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Well, its been a pretty busy Lord Of The Rings Day for yours truly. I took the Lynx ferry from Picton to Wellington and hooked up with my good buddy Big Geoff before heading to the Te Papa museum. As far as museums go Te Papa is on the cutting edge and a Lord Of The Rings exhibition makes a must see attraction.
No cameras allowed in ( no surprise there) but no reason to not get a quick piccy in the foyer to remind me in years to come that I was actually there. And no, the Argonath is not to scale – I am not as tall as Morgoth, not even on tip toes!
The exhibition is on the 4th floor and covers about the area of a large basketball court. Items of interest are arranged in cocentric circles moving out from the middle of the room – in the center is a dimly lit room with the One Ring suspended in a column which runs from floor to ceiling. The walls feature a band of fire around at about chest height which casts an ornage glow across the display. Fiery runes move across the floor ins spinning fashion and an eeie glow lights the column. A very cool effect and one that truly reflects the majesty of the golden band contained within.
Circling the outside walls of this chamber are displays featuring Sauron in his 2nd age suit of armour and weilding his mace (set against a frieze of Baradur), a statue of the Cave Troll (not life size but rather large), including a Moria Orc and various backgrounds and props from the Chamber Of Marzubal sequence. There is also a wall featuring pictures of Gollum and also a screen showing various video clips about bringing him to life on the screen.
These videos are a common theme throughout the exhibit and generally feature one or more short documentaries concerning different aspects of the film making.
There are a large number of armour and costume displays and those of the main characters have pictures and pertinent information featured with them.
There is a wall which provides examples of the various swords used by the Elves in the Last Alliance and the horsemen of Rohan. There are 3 examples of each and you are invited to examine/touch each sword and guess if it was used in the choreographed fight scenes, for purely ornamental use, or by extras in the background where the look of the sword was the only important consideration.
A large green screen is accompanied by two different mockups of Gandalfs’ cart and multiple video cameras – this allows two people to be shot using the forced perspective method used in the films – very cool. But don’t wear a green shirt or, like one chap, your shirt will be completely see-through and you will appear on camera as a disembodied head and two arms!
The minatures on display of Isengard and the Bywater Mill (fom Frodo’s vision in Lothlorien) are seriously impressive and you can sense the countless hours and blood sweat and tears that went into creating these pieces.
Speaking of which, Boromir is truly scary and you would swear it was actually Sean Bean lying in the grey boat waiting to be dispatched over the Falls Of Rauros. For me this was the highlight of the display and goes to show that you don’t always need a computer effect – a physical mockup or minature adds an extra degree of realism; CGI is nice but should be used only when neceassary in my view…
The main feeling you take away from all of the displays is that someone has put an incredible amount of work into creating the world of Middle Earth for the big screen and we are so very lucky that these committed souls have succeeded in capturing Peter’s vision perfectly.
The exhibition is a very good reason to part with $12NZ and I urge anyone in the Wellington area to see it before it departs for the rest of the world.
Outside Te Papa it is still a bright and blustery day in the capital. One thing you notice immediately is that nearly every second lamp post or power pole in the central city has a Lord Of The Rings banner adorning it – this town loves the movies and their creator and is not afraid to show the world!
It is a short walk to The Embassy theatre and as we round a street corner ahead of us we see Gollum peering over it’s roof trying to get his hand to the One Ring which spins lazily over the theatre entrance.
When Weta Workshop had time to turn this out I don’t know but the time involved and budget was surely not insignificant. It was definitly worth it – theres nothing like the twisted form of a malnourished and time-ravaged hobbit to wake up the rather tame skyline of the city…
He literally is quite massive and you wonder just where he might end up once the movie finishes (god forbid) its run here. My vote is the top of the Beehive (home of our beloved ministers of parliament) building so the politicians have a constant reminder that they work for us and should constantly fight their all-consuming lust for power…
Five hours later and it is back to The Embassy to see The Two Towers (my second viewing). Whilst the foyer of the theatre has been restored, th actual cinema itself can be best described as “run down”. The only improvement here is the sound system and after managing to resist the temptation of buying copius bottles of Shadowfax Chardonnay Big geoff and I take our seats and prepare to be aurally and visually assaulted – in a good way.
Alas it is not to be for a good while as after a few trailershave run the house lights come up and a lengthy pause suggests there is a bit of a technical hitch in progress. It is confirmed by staff a short time later and it is noot until an hour has passed that the film rolls and the Wingnut Films logo is greated with great applause. And how loud was it! The volume was just short of deafening and coupled with teh fact the Embassy screen is rather large meant that the vfilm was definitly worth waiting for.
On second look the film is just as stunning as the first viewing. I noticed the flaming Ent dousing himself in the floods of Isengard (I missed it the first time) and confirmed that the spear wielder at the gate of Helm’s Deep was in fact Peter Jackson himself. And the new plot twist of Faramir continuing to show the weakness of the race of men and then setting Frodo free after hearing Sam’s speech is entirely believeable and congruent with Jackson’s theatrical take on the masterpiece. Insert rebuttle here…
All in all a great day in Wellington and an experience I will treasure for a long time. Now, my conscience is niggling me again, should I return Sauronsmace to the exhibition or not…
Glaurung here, its only 5 sleeps until I fly out of Christchurch (NZ) and head for London and the FOTR premiere. Not that I have a ticket to get in! Be sure I will be there rain or shine to report on the goings on – you might even get a few pictures if you’re lucky.
There is one small matter to settle before I leave. That is, the publication of the final part of my Journey In The Dark. That is, the adventure I had with a friend of mine and his car called SAURON. We visited the Edoras movie set (covertly) and headed to Methven to spy on the stars – as it turns out we got more than we bargained for…
So without further delay, here is what happened that fateful night in the middle of Canterbury to two unsuspecting (but eternally hopeful) Tolkien fanatics…
At The Sign Of The Prancing Pony
Jack had very nearly left the building – by my reckoning in another half an hour he would be outta here! My inebriated colleague had resorted to removing rocks from the bar it was made of polished river boulders and I was worried that soon I wouldnt have a nice flat stable surface to rest my face on. It had been a pretty uneventful day after our excursion to the Edoras set and I could feel it quickly coming to an end
The Council Of Elrond
Then the barman mentioned the movie party next door. We were pretty much dumbstruck at that point obviously our first thought was that we were being taken for a ride! The second (soon after) being that we were pretty stupid, and not all that lucky to not have noticed any goings-on across the way. Once we had been convinced that he was telling the truth (he did have reason to lie after all my companion was dismantling his establishment piece by piece), we stumbled for the door, on the way trying to regain what composure we could
Flight To The Ford
Well, a Honda actually! It was a very eventful but not at all memorable 50 metre drive. My colleague had started to stumble to the hotel next door but I was able to convince him that we must arrive in style. What good is a vehicle named after the Dark Lord if you cant crash it into a bunch of Shortland Street actors? What good indeed Actually, getting into the car took longer than the journey if I remember correctly but chances are I dont. We managed to survive the journey (and also the parking) and left Sauron to rest right in the main doorway
The Last Debate
As we entered the Southern Cross Lodge, it suddenly dawned on us that we may not be welcome. Ironically this attack of conscience had not played a part in any of our other LOTR-related adventures Jack has more morals than we thought obviously! We halted, discussed our plan of attack (which consisted of FIND THE BAR), and strode casually on through the entranceway. The room was abuzz with people and a smoky haze filled the air. Laughter and music permeated the night, along with the welcoming sound of clinking drinking vessels. Our drunken reasoning was sound. No one was going to stop us; points to Jack though for having a damn good try
The Passing Of The Grey Company
We found the bar easy enough as it was rather overrun with patrons. We joined the throng and waited patiently for our turn to be served no money seemed to be changing hands which was an added bonus. Theres nothing like free jack (and no I dont mean that crappy Emilio Estevez movie) after all! Whilst we waited in line, I had time to scan the room and see if this was indeed the movie party. I didnt have to look around for long the ranger Aragorn was playing pool off to the left of the bar and there seemed to be a lot of hobbit-sized folk milling around him. Then a group of people moved past behind me and as I watched them go, I noticed Mithrandir strode among them I tapped my colleague on the shoulder and he was just in time to see the grey company make their exit. We were indeed in the right place!
The Choices Of Master Samwise
Once we reached the front of the queue we were posed with the age-old problem of deciding which beverage to consume. Fortunately Jack was there and we didnt have to ponder for long. Drinks in hand, we moved into the crowd in search of adventure. Before you could say Your Mother Looks Like Bill Ferny we found ourselves propped up against a wall trading yarns with the honourable Lionel Skeggins, aka Hama the door steward (of the Golden Hall). We tarried there for quite a while discussing the filming and trying to nod and agree at the right moments. Hama was very free with information (well, why wouldnt he be) and we had a most informative chat. All was going well until he asked what it was we did in the production
A Pillock In The Dark
I remembered back to our trip to the set that very morning and blurted out horses, Im with the horses. It worked. Hama nodded in acknowledgement and turned to my companion who seemed to be in a far off place -h e had that look in his eye which meant one of two things. Either Jacks grip on his consciousness was about to be complete, or, he was still marginally in control and searching for the perfect answer. Unfortunately the result was a combination of the two Jack convinced him to find the perfect answer for use in an alternate universe Im a doctor on the set he blurted out. I hesitated, sure that he hadnt really said it and it was merely a figment of my water-logged imagination. Not so! He proceeded to tell Hama all about the adventures and perils of being involved medically in the production. Thank goodness we were all tipsy (Hama included) or the game might have been up. Leaving him to dig his own general-practitioner grave I sidled off to avoid expulsion, and to explore the surroundings further
Journey To The Crossroads
I set off through a door on the south side of the main room. Through here was another bar and a number of tables and chairs where people were eating and drinking and obviously letting their hair down. This was the first break they had had in filming in 12 days (apparently) so the amount of celebration was not surprising. Through a door on the far side of this room was a darkened dance floor where trance music was booming into the night. Though very badly lit I could make out vague shapes in the darkness and could just see a haze which enveloped everything. Methinks Saruman did not control the entire supply of Shire pipeweed
The Stairs Of Cirith Ungol
Again, a door on the far side led me onward to a passageway. It quickly came to a t-intersection to the right a corridor stretched onward while to the left a flight of stairs rose and led to the upper floors. Up these I staggered (Jacks fault) and more passageways beckoned. I wandered for a good while around a couple of levels, every now and then the silence being broken by the sound of good cheer and merriment from behind a closed door. And the odd giggle. It seemed the entire establishment had been taken over by the cast and crew I was glad I was not paying the bill! Soon enough though my drinking vessel was empty and I set out to find the bar once more
The Forbidden Pool
Once my bourbon stocks had been replenished I began the hunt for my companion. Behind the snooker table a doorway led out to a courtyard, and sunk into it was the hotel pool. I found Dr Woolhouse (as he shall now be known) still swapping yarns with Hama and other prospective patients. At one point when asked by a young lady what the name of a particular muscle in her leg was, he thought for a split second and answered Bob. Having reduced the crowd to laughter there was only one thing left to do the good Doctor disrobed and soon was ploughing up the water in the green, mossy (and probably near freezing) pool. No one seemed surprised considering the amount of Jack he had prescribed himself, me least of all. I did thank my lucky stars though as it could have been worse. At least he hadnt offered to perform backyard open-heart surgery
The Pyre Of Denethor
Just watching the Doctor paddle about made me feel very cold. I wandered around the pool and under a large satellite dish and came upon a large bonfire & associated gathering out the back of the hotel. After warming myself up near the flames I thought it would be a good (drunken) idea to call everyone I knew on my cellular phone and tell them where I was and what I was doing. This turned out to be a very expensive idea and the bill was a rude shock when I received it a few weeks later. I headed back to the hotel for another drink when I began to get funny looks from the crowd by the fire and yes, the good Doctor was still doing laps of the pool
The Voice Of Saruman
Another drink in tow and I decided to grab a seat in the main room before I fell over. It wasnt long before I was engaged in conversation with one of the productions legal chaps. He told me when he had finished law school he petitioned the production to offer his services he must have said all the right things because they snapped him up! He had been organising things legal when it came to using land for filming, and he also told me how many rental cars had been written off so far. Which I cant quite remember but Im sure it was at least 3. We eventually started talking about me and the horses, and how I must know Steve, and I knew then it was time to make a quick exit. Mumbling something under my breath I headed out the main doors to Sauron in the hope that Doctor Woolhouse would be there.
The Ride Of The Rohirrim
There was no sign of life out front. I decided it would be a good time for another sit-down (and a drink) and planted myself on the grass verge above the roadside kerb. I was soon joined by a man from New Line Cinema who spoke in a very thick American accent and was smoking the biggest cigar I had ever seen. We ended up talking about budgets and he told me that while New Zealand was a cheaper place to make a movie, a production of this size in a new territory still seemed to swallow up vast chunks of capital. I was only really convinced of this when a taxi from Ashburton (a town about 50-odd kilometres away to the South East) arrived to pick him up and take him back there. A few less long-distance cab rides and the budget could well have been smaller!
The Scouring Of The Shire
Finding myself able to walk upright again I ventured inside once more. I searched high and low for the Doctor only to find him hanging clothes to dry on Sauron when I returned. The bar had shut and the party was winding down. We had been guests of the production for around 5 hours by my estimations. I told my companion he should have been using this time to hob-knob with the rich and famous instead of practicing his dog-paddle; he simply chuckled and told me he had done quite well for himself. Oh yes I said, and just what has the watcher in the water been up to? After a long and involved soliloquy he managed to convey to me that the King had spoke with him a while, and also admired Saurons nametag. Not only that but he had secured his autograph and also one for me. He said if I didnt believe him I should head back to the hotel and check which I immediately did.
Farewell To Lorien
We fair hopped, skipped and jumped back to our hotel. Sure enough, Aragorn had signed my copy of The Return Of the King! It was a great ending to a great (but strange) day and before we retired to our beds there was but one more thing to do. Retrieve the car – we had left Sauron behind!
A Long Unexpected Party
After what seemed an eternity of drinking the local drop (Jack Daniels he lives everywhere apparently), and after our successful incursion of Edoras earlier that day, we were starting to feel very relaxed and not at all pished. The bartender inquired about our day skiing and after our non-coherent reply he guessed we were not skiers at all Damn he was onto us After we were interrogated about our true motives (interrogation consisted of more Jack), we let on that we were LOTR fans and had been to the Edoras movie set.
A Conspiracy Unmasked
He then looked at us across the bar and leaned forward smiling and said, Why, dont you crash their party next door then? We were dumbstruck – as if we had driven hundreds of kilometres in the middle of nowhere to go in search of the movie crowd, and then to have them partying right next door to our hotel! I looked up at the bartender to see whether he was having us on, or just testing to see how much Jack had influenced us. Trying to think of something clever and witty to reply, which would give no indication of my level of intoxication (or of my poor New Zealand education), I came up with this: No Shit?
The Muster of Rohan
After careful consideration, my travelling companion Glaurung and I decided we must investigate further. We determined that we had to take our steed (the mighty Sauron) even if it was only to the hotel next door. After careful consideration on where to park (and how to drive, as it matters thanks Jack) we decided that the lobby looked very accessible. Once out of the vehicle we pondered how sensible it was to have a vehicle parked in the main doorway with the registration SAURON at a LOTR party. Fortunately Jack helped assure me that it was ok and that no one would notice
(Note: I do not condone drink driving whatsoever. It is a little known fact that 1987 Honda Preludes have an AutoPilot Function)
The Black Gate Opens
After walking towards the door I came up with the idea that if there was security (obviously there wasnt any on the forecourt) we would probably need to speak a password to enter. Perhaps speak friend (Mellon!) and enter. By the time we had discussed this we realised we were already inside! There were people everywhere, at least 100 in the main atrium all busy drinking, playing pool, dancing, and drinking (as it happens). First thing was first, we had to establish if this was in fact a LOTR party and we had to be inconspicuous. That meant finding the bar. After realising that we werent going to get pounced on by security we managed to relax and have a look round whilst queuing for a beverage. There definitely was a mix of people, very tall to very short (hobbit size maybe) – I still wasnt convinced that this was definitely
A tap on my shoulder from my companion made me turn around and look..
The White Rider
There was Gandalf (minus the beard, cape, hat and big long stick thingy) with a group right beside us having a good old laugh at something! We were dumbstruck with awe. Obviously this called for some reinforcements and luckily Jack was at the bar (I told you he lives everywhere), and Jack is so much better when he costs nothing! We did a quick scout of the bar, lounge and poolside and found a quiet corner where we could sit and piss ourselves laughing at our good fortune. I then noticed a man playing pool who looked familiar, and then promptly fell off my seat as I realised it was Strider. He was a lot shorter than me (Im 62) and was in bare feet and rugged clothes (in character always apparently), but he was instantly recognizable.
Three Is Company
It didnt take long before we had some company, not an elven princess as I would of liked, but a likeable rogue who looked very familiar (Lionel from Shortland Street in fact). After asking us if we were glad to have a break after 12 consecutive days filming (we were like Of course, its so demanding), he then led us into a discussion about the part he was playing in the film (Hama the Door Steward of Meduseld). After a discussion containing much inside information (which we wont divulge!) we got to the question which we were desperately trying to avoid – he asked us what we did on the set!!! Whilst my companion (sensibly) managed to quickly come up with something to the effect of looking after the horses, I struggled to find an answer. I consulted Jack knowing he would provide me with a suitable reply. A Doctor I proclaimed.
A Plonker in the Dark
…of all the stupid cast and crew jobs there were I had to say that (Im beginning not to trust Jack after
that one)!! Things didnt go as badly as they seemed; I must have sounded convincing, either that or Hama the Door Steward had had one too many (what can I say he made a lousy bouncer, he didnt even ask if I brought a sword in with me)! It was about this time I decided to leave my companion for a quick look around. There was some sort of dance party going on in one of the rooms which I decided needed investigating. After discovering that this was the younger part of the cast and crew and the familiar smell of Hobbit Pipeweed permeated the air, I carried on to the main bar (surprised?)
Flotsam & Jetsam
I was standing watching people, scanning for anyone who looked familiar or famous, when someone knocked a glass onto the floor which broke into a million pieces (as they do). Looking down I noticed a man barefoot drinking beside me. After deciding that if someone was to cut their foot then they might call on a Doctor for help (and I would be exposed), I decided to warn this fellow of the impending peril. I tapped him on the shoulder and pointed out the lethal shards. He turned around and thanked me – I looked at his face when I heard his accent and just realised I had saved the King from cutting his foot!!! Yep Aragorn himself (well Viggo Mortensen) was standing beside me!!! I immediately tried to say something clever and non-native – No Worries Mate I told him
The Forbidden Pool
Later on that evening, (or it might have been morning by now) after consuming Vodka (Jack had left but his friend Kirov remained). My companion, Hama (and I) were conversing about how cold it was and therefore how cold the hotel pool must be. After I prescribed us all another round of drinks, I felt compelled to go for a swim. Whether the pool was enchanted or not I am still unsure. I was drawn to its edge looking for Icebergs because it looked that cold. I still to this day am not sure why but I decided a quick swim was called for. I heard voices asking what the good Doctor was doing? My companion just nodded his head and sighed, as if I do this all the time
Return Of The King
After multiple dips in the algae-infested depths of the pool I returned to my steed (Sauron) for some dry clothes. Luckily it was still parked in the hotel entranceway. No one had seen fit to tow the Dark lord away! After getting changed and preparing myself for more alcohol abuse (it was a free bar it would be rude not to), I saw Viggo leaving the party. I asked him what he thought about my registration plate – after a few moments he started laughing and told me that it was a cool evil plate man (I always wanted to be an Evil Doctor). I asked him if I could get his autograph and he said no problem. This was all fine and dandy except I had left my copy of LOTR in the other hotel. I told him I would be about 2 minutes and then I raced (by foot) to the hotel and grabbed both copies. Sure enough Viggo was outside waiting by his car (what a great man). He signed both copies, one for me and one for my companion, and then I shook hands with the King before drove off into the night/dawn
The rest of the adventure that evening (morning) was sort of a blur, and no, this is no Shortcut To Mushrooms .
I remember someone trying to buy my registration plate off me and I refused (because its my precious)
I also remember trying to convince some fine Elvish ladies to have a swim but alas, they think 5 degrees (Celsius) is cold!!
I blame Jack
The trip to Methven was not a long one. We sped across the rich fertile Canterbury Plains and arrived at our destination to find the townspeople slumbering in their beds. First port of call was to book in at what would be our lodgings for the coming evening.
As we carried our luggage in the proprietor asked us if we were “skiers or boarders?”. Mumbling something unintelligible under our breath we shuffled off to our rooms.
Immediate exploration was out of the question (we soon discovered) as the lack of a good nights sleep, plus the rigours of our early morning adventure had drained us quite considerably. A nap was called for before we embarked on our next voyage of discovery.
Around noon we awakened and slipped into the bustling metropolis that is Methven. We immediately happened upon the town hall which was being used as the film unit’s base of operations, but all was quiet – obviously the Edoras filming was in full swing. The rest of the town was completely devoid of any obvious movie connections so after a while we returned to our hotel for a spot of lunch. It was during lunch that I realised I was totally unprepared if we actually ran into any celebrities! Sure, we had a camera but had I remembered to bring a copy of the book (or anything) to be signed? No!
Back to town we sped, my offsider had his trusty dog-eared copy of LOTR but I had to settle for buying anew copy of The Return Of The King. For obvious reasons the Methven bookstore was sold out of all other versions!
It was now 2:30PM so we adjourned to one of the local watering holes to watch Canterbury play Waikato at Rugby Union (Edoras vs. The Shire). Up for grabs was the coveted Ranfurly Shield, the prize of all prizes as far as New Zealand Rugby is concerned. The town came to a standstill and there was much yelling and consuming of beer for 2 hours. Much to my annoyance Canterbury lifted the shield from Waikato and much celebration ensued. NB There are two main public drinking establishments (pubs) in Methven. Their names are Blue Pub and Brown Pub. And yes, because one is painted blue and the other is painted brown! Ah, the quaint hamlets of Canterbury and their imaginative population… good thing they can play rugby!
The day had taken it’s toll on us (with the help of not a small number of mugs of ale) and so again we returned to our hotel for a nap. We were not used to getting up at the crack of dawn (doom) obviously! We rose for a late dinner and then proceeded into town in search of the wild celebrity nightlife we had been primed for.
We were sorely disappointed. After traipsing around the places to be seen (at night in Methven) we came up very short. Not one sighting of anything even vaguely resembling the huge production that is The Fellowship Of The Ring. We were dejected and gloomy but all was not lost – we had not stumbled into the midst of the production but we had had a lot of time to sample more of the local brew. By the time we returned to our hotel it was nearly the witching hour and we were (to put not to finer point on it) rather cut!
We decided to drown our sorrows further at the hotel bar and sought comfort from our old friend Jack (Daniels). A wee while later, as we got closer to the floor, the barman asked us why we were moping around here when we could have been at the party next door…
Ringer Super Spy Glaurung sends along these AMAZING pics from the long destroyed Edoras set! These pics are truly amazing, you can see the attention to detail and the truly REAL feeling this set has! Take a look!