Tinuvielas writes: RingCon 2004 in Bonn, Germany is once again over and the 3000-odd fans have left Europes largest Fanstasy and LotR-convention with the usual feeling of melancholy, discarding their often elaborate robes, ears and wigs and discussing in trams and trains on their way home. Even though this year the RingCon was organised by FedCon only, without the participation of the German JRRT-society and the German website herr-der-ringe-film.de, the mix was about the same as last year:, and as successful: elaborate costumes; the fans putting up three great processions (of Gondorians, wandering Elves, with lights and all, and a funerary march of the Rohirrim, including a dead Theoden on a bier.); workshops, lectures, live music (Schelmish, Battleore, the Irish Folkband Glendalough, Eve & the Breeze); picture- and autograph sessions with the guest-stars; games; and last but not least arts-, video, costume and performance-contests.
For those who havent been able to participate, Id like to give a short (or not so short, lol) account of some of the things that were going on, including a transcript (from memory, so there may be minor errors in phrasing) of the major points of the panels held by Billy Boyd and Bernard Hill and a summary of some of the more interesting talks held by German JRRT-experts.
First, there were three hilariouis video-productions to be seen, which hopefully will appear somewhere (???) on the net soon.
For one, there was a video to the music of we will rock you, sung by a childrens choir (!) and showing lots of orc-fighting sequences. Below and above the film ran a blood-red banner, which halfway through suddenly read (in German and English, and pretty ugly letters:) The orc childrens choir Dead Earth greets the troops and wishes them success for their campaign against the evil human hordes! pause kill them all, daddy! (this last to a pic of Gothmog…)
Then we had some wonderful parody-commercials. Outstanding: Elronds fashion studio… cant really remember the other ones, but Im sure others will!?
Finally, the best of all: A video to the German song Männer by Herbert Grönemeyer, the text of which basically plays with all the prejudices people have about men, illustrated by scenes from the Trilogy: Men run against walls (Helms deep!); they smoke pipe (Gandalf and Bilbo sending the pipe weed ships into the air), they are constantly electrified (meaning: under current, active; Pip holding the palantir); they always hang on to the telephone (Saruman and the palantir); they are very thorough (Gimli jerking his axe lodged in the head of the dead orc…); men can do anything (Aragorn listening, his ear close to the ground); men are solitary warriors (Aragorn on his horse alone, riding towards Edoras); men are being made men early in childhood (Pippin taking his arms; Aragorn and the kid at Helms deep); men build rockets (Saruman filling his bomb). This all ending in the refrain-question: When exactly is a man a man??? to the pic of Eowyn taking off her helmet! J
2. The panels
Secondly, the above mentioned panels for some (P) the main reason to come to RingCon.
Apart from the major stars Billy Boyd (We have a hobbit in the house, as moderator Marc B. Lee put it…) and Bernard Hill (both were confirmed rather late, after Karl Urban and John Noble had cancelled… not a bad substitute, if I may say), there was the by-now famous Craig Parker (Haldir) / Mark Ferguson (Gil Galad)-duet, hilarious as usual. Any who have seen them on stage know they are as gifted a pair of stand-up comedians as any, and they were greeted with roaring applause at their third appearance at RingCon. In fact, theyre now so much of an institution that many fans wondered why it was Marc B. Lee that moderated the whole thing instead of them….
To give an idea of the level of intimacy reached between them and the audience, Ill refer a slightly, ahem, slashy joke they made in their usual word-by-word story (they always tell a story starting from a chance word from the audience, the two of them talking together, each uttering a single word in turn… this year, it was about Frodo going on a quest for… a Reibekuchen, which is a German potatoe-food, fried, sweet, fat and with lots of applesauce…). Pretty much at the beginning, they went: Frodo jumped out of Sam! (roaring laughter in the audience) ahem, the cushions. Dont remember which of the two actually made the slash-joke and tried to look contrite…
Other panels were held by Jarl and Jorn Benzon (Glorfindel / the much admired Rumil), Lawrence Makoare (Lurtz, Gothmog, Witchking, now almost as much an instituion at RingCon as Craig and Mark), Paul Norell (King of the Ghosts, who was VERY sympathetic and moved to be part of the Con), Thomas Robbins (Deagol, who started his panel with a hilarious pantomime of his one and only scene in RotK) and Sandro Kopp, to his knowledge the only German who acted in the films. Hes a very refreshing, natural and sympathetic guy (not to mention the fact that hes pretty attractive…) whos had nine different roles in the pickups. On his second panel, he was even appearing barefoot and in costume, wearing a beautiful grey elven robe (tied with a pin above the knee, which kept slipping, rofl). Besides, hes an artist and on request gave a powerpoint illustration of the wonderful drawings of principal and minor actors he did during the shooting (and which can also be admired on his website). One of the funnier things he told and which I hadnt heard before was the distinction used on set of the Tunten- (i.e. effeminate, gay) Elves, the Jaws Elves (at Helms deep) and the Floating Elves (the robed ones, who kept stumbling over their costumes).
Other panels were held by Jarl and Jorn Benzon (Glorfindel / the much admired Rumil), Lawrence Makoare (Lurtz, Gothmog, Witchking, now almost as much an instituion at RingCon as Craig and Mark), Paul Norell (King of the Ghosts, who was VERY sympathetic and moved to be part of the Con), Thomas Robbins (Deagol, who started his panel with a hilarious pantomime of his one and only scene in RotK) and Sandro Kopp, to his knowledge the only German who acted in the films. Hes a very refreshing, natural and sympathetic guy (not to mention the fact that hes pretty attractive…) whos had nine different roles in the pickups. On his second panel, he was even appearing barefoot and in costume, a beautiful grey elven robe. Besides, hes an artist and on request gave a powerpoint illustration of the drawings of principal and minor actors he did during the shooting. Those can also be admired on his website. One of the funnier things he told and which I hadnt heard before was the distinction used on set of the Tunten- (i.e. effeminate, gay) Elves, the Jaws-elves (at Helms deep) and the Floating Elves (the robed ones, who kept stumbling over their costumes).
ATTENTION: HERE BE RotK-EE SPOILERS (which I have marked in the text, so you can skip these paragraphs)
1. Billy Boyd
Supposedly, Billys plane was late, so that at first he wasnt present at the opening ceremony. However, just when the crown had voiced their disappointed ooh.., Marc B. Lee announced that we have a hobbit in the house! and positively thrust BB on stage, where he stood alone, somewhat stiff and apparently at a loss at what exactly he was supposed to do. After putting this question to the equally confused audience, he retreated backstage, telling everyone to wait a minute. When he came back, he seemed better informed and told abt. the plane, and his luggage being lost, etc.
Now Im not quite sure if this was intended to be a joke, referring to last years troubles with John Rhys Davies arriving late, but I AM sure that it wasnt true, because Ive heard backstage people say that Billyd been waiting behind the curtains all along. So if it was a joke, it didnt go off very well… it also made for a somewhat weird beginning of the first panel, which was not bettered by the first questions, which revolved around Ohhhh, Billy, were so happy to have you here!, Billy, your scottish accent is so cute!!! and Could you sing for us??? (which he flatly denied understandably so, given the rather cool atmosphere of the panel at that point. A good question, but not a good time to ask it). A lot of people were surprised that, unlike the secondary actors, and quite unlike what youd have expected from this actor from his DVD specials appearances etc, he really seemed quite tense and reserved at first.
The first serious question was about Dom supposedly being sick after smoking a pipe of pipeweed. In answer, BB talked about how the actors got to choose their own pipe shortly before shooting began, which was a special moment for him; about how Dom really got sick once after smoking that pipe; and about himself trying to get used to it and even liking it (though he is a non-smoker), so as to be able to portray the hobbit enjoying his pipe. In the end, he said, he found he really did enjoy it, so much so that he became wary: you dont want to become addicted to that…
Asked about new Pippin-scenes in RotK-EE, he told about Pippin having a scene where he has to pee, and mentioned the confrontation between Gandalf and Pippin and the Witchking, which weve known about for a while.
Somewhere along, he told the story where John Rhys Davies ordererd everything on the menu for everyone and ate it!
A very nice question went sort of: How come that, unlike the other hobbits, Pippin has a scottish accent? In answer, BB said that the Tooks lived in a different part of the Shire, had a clan-like social structure and that the word took in fact has the meaning of club in Scottish, which fitted, since the Scots invented golf.
Later on, BB told how they had in fact filmed Pippin inside the palantir, i.e. standing in a circular room on fire, confronted by Sauron. Which was very cool, but looked too Sci-Fi, so it was decided to drop the scene.
2. Bernard Hill
BH was very relaxed on stage, sitting on a chair, wearing a black leather jacket (if I remember right) and munching an apple during both panels, which sometimes made for mumbling answers. Quite sympathetic! He also has a very nice voice, allthough Ive heard people say that unlike John Rhys Davies, he doesnt totally fill the stage.
Asked abt. his first scene, he said that it was Theoden arriving at Helms Deep; his second scene was Theoden striding around with whats the guys name Aragorn on the battlements. This forgetting of the other LotR-characters names became a running gag.
What he liked abt. Helms Deep: Everything. It was night shots, cold, dark, wet, miserable, he got several scars etc etc., and thats exactly why he liked it. We got bashed arond a lot, which was fun.
Asked abt. his recent experience of filming in Africa and the difference to New Zealand: Africa was hot and full of bugs New Zealand was not. He then went on to describe the giant insects and cockroaches the size of his hand (!) found in Africa, doing an hilarious turn of giant beetles the size of his hand hitting a window behind him, and lying winded on their back.
His favorite battle speech: Ride now, ride now, ride through ruin and the worlds ending death!: Cant get better lines than that. Really special stuff (applause, of course…)
His favorite actor: Marlon Brando, the first screen actor who acted real on the screen. Also, different performances that impressed him, for example John Malkovich in the West End play Burn This.
Asked to tell some anecdote about Viggo, whom he shared a trailer with, he says the trailer was their world, they had parties, they had a wine cellar… there are lots of storys; I should write a book. But he doesnt tell one.
He then launches into half telling, half enacting the anecdote about the most difficult scene he had to do in RotK (which hell tell again in his second panel, in almost the same words, so it would seem hes told this story before): Its the scene with Theoden cluttering the spears of his Rohirrim before the attack of the orcs on the Pelennor fields. This was his idea, which pissed Peter Jackson off, but he had to admit it was a good idea in the end. However, BH being lefthanded, he made Theoden lefthanded, which created major problems in the scene because PJ made the king ride from right to left over the screen. BH therefore had to hold his sword with his right (the wrong) hand. BH is used to holding the reigns in that hand, and to pulling the sword from the scabbard on his right hip with his left (at this point he explains why one mounts a horse from the left: the only ones who ride horses are the people with a sword who kill other people, and they usually have a long and cumbersome scabbard on their left hip, while they can swing their right leg over the horse easily).
Anyway, in the scene in question he now has to get his sword out of the scabbard (the heavey hero-sword, because the light-weight-aluminium sword was no good: it would bend when hitting the spears, and that would not be a good sign for the king riding to the enemy with a limp sword) in front of 250 crew and 250 extras (many of them women; if youve ever seen a woman with a beard, your in the middle of New Zealand and far from your wife, which is sort of exciting), with a skittery horse called Percy beneath him (I already got rid of one horse because he wouldnt do it, and this one wants to go, this is fun!), holding the reigns with a heavy, unwieldy glove (acts this with the microphone), with a helmet that keeps coming down his nose and impairing his sight (claps hand over his face to show) and a tortoise shell of mail and all kind of crap all around me AND with a live microphone, so he knew PJ would hear him mutter: f***ing director stupid scene. He finally gets his sword out (he mimes all this, which is hilarious): Its in the wrong hand!!!. So he has to change the sword from one hand to the other, which he eventually manages and then lets go Percys off!. However, theres no chance to change the sword back again, which explains (all of the above) why in some scenes Theoden wields his sword with the left, and in others with the right hand.
PJ, it seems, didnt think these incongruencies mattered. BH: Im leaving Edoras on a white horse, and I arrive at Helms Deep on a brown one. But PJ said, ah well, no one will notice… (huge laughter from the audience…).
In his second panel, BH is asked (first question) to perform The horse and the rider, but declines: this is not what I was asked to do (possible, but John Rhys Davies DID do Treebeards voice on stage).
Asked abt. his feelings about Theoden grieving over Theodred, he says in his opinion, the relationship between Theoden and Theodred was too little elaborated on, which made it difficult (as an example, he quoted PJ whod seen and disliked R. Scotts Gladiator because it was a film without a heart since the relationship between the Gladiator and his family is never elaborated on).
Asked about outtakes, he tells about a scene which didnt make it in the film, in which he was delivering a heroic speech in blue slippers (it took 20 minutes to put on the boots of his costume, and he had just taken them off when he was informed that this scene was added… it was a scene after the dialoge between Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli at Helms Deep when they discover there are only a few able men there, and the rest too old or too young. In that context, Theoden was talking abt. only a hundred in whom the blood of Rohan flows, and about the history of Helm Hammerhand.
Asked abt. how they filmed the aging process, BH tells that they asked him to do it backwards initially, which he couldnt do: how do you act backwards?
And about his conception of Theoden: All human beings are the same, they all go to the toilet, they all have their insecurieties… so beneath all this royalty, Theoden is insecure… these dynamics are very important.
The most challenging scene: Every scene with Viggo. Working with Viggo is a pain. Why? Because Viggo is a pain to work with. He has an opinion about everything. He never shuts up, and as far as I know, noone has ever convinced him hes wrong.
Fitting Final Quote for tonight hope you have enjoyed!