More DragonCon 2006 Photos

Celebriel writes: This year Kiran Shah, noted actor and stuntman who played the scale double for Frodo and other hobbits in “The Lord of the Rings,” was the Tolkien Track’s celebrity guest. He hosted a Q&A panel on Saturday, and appeared with “The Dork of the Rings” cast and crew on Monday. In between, he could be found mostly at The Walk of Fame over in the Hilton, greeting fans, signing autographs, and posing for pictures.

Kiran is knowledgeable, engaging, and a born storyteller in addition to being an actor and Guinness World Record stuntman with 29 years experience, as well as a director and published poet. Kiran was born in Kenya and spent some of his youth in India before moving to London with his family. From an early age he imitated the voices and mannerisms of his uncles. In India he decided he would be a Bollywood star. In London, he started his career as a mime for a few years for the Red Buddha company, responding to a magazine ad.

Kiran’s first film was “Candleshoe” (1977) with David Niven, Jody Foster, Helen Hayes, and Leo McKern. Master fight director Bob Anderson, who worked on the film, encouraged him to become a stuntman. He had been selected to play R2D2 in the first Star Wars movie, but Kenny Baker then decided to return to the film and he was bumped.

He worked with Jim Henson on “The Dark Crystal,” where, he explained he could only wear the large puppet head for about twenty minutes before resting his neck. The puppet head had to be redesigned to make it safe enough for Kiran to wear on a ten foot drop, landing on his back. He’s even played females, working as the stunt double for Miss Piggy in “The Great Muppet Caper.”

Kiran explained that his first meeting with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh did not go that well. Having seen “Brain Dead,” he had trouble seeing Peter as the one to bring LOTR to the screen, and Peter and Fran were concerned that, given all his stellar fantasy and sci-fi credits, Kiran would not want to work with them. He didn’t learn the background to his first meeting until the London premiere of “Fellowship of the Ring,” when Fran told him their side of the story.

His funniest LOTR story came from the filming in Bree. Playing Frodo, Kiran was picked up by Viggo Mortensen, carried upstairs, and tossed into the bedroom. He explained that at first Viggo was extremely gentle, until he said, “Viggo, I’m a stuntman, you can throw me!” Some of the other scenes Kiran played, in addition to being Frodo’s scale double, include the rescue of Faramir from the funeral pyre and riding with Eowyn to battle. Because Kiran was doubling for all the hobbits, he was very much in demand at all the locations. He was shuttling around so much Barrie Osborne got him a helicopter, which he frequently changed in, as he only a few minutes on arrival to see the day’s footage and get ready to work.

He explained that, in the scene where he climbs into the cart with Gandalf in the opening of “Fellowship,” he proposed to Peter that he do the scene as a stunt, since in the book Frodo jumps into the back of the cart. Peter turned him down, saying he couldn’t afford to have any of his actors injured, and that if Kiran was injured, he didn’t know where he’d find someone else. Kiran didn’t give up, proposing a scene in the burning of Hobbiton where he would play a hobbit on fire coming out of his house. That wasn’t filmed either. Finally he got a bit of stunt work, playing Pippin falling to the ground from Treebeard.

Kiran enjoyed returning to New Zealand to work in the first of the Narnia films, especially since he was working as an actor not a stuntman. He described his conversations with Tilda Swinton on developing their respective characters. He wanted to make his character Ginarrbrik the dwarf more evil, motivated by his desire to one day stab the White Witch in the back and seize her power. As a result, he and Tilda basically ignore each other on screen except when they must interact. Off screen, they had a great relationship, as Tilda generously hosted cast and crew parties each Saturday while they filmed in remote areas on New Zealand.

Even with his years of experience, Kiran said he never stops looking at people, their mannerisms and walks, to pick up new moves and gestures. Continuing to branch out, Kiran and his nephew Kit directed the comedy “Young Lovers,” which is scheduled to open later this year. The film, his first effort as a director, also features Craig Parker.

Kiran has enough stories from LOTR, Narnia, Harry Potter, Titanic, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, Greystoke, The Dark Crystal (and many more) to fill a trilogy of behind the scenes books! Maybe if he ever slows down he’ll consider it! Questions? Feedback? Email