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Thanks to the Santa Barbara Film Festival’s decision to honor Peter Jackson
with their Modern Masters award in a two-hour ceremony/interview/presentation
at the Arlington Theater last weekend, I had the opportunity to meet a few folks
we all know and love.
My husband and I headed out at 6 (yawn) AM for the ‘fest. After a brief flinging
of the kid out the back door of the van along with a volley of diapers and some
shouted instructions to my sister-in-law in LA, we were hot on the 101, flying
up the asphalt to try and get to SB in time to catch the Screenwriters Panel
featuring Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens at 11 AM.
We get to a nice expensive parking lot in quaint little downtown SB at 10:30
AM. I’m trying to find my spare camera batteries in the back of the van when
my husband pokes me.
“Hey! I just saw Dom and Elijah walk by!”
“I really did! I’m not kidding!”
This gets me outta the van fast and walk-jogging up the street he indicated
to see some homeless punk-teens and an old man sunning himself in his unbuttoned
shirt in front of a café.
“What were they wearing?” I ask.
“I don’t think Dom wears plaid. Elijah, maybe, but not Dom.”
“No, the Elijah-guy was wearing plaid. I know it was him, he had a buzz
(Wrong again, last time I saw him, the boy had hair.)
“Everyone knows he’s grown his hair out. Come on, aren’t you on LJ?”
We ran a few blocks to pick up our passes at the press station and to register
for the Red Carpet at the Arlington for Peej, and took off back up the street
to the Screenwriters Panel in time to catch the last hour of Fran and Phil’s
Both Fran and Philippa were quite funny when they both admitted they’d yet
to start on the script for King Kong. They’d written one years ago I guess,
but had thrown it out in favor of a better one, yet to come to them.
“We’d better get started before August,” Philippa said, as that’s
when they’re due to begin shooting.
Both ladies were great and were asked a lot of questions, but in particular,
Philippa brought up herself the reason why they had Frodo send Sam away in the
script. She said basically it would make little dramatic sense to present three
characters who are in conflict with one another and then fail to let that conflict
reach a conclusion, or peak. What’s the purpose of Gollum if he doesn’t succeed
in breaking the bond between these two hobbits? You can have unresolved conflicts
in long novels, but it’s death on film. (And, for the record, I agree with that.)
Then they were asked if there were any scenes they had written for the script
that they regretted losing in the final extended films. The answer was no, once
the ROTK EE comes out, you’ll see everything they wanted to see on screen as
As the panel broke up, my hub and I moved to the front to stand below the stage
and tried to get Fran’s attention since she was standing near the edge. Unfortunately,
she got swamped by wannabe scriptwriters who wanted to pitch her right then
and there ::rolls eyes:: so we saw a better shot was trying to call Philippa
over who was about to slip behind the curtain at the far left of the stage.
My husband called out to her and asked if she’d sign out FOTR poster (which
already had Richard Taylor and Sean Astin on it from Comic Con) and she generously
agreed, kneeling at the edge of the stage right in front of me. So as she was
signing, I spoke to her and told her what a great inspiration her and Fran were
for writers like me and that there are so few women scriptwriters that I was
thrilled for their recognition. She thanked me sweetly and wished me luck with
my own endeavors, adding: “We need more of you.”
I then added that the Lord of the Rings was my early inspiration for wanting
to become a writer and that I was so very grateful how they had taken such very
good care of the story and created such a brilliant script from it. She was
very very thankful and I just about melted. I really do adore her! She’s like,
writing goddess. But I kept that thought to my squeeful self.
We then tried for Fran who was still patiently listening to some dolt gabbing
on about his zombie film, when her handler came to her rescue and started to
pull her away, apologizing that Fran “needed to go.”
That didn’t deter us, of course, so we jumped on in there and got her attention
for a sec with the poster. She stared to reach for it/us when some other dweeb
got in the way and started to pitch his lame script and the handler came over
and grabbed our poster from us! I freaked for a sec, but then she asked us for
our pen and she took that and smiled nicely and said, “I’ll get it signed
for you offstage. We don’t want everyone coming up.” Because sure as heck,
as soon as the great unwashed see somebody getting an autograph, they start
pulling out every parking receipt and dinner napkin they’ve got in their pockets
to get it signed by ‘someone’ famous.
The handler finally gets poor sweet Fran offstage and zoop! there goes our
poster off into the wings. My husband and I look at each other.
‘You going to hop on up there after it?’
We wait for a few minutes and just as I’m bending over to give my hub a lift-up,
the woman comes back all smiles and delivers a freshly signed poster. Yay! The
So now we fast-forward to evening and the Peter Jackson main awards event!
Which was held at the Arlington Theater.
We got there one hour in advance and the line was around the block for the
general admission seating. A fan line was created for them on one side of the
red carpet, while us press-pass holding types got to slip in on the opposite
side. We got our spots on the “ropes” and prepared to wait.
Journalists continued to pour in. This was easily the most crowded red carpet
I’ve ever worked. You really had to hold on to that rope to not get trampled
by the 7-foot-tall TV camera crew persons, while the mag and paper reporters
are quite nice and considerate. I was snuggly tucked in between a reporter guy
from Hollywood and the official SBFF photographer. She was a wee little thing
and we talked to her quite a bit and promised her we’d step back whenever she
needed the shot. This friendship turned out to be a very good deal for us, as
you’ll come to know in a second here.
The first up was Sean Astin who arrived to a chorus of fangirl shrieks. The
camera crews always descend first like wraiths with microphones, so us print
types know to get back further on the line and just wait them out until they’ve
gorged and leave the scraps for us. Otherwise, you’d get killed. And no footage
or sound bytes for the dead, no precious.
Sean began to slowly travel closer all smiles and charm, talking up an excitable
storm, looking handsome as all get-out with his lovely incredibly patient wife
Christine who was getting a little lost in all the shuffle. I always feel a
bit sorry for Hollywood wives. One of my best friends is one of them and she
gets shoved around all the time. It’s really hard walking in fame’s shadow,
but Christine held her own and I was determined to say something nice to her
as soon as they got close enough.
Sean stopped for the Hollywood guy and while he talked to him, we shot off
several pictures because he was like, inches away. Then the SBFF PR dude took
Sean by the arm and led him right up to their photographer on the right of us,
and while she was firing off those shots, I saw my “in” and reached
out to shake Sean’s hand.
Sean takes my hand at the exact moment a fan breaks loose from the restraints
behind him and throws something at him so he turns around to find himself with
his arms suddenly full of squeeing fangirl. For his own part, Sean was doing
his best to work both sides of the red carpet, but celebs try to get all the
press first. The fans just start to go ballistic and whoomp, some of them escape.
It can get ugly, but Sean was loving it!
Needless to say my opportunity to say something to Sean and/or Christine was
interrupted. Dang! When he got himself turned back around to the press, he was
sucked up by a Star reporter. I thought, well, crap. At least I’ve talked to
him before and I already have his autograph. But my husband was not so deterred
and as soon as the Star guy finished up, my husband shouted:
“Mr. Astin! Will you take a photo with the editor of —-?”
Sean whips around. “Sure I will!”
Sean comes back up to me and I turn around and lean back toward him as much
as the ropes that separate us will allow. He come riiiight up behind me so his
shoulder is against my back and because it’s so crowded, he gets his face right
up next to mine like he’s peeking over my shoulder. (Oooh! Warm, snuggy Sean
is the best .gah!) Then my husband lifts the camera to take the shot,
and Sean, being the control-guy he his (God luv ‘im.) reaches his arm around
me to try and touch the camera, saying: “Wait, you need to open the shutter
this way ”
His male pride a bit bruised, my husband pulls back and says, “No, Sean,
I’ve got it!”
“Oh, okay, yeah, you’ve got it!”
I’ve since learned it’s wise not to come between two men and a camera.
The shot is fired off and Sean is quickly swooped off to the next media representative.
My swooning on a happy Sean-cloud is soon interrupted, because Barrie Osborne
is already up to the Hollywood guy. We get a shot off of him, and my husband
steps forward to get the poster signed. For the record, Barrie gets just as
much fan screamage as the rest of ’em.
But, I was soon distracted by new screams and the lights of a car pulling up.
Somebody new had arrived. This unholy chorus of screams goes up and I think
to myself: I haven’t heard a shriek that loud since Elijah escaped his handlers
at Comic Con. I turn to my husband who has a better vantage at the ropes. “Who
He turns to me all certain: “It’s Elijah.”
I tell my husband to ‘stay put’ while I run up and leap into the air a few
times to see over the conglomerated mass of video, light, and boom that’s suddenly
formed. Jump, jump, jump, all I see is camera flashes. Then I see this tall
guy nearby out of the corner of my eye who kind of looks like he might be Elijah’s
fifth cousin thrice removed. He’s wearing plaid. Uh-huh. Clearly, NOT Elijah
Wood. But rather the plaid-wearing imposter from earlier. It seems he works
for the SBFF and later I learned that Elijah was never expected to be there
in the first place. Sean was there to introduce the event. Oh, well. Mr. Wood
can’t avoid me forever.
There’s a shift in the mass of media and finally I get a clear peek at what
they’ve been huddled around–and what I see can only be described as 100% luvable
Kiwi: Uncle Pete himself swamped by camera men three times his height. He’s
wearing the One Striped Shirt, shoes! and baggy un-ironed pants and a matching
(sorta) jacket. He’s adorable and my heart just about stops when I realize THIS
is the person responsible for creating the single most precious film experience
of my life and I’d better get back in my place at the ropes and come up fast
with my plan of attack, because that swarm of technology ain’t letting him go
a step without them all in tow.
Back at the ropes I nudge my husband to let me back in next to him.
“It ain’t Elijah,” I say. “It’s HIM.”
The squeeing fangirls are now screaming Pete! Pete! Pete! And somebody from
the local network turns on this 5,000,000 watt faux sun, and the whole corridor
is lit like Judgment Day. My eyes adjust as I wait and wait for Pete to slowly
make his way down the line, press building up around him like an electrical
snowball until he’s stopped at Mr. Hollywood and the interview begins, but I
get my leg wedged in next to the reporter and dangle my mini-recorder over his
shoulder as CBS or whoever gets in there behind me, knocking me in the head
with their furry boom mike.
Here’s some Pete quotes I picked up (direct transcript):
Pete: It’s been a great week. After the nominations on Tuesday, we jumped in
the car and drove away so I’ve been along the coast to Monterey, Hearst’s Castle,
for three or four days.
Reporter: (Asks about The Hobbit, if there’s any news about doing a film.)
Pete: No, I think New Line is still just dealing with trying to get the rights.
Which they don’t have all the rights to make it. I don’t think New Line will
approach me about it until they’re all secure with that.
Reporter: (Asks about King Kong.)
Pete: We’re going to be making a version of King Kong that’s going to be very
emotionally real. We’re trying not to make it too much like a Hollywood adventure
film and much more like a drama I should think.
Reporter: (Asks Pete about perks.)
Pete: That’s a very good question. You can tell when I’ve never been asked
a question before because I don’t have an answer for it. (laughs) The perk that
means the most to me is just somebody coming up to me and saying, ‘I really
enjoyed your movie.’
From there, Pete turns around to go embrace the fans who are coming apart at
every seam and his handler walks the press line asking: “Okay, photo-op,
photo-op, who’s got a question?”
“Meeeee!” I scream.
“Okay, you,” she says, pointing to me. “You’re next.”
I’m next, I’m next, I’m next. What the heck was I going to ask him??? Brain
dial tone kicks in nnnnnnnnnnnnnn, NO! Wait, idiot. Ask about the ROTK EE. That’s
what you really want to know. Ask! Ask!
Pete is peeled away from the wooing fans and the handler introduces me to Peter
Jackson, Director of the Lord of the Rings, hero of my life (direct transcript):
Me: Congratulations on your recent Oscar nominations!
Pete: Oh, thank you so much.
Me: Could you tell us a little bit about what we can look forward to on the
extended edition of Return of the King-your favorite scene, perhaps?
(Husband meanwhile slips in the poster and nails the autograph. Go husband!
Then he resumes snapping pics of me interviewing Pete.)
Pete: Well, yes, the extended edition has 50 minutes of new footage. I finished
cutting it just before I came over here. And I like well a scene that was
not necessary to the plot and we didn’t use it in the movie, but I’ve always
been quite fond of it is when Frodo and Sam end up in the orc army. It
wasn’t essential, but it’s kind of fun, and I’ve always been fond of it. That
was a hard one to cut out.
Me: That was the one scene I was most hoping would be back in!
Pete: Oh, good.
Husband (in background): Yeah, I was missing that one.
Me: Thank you so much! Can I get a photo with you?
Pete: Yeah, yeah!
Me: (Shaking his hand!) Thank you so much, I treasure your films.
Pete smiles. And
.he’s off! Bye, Pete! We love you! And, btw, he does