn of Rohan said with a shrug, “The women of this country learned long ago that those without Oscar nominations may still get dates to awards ceremonies. I fear neither critics nor fans.” Lord Boromir, a native of Minas Tirith, dismissed the concerns, claiming, “Gondor has no actors. Gondor needs no actors.”

But overall the mood was one of mild disgust. As Lord Aragorn put it to reporters, “The day may come when the Academy is able to find their ass with a flashlight. But this is not that day.”

Posted in Old Special Reports

Hall Of Fire Chats This Weekend

The drama between Frodo, Sam and Gollum lies at the heart of Peter Jacksons ‘The Return of the King’. The dynamics between the three travellers change as they slowly make their way from the Emyn Muil to Mt. Doom. Not only is there a growing strain between Frodo and Sam, but as they get closer to Mordor the Ring wears down what remains of good in the tormented mind of Smeagol.[More]

Posted in Barliman News

Hall Of Fire Chats This Weekend

The drama between Frodo, Sam and Gollum lies at the heart of Peter Jacksons ‘The Return of the King’. The dynamics between the three travellers change as they slowly make their way from the Emyn Muil to Mt. Doom. Not only is there a growing strain between Frodo and Sam, but as they get closer to Mordor the Ring wears down what remains of good in the tormented mind of Smeagol.[More]

Posted in Old Main News

Hall Of Fire Chats This Weekend

The drama between Frodo, Sam and Gollum lies at the heart of Peter Jacksons ‘The Return of the King’. The dynamics between the three travellers change as they slowly make their way from the Emyn Muil to Mt. Doom. Not only is there a growing strain between Frodo and Sam, but as they get closer to Mordor the Ring wears down what remains of good in the tormented mind of Smeagol.

What kind of understanding exists between Smeagol and Frodo? Why does Frodo turn on Sam the way that he does? What do you think about the way Sam treats Smeagol? We will look at all these personal relationships and how they evolve. Also we will discuss how the balance of power shifts between Gollum and Smeagol. What finally decides the struggle in Gollums favour do you think? Join us in #thehalloffire as the take a look at this strange guerilla group.

Times:
Saturday Chat:
5:30pm ET (17:30)
[also 11:30pm (23:30) CET and 9:30am Sunday (09:30) AET]

Sunday Chat:
7:00 pm (19:00) CET
[also 1:00pm (13:00) ET and 5:00am (05:00) Monday morning AET]

ET = Eastern Time, USA’s East Coast
CET = Central European Time, Central Europe
AET = Australian East Coast

Do you have a possible topic for Hall of Fire? Drop us a line at
halloffire@theonering.net

Posted in Old Special Reports

Crowning Achievement

Although composer Howard Shore has worked closely with other risk-taking directors, he seems in Peter Jackson to have found his ultimate muse. Howard Shore is unquestionably one of the great modern film composers. With over sixty scores to his credit, among them collaborations with Tim Burton (Ed Wood), Martin Scorsese (the upcoming The Aviator), David Cronenberg (Crash, Dead Ringers, et al) and David Fincher (Se7en), few of Shore’s industry peers can match his versatile and prolific career stemming from his days as a musical director on Saturday Night Live. [More]

Posted in Old Main News