ORC: The One Ring Celebration

Celebriel recaps some of the highlights of the Saturday sessions and events at ORC:

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us,” said Gandalf. The wizard’s wisdom was never more relevant than on Saturday at The One Ring Celebration at the Pasadena Convention Center. The day’s choices included Main Stage programs with three hobbits, three parallel programming tracks (scholars and artists, costuming, and children’s activities), photo and autograph sessions, and the costume contest and masquerade. Any vendors selling Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner™ would have done a brisk business.

Elijah Wood and Sean Astin

Elijah Wood and Sean Astin reunited onstage for conversation and fan questions. When asked what production mementos they had received, Sean explained that he received Sam’s sword and backpack and his daughter Alexandra received the costume she wore as Sam’s eldest child Elanor Gamgee. Elijah received Frodo’s sword Sting, hobbit feet, a portrait that hung above the mantle in Bag End showing Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh as hobbit ancestors (check it out on your DVD!) and, oh yes, a ring in a special box.

Most questions concerned the craft of acting and Elijah and Sean’s working relationship. Sean noted that both his parents are actors, and that he has always been interested in directing and producing. “Acting has been there to help me make a living. I enjoy the fraternity of actors, a sacred tradition that has existed for thousands and thousands of years.” (N.B. Sean was nominated for an Academy Award for Kangaroo Court in 1995, a film he directed and co-produced)

Iowa-born Elijah didn’t aspire to being an actor. He moved with his family to California, where his mother thought he might be good as a child performer in ads. Elijah explained, “The more work I got, the more passionate I became,” and commented, “I feel like I have been going to film school for the past 15 years.”

About preparing for another take of an emotional scene where you’ve already given your all, Elijah explained that as an actor “You’ve already put yourself in a place and don’t allow yourself to leave. The further you get into it the more real it feels. You get to a place that feels honest for that moment and just stay there.” Sean commented, “Part of the process is not to analyze it, not to be outside yourself because it will come across as false.”

Their working relationship is becoming legendary. Elijah explained, “We were constant support for each other over a year and a half. We held each other up and were there for each other. The closeness we developed in person carried over into our characters.” Sean added, “I admired Elijah’s work for years before I knew him. I appreciated his talent, his seriousness of purpose. I wanted to be in the movie to work with Elijah.”

About the really tough emotional scenes, such as the one on Mount Doom after the ring is destroyed, Sean explained, “We just pushed each other to get to those places. It meant the world that we could make scenes like that happen. It was like a medicine ball that we just passed back and forth to become more real, more open with each other.”

Masquerade and Costume Contest

As more than 100 entrants anxiously awaited the costume judges’ decisions Saturday afternoon, a variation of the old actor’s adage about children and animals no doubt passed through their minds: “Never work with kids and trees. They’ll steal the show every time.” Their fears proved justified when a pair of Ents took Best in Show and children such as Young Boromir drew thunderous applause.

The creativity and workmanship of the costumes and the range of characters presented were breathtaking. The masquerade was led off by Beren and Luthien and included Goldberry and Tom Bombadil (who danced across the stage), Gandalf, Legolas, King Theoden, young Pippin, Diamond of Long Cleeve (Pippin’s future wife, complete with green apples in her basket), Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, Arwen’s mother Celebrian, Mount Doom Frodo with his nine fingers and bloody shirt, the three Brandybuck sisters (who really are sisters), chase-scene Arwen complete with Hadhafang, a Lady Wizard, a Frodo and Sam with hobbit feet made from yellow dishwashing gloves, Entwives, a Ringwraith, and Barad-dûr itself.

The contestants’ parade on Saturday afternoon reflected just the very tip of an iceberg of work by judges and organizers to make this event happen. Volunteers Kent Elofson, appropriately costumed as Aragorn, and Judy Grivich led a small army who scripted a Middle Earth runway fashion show with dozens of last minute entrants, organized sign in sheets, dealt with schedule changes, got people in the in the right line and in right order, worked in the staging area answering questions, watching purses and glasses, calming nerves, and helping people out of and then back into costumes after bathroom breaks, and then delivered them to the assistant stage managers who gave them stage direction and helped them up the steps and through the curtain to their 30 seconds in the spotlight.

Noted Tolkien artist and author Colleen Doran smoothly MC’d the show around minor technical glitches and through withdrawn entries. At one point when several scripted entrants had withdrawn and it wasn’t quite clear who the next contestant was, Colleen calmly held the microphone in front of the contestant and asked her to introduce the costume. While the masquerade took place on stage, judges including Daniel Falconer and Cat Devereaux were busy reviewing notes and rankings from backstage judging, determining winners in original and re-creation costumes in the exhibition, youth, novice, journeyman, and master categories, plus special awards and best in show.

Waiting for the announcements, contestants enthusiastically snapped pictures of each other in new groupings, reuniting the Ents and Entwives. All entrants received a consolation prize, a glossy photo of Dominic Monaghan as Merry, plus memories of their time on the Middle Earth runway.

The One Ring Awards Celebration

Most attendees had a chance to rest, recharge and change clothes for the One Ring Awards celebration after getting their autographs from Billy Boyd, Elijah Wood, and Sean Astin. But not all. When early arrivals began to line up around 8:30 PM, they learned the party would be delayed because Hobbits Frodo, Sam, and Pippin were still inside signing autographs, a task they’d started just after 5 PM! Around 9:45 the doors opened, and the elegantly dressed and costumed revelers enjoyed chicken satay, coconut shrimp, and other goodies (although, in the interest of unbiased journalism, it must be reported that many guests said not enough food was provided).

“Ringers” producer/writer/interviewer Cliff (Quickbeam) Broadway was once again the MC for the evening, attired in a heart-stealing drop dead gorgeous leather frock coat and leather pants. Cliff was definitely hot (take that as you will).

The ceremony proceeded Academy Award style, with Royd Tolkien, Sandro Kopp, Peter Beagle, Colleen Doran, TORn staffers and others announcing the awards and costumed assistants escorting presenters and winners off stage. One Ring Awards honored fan artists in both two and three dimensional media, scholarly books, fan websites (Always and Forever – Elijah Wood), performance by a LOTR actor in a television series (Dominic Monaghan in “Lost”), performance by a LOTR actor in a film, costume award winners in all categories, and several others. Film clips from the five nominees for best fan-directed and produced film were shown, with Leah Jakusovszky’s “Fellowship of the Bags” winning the best film award. The film tells an abbreviated version of LOTR using bag puppets, inspired by the advertising for the Fandango ticket service.

After the ceremony, Celtic rock band Emerald Rose, well known to LOTR fans, took the stage and provided Middle Earth music for elves, hobbits, humans, and even orcs.