Sarah F writes:
A Letter of Thanks to a Red-Haired Lady: A Tale of Two Sisters Comic Con Adventure
Herein is the account of Sarah and Rachel, and their strange comic-con adventure, and nearly in-expressible gratitude to an anyomous lady with red hair, bright eyes, and an exceedingly considerate nature. You see my sister and I were given the opportunity to meet highly esteemed actors, David Wenham and Billy Boyd last Saturday. That opportunity was provided to us by a lady who works for New Line Cinema, who hosted the panel the previous Friday afternoon, and who helped to create the Return of the King Extended Edition DVD. To this lady we are both indebted, and although I must have shook her hand and thanked her at least a half a dozen times at the event, I do not know her name, because it could not be found anywhere within our event program. So my hope is that this article will serve two functions, to give fellow Tolkienites a glance inside the experience we had, and also as an acknowledgement that we owe it all our mystery benefactor with red hair-who as you will see, appears to take on the role of fairy godmother to us throughout.
We had already been two days at comic con-and had attended both the screening of scenes from the Ringers: Lord of the Fans documentary and the discussion panel held by New Line Cinema for the Extended ROTK DVD. We had excellent seats at both, with thanks to fellow San Diego Ringers, Raquel and Christine, who stood with us in line for three hours on Friday.
I would like to say that the Ringers documentary exceeded my expectations even though they were set quite high to begin with; for if there is anything that fans have learned from Tolkien and these films it is to take the time to bring a high standard of quality to anything that you create. The folks producing this documentary have done that, and the teaser scenes that fans present were treated to speak of a really excellent film. I would encourage you dear readers to do as I did and help support this documentarys further promotion via T-shirt purchase and to check it all out yourselves at www.lordofthefans.net. As for the extended edition, I could not be more pleased with the scenes that I saw, of which I am sure others will recount in detail at this website. Yes, as an avid fan of the books I would have to say that Peter has done right by us and by Tolkien once again, which is hardly a surprise.
Now to the adventure-on Friday morning we arrived at the New Line Cinema booth at the LOTR Pavilion on the main floor, which was home to so many other Ringers at comic con this year. We had heard about a possible autograph signing by the two actors at the panel we had previously attended, but we were also keeping an eye out for Richard Taylor who we both had the good satisfaction of meeting last year, and who was advertised to appear this year. I asked the red-haired lady at the table, whom we both recognized from her outstanding job hosting the panel and Q&A session the day before, and asked her if Richard Taylor was around. She told us the sad news that he had been forced to cancel due to his work on both the live action Narnia films, and King Kong. Although he was sorely missed, our disappointment was tempered with understanding; a sentiment shared by most fans, after all there is nothing most of us would like better than for Mr. Taylor and all of WETA than for them to continue their incredible work on other projects.
In lieu of his presence Mr. Taylor and WETA sent the next best possible things-gorgeous actual costumes from ROTK which were so amazing many a fan could not help returning to stare a second or fifth time throughout the day at their splendor. I relayed the message to this red-haired lady, that friends of Narnia have both great excitement and great faith in Mr. Taylor and all his fellow creators-a message she promised to relay to him.
The autographs were to be at noon, and where the line was going to begin was not being released to fans. So of course we did what any loyal fan might be expected to do, we loitered illegally as long as possible around various parts of the LOTR Pavilion, and moved good naturedly when we were told to leave. In the meantime we watched FOTR and ROTK on the conveniently provided large screens, and mused among ourselves over the fact that TTT had been skipped.
We gazed upon the costumes the more, and some at each other. There were elves and men, and hobbits and plain clothes fans who can hardly be described as plain, so covered were they in pins, and T-shirts of all kinds expressing their eternal devotion to the lands of Middle Earth, and all things or persons related to it. Some were more relaxed than others, I overheard a group of hobbits singing Afternoon Delight in an attempt at four-part harmony; an odd sight to witness, but then it was just one of many that makes you think, Only at Comic-Con.
We were nervous, we were friendly, we were unhappy not to know where we ought to stand, and we all respected each other for our shared goal-to get autographs. I was one of the nervous ones, but I am also a Christian, so I was praying. Lord whatever You want-maybe You want us to get autographs, maybe you dont-Your will be done, that was all I kept repeating within my head and heart, as my sister took more picture of the amazing costumes.
It was around eleven thirty, and I was standing by one of the goodies stations, when the red-haired lady came up to me. I had already watched her flying all over, making arrangements with the other New Line booth workers for something, and they had roped off one area of the booth, but we didnt know what for.
Could you ? she began, and I thought that she either was going to ask me to move, or two tell other fans something, but whatever it was that she wanted I knew that I would say yes, because she had been so kind to offer to pass on my message to Mr. Taylor.
She looked me in the eyes, and presented me with what suddenly became a pretty intense moment. If you could ask Billy and David one question, what would it be? My brain was racing, and I knew that this very minute was the minute I would have to swing for the bleachers or it was all over.
Um, huh, intense concentration took my face and I hesitated a moment. Well I know the books have a huge following-everyone has their own interpretations of the characters, I know a lot of fans were unhappy over the changes to Faramir in the Two Towers, and some have complained that Pippin is too cheerful I knew I was reaching here but I was also buying time to come up with a question that could be directed at both-so I was recalling complaints I had heard from a disgruntled minority once or twice. And then Peter has his own interpretations, so I guess I would ask how it is that they arrive at-that they find their characters essence-how do you find your characters center? I gave her a hap-hazard look that fully acknowledged that I was uncertain if this long rambling thing I had just spilled out were a question that she could like, but then she had put me on deck, and that was what I had come up with.
She looked as though she were considering my questions merits, or lack thereof, but she said, Okay
good. Come with me, and brought me under the taped off area to two young men who were standing there, one prepping a video camera.
Tell me if you like this question, she said, and I repeated it for the two guys, whose expressions towards me were both friendly and full of serious evaluation.
Yes, that will work great, Im Bryan, they both shook my hands and asked me to sign and date a release form that allowed them to use the footage of my person asking the question in the interview. They were both very disarming and professional, so I conducted myself likewise, other than shaking their hands repeated times throughout and thanking them for this incredible opportunity.
For those of you whose patience cannot endure the longer to see David and Billy, (I can hardly blame you for I would do the same in one of these articles) you can go and check out the interview with both the actors at ugo.com although I am not certain if it is posted yet-I was assured that it will be.
Here I became slightly distressed-because my sister was still out in the crowd-in fact un-aware that I was gone. I wanted to have her with me-but as it is in such circumstances, I didnt want to cause any trouble and blow my chance either. I was working out what I might do-perhaps asking for an extra autograph was the best that I could hope for-when once again the red-haired lady somehow knew just what was going on without my saying a word-and came to my rescue.
You had someone with you, she asked your friend?
My sister, I quickly replied. She nodded with understanding.
Why dont you go ahead and get her, and bring her back here.
I managed an affirmative nod with a serious expression, but I was beaming straight through it. I found Rachel nearby.
I get to ask them a question, I told her.
What? She stared at me in disbelief, as I grabbed her hand. I could see by her dubious expression and because she told me so later, that she was thinking
Them? You mean them?
Yes, come-on, and we climbed together back under the rope to where the interview was set up.
Of course then I had to tell her everything that had happened to make this situation that was so beyond even our wildest hopes possible. We stood just staring back at each other in disbelief at our own circumstances. It was then that David Wenham and Billy Boyd came into the area, although we had already been altered to their presence by the number of growing screams and cheers issuing from the crowd on one side of the pavilion.
Ah and now comes the part everyone has been reading for, what were they like?
Handsome, well yes that is a pretty obvious given, but more importantly they were kind, friendly, and very ordinary guys. They sat down, and were given cold bottled water (it was very hot on the floor of the convention, even in this cleared space). Billys chair was closest to where we were standing, and he wiped his hands on his jeans, remarking that he was a a bit damp from the moisture on the outside of the bottle, the effect of which with his scotch accent, was very charming.
I looked over at David Wenham, who looked then at me, so I said Hello, and he said Hello, back, very warmly, so that Billy looked up, and then the interviewer from UGO that they had just met, and the wonderful red-haired lady introduced me as a fan that would be asking them a question. They both said, Hello Sarah, in their unique and yet surprisingly complimentary accents, and I introduced my sister, who they also greeted by name.
They sat a little while waiting for the interview to begin, and Rachel and I stood by the glass to the right of the camera, out of its sight and out of way, doing our best to be the helpfully silent and obedient fans that we felt we ought to be. The interviewers from ugo.com told my sister that she could take some pictures as long as she didnt use her flash, but she ended up taking less because when the actors are right there, you are kind of content to just be right nearby and watch.
Mr. Boyd made faces at the nearby crowd, who cheered all the more for him. Some of their statements were We love you Billy! and We love Scotland! to which the very extraverted Mr. Boyd replied, I love your country too- America! and gave an approving head gesture and a thumbs up. Meanwhile, Mr. Wenham seemed to be observing the whole scene quietly from his chair, carefully taking it all in with a look of pleasant composure on his face. How either of the two actors were able to appear so relaxed when they are in a tiny roped off area, surrounded on all sides by security and pressing fans, surrounded by an even larger convention floor filled with thousands of people is a wonder to me, and perhaps a credit to their theatrical skills, for I couldnt imagine either of them to be ill at ease based on their manners and faces.
We just stood around watching. Rachel took a few pictures, and once Billy caught her and made a face right into her camera-quite obliging really. Mr. Wenham was using his own camera to take a few picture of the surrounding crowd, and we were reminded that it was his first time at comic-con.
The interview, which I will not recount to you-lest you not investigate for yourselves a UGO.COM included such questions as what scenes would be on the extended ROTK DVD and if the actors were keen for Peter Jackson to make the Hobbit (If you want this to happen-please check out the Make the Hobbit Happen movement on this sites main page to see what you can do to help).
When it came time for me, I stepped up to the side of the camera, said Hi Billy, Hi David and delivered my question. Billy answered first, and David second-once again please check out the interview for their excellent answers-each of them looked right at me while answering.
What I found most interesting-that is what I really wanted to know was if they developed the connection to their characters as actors based mostly on their own interpretations of the book and Peters direction or if they allowed others in to the process. Obviously each actor works differently, but for all of the performances in these movies to be so universally identified as real or just right, by millions upon millions of fans who know the books like the back of their own hands, is still miraculous to me. Thats why what I found most interesting in both their answers, was the fact that they talked with others for weeks about how others saw their characters, and they allowed themselves to be influenced by what others had to say. Then to take into account all that feedback, and multiple interpretations and to hone it all in-to know what to do with it and how to translate it into a performance-that is truly a gift.
When the interview was over I stepped forward again and said to both of them, Thank you, it was lovely of you, meaning the interview, their presence at comic con, answering my question so well- everything. It was an odd statement, but it was all I could manage to convey my gratitude that was different than the sincere but overly repeated thank you I had given so many times already. They both looked a little surprised but seemed to understand what I meant, and replied Oh sure, and You’re welcome, with amused smiles.
Earlier the red-haired lady had told us we would get autographed pictures from Mr. Wenham and Mr. Boyd, which she now appeared with for them to sign. David was kind enough to check and see how each of our names were spelt, Sarah with an h, Rachel with or without a second a. They handed them to us, and shook both our hands as we thanked them very much yet again.
Billy had a cell phone, that apparently had Dominic Monaghan on the other end of it, and they agreed to get together later on that day. It was then I went over for the cameraman to shoot me asking the question again, so that they could cut my face and the faces of the actors listening to the question together for the interview. I did very well, except that I said Hi Billy, Hi Dom, instead of Hi David, obviously still influenced by the partially overheard phone conversation.
Ah, Im sorry, crazed fan on autopilot, I muttered, and tried it a second time-where I asked the question perfectly. But can I really be blamed dear readers? As my sister pointed out to me later, those names just go together.
When they were done greeting the other fans, and Mr. Boyd and Mr. Wenham were gradually drifting over towards the autograph side of the pavilion, I plucked up nerve and asked Mr. Boyd if I could take a picture of him with my sister because I knew it was something she would like. Once again, the red-haired lady magically came to our aide, asking if I would like a picture of the four of us together, which is what I wanted most of all but was too bashful to ask for.
Billy Boyd came and stood between us, and David Wenham hesitated a little, as if to ask if we wanted him in the picture too, since I had only asked Billy, but I motioned and said, yes please, with a sincere earnestness that I felt.
We werent sure if the camera had taken the shot or not, and so Rachel went forward to check since it was her camera. My arms still behind the two actors, and their arms still on my shoulders, I felt far too shy to look at David Wenham within such close proximity to him, so I turned instead to Billy. He turned to me, only about an inch or two taller (you know that all the hobbits are short-but you dont really know it until one is standing next to you), and his eyes widened in a very Pippin-esc way as if to say to me My-isnt this an interesting situation taking a picture with me; an observation with which I quite agreed. Standing there with my sister and two gentlemen who I admire so much, lets just say I have rarely found it easier to smile for a camera.
Then the actors went over to greet other fans who were brought behind the rope with equal consideration and enthusiasm as they had shown towards us. My sister and I just remained standing where we were, watching. Every now and then we would look at each other, the same incredulous expression reflected on both of our faces that said how we still could not believe all of this. A little while later they started to come towards the autographs station, though they werent quite ready for them yet. Billy was standing close to us and so I said:
Were just hanging around until somebody tells us that we have to leave.
Oh yeah-of course. He said with appreciation of our logic, nodding.
What I wanted to say before, but I didnt get a chance too, I began, as he continued to give us his attention, and to wave to nearby fans, Was that we were so pleased with your interpretations of the characters having read the books. In fact, I am entering my senior year (of college) and I plan to be an English teacher-and to work these books into the curriculum-now that they are movies I will be more able to do that-as sad as that makes our educational system.
Well, anything that helps! Billy responded agreeably.
I just wanted to say that your accent is my favorite in the entire world, said Rachel, who is actually learning several scotch dialects from a tape (though Americans, we are both Scottish by blood).
Oh, thank you, replied Billy, his scotch as pleasing as always.
The Glasgow accent is just fabulous, she added, and gave him a thumb up and he smiled back before he made his way over to smile at other fans. It was then that Mr. Wenham came over to us.
I was just telling Billy, what I wanted to say before was that we were both so pleased with your interpretation of Faramir I began again, amazed that I was actually saying what I wanted most to say, and had rehearsed saying time and again in my head in case we made it to the autograph table. I know that there was a lot of flak over the changes that were made to the second movie but I really felt like you held on to him. David looked relieved at what I had to say, and humbly pleased by it as well, which was startling to me. Im also so glad that the houses of healing made it back in to the extended version-because as much as I love the theatrical version I felt that there really needed to be a rest, and some kind of peace
Yes, peace, David said with me, as though he exactly understood and agreed with the thought.
for both the characters of Eowyn and Faramir- so I am really pleased with the scene-thrilled to death.
Thats great-Ill tell Peter that-he always likes to hear these things, Mr. Wenham smiled, obviously very pleased that we were so satisfied with the scene. That statement kind of hit me hard-he knows Peter Jackson-he has access to Peter Jackson. Well, I mean of course he does dear readers, but I was kind of just like whoa awed by reality of it all the same. It took me a minute, but then I added:
We are all really hoping that he will do The Hobbit, but we understand how attached he is to Hong Kong, this was my second verbal slip of the day-but I looked a little confused at myself when I caught it and recovered quickly- King Kong.
He nodded and took a drink of his water.
Its hot in here isnt it? David asked, looking at us and then around him.
Its even hotter out there, said Rachel, referencing the exhibition floor.
Theres so many people, I added, thinking of a few of my more claustrophobic moments earlier, I can only take so many other people touching me at one time.
How many people are hear today, do you know? he asked.
I have no idea, I offered.
This is the biggest day, Saturday. I read somewhere last year that there were about 65, 000 people, said Rachel. Later she said that she thought that this might have been the total for the whole convention though, that she had the presence of mind to sight a statistic was beyond me at this point. David expressed some amazement to this figure.
Just try not to think about it too much, I advised; I know I try not to.
Then they moved on to the autograph area, and my sister and I waited for the crowd to thin around the edge just a little bit so that we could go. We spent the rest of the day with our family and every now and then we two would look at each other, and one or both of us would just start laughing in astonishment of the whole thing. I think its a pretty good thing that we have photographic proof; otherwise we still might not believe it ourselves.
So in conclusion, as the road goes ever on, and we have gone back home, my thoughts and thanks remain with all those who made our adventure what it was.
Particularly I am indebted to the mysterious lady from New Line Cinema who orchestrated it all. Our thanks madam, and I can sincerely assure you that any red-haired heroine that I encounter from now on, be it on page or silver screen, will be a reminder to me of you-
Yours truly, a grateful ringer-