Malene Arpe writes: Dominic Monaghan, former Hobbit and currently a Lost person, understands fan obsession perfectly and when the makers of the documentary Ringers: Lord of the Fans asked him to narrate, he didn’t hesitate.
“I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I’m a massive Star Wars fan. I’m an insane Beatles fan. I have a shed in my garden in Manchester that is filled with Beatles memorabilia. I’m a massive geek on the natural world, reptiles, insects. Big music collection. Big movie collection,” he says through a bad cellphone connection from Hawaii. “I have a toy collection. I collect nail polish. There’s a lot of stuff in my life that I’m hugely obsessed about. So it wasn’t a huge stretch for me to see these people who were fans of Lord of the Rings, because I was a big fan of those movies … if I hadn’t been in them, I would still have gone and seen them and freaked out about them.”
Ringers, which Sony releases on DVD this Tuesday, is a must-see for anyone who’s ever wondered about the lengths to which fans will go to feed their ardour. Directed by super-fan Carlene Cordova, who through the website TheOneRing.net took fandom to new heights during the making of Peter Jackson’s trilogy, the documentary is both informative about J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, and immensely entertaining. Fans, including Geddy Lee and David Carradine, “ordinary” people and the cast, come very close to explaining how one can have a splendid love affair with a piece of art.
Monaghan, who played Merry in LOTR and now spends his days as Charlie Pace on Lost, is someone who knows more than most about benevolent fanaticism, thanks to being part of two projects that are perfect fodder for hardcore fandom.
“I was very lucky that a lot of fans of Lord of the Rings came over to watch me in Lost and see if I was a one-hit wonder, and have kinda stayed with me and seem to enjoy the show. It’s not that different. I would say that Lord of the Rings fans are a little crazier than Lost fans; they’re a little stranger. In a good way. I embrace that strangeness. Everyone is just people.”
One of the most striking and wonderful scenes in Ringers has a Klingon using a convention “confessional” to declare his love of LOTR. Another amazing clip features a woman telling of selling her house in the U.S. to be able to travel to New Zealand for Return of the King’s premiere.
“You’ve gotta applaud the sheer lunacy and crazy kinda risk that it takes to do that,” Monaghan says. “I think you find often with human beings, when they believe in something with their entire being, then (sometimes) they fall flat on their faces, but the majority of the time it’s almost like the world is so happy that someone is that dedicated that it rewards them in a lot of ways.”
Ringers also looks at the ways fans channel their own creativity, from the woman who has retold LOTR using marshmallow figures to more ahem arousing fan fiction and fan art.
“We had some fun early days, Elijah and I, checking out a lot of the artistic renderings of Viggo and Orlando making out with each other, or me and Billy making out with each other, or Elijah and Sean. I don’t take it too seriously,” Monaghan says, referring to the boatloads of erotic art inspired by the movies.
Understanding the drive that fuels fans, Monaghan promises he’s not going to turn into obnoxious movie-star guy if an admirer wants to say hello.
“I never really had too much of a negative experience. If someone wants to say they like your work and enjoy what you do, you just have fun with it. I’m relatively open about who I am, I don’t tend to close myself off or hide behind baseball caps or sunglasses. I’ve had pretty bizarre offerings from people; people you don’t know inviting you back to their place. I don’t tend to get into anything too intense, but if someone’s in a bar or at a concert and they want to come say hello, it’s not going to ruin my evening, like some other people’s.”