August 4-6 saw LeakyCon happening in Chicago, and various cast members from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies were there. (LeakyCon fully supported SAG-AFTRA members appearing at the con, stating, ‘… we have removed direct reference to their projects that fall under TV/Theatrical Contracts so that they can continue to appear without promoting these projects.’) So the fun was able to go ahead – and staffer Entmaiden attended for TORn. Here’s her write up:
ELIJAH WOOD AND SEAN ASTIN AT LEAKYCON
Since 2009, LeakyCon has been a community-focused fan event that provides opportunities to celebrate magical movie franchises with creators, artists and fans. TORn staffer Entmaiden was able to attend this weekend’s event in Chicago. LeakyCon originated with a focus on the Harry Potter movie series, but recently the organizers invited cast members from The Lord of the Rings movies. Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, Miranda Otto and Kiran Shah participated this year.
Entmaiden was delighted to attend the spotlight sessions with Elijah Wood and Sean Astin on Saturday. In support of the on-going strike by members of SAG/AFTRA actors and WGA writers, Elijah and Sean did not speak specifically about their filming experiences. While we might not have been able to explore the behind-the-scenes film stories, the spotlight sessions gave the audience a chance to learn how Elijah and Sean became actors, and uncover a couple secrets about their personalities. Some elements of the journey for both Elijah and Sean are well-known: both started acting very young, and their early acting experience helped prepare them for the enormous success of LOTR films.
It’s been 20+ years since the first film was released, and both Sean and Elijah have seen changes in their lives. Sean’s youngest daughter is about to turn 21 and he is NOT READY! He reflected on his own childhood, where even as the son of famous parents (Patty Duke and John Astin), Sean was able to play Little League like the other kids. His daughters also had to navigate childhood with a famous father, with the complication of social media. Did you know that Sean is a ferocious Monopoly player? He has a thorough understanding of the rules, and applies them rigorously. Sean takes no prisoners when it comes to Monopoly, and some friends and family members avoid playing with him!
While Sean was married with children when filming in New Zealand, Elijah was single. He recently revealed he has two children with long-time partner Mette-Marie Kongsved, a Danish film producer. He didn’t speak much about his children at LeakyCon, but he frequently referenced how his life has changed now he’s a father. But some of the things long-time fans know are the same: Elijah is still a massive music lover, and a big-time foodie. He even gave the fans tips about good frozen pizza, which he confessed to eating as often as he can.
Thanks to LeakyCon for inviting TORn, and for such a fun event!
The folks at Mischief Management have just announced that Frodo Baggins himself, actor Elijah Wood will be joining Sean Astin and others at LeakyCon next month! Here’s the official press release:
FILM STARELIJAH WOOD JOINS LEAKYCON SPECIAL GUEST LINEUP
New York, NY (July 19, 2023) – Film star Elijah Wood has joined the special guest lineup for LeakyCon 2023, the fan convention celebrating fandom, fun, and some of our favorite magical worlds. LeakyCon 2023 will take place at McCormick Place South in Chicago, Illinois, August 4-6, 2023. Tickets are available now at LeakyCon.com
Wood will appear on panels and programming on Friday, August 4, and Saturday, August 5, as well as participate in autograph and photograph sessions with fans. A joint photograph session with Wood and Sean Astin is also available.
LeakyCon has also announced the addition of the Heroes’ Journey Pass ($625) which includes Friday and Saturday access to LeakyCon, a priority duo photograph session with Elijah Wood and Sean Astin, a priority autograph session with Elijah Wood, a priority autograph session with Sean Astin, and guaranteed reserved seating in individual spotlight sessions with Elijah Wood and Sean Astin.
Wood joins fellow actors Sean Astin, Miranda Otto, Tom Felton, Sean Biggerstaff, Miltos Yerolemou, Ellie Darcey-Alden, Rohan Gotobed, James Payton, Chris Rankin, Stanislav Yanevski, Walles Hamonde, Kiran Shah, and Flick Miles, fandom creators Chanel Williams (TikTok: @chanwills0), Trey Beachum (Instagram: @iamblackharry), and Em Wallbank (Instagram: @emwallbank), and fandom podcasts Potterless, Pottercast, Mugglecast, and more.
LeakyCon stands in solidarity with the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes. In coordination with SAG-AFTRA members appearing at LeakyCon, we have removed direct reference to their projects that fall under TV/Theatrical Contracts so that they can continue to appear without promoting these projects.
Actor Kiran Shah is joining Lord of the Rings cast mates Sean Astin and Miranda Otto at LeakyCon in Chicago this August. Here’s the official press release:
THE LORD OF THE RINGS ACTORKIRAN SHAHJOINS LEAKYCON SPECIAL GUEST LINEUP
NEW YORK (June 13, 2023) – LeakyCon welcomes television and film veteran Kiran Shah to LeakyCon 2023, the fan convention celebrating magical worlds like The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and more. LeakyCon 2023 will take place in Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, August 4-6, 2023.
Shah is best known for his roles in blockbusters like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and many Star Wars films. Shah will appear on panels and programming on Saturday, August 5 and Sunday, August 6. He will also participate in autograph and photograph experiences with fans. Tickets are available now at LeakyCon.com.
Shah joins The Lord of the Rings actors Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee) and Miranda Otto (Éowyn), Harry Potter film actors Sean Biggerstaff (Oliver Wood), Ellie Darcey-Alden (Young Lily Potter), Rohan Gotobed (Young Sirius Black), James Payton (Frank Longbottom), Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley), Stanislav Yanevski (Viktor Krum), Walles Hamonde (Auror), and Flick Miles (stunt double), fandom creators Chanel Williams (TikTok: @chanwills0), Trey Beachum (Instagram: @iamblackharry), and Em Wallbank (Instagram: @emwallbank), and fandom podcasts Potterless, Pottercast, Mugglecast, and more. Additional guests will be announced at a later date.
LeakyCon is a fan convention celebrating fandom, fun, and magic. From August 4-6, 2023 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, join some of the biggest fans, actors, and creators to celebrate the world’s most popular magical franchises. LeakyCon will feature panels, interviews, discussions, workshops, and more, all packed into an epic three-day weekend. LeakyCon is produced by Mischief Management.
Executive Producer Philippa Boyens is pretty pleased with the casting for The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.
“It’s exciting — we’ve been sitting on it for a little bit,” she says. “[But] it all seemed to come together in an organic way, which is what you want, I think. Suddenly, the right people come to the role.”
Boyens says that bringing in Otto as narrator was not an immediate decision. Rather it was one that gradually emerged.
She explains that Éowyn eventually felt like the natural way into the bloody and grim tale from Rohan’s past.
“Her voice was familiar,” she says. “And then I think it started to come easily for the writers.”
She hopes that it will also help locate the story for film fans who are unfamiliar with deeper cuts from Middle-earth’s history.
Yet that was not the only reason — an oral tradition felt fitting.
“It’s also so fragmentary, what we are dealing with in terms of the source material. It’s little bits of references here and there … so the oral tradition felt kind of right. The oral tradition of her telling the tale, passing the tale on.”
She doesn’t divulge to whom. But one guesses it is likely her grandson, Barahir. Tolkien not only names Barahir in The Lord of the Rings (solving any potential rights-access issues that would arise with her son, Elboron), he is also an in-world scholar and the author of The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen.
Helm Hammerhand: a complex and epic role
Boyens says that both the film’s director Kenji Kamiyama, and Warner Bros SVP and producer Jason DeMarco, were well aware of Brian Cox from his recent voice role in the English dub of Blade Runner: Black Lotus.
“They’re huge fans, of course,” she says.
“Weirdly, years ago — and this is me aging myself — I tried to go and see Brian’s performance as Titus Andronicus.”
She describes how this 1987 run of the Shakespeare tragedy directed by Deborah Warner has attained a legendary status.
“It was just one of those ones which was fresh and shocking,” she says.
“And it [the Andronicus role] wasn’t a role — this is from Brian himself — that many of the other actors were interested in taking on. But he connected to it. I couldn’t get a ticket, but I had a couple of friends saw it who were just blown away. And they talked about the way in which his rage was fuelled by this grief. And the underlying horror that was in the storytelling.
“And that kind of resonated with me when we were thinking about the Helm role. Because it just — it spans a lot of different emotions.”
She says the role — and the film — is about delving into Helm’s choices.
“And the mistakes he made as well. And then his acknowledgement of those mistakes. Was there an acknowledgement of those mistakes?” she asks.
At different points she notes Helm’s hot-temperedness, and how he almost certainly under-estimated the Rohirrim lord, Wulf, who after he is outlawed leads the Dunlending invasion of Rohan.
“[Yet], I saw the tales of him slipping out [of the Hornburg] during the siege and attacking the camp for his people as literally someone trying — even with their bare hands – to protect the people as the king should,” she adds.
“So he was a true manifestation of the king-protector.”
Helm’s heirs and the overthrow of Edoras
The grim reality, though, is that Helm is unable to protect his children.
His eldest son, Haleth, is slain when Edoras is overrun and taken by Wulf’s forces while Helm is forced to take refuge in the Hornburg. We touch only briefly on Helm’s other son but I conclude that his Hama’s fate will remain the same tragedy that it is in Appendix A.
Boyens describes the first as a shocking and powerful moment. Powerful, perhaps, for readers, to finally see things they’ve long envisaged through Tolkien’s descriptions; shocking for film fans to see the unexpected — Edoras besieged and overthrown.
On the other hand, Tolkien leaves the fate of Helm’s daughter unclear. In fact, he never names her even though Freca’s bid for her hand in marriage for his son, Wulf, is a key catalyst for war. Boyens concedes that we simply do not know a lot about her.
“Where we turn to, very deliberately, is to Æthelflæd, the Lady of the Mercians. Alfred the Great’s daughter,” Boyens says, and proceeds to provide a rapid-fire education on an era of British history that I’d barely known of until now.
“She never ruled as a queen per se; she’s known as the Lady of Mercians. But she seems to step in when her people needed her.
“Æthelflæd was also really ingenious, which comes into play in the script. [It] was an idea that Kamiyama had, and they (he and the writers) played with that. I can’t tell you too much about it. But it’s about how you save your life when you have very little to work with?”
It’s a statement that seems to suggest that Helm’s daughter – who they’ve chosen to name Héra – will play some key role after the fall of Edoras to Wulf, and the death of Haleth.
“And I really don’t think that Professor Tolkien would hate this,” Boyens says. “Because I always see him as a bit of a Mercian himself being from the Midlands.”
Héra: so named as a nod to the Anglo-Saxon
Unsurprisingly, the name Héra is chosen for alliterative effect: Helm, Haleth, Hama, Héra. Yet Boyens reveals that wasn’t initially the case.
“Someone suggested another name and I went: “Nope, it’s gotta start with “H”, sorry”,” she says.
“Actually, Fran Walsh named her. I told her we were stuck. It’s actually Héra (I get a quick pronunciation lesson and discover the é functions a little like the “ai” in hair) — that’s why it has the accent. Not so much based on the Greek [goddess] Hera, but a nod to the Anglo-Saxon.
“And I like to think she wasn’t a character that [the writers] tried to create wholesale — pulling things out of thin air. Héra is very much drawing from sources that fit with the storytelling that Tolkien himself is drawing on.”
In case you’re wondering, Boyens confirms that neither Fran Walsh nor Peter Jackson have an official production role. It’s more that, since they’re long-time collaborators and have so much experience within Tolkien’s Middle-earth, they’re sometimes just a natural sounding board for ideas.
“I also want to give a shout out to Gaia Wise who voices Héra. I think you guys are going fall in love with her. She is fantastic, she’s amazing. She just had such innate sense of who the character is and how to play her. She was great.
“She had a very natural sense of fiery-ness, but without it being petulance defiance.”
Mûmakil, mercenaries and money
While we’re discussing events at Edoras, conversation inevitably veers toward the Mûmakil that were prominent in the initial concept art released in January.
“In order to understand the use of those [ideas],” Boyens says, “you need to understand the character of Wulf and the position that Wulf is in — and had found himself in. And who he would be turning to.”
At this point she pulls in another fact, mentioning the great wealth of Wulf’s father, Freca.
“His father was not an insignificant Lord of Rohan. He had indeed grown fat and prospered,” she says, referencing Helm’s comment in Appendix A about Freca’s large waistline.
Boyens doesn’t expand any further, but my own guess is that The War of the Rohirrim will establish Wulf as the organising mind behind coordinated assaults on Gondor and Rohan, using resources wealth from his father to secure the assistance of Corsairs and Haradrim.
As Appendix A states:
Four years later (2758) great troubles came to Rohan, and no help could be sent from Gondor, for three fleets of the Corsairs attacked it and there was war on all its coasts. At the same time Rohan was again invaded from the East, and the Dunlendings seeing their chance came over the Isen and down from Isengard.
It was soon known that Wulf was their leader. They were in great force, for they were joined by enemies of Gondor that landed in the mouths of Lefnui and Isen.
A human struggle that becomes increasingly claustrophobic
If this sounds like a very human — and political — struggle, Boyens concurs. I suggest the absence of elves, dwarves and hobbits makes it a very different tale to The Lord of the Rings that most know.
She indicates that this was one of the reasons for choosing Helm’s story.
“It’s not about the Ring, it’s not about the Dark Lord. All of that is very peripheral to the story.”
She says it’s also the attraction of examining honour, revenge and familial ties — on both sides.
For Helm, there’s madness born of grief from the loss of the child. With Wulf, there’s his relationship with his father, and with Héra.
“He is his father’s son, but he has a different character. So he does actually offer [to wed] her and the writers asked: ‘Why?’ What was driving him? Was it just his father demanding that he do this? Was it his ambition? What was at play there?”
Even the historical grievances of the Dunlendings — that the lords of Gondor gave what the Dunlendings felt was their land to the Rohirrim — should come through in the film.
She says that all those things are in the Helm tale.
“When I talked to Kamiyama about it, it resonated with him. So that was the genesis,” she says.
“And there’s a moment in the film, which is incredibly gut-wrenching and powerful where Wulf commits himself to a course of action he cannot turn away from. And once he does that, the story darkens.”
She says it was here that the screenwriters Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou really connected with Kamiyama.
“So, yes, it begins with these quite large-scale battles, but it actually becomes more intense and … claustrophobic,” Boyens says.
“And the nature of the film changes almost into a ghost story.
“As the siege takes hold, as the rumours of horror begin to spread. And I can give you a little tease and let you know that, although we said this isn’t about The Ring and this isn’t about the Dark Lord … there are the White Mountains and there are creatures [out there].”
Somewhat to my relief she squashes speculation that she might be referring to the Dead of Erech. Instead, she suggests that orcs inhabited the area — a historically more agreeable inclusion.
“Also, I can just add — and I thought it was, again, really interesting in the way that Kamiyama approached this — this was a long, cold winter that was hurting everyone.”
This suggests that there won’t be space to see Gondor’s own struggles. Gondor may come to the rescue in the end, but it seems the focus will be squarely on a life-and-death struggle within Rohan.
She won’t even confirm or deny the presence of Saruman the White in the film. We’ll just have to wait and see.
About the author: Staffer Demosthenes has been involved with TheOneRing.net since 2001, serving first as an Associate News Editor, then as Chief News Editor during the making of the Hobbit films. Now he focuses on features and analysis.The opinions in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent those of TheOneRing.net and other staff.
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According to Deadline, Brian Cox is set to perform the English voice role for Helm Hammerhand in Warner Bros. Animation’s upcoming anime feature, The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.
Helm Hammerhand is described as the protaganist of the tale, but the real surprise is the inclusion of Miranda Otto. Otto will reprise her Éowyn role from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and serve as the film’s narrator.
The story outline given to Deadline is as follows:
The anime feature, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, is set 183 years before the events chronicled in the original trilogy of films. A sudden attack by Wulf, a clever and ruthless Dunlending lord seeking vengeance for the death of his father, forces Helm and his people to make a daring last stand in the ancient stronghold of the Hornburg — a mighty fortress that will later come to be known as Helm’s Deep. Finding herself in an increasingly desperate situation, Hera, the daughter of Helm, must summon the will to lead the resistance against a deadly enemy intent on their total destruction.
Helm’s daughter is not named in Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings. However, the story describes how relations between Helm and Wulf’s father Freca sour dramatically after Freca attempts to use her as a political pawn. Her ultimate fate is one of the mysteries of the ensuing war.
Warner Bros. Animation has also released a new piece of concept art that appears to show Helm at the gate of his eponymous fortress. It’s reminiscent of this scene during the depths of the Long Winter:
One night men heard the horn blowing, but Helm did not return. In the morning there came a sun-gleam, the first for long days, and they saw a white figure standing still on the Dike, alone, for none of the Dunlendings dared come near. There stood Helm, dead as a stone, but his knees were unbent.
The Lord of the Rings: Appendix A.
The voice ensemble also includes Lorraine Ashbourne (Netflix’s Bridgerton), Yazdan Qafouri (I Came By), Benjamin Wainwright (BBC One’s World on Fire), Laurence Ubong Williams (Gateway), Shaun Dooley (Netflix’s The Witcher), Michael Wildman (Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw), Jude Akuwudike (Beasts of No Nation), Bilal Hasna (BBC’s Sparks) and Janine Duvitski (ITV’s Benidorm).
Just two rounds remain in this year’s Middle-earth March Madness – we’re down to the final four, facing off against each other in the Semi-Finals! Who has the strength to rule over all?
Let’s take a look back at the Quarter Finals – where none of the battles was as tight as might have been predicted. In a pairing which presented voters with a tough choice, the stout-hearted hobbit overcame his long-shanked foe; Aragorn was defeated by Samwise, with the Ranger unable to claim much more than a third of the vote. This result may surprise some, but then, Master Gamgee has always proved to have hidden strengths and depths.
Division II saw Galadriel going nuclear on Gollum, but still losing to the tricksssy one! Who would have thought that one of the River-folk could overcome a high elf, and a margin of two thirds to one third?
The mighty Maiar match was also not the closely fought duel one might have expected; it must indeed have been Gandalf the White who entered the lists, as he thrashed Saruman, taking over 85% of the vote!
Finally, in Division IV two elves faced off; a high (but half) elf against a woodland dweller. Thranduil may have ridden in on his war moose, but in the end, it was Elrond who came out victorious, claiming about three quarters of the vote.
And now we are down to just FOUR. Samwise vs Gollum – there’s no love lost between these two! Will the faithful gardener be able to overcome ‘Stinker’, or if he lets his guard down, will Gollum defeat the ‘stupid, fat hobbit’? Will it just devolve into a contest of name calling?! You decide!
Gandalf vs Elrond – will the wizard finally teach Half-elven a lesson, for failing to throw Isildur and the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom at the end of the Second Age? Or does Rivendell’s ruler have a trick or two up his voluminous sleeves? It’s up to you – VOTE NOW!