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January 07, 2004 - January 15, 2004

1-15-04 Latest News

Q&A with Sean Astin Fan Report
Xoanon @ 7:44 pm EST

Eowyn and Frodo writes: Here is our fan report from our meeting with Sean Astin. We hope you enjoy it and we definitely hope you post it so that all of the fans get to know what he said at the Q & A.

Return of the King showing followed by Q&A with Sean Astin

On Monday January 5th Emilia (aka Eowyn) and Rebekah (aka Frodo) woke up and started frenetically running around town getting together costumes, wigs, ears, elven-brooches, a couple of "The one Rings" (apparently there is more than one!) on chains. and special hand made buttons. What was the occasion? We were meeting Sean Astin!! THE Sean Astin. (You know, the one who played Sam in The Lord of the Rings. HeeHee.) And we were going to ask him up to 12 chosen questions and get autographs. We had originally planned to be at the theater at 4:00AM, (in the morning!) for the showing at 7:00PM, but soon realized that people winning tickets from a Mozart radio station probably weren't going to be the kind of geeks that we are, so we therefore arrived in style (see pictures), at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood as prepostureously late as 4:00PM.

Our friend, Suzanne, who was also in line with us at the Vista for ROTK, had crafted picture buttons (The ones you pin on your jacket) for Sean that we were extatic about giving to him. One was a picture of Sam holding his daughter and it read; "My dad is hobbit forming". Another was a picture of P.J. reading: "Peter Jackson for best director 2003". All in all there were 9 of them, and we couldn't wait to see his reaction when he received our little presents.

Being first inside we chose seats in the first row, right in front of THE chair with THE microphone and we proceeded to watch ROTK looking straight up, and feeling that Gollum was occasionally just a wee bit too close. Of course Ewoyn (Emilia) forgot that wearing eye make-up while watching one of the greatest tear jerkers ever made was a bad idea, and by the time Sean arrived she looked a bit like she had lived under the misty mountains for hundreds of years, without looking in a mirror, Sean didn't seem to mind. We were the only ones in the theater dressed up in costumes, and when he made a reference to "The fans" he pointed to us. By this time Eowyn (Emilia) was crying even more, and when the microphoned ended up beneath her chin she was unable to speak and Frodo (Rebekah) had to ask the first question.

The following questions from the audience and Sean's answers are paraphrased, as we were not able to record the discussion (but our pens were on fire).

Question number 1: "If you, as an actor, could play any character from any story, who would it be?"

S.A.: They're remaking a movie about Jesus Christ right now, and that would be fun. I would love to play Alexander the Great, or any big Shakespearian part - anything with big ideas, but they never call me for those kind of parts. Also Snoopy. I played him in High School.

Question 2: "What was the most challenging thing about making the films (LOTR), for you?"

S.A.: Putting on the pounds. I had just finished a marathon and having a baby, and was in the greatest shape of my life. Having to get heavy and carry all that weight around for so long was personally and psychologically very hard. Another thing was mental stamina, staying focused and keeping it fresh. As much as I love Lord of the Rings, there were times when I simply wanted to get away. I love talking about myself, my colleges, and movies, and I found myself getting sick of talking. One thing I did to counteract that, was to read books about other things.

Question 3: "Which was your favorite movie, of the three?"

S.A.: I've been looking at it as one big movie. It's an impossible choice, but if I absolutely had to chose, it would be ROTK. I love the scenes on the slopes of Mt. Doom, and the climax satisfaction. From the Fellowship of the Ring I love the Cave Troll sequence, and the boat scene with Frodo at the end. In The Two Towers my favorite part is the battle scene at Helms Deep. The part that made me cry when I read the books was when the people of Gondor kneeled for the hobbits.

Question 4: This was a woman basically criticizing the development of all the characters and saying that Aragorn didn't seem like a king, and that many of the characters didn't have enough screen time, and Sean answered her with such eloquence and dignity.

S.A.: I think you'll really look forward to the Extended Edition of ROTK. Basically Peter Jackson had to get it done by the Christmas dead-line, and there was a lot of stress. Every actor each has dozens of scenes - that they were desperate to keep in the film - that were cut out. For example there's a great scene with Merry swearing his alligance to King Theoden, and scene with me and Gollum that I really liked. As far as Aragorn goes, Viggo chose to play him with such pathos and sensitivity. Viggo was incredibly committed, speaking to the writers, and trying to keep more stuff in. He was possibly even more committed than Andy Serkis, and Andy was the most commited of all. However the movie didn't give justice to Viggo's full performance. He was in G.I. Jane as the Master Chief and he has that strength. You wouldn't want to be in a fight with Viggo.

Question 5: "What do you think is the films relevance to present time?"

S.A.: It's like Aragorn's speech at the end of ROTK. "It's not the time for one man, but the time for all men to come together in peace." I personally think that this is a very dangerous time on the planet. Peter (Jackson) describes it (in the films) as the elves giving up on men. We (humans on the earth) can't stop fighting and killing each other, and ruining the environment. The films could represent a last warning. The movies' relevance is also about friendship. Gimli makes this racial comment, that he never thought he'd die next to an elf, and Legolas says "What about dying next to a friend?" I watch "Friends" (the T.V. Series) and people love to see people being friends and making fun of each other and making up and having fun.

Question 6: "What, about Sam, would you like the audience to leave with?"

S.A.: I came in and stood at the side of the theater about fifteen minutes before the movie ended and was almost glad hearing all the sniffles. I haven't seen the movie in quite a while and remembered again what an emotional experience it is. The relief of pain and loss, the emotional release. I want people to remember how that felt, I want people to remember that feeling within themselves. Also, Sam is such a spectacular character. He is an emblem of goodness, decency, bravery, honesty, and faithfulness. I use him as a litmus test for my own life, with my friends and family.

Question 7: "What was the hardest scene to film?"

S.A.: There were many different kinds of hard. Physically hardest was the tops of mountains. It took a helicopter to get up there, it was the most extreme. I would bring a lighter and a knife, just in case, because you don't know. It was like "Surviver" meets Middle-Earth. The Council of Elrond was really grueling story wise. It took over a week to film because there were fifteen to twenty characters coming together, and each actor had to do his lines hundreds of times. There were so many difficulties with scale issues because there were hobbits and dwarves and men and elves all in the same place.

Question 8: "To what would you contribute the success of the movies?"

S.A.: The books, and how Tolkien captures human truths. The passion and dedication the films were made with and the fact that they were made for the fans. The kind of love that were put into this project, The audience ends up feeling it.

Question 9: "Looking back is there anything you would have done differently?"

S.A.: Of course. My father always said that he never wanted to regret anything, but for me there are thousands of things. About 90% of the experience I end up not enjoying because I'm always worried about the outcome or doing it wrong. What I would do differently If I could do it all over again is that I would let go of the mental anguish, be more zen and live in the moment.

Question 10: We don't remember how the question what phrased, but it was about Sean's voice over work with the ROTK - the video game and "Kingdom Hearts" video games.

S.A.: I'm a gamer. I love games. I play real time strategy games on my computer. I loved giving the performance of Sam for the game. To not have given the same commitment for the game as I did for the movies would have felt like a sell out, a compromise of integrity, because I know kids are going to be playing this, so I gave it 100%. I also hope it's (the game) a gateway into literature for kids. As for kingdom hearts, I did that to fill in for the actor who couldn't make it, so I don't know if I'll do that one again.

Question 11: Another woman complained, saying: "wouldn't it be better to make movies about peace instead of war?" Again, Sean was graceful and eloquent in responding and didn't take it a least bit personal.

S.A.: I understand, my wife loves to go to movies with no conflict. The only way to get my daughter to go to a movie is by telling her there won't be any fighting. I personally love to explore conflict, It's the most interesting part about drama. (He started going off on a tangent at this point - about directing) As a director I would love to explore luscious cinematography. For example, "Sea Biscuit" and "Cold Mountain". I love the cinematography in those movies. I have a friend who is a rowing champion, and I would love to catch that on film.(From the perspective of a cinematographer.)

He also talked about wanting to continue directing and getting into it in a big way. The head of a studio had come to him and said that they wanted him to direct a major movie for them, and he told us that his thought was: "What, are you trying to make me cry?". (In case someone felt like misunderstanding that, he was very excited about the idea, not sad)

After the Q & A, Sean stayed about a half hour signing autographs, taking pictures, and talking to the fans. First we got into the crowd and got two things signed for two of our friends, then we waited. When there were only a couple people left we went back up to him to give him some gifts. (Remember the buttons?) He thought they were really cool, and when we pulled out the button with the picture of him and his daughter, he paused. The "Sean on display"- personality left for a moment and you could tell he was really touched. His body guard started pushing the fact that he needed to leave, but Sean turned to us, said thank you, and gave us each a big hug.(Let me make that clear. HE gave US a hug.) And Eowyn (Emilia) started crying. Again. And Sean got whisked away - out the door by the big guy, and all we were left with was an empty theater.

TV Watch: Astin Transcript From 'The Early Show'
Xoanon @ 7:12 pm EST

A BIG Thank you to SamsKimmie for getting this transcript to us!

Sean Astin Transcript from CBS -The Early Show - Monday, January 12, 2004

Interviewer: Harry Smith

Harry Smith begins: In less than a month the final installment of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy The Return of the King has already taken in over three quarters of a BILLION dollars worldwide.

[Film clip from ROTK “I’m not sending him away”, the heated conversation between Frodo and Sam concerning Gollum playing in the background as Harry continues to talk]

Sean Astin is getting Oscar talk for his emotional performance as Sam the Hobbit who must help Mr. Frodo played by Elijah Wood carry the Ring to Mt. Doom and save Middle Earth.

[ROTK Clip showing only: Sam & Frodo “share the load” scene in which Frodo starts to distrust Sam. Clip ends with Sam saying “I don’t want to keep it!”]

Harry: WOW!

[We see Sean dressed in a very nice suit and tie, lavendar shirt—he looks great!]

Harry: Sean Astin is with us, good morning. It’s so good to see you again.

Sean: Good morning. Thank you, thanks for having me.

Harry [excitedly ahhs]: For people, cause there are, what seven or eight people in American who have not seen the movie yet apparently or in the world this whole, this whole story this third installment is about this ring. You’ve gotta get the ring back to Mount Doom and turn it and throw it into this eternal fire, right, so that it’s gone forever?

Sean: Yeah, well for six years we’ve been trying it’s been getting closer and closer and closer and now we’re within site of this volcano we’re we uh and it’s somehow the closer you get to it the more intense the obstacles become as you . . .

Harry: [Very spirited tone and lots of body language] And Elijah Wood is really the keeper of this ring and you are his best pal and THERE he turns his trust away from you [he uses the hand sign of pushing away].

Sean: Yeah, yeah it’s like all friendships you know there’s, there come moments of truth when you when there’s doubt and uh he’s you know for Sam, I don’t, Sam just is confused by it and for me as the actor [Harry interjects: You as Sam] my character Sam is just confused by the fact that all of a sudden I’ve sort of fallen out of favor or and I know that it’s not because of anything that I have done because of Gollum sort of polluting his mind and because of this [Harry interjects: creepy guy] this evil Gollum is uh is Andy Serkis and is one of the great literary characters. [More of the ROTK clip shown from the beginning of the interview in the background with Gollum saying “I wouldn’t hurt a fly”, with Sam and Frodo] But Elijah Wood you know he’s had this ring and Frodo’s had the ring and the, the evil has seeped into his consciousness and he’s, he’s not himself.

Harry: It’s so difficult that you literally have to put him on your back and carry him to the top of this mountain.

Sean: Yeah.

Harry: It is amazing. Let me tell you what uh Rolling Stone says about your performance in this third movie, that “you are the MVP. Astin plays Sam with tenderness that is unique and unforgettable.” [Sean slowly moves his face to a humble smile and a gracious snort]
My own interjection here: Don’t be shy Sean, you deserve it! THE FANS LOVE YOU AND LOVE SAM!

Harry: What is it like to get that kind of adulation?

Sean: Um (timidly), well, we were at the New York Film Critics uh dinner last night and a couple of serious film critics came up and just wanted to, wanted to tell me how moved they were by the performance and there was real honesty and there wasn’t like, you know, there were . . .

Harry interjects: so nobody’s blowing smoke at you?

Sean: Well, no, there’s smoke blowing too. [both Harry and Sean giggling] But ah ah [Sean readjusts himself in his chair] which is fine as well, which is fine as well, but, no, you know what it just, um, it feels great, it feels, I mean I’ve been on so many talk shows it just feels like America has basically just said you know it’s okay, you know, WELCOME.

Harry [agreeing]: Yeah, Yeah.

Sean: So it feels gratifying. [ROTK Clip showingin background of Sam giving the last of his water to Frodo and saying “I don’t think there will be a return trip home”’]

Harry: People are talking about an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for you, do you want that? [Sean gushing a bit with a giggle]

Sean: Ummm.

Harry: Or do you dare not want it?

Sean: No. Yeah, yeah you want it. Of course. I mean my Mom won an Oscar when she was a kid. [Harry interjects: Patty Duke] Patty Duke and for Helen Keller and I was nominated when I was uh 23 for my short film and my Dad was nominated in the same category, so like we’re sort of Oscar people, we’re academy people, but, but I think for the right reasons.

Harry: Yeah.

Sean: But um.

Harry: Has your Mom seen you in this movie?

Sean: She has and she …

Harry: What does she say?

Sean: She talked to me like an actor, she talked to me like an actor for the first time since I was eight years old. [Harry laughs loudly with a breathful laugh] You know what I mean she, she wanted to talk about craft, she was and what moved her and what was honest and it was instead of the just the usual kind of pride and the knowing you know. Look she wanted to uh she was, she was SO excited, so. But the Oscar talk thing is a double-edged sword. I mean as a, I look at myself as a journeyman kind of working class actor. I mean that’s how I feel. And my agents and the town now are excited about getting on the phone and because the response they get on the other end of the phone when they’re talking about. It was for years you know. . . Here’s a guy, “oh we love Sean”, but now they want to talk about it. So. [Harry reaches over to shake Sean’s hand, says congratulations—Sean acknowledges with a “Yeah”]

The Early Show music is beginning to play to go to commercial break..

Sean: So, that makes it kinda, makes it meaningful to me.

Harry: We’ll be right back. This is the early show on CBS.

Nazz Chats with Peter Jackson
Xoanon @ 7:02 pm EST

Ringer Spy Nazz attended the MANY press confrences during the ROTK media blitz last month. In this article he chats with Peter Jackson.

Special thanks to Rip It Up Magazine in South Australia for this transcript.

The VIP Panel at the Lincoln Centre Event
Peter Jackson via Satellite at the Lincoln Centre

The Epic Of All Epics - Making The Biggest Film Production Of All Time: The Lord Of The Rings

Peter Jackson's adaptation of JRR Tolkien's beloved three-part novel The Lord Of The Rings has rightly been acknowledged by the public as one of the great cinematic achievements of our time. All the filmmakers' respect for the author's work, coupled with the care and massive attention to detail put into making them seem the most 'possible version of the books' (to quote a phrase coined by costume designer Ngila Dickson) seems to have paid off. The Return Of The King has already smashed opening day box office records, making $34 million dollars in a single day when it opened in the US on Thursday December 18.

With the journey finally coming to an end, we present for you some of the vast collection of interviews I was lucky enough to conduct when visiting Wellington New Zealand, home-base of the production for the world premiere. Firstly, the man of the hour, director, writer and producer, Peter Jackson:

Peter, we've heard the saying, 'bigger than Ben Hur' before, but this really is. Heck, it's even an epic among epics.

PJ: "[laughs] Possibly it is."

How are you feeling at the moment, on the night before the world premiere of the third film, seven years in the making?

PJ: "Exhausted. I'm feeling a degree of stress about tomorrow - for me, it's going to be a very stressful day. I'm going to try to enjoy it which is what I should try and do because it's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But I don't really like being the centre of attention at any point in time. One of the drawbacks of directing films like this is, obviously, at you get to point where you have to step up and be the front-person for the film to represent the movie; which, on many levels, I'm proud to do, but it's just a little bit scary that's all.

"It'll be a relief to get to the Embassy and sit and watch the movie. I haven't seen the movie yet."

What are going to wear?

PJ: "I dunno as long as this doesn't get too smelly [tugs at crumpled shirt], this will be fine [laughter]!"

I know you're not supposed to have favourites with children, but of all the characters, there must surely be one you prefer.

PJ: "There's not. And I'm not just saying that. I think what's really nice about these films is that they're true ensemble movies. There's nobody who really is the star of the movie. In fact, even the three movies we've made, they've all managed to focus on different characters as the story weaves itself. And so no I've always been fond of the Hobbits as characters in themselves because the Hobbits are much like us; or certainly like me. I should be saying Aragorn really but I'm more pathetic than that I'm afraid [giggles] so the Hobbits are the people I have the greatest affection for as a race.

"If I was to choose anywhere in Middle-Earth I'd like to live, it would be in that lovely little Hobbiton village. It's actually in Mata-Mata but never mind."

I've heard on the grapevine that they're thinking of maybe reconstructing it in the wild. Is that true?

PJ: "Well I love Bag End. One of the great joys about making this film is that I got to walk around all the sets, which was great. It's like sometimes you feel that you're really in the world; especially up in Mata-Mata when we had that whole farm decked out as Hobbiton. But the interior of Bag-End was back in the studio here because once we were inside the door we were back in the studio. I loved the set because, as you saw in the movie, it was all made with round walls - and it's just amazing how comforting roundness is in a building. I thought, 'why aren't we making round buildings? Why is it all just square, flat walls? It's so comforting in all this roundness, so I asked New Line while we were shooting it a long time ago, I said, 'listen if I pay for all the storage costs' - because basically sets are big and cumbersome and, as soon as you finish with them, they get smashed up and burnt because no one wants to keep them - so I said, 'if I pay for the storage, can I keep Bag End?' And they said, 'yeah sure [laughs]. We don't want Bag End.' So I've kept it and the whole idea is to stick it into a hill and have it as a guest house."

Technology-wise, from the beginning of the making of FellowshipŠ to now, how much has it improved?

PJ: "It has improved enormously. You can't believe the lengthy meetings I had at the beginning of the process back in 1998, round-tables like this actually; with all the different department heads. We would go through the scripts with the storyboards and try to figure out ways to do shots. And it would be sooo complicated, like, 'oh okay, we want this creature so we're going to have to use a motion control and make sure we measure it out. And we're going to have to do this and that,' and everybody was stressing about how we were going to do it. Now four years have gone by and when this year I was doing some shooting, and nobody cared any more. There were no storyboards, it was just like, 'well we're going to have this big elephant thing there so we'll just shoot it. Let's just do it quickly coz we've got to move on. So bang and do it [laughter]. And it could all be fixed later. It was all a real sense that we could fix it all on the computer.

"That's one of the things that's happened with the technology. It's not so much that things look so much more realistic now than they did four years ago, but the speed and ease of actually using all this stuff has got a lot faster and quicker. Kids can do stuff on PCs nowadays that can rival just about anything we can do. Computer effects are just a tool and they don't have to dominate movies or used for special effects films, but computers are very useful for creating what you've got in your mind and getting it on film. I think the great use of computers is going to be for low budget films. They'll become so cheap that low budget films can afford to use them. They're almost there now coz you can just about, as I said, do it on your home PC. It means that people who can't afford big crowds, because they're a low budget movie, will be able to have them because you can it all on the computer. It'll help low budget films feel more expensive - and not just be isolated to these big budget movies."

What do you say to the people who would have doubted you could pull this off? Is it a bit like, 'I told you so'?

PJ: "Oh no. I dunno. Everybody has a perfect right to doubt we could pull it off. I was a director without any box office record of particular note. New Zealand, our crews down here had never made a film this big. There was every reason in the world to have a perfectly legitimate cause to say, 'are you sure these guys can really do it?' It's nice to have proven that we could. It's nice just to realise that filmmaking has got to the point now where the biggest film productions I mean this is undoubtedly the biggest film production of all time if you look at all three movies but that it can be done - and down here in New Zealand."

Was there ever any doubt?

PJ: "No. I didn't have those moments, no. I mean, making The Lord Of The Rings is not a lot different to making any other film. Every film has it's own circumstances. Making Meet The Feebles was just as hard as The Lord Of The Rings - it was no easier working with puppets and trying to find ways to hide the puppeteers and not having any money in that case, so I couldn't solve things with money and had to figure it out cheaply. That was hard and stressful and one of the great advantages of The Lord Of The Rings was having the big budget. I was able to have a lot of people helping me and what the money ultimately provides you in a big budget film is the people. You have a lot of help and it does make it easier the more help you have?"

What's the nicest thing anybody could say about your movie?

PJ: "I really enjoyed your film. That's all you do it for really. There is no other reason to make the movies," Jackson admits with a good-natured chuckle. "I don't believe in making movies that I've got some personal statement I want the world to tune in to. For that reason, I don't make movies because I think I'm an artist that wants to put something into the world that I think is significant. I just make them because want people to enjoy them, because I love movies. I'm as much of a film geek as anybody else and always have been; since I was a kid."

What's your favourite movie, outside the ones you've made yourself?

PJ: "King Kong. The original 1933 King Kong is my favourite film. Buster Keaton's The General I love. Dawn Of The Dead I love. Lots of films."

Why make King Kong again if it captured your imagination so much?

PJ: "I think the reality with King Kong and other similar movies is that this is the first generation now - our children if you like - most of them have absolutely no interest in watching a black and white film. I was born and brought up in a time when TV was black and white. And I was afraid of watching black and white films and old fashioned films and films with scratches or pops and hisses on the soundtrack.

"The generation of today just have no tolerance or patience for old black and white movies where the acting is a little bit old fashioned and the effects are jerky or clumsy. Kids just have no interest in it at all which is a little bit of a worry. So if there's any time to legitimately make a new version of King Kong, this is it. This is a great story that is fading out of the consciousness of our kids. Most kids today couldn't tell you what King Kong was. They've heard of it but don't really know what it is."

Do you remember the first time you saw it?

PJ: "Yeah. It was on TV on a Friday night here [Wellington, NZ] and I was about eight or nine years old. I didn't really know much about it. I saw it and I was just swept away. It was the moment in time where I definitely wanted to become a filmmaker. I'd made movies for a couple of years prior to that, because I was making movies when I was about seven; little films mainly inspired by Thunderbirds actually. And then I saw Kong and it was just the most magical, enchanting experience. I just forgot I was in the lounge of Krill Bay and was just suddenly swept away to Skull Island and absolutely entranced by the film. After that I wanted to do that. I just thought it must just be so much fun to make films like this. There was an allure about it."

What was it about that story? It was acclaimed way back then for state of the art effects.

PJ: "It was made in 1933. The one in 1976 was a horrible film."

Was that a case of special effects taking over?

PJ: "I see what you're saying. Yeah. The 1976 one was just horrible on all counts. They just tried to make it hip and modern and kinda trendy at that time. It looks terribly dated now. I watched it a little while ago and it's horrible just soooo dated - more dated than the 1933 version [laughs]! It doesn't have emotion, it just has smart-arsed stuff in it. It doesn't have genuine heart or emotion. It's just sterile."

In The Return Of The King, when the Hobbits return to Hobbiton and there's the amazing scene with the actor Tim Gordon, where all the Hobbits are prancing around a big pumpkin and the four Hobbits look to each other. I wonder, do you think that echoed Tolkien's own experience of coming back from World War I?

PJ: "Yeah. I think that's exactly what it was. It was actually a scene we shot this year [2003]. We'd shot everything else around that area four years ago on our main schedule. We shot the coronation, the Grey Havens later and we'd shot Frodo writing in the book at Bag End. We'd shot everything around that time, back in 1999 and 2000. But this year, when I had a look at a cut of the film

"We actually showed the film to Elijah, Billy and Dom last year. you remember when they came out for The Two Towers junket last year. They went to the premiere of The Two Towers, and the next day they came round to our house. And they said, 'look we've got a favour to ask can we see The Return Of The King [laughs]?' So I played it for them this time last year which was interesting. But I felt, what we hadn't quite shot and hadn't written originally, was a sense of closure of them actually finishing their job. That they'd achieved something. They'd arrived back in Hobbiton and why had they done it? I wanted a scene that did that. So I was wondering what to do.

"It was intersecting what you say, because I wondered what it was like to come back from war. And I realised actually for the first time in my life - I hadn't even thought about it - that the reason why the RSA, the Returned Servicemen's Association, was formed. All around the world you had these Returned Servicemen's Associations and they were formed after World War I.

"And I realised that these guys came back from some horrific, traumatic experience and they're back in their families, and they've got their wives or girlfriends, children, mothers and fathers. And they can't talk to them about what it was like. You can't start to talk about dismemberment and lice and rats and mud in the trenches and killing people. You just can't talk to anyone else about it. You had to be able to sit with other people who had shared the experience, not having to talk about it, but just other people who understood. So there's this sense of understanding and everyone else doesn't really understand.

"I wanted to have this scene in the pub, The Green Dragon Inn, that showed that. That these four guys all knew what they'd gone through, that they didn't have to talk about it. They just had to look each other in the eye. And why they went through it was for this pumpkin next door! Everyone's admiring the big pumpkin - and that's what they did what they did for: to preserve that lifestyle, to preserve he simplicity of being proud of the pumpkin."

That really summed it up.

So to young actors and movie makers from New Zealand, you've proved that New Zealanders can do it. What advice do you have for them?

PJ: "I think the best thing to do is obviously, as you could imagine, I get a huge amount of mail from young filmmakers from all around the world. More often than not, or just about always in fact, it's simply from people who like the idea of being a filmmaker. They say, 'oh I love films and can I apprentice with you?' That's what they usually ask: can I be your assistant and can I come and watch onset when you're filming. I love the idea of making a movie. That approach doesn't really work; just out of experience. What I respond to, and what anyone responds to, are films. To me today, I grew up making movies when I was a kid on Super8 which wasn't a particularly helpful thing to use. You didn't have sound and you couldn't really cut it together very easily. But today, there's such great home video equipment that I just feel that before writing any letters or approaching me or before anybody asks, go out and make films and figure it out. I think, if you can't make a reasonably good film at whatever age you are, and can't take it through to its completion to something you're proud of, then you probably haven't got what it actually takes to go ahead and be a filmmaker. So get to that point first and figure out whether you have an aptitude for it, and then by all means, send them in. It's much better to have a film to look than just a letter saying I like the idea of becoming a filmmaker."

You shouldn't have said that. You'll be inundated with 10,000 tapes!

PJ: "Oh Lord [laughs]."

[Question courtesy of Ruth McHugh, Austereo Sydney] How much did the creation of Shelob the giant spider tap into your infamous arachnophobia?

PJ: "[laughs] I know some people love them coz they eat other insects but I hate them. There was a particularly nasty spider that used to live at the back of our house when I was younger, and I used to go out in the back with my matchbox cars when I was six-years old and dig away - and come across these stubby little tunnel web spiders. They scared the hell out of me. They're these pudgy, little, fat spiders with red backs and two horrible fangs up the front. They're nasty and they look like it too.

"And so this year, when we commenced design work on Shelob, I said to the Weta Workshop that Shelob had to be based on the tunnel web: the spider that freaks me out the most. One of the guys brought one into the workshop the next day, in a glass jar, and it terrified me.

"So she's inspired by a real spider. Whenever I've seen movie spiders before, they've always been based on tarantulas which are filmed in slow motion so they look lumbering and move slowly. I wanted Shelob to move fast. One of the scariest things about spiders is the way they scuttle and freeze, then scuttle and freeze again with this stop-start thing. They keep their legs reared up in the air and that's just horrible [laughs].

"We used every fear I have about spiders for the Shelob sequence. When I watched it for the first time, my stomach tightened up and I felt sick so I thought, 'well good! This is working.' Because it got to me."

How did you stay sane throughout?

PJ: "With a project like this, it's just as important to have fun. I was very much aware that, for my own sanity at the beginning, there was no way I was going to get through 18 months of shooting and then the subsequent three years if we weren't enjoying ourselves. So that's the attitude that I went with. And we were fortunate to have such a great team around us. If they realise it was supposed to be fun, they all join in."

[question Andrea Giles from OneRing.Net?] You seem to have a knack for picking people who work well together and people who fit in to their roles. Is that something you were constantly aware of?

PJ: "Films are such strange things. Often on films, not all the time, you end up working with strangers, with people you hadn't met prior to the experience. I was very much aware that, as a long project, if we ended up working with people that didn't get on with each other or didn't like it, it would make it a very difficult project. Normally a film shoot is eight or 12 weeks and this was 15-16 months of principal shooting. When we were casting the movie or talking to crew members for instance, we did think of two things. One was the skill or quality of the person. Secondly, we met with just about everybody beforehand, and just wanted to make sure they were nice people - and I know that sounds rather simple and rather naïve, but it was very important to us to work with nice people for that length of time. Basically the answer is yes, we did have to take that into account and also take it very seriously."

TV Watch: Bloom on 'Real Access' Transcript
Xoanon @ 3:31 pm EST

A BIG thank you to Kelinmiriel for getting this down for us!

Orlando Bloom was on "Real Access: Hot 24 in 2004" (same channel). He was #12 of their "young stars to watch in the upcoming year". I doubt many of your readers saw this one, so here is a transcript. Orlando was sitting by himself for some of the clips; others were from public appearances doing photos and autographs for a lot of screaming fans with a reporter following who asked him occasional questions. The hostess of Real Access was providing a voice over talking to the TV audience, not to Orlando.

RA: Some of you think he's the hottest elf around. Some of you think he's the hottest pirate around. And Kate Bosworth, his reported girlfriend, probably thinks he's both. At Number Twelve, it's Orlando Bloom.

Orlando (alone): I don't know, I just think -- I can't put myself there, it's a bit of a dream, do you know what I mean?

RA (voice over): Don't worry, Orlando, we understand. Making it all the way to Number Twelve on our Hot List, is quite an honor. But, you had to have known you'd be here. After all, your fans are REALLY dedicated!

Orlando (to reporter, on the red carpet): I get all these crazy fan mails from girls who are just like, pouring their hearts out, and I'm-

RA: Did we say dedicated? We meant LOUD! [as he hugs a fan across the rope, and they all scream]

Orlando (to reporter): Does anyone know how to deal with this stuff?
Because I'd love to speak to him!

RA: Oh -- And here's a hint: If you dig the accent, and want an autograph from this handsome British lad, [brief clip of him making a face] you don't have to yell. Just bring along your little sister.

Orlando (on the red carpet, being pulled away from fans by the reporter, turns around and goes back to sign an autograph for a girl of about six, on someone's shoulders): Oh, look at that little girl! How can you--?

RA: With the overnight success of "Pirates of the Caribbean", and everyone drooling over the last chapter of The Lord of the Rings, Orlando has suddenly become one of the hottest actors in Hollywood. [shots of him with Liv Tyler, hugging her and kissing her on the cheek] The weird thing is though, the more well-known he becomes, the less he wants to talk about his private life.

Orlando (alone): It's hard enough as it is, dealing with the new
overwhelming aspect of becoming somebody who's really in the public eye, and I figure, if I keep certain elements of my life, you know, my family, my friends, and my relationships separate, then hopefully it won't draw too much attention to it.

RA: And Orlando says, that's the way he manages to stay sane while girls like this are going crazy. It's all part of the Bloom Philosophy. [more pictures of him with Liv]

Orlando (red carpet): Stay true to yourself. You know why you got into the business. You know, you love the work, you love the acting side of it, and don't get distracted by the rest of the stuff that comes along with it.

PS: Orlando Bloom is scheduled to be on "Real Access" (episode title: "Foreign Invasion"), the weekend of Friday, January 23, through Sunday, January 25. Check cable/satellite listings for "the-n" or "Noggin" for station. [More]

TORn's MrCere Talks to Andy Serkis!
leo @ 9:52 am EST

TheOneRing's MrCere interviewed Andy Serkis Monday as part of his tour promoting his new book. Here is a transcript of the conversation that includes a bit on the Hobbit and the Academy Awards!

Greetings and hello's are exchanged. TORn explains that this phone call will be for a newspaper interview and a story for TheOneRing.net as well - two interviews at once. A bit of small talk and then down to business.

SERKIS: For three days, from Wednesday on, it is really going to be dedicated to promoting the book. Which I don't know if you have had a chance to look at it. Have you?

TORn: Oh yes. I received it three or four weeks ago and I read it all at once. I just sat down and read the whole thing.

SERKIS: Oh cool, how did you get on with it?

TORn: I enjoyed it very much. From the commentaries on DVD I thought, 'We are probably going to know most of this' but I was surprised how much we didn't know and how much more detail you got in the book.'

SERKIS: For me it was important to really put in a personal perspective on how Gollum was affected by personal events by global events which I really couldn't get - I mean the processes people know about and they understand from stuff throughout all the DVDs. They are kind of explained. It was really for people - I wrote it because well for one I wanted people to get an all-around understanding of all the influences that went into making the character that go beyond technology. I mean I have had to spend so much time in all of these interviews just talking about technology just to get those processes across. It was a good way of getting them all in but amongst the personal viewpoints. I wanted to take the reader on a journey of what it was like playing one character for four and a half years.

TORn: You may not be done I guess with 'The Hobbit.' I know that is not official but there is a good chance you could do that again.

SERKIS: Well, I mean if it ever came about I would love to do it. Gollum, obviously, in 'The Hobbit' is great and 'Riddles In The Dark' is a great chapter and Gollum is a fantastic part of that. I would definitely do it again. Obviously the rights situation is a problem and weather Pete (Peter Jackson) would want to do it again I don't know. He has talked about it. I think he thinks structurally it is more difficult in a way than 'Lord of the Rings' because in 'Lord of the Rings' there are so many story lines you could cut to and really you are able to control the pace of the story where as 'The Hobbit' it is much more linear. The structure is more difficult.

TORn: In the book you talk about when you decided 'Wow, this would be interesting to write a book about'. Did you approach the publishers or did they come to you? How did that come from being a good idea to becoming a book?

SERKIS: I started writing notes very early on because I was aware this was going to be a fascinating acting challenge and it was something that was unprecedented. Apart from the fact that Gollum was such a great character in the books, it was obviously going to be an unusual acting job for me so I started making notes. Then at a certain stage which was post-production on 'The Two Towers' Fran Walsh and I were talking about various little things I had written down and she said 'You should really put this into a book. It would be an interesting thing to do.' So from then on and that was about a year and a half ago I started making more comprehensive notes and that is how it built up really. I then approached Harper Collins who are the publishers (in the UK). What actually happened is, they asked me to write an afterward for the 'Art Of The Two Towers' which I did and then I said, 'And actually I've had an idea for a while to write a book about Gollum' and they got very interested and so we set
about doing that.

TORn: How involved were you with how the book was going to look? You go to them with an idea and they say, 'Oh this looks interesting' but how do you decide what format the book actually ends up in?

SERKIS: The actual design of the book wasn't so much what I had to do but Pete and I sat down and he approved photographs that I wanted to use. I went through all the production shots and obviously I was able to use my own personal photographs and stuff like that. What I wanted to do was because Gollum was a collaborative effort I wanted to - in the same way that I as actor was the emotional guardian of the character and the template and the blueprint and the impetus of the character - I felt it would be appropriate to have all of things that affected my playing of the role drive the book. But it is a collaborative effort so then I had anybody who wanted to chip in; like the animators, the motion capture, everyone involved in the process have a say as well so there is a more rounded view of it. I then talked to the different departments and various people volunteered to write something or contribute in some way. In a way the book reflects the way that Gollum was created.

TORn: In the book you talked about how you were an artist or a painter and then became an actor and now you are an author. You are a kind of a renaissance man it seems.

SERKIS: I guess as I get older I fell less like just an actor. You know I have started directing and I have written projects, you know feature films scripts and I have directed short films and so on. I think I see myself as more of an all-around artist and that is, well in the UK that is sort of frowned upon. In the states people understand that more. They are much much more willing to have an actor do different things. I think they cope with it better but in the UK it is still a bit of a stigma. You have to do one thing I suppose. It sort of fits with me now. I have ideas and projects that I want to create. I think that is partly why I enjoyed working on Lord of the Rings so much because there was such a sense of being involved in it.

The whole playing of Gollum involved sort of a - you know - an all around approach in the way I embraced the technology and so on. At times I was part director in a sense. I was choreographing myself back into scenes using the motion capture in a way that was almost like painting myself or animating myself back into the plates we had shot. I suppose what I am talking about is an all around sense that stayed with me since I was an art student.

TORn: So your background in those things were definitely beneficial to you as an actor.

SERKIS: When I started acting when I was at college I designed sets and I designed lighting and posters for shows and all sorts of things so I had a strong visual sense of stuff and that certainly helped in the playing of Gollum.

TORn: Was there anyone else who said they would like to help you write this or was it always you that was in charge of the content?

SERKIS: Originally I think I was going to write it with Brian Sibley. You know Brian who has written some of the other books but in fact he got very involved in some other projects and he couldn't do it. I sort of took the bull by the horns and said, 'Well, I have written other material. I've not written a book before certainly but I think I will have a go myself.'

Certainly with Harper Collins, they felt after I had written the 'Art of The Two Towers' afterwards they said, 'You should definitely carry on yourself and if you run into problems we will sort it out then.' I had kind of written bullet points all the way along and it just wasn't too difficult. It just sort of came naturally. I really sat down during "Return of the King" (Andy's post-production work) and it really took me about two months I guess back in New Zealand.

TORn: So what was the writing process like? Was it you going over notes and organizing?

SERKIS: Yea, and structuring it. Structuring the order of it and noting all the little twists and turns and changes and influences and you know, the personal events and so on. Really, as I say in the preface to the book, you know here we were. We started shooting these films in back in the end of '99 and now the world had changed. The world had become a different place by the end of it. That was the umbrella really for writing the book. The world had changed and therefore my playing and my understanding of Gollum had changed as a result.

TORn: Did Harper Collins have an editor assigned to you did they just allow you to do it and turn in the finished product?

SERKIS: Yes, they edited some of it. There are quite a few paragraphs here and there which were trimmed but on the whole I would say it is 90 percent there. Gary Russell who had also edited some of the other books in the series, he did some of the interviews with some of the staff.

TORn: So when I turn to a page that has a long say, maybe a Gino Acevedo quote, that is Gary?

SERKIS: That could be but I think it was just Gino. I think I asked Gino directly for that. Certain people I asked directly to write for the book and certain people Gary approached because at the time I was still filming so I couldn't get around to everybody.

TORn: What was the hardest thing about writing? It doesn't sound like it was that difficult but was there something that was harder than the rest?

SERKIS: Uhm, I think just getting the balance really. As I said at the beginning, the book represents the acting contribution of the role and everything that has to do with that and everything that has to do with the informing of the part from an acting point of view. Yet I did want it to be equal and non-biased in the sense that I did want everybody to have their fair shout. So I think it was getting the balance right but it (was) being told from a single view. It had to be. It is like writing a movie with a central character you know. I had to be the central character and actual story line so it was just getting the balance right I think so that everybody felt it was their representation.

TORn: Have you had feedback from those folks? Do they feel like you have accomplished that?

SERKIS: I think so. I mean yea, I have spoken to a few people and they said, 'Great job' and Richard Taylor said that of all the 'making-of' books that one was the most personal and you know a great read and it was infused with life. It had a life to it and it wasn't so academic which I was really pleased about.

TORn: One thing Andy, that I loved about the book, you know the technology was clear and in depth but the parts of the book I loved the most were reading about your children or your trip down the river. Was it scary at all to put so much of your own self out there?

SERKIS: No. The thing is I promised myself that if I was going to write this book I wanted to be honest about - as honest as I could be - about all my experiences and influences and everything that affected (the role). In the same way that Lord of the Rings is at the end of the day back towards Frodo's story, everything that affected the way I played the role, it had to be about that.

So I never felt like I was over-exposing say...my children, I just felt it was important to be honest about the things that really affected how I played Gollum. I can imagine that maybe people think it is a bit sentimental at times because I do mention my children quite a lot but they did really effect how I played the Smeagol part of Gollum, you know a lot. I felt it very necessary to say that.

TORn: To me that was the best part of the book - to find out about Andy Serkis the actor but now Andy Serkis the person and what makes him the actor.

SERKIS: Well that's good then.

TORn: As you started to write, was it pretty easy to edit down what you were going to include?

SERKIS: It kind of flowed. There were certain sections where I would play with it and I would hit a bump and I would think 'How do I best encapsulate this or these feelings or these emotions or these times' but on the whole I think for most of it, since I had made a lot of bullet points early on, I had a structure. The structure was there and I would just wait for the memories. The early stuff was like, 'Oh it was a long time ago!' Some stories came back much quicker than others but on the whole it did flow.

TORn: Did you feel like you were writing for a specific audience or were you just recording the story?

SERKIS: That is a good question actually. I think when I first wrote it I was just getting down what I wanted to get down but then I realized it was quite important to try and make it as broad as possible. I didn't want to be exclusive because I wanted kids of a certain age - you know an age where they could appreciate - be able to read it. What I did want to do was to make it not exclusive in any way or make it just about acting in a sort of exclusive way. I wanted to make it open and accessible and take people on a journey that was going to be interesting. Do you know what I mean by exclusive?

TORn: I do. It makes perfect sense to me.

SERKIS: So I guess I did modify at times. The thing is when I write I write from the heart really and its like there is some bad language in there which I had to take out. (Laughing) I had to, you know, clean it up a little bit. (More laughing).

TORn: For kids you mean?

SERKIS: Yea and also there were some things, some political and philosophical things which I was encouraged by the editors to hold back on. I suppose there came a point where I felt like I was making statements. When I originally wrote it I felt like I was making statements about my beliefs about certain things which unless they were absolutely, directly necessary and again, informed the character, they shouldn't be there so they got brought out. They were edited.

TORn: Was the writing similar to acting in any way for you?

SERKIS: I think so. In the same way that writing a script is about storytelling. You know it's a good old fashioned beginning, middle and end and taking audiences through moments of crisis and moments of joy, moments of excitement, despair, so you do that in any role that you play - if it's a well written role, or you try to find ways of playing it even if the role isn't well written. (Laughing).

I was aware if I just talked about motion capture it wouldn't be that interesting after a while so I suppose its the juxtaposition of real life, of family, of technology, of getting inside the character's head - that is acting I suppose.

TORn: What haven't we talked about that you would like to talk about regarding the book or anything else?

SERKIS: We have covered most things. There are two things. One, it was great because it allowed me to have closure on a character. One thing that was, more than anything, most difficult for me it was - which I do mention in the book - that sense of the character never ending. I couldn't at the end of every day's filming ever feel like I had done a definitive performance. It was always the next stage the next phase, the motion capture, working with animators and da da da and it would keep going on and on and it would last years. For me it was important whist I was still doing that to actually somehow have some closure on the character in order to be able to move on. I knew that when we got to the end of the filming it was going to be tough! It was going to be tough to say goodbye to the character. So that is one thing.

The other thing is that I certainly wouldn't have written this book if had played any other character. The only reason this book was written is because it was an extraordinary - you know I wouldn't do it again, it was a complete one-off. There is no sense I would ever write another book about another character I don't think. Well, I guess you never say never but it was purely because it was a very, very unusual acting experience. I don't necessarily like or would wish to break down every acting performance that I did in this way. I just wouldn't seek to do that. I think performances should speak for themselves but this just was very special and the film was special and the whole event was special and it was very much a one-off.

TORn: I do have a last question. This was a funny detail but when are biting into that fish are those your teeth and lips (SERKIS:Oh yea) and is that a real fish?

SERKIS: Actually it was a gelatin fish. They made a few gelatin models which I had to bite into which actually in all honesty tasted more disgusting than biting into a raw fish. I would rather have eaten a raw fish.

TORn: It was uh, you know there was a lot of violence in the movies but that was particularly disturbing.

SERKIS: It is isn't it. It is extraordinary how, with all the battles and everything but just the action of doing that is quite brutal isn't it.

TORn: Andy that is really all I have - well it isn't all I have - I could ask and ask but we have used the time that was given. I really appreciate your time and your help.

SERKIS: It was lovely to speak to you.

TORn: This isn't part of the interview but with New Line pushing you for best supporting actor how do you deal with that? It seems hard to get your hopes up.

SERKIS: It is such a peculiar one really. I have had so many people say 'What about the Oscars' and I can only say to them that I am delighted that the debate is there, that people are recognizing the performance - an acted performance and in some way acknowledging that yes it is a combination and a hybrid between acting and animation but that it is driven by a performance. So the fact that the debate is there is most rewarding.

TORn: That is a great quote I wished I had asked you that during the interview.

SERKIS: You can put that down. At some point in time actors will be recognized for characters in CG roles. Maybe this isn't the time but the Academy (of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) is an evolving thing. What I think has happened with this role is that a new precedent has been set for a new kind of acting - a new language in cinema.

TORn: Thanks for that too! Take care.

SERKIS: Cool. Take care.

1-13-04 Latest News

Crafted Rohan Banner
maegwen @ 10:33 am EST

Crafted Rohan Banner

Ringer Spy Erendira writes:

It goes without saying that Peter Jackson's attention to details sets all three installments of "The Lord of the Rings" towering above any other movie I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. However, being one of the 'horsey' set myself, I found myself especially drawn to the lovely horse-symbols and carvings in The Golden Hall of Rohan, and of the stables in particular. Watching "The Two Towers" (25 times!), I happened to notice the gorgeous banners hung on the wall behind Theoden's throne and thought to myself, how hard would could it be to make one of those? Well, eight months later--and a lot of sweat, swearing and tears--here's the end result of my efforts. I gave it to my sister for a Christmas present. Needless to say, it was very well received!

1-11-04 Latest News

Gags, Gollum and PJ: My Report from Lincoln Center
Luthien @ 9:41 pm EST

My Lincoln Center weekend started a little bit after 7:00 pm, when I ascended to the 10th floor of the Rose Building to attend a cocktail reception for the cast members participating in the Lincoln Center event. The setting was sumptuous—windows surrounded two entire sides of the room, with a gorgeous view of downtown NYC and the Hudson River, dapper waiters (aka aspiring actors) bringing around trays of hors d'oeuvres and glasses of wine, candles and glasses and food set out—and Elijah Wood casually chatting to a group of fans and signing autographs for the children who were there. All of the actors, with the exception of Liv (who had unfortunately cancelled just the day before), made appearances at the reception, and were all unflaggingly gracious, lighthearted and open. I got to speak briefly to Bernard Hill and Andy Serkis (who will be at the Barnes and Nobel at Union Square tomorrow at his book-signing), and it was definitely a highlight of the evening.

Next, after the reception and brief photo shoot which occurred outside in the lobby of Alice Tully right after the film had started was….well, Return of the King, of course, as brilliant and breathtaking (and tear-inducing) as ever, followed by the Q&A, which other fans have already dutifully reported. I was able to record the entire Q&A on my voice recorder, and will type it out in transcript format shortly after I finish this report. Stay tuned.

Today, though, was the Conversation with Peter Jackson, which started promptly at 2 pm and was hosted by Richard Pena, director of the Lincoln Center Film Society. First, a short film composed of clips of all of Peter’s other movies, along with clips of many of the movies which influenced his work, was shown to the audience, and then Peter appeared again via satellite from NZ, towering above the audience on the big screen—so wonderfully larger than life.

The first question Richard asked him was about what NZ meant to Peter, and about the ways in which NZ had influenced his work. Peter started off by saying: well, it’s where I was raised, so NZ obviously means a lot to me on that level. But as a filmmaker in NZ, Peter pointed out that it has many advantages: you’re not locked into trends or the entire Hollywood hierarchy, and NZ filmmakers tend to be “mavericks”, which allows more freedom and independence. He also stressed the laid-back attitude of the film-making industry there, and the fact that because so few movies are made in NZ each year, there is a particular excitement and joy which crewmembers have when working on a film that’s priceless.

The next question was about the fact that there aren’t many examples or images of NZ filmmaking, and Richard was curious about how that might have affected Peter’s work. Peter answered that the very first NZ film he saw was Sleeping Dogs, in 1967 as a teenager, and that he was cringing at the NZ accents. He then went on to talk about making Super 8 films as a child, and about how difficult it was to get a job in film as a young man because there wasn’t much of a real film industry—he applied for a job at a film laboratory (which was his very first job interview) and was turned down. His first film, Bad Taste, was shot while he was working as a photo engraver doing photo lithography for a small newspaper, starring fellow co-workers who had time to shoot on Sundays with him. The entire movie took approximately 4 years to make, and was all done on weekends, out of his own pocket money, by and large. After Bad Taste’s success at the Cannes Film festival, though, PJ apparently marched back in to his boss’s office and gave his notice. From then on out, he was a filmmaker.

There was a short film of movie clips shown, showing scenes from Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles, Forgotten Silver, Heavenly Creatures, Braindead and the Frighteners, followed by more questions about the making of Meet the Feebles (w/ Fran, whom he had met in 1977, Richard Taylor and Jim Booth), Braindead and Heavenly Creatures. Peter did mention that a lot of his humor was derived from Monty Python, which he watched as a child and adored, and that horror flicks (“splatter films”) are the best kind of film to make if you have absolutely no budget, which is what he had when he was first starting out.

This was followed by another short film of clips, this time from all three LotR films, which got the audience considerably more excited (people were breaking out in loud applause by the end of this film). Peter was then asked about the creation of Gollum, and how that went about, and gave his standard answer about how this was an organic process that happened step by step—first by beginning to use Andy Serkis’s facial expressions and body language in the artistic design of Gollum, followed by using him as an actor and CGI guide during the principle shooting, followed by the idea of motion-capture. More information on the creation of Gollum can be found in Andy’s new book, of course.

At this point, the other actors were brought on stage again, to the great delight of the audience, and Bernard Hill, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood and Sean Astin took up their customary places—right underneath Peter’s gigantic, pixelized chin. The next question asked by Richard Pena was a huge, overly-grand question along the lines of: well, you all have been living Tolkien, and thinking about Tolkien night and day for years now, and probably know Tolkien better than any other group of people on earth, so tell me: what does Tolkien really mean by this work? What was Tolkien really trying to say? Hmmmm. REALLY hard question, which Peter answered admirably (although many of the things he mentioned are nothing new to an avid Tolkien fan). He began by stating that Tolkien was a very opinionated man, who was very regretful of the fact that England had lost its ancient mythology, and that in many ways, Middle Earth was Tolkien’s way of trying to create an ancient mythology for England. He also mentioned that LotR was fueled by things which irritated JRR—the loss of the English countryside, the industrialization of England, the motor engine, the enslavement of men in the service of industry etc. Elijah aptly pointed out that LotR was also hugely motivated by the things that Tolkien loved, as represented by the shire (Sean Astin chimed in “pipeweed” among the things that Tolkien loved), and of course, Tolkien’s love of languages and history is very visible in LotR. It was a really difficult question, and as volumes and volumes of work have been written on this very subject, it’s hard to sum it all up in a few paragraphs—but PJ did a very good job of doing just that.

About halfway through the question on exactly how the size of the hobbits was accomplished successfully throughout all three films (again, a question we’ve heard answered many times before); Peter’s image suddenly disappeared from screen, apparently due to some kind of satellite glitch. And that’s when things got really interesting.

Left to their own devices, the actors began to tell stories about the different gags which occurred on set, which the audience eagerly ate up. Sean began by explaining that at some point during the shoot the actors received gift packages from Gillette, which prompted the filming of a small “commercial” as a Gillette spokesman, which ran something like this: “Hi, my name is Sean Astin, and I play Sam wise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings. Hobbits don’t grow facial hair, but actors do! When I’m on Mt. Doom and I need a real close hobbit shave, I pull out my special, safety-tested Gillette razor….” This brought peals of laughter.

Not to be outdone, Bernard Hill told a story about a gag that occurred while he and Viggo were shooting Viggo’s “Christ-like” entrance at Helm’s Deep after being “saved, fed, watered and given injections by his horse” (at this point, the actors riffed on Viggo’s entrance for awhile, imitating him pushing the doors aside and shaking the sweat out of his hair, with many flourishes and exaggeration). Apparently right before they were filming this scene, Bernard and Viggo had been discussing the merchandizing which would be accompanying LotR, and how tiny, miniature, plastic models of themselves would soon be available in toy stores all over the world. As the cameras began to roll, and Bernard delivered Theoden’s lines about Saruman’s impending army, Bernard asked: “How many?” and Viggo answered: “Thousands and thousands, milord. They will scam you, m’lord. They will cast your head in plastic, you will be on the shelves of every child under the age of 12, you will be underfoot, on the carpet, stuck with gum, etc.” To which Bernard (still in character and trying to save the scene) asked again: “How many?” And Viggo answered: “I already told you, m’lord.” At this point, a cell phone rang on set, and Bernard said (still in character): “somebody answer the phone”, and at that point, the entire scene dissolved and Viggo ended up on the floor laughing.

Since the other actors seemed reluctant to share more of their gag stories (despite Bernard’s urging), Bernard decided to talk about another orchestrated gag, which occurred to him while Peter was explaining that the Uruk-Hai trying to break into Helm’s Deep were just like a visit from someone you don’t want. This reminded Bernard of Jehovah’s Witnesses who come proselytizing on your doorstep (“no offense meant to anyone here who is a Jehovah’s Witness”), so he and Andrew Lesnie (the DOP for the films) put together a shot of approximately 30 soldiers of Rohan answering the banging of the Helm’s Deep door with shouts of: “Who is it?” and “It’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses, don’t let them get in!” followed by all 30 of them shouting “GO AWAY!”

Sean Astin offered up one more story, talking about how he found it hard to find his place caught between such large personalities as Peter Jackson and Sir Ian McKellan, and about how, during FotR, his character was purposely kept somewhat distant from the audience (perhaps to keep Sam’s strength and nobility a secret for the later movies?), so much so that after awhile, he was practically begging for a close-up. So during the shooting of the eavesdropping scene in bag end, he kept trying to slip his face into the shot, at the edge of the screen, and when Ian grabbed him and pulled him through the window to ask him what he was doing, he said: “I just wanted a bit of a close-up, sir”, at which point Ian pushed him aside and said “No, no”, vying in front of the camera with him until Sean fell off the table (but according to Elijah, Ian helped Sean back up and even gave him a little kiss).

And then, BAM, suddenly Peter Jackson is back on screen again, and quickly realizes that the actors are telling blooper stories. The audience begins to call out things like: make a bloopers tape! We’ll pay good money for it, and Peter did say that he imagined a bloopers tape would be made at some point and released on DVD (again, to wild cheering), but not for several years yet, he cautioned.

To end the evening, Peter told one last story about a gag that was played on Viggo Mortenson during filming at Dunharrow. Peter gave Hugo Weaving a pair of Matrix-style glasses, and as Viggo entered the king’s tent to meet with Elrond, Hugo Weaving stood up, removed his cloak, revealed his glasses, and said: “Your Dunedain disguise cannot fool me, Mr. Anderson.” Peter called this the “ultimate geek moment.”

All in all, it was an incomparable day, and I felt incredibly lucky to be there, but even luckier to have such a dedicated, gifted and down-to-earth cast and crew working on a project that is so precious to me. Keep posted for the transcript of the Q&A following last night’s RotK screening, plus PHOTOS!!

Luthien, over and out

Lincoln Center Event Reports!
Xoanon @ 12:35 pm EST

ROTK Lincoln Center Event
Click for more images


I arrived early for the Fellowship of the Ring showing at Lincoln Center as it was all I could get tickets for at such late notice. Elijah and Sean introduced the movie, commending us for our fortitude in braving the cold. Elijah advised us to all "make the theatre [our] home" for those of us who planned to stay through the entirety. Then FOTR:EE unspooled in all its glory. On a whim, I decided to stay in the area to see if I could get tickets for ROTK, if not TTT. The box office kept insisting that "tix are sold out, dammnit! But come back at 6:30 p.m. anyway."

I showed up at six for the standby line, with about six people in front of me. At around 6:45, they all got tickets and went in. I proceeded to wait first in line until 8:14, at which time they gifted me with 2 tickets of a supposed 6 or so available. I rushed in to see the film introduced by Elijah, Sean, Andy, and Bernard. They were all quite warm and funny and commended us again on our fortitude amidst the cold.

ROTK played to probably the best crowd ever; an entire auditorium of die-hard fans knew just when to laugh, cheer, cry and shut up to augment every scene. The applause at the end of the film was deafening.

Finally, after credits, the big moment came. Sean, Elijah, Andy, Bernard, and the local host all came out and sat down, and Peter Jackson joined in live via satellite. There was a bit of a delay in his responses, which made for a few awkward moments of hilarity. As soon as he appeared, the actors all got down on hands and knees and starting bowing before the three-story "altar" of Peter JAckson. He responded with humility and laughter, as expected. After a few rounds of mutual congrats (the actors just won an ensemble Critic's Choice acting award, and ROTK won best picture and best director from the broadcast film critic's circle), they ripped into the questions from the audience, some of which I will try to remember.

1) They all chose their favorite lines from the movies, both their own and others. Nearly all chose Sam's "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you" line. ASfor their own character choices, for Frodo, Elijah chose "We set out to save the shire, and we did-but not for me." Amid chants for "my precious," Andy Serkis ignored the rules and chose Gandalf's line in FOTR about "do not be so quick to deal out death and judgement-some live who deserve to die, etc..." Bernard Hill chose, "I know your face." Peter chose, well, everything.

2) Peter spoke a bit about his chances for adapting the Hobbit. New Line has production rights, but not distribution, and thus far, he says he's a bit out of the loop. He also noted that adapting the Hobbit would be a bit of a strange process for film, since the whole story is constructed around this quest for Smaug, and then a new character comes out of nowhere to kill him. Then we move on to a battle afterward. He was concerned that it lacked the weight of LOTR to cover for its gaps in logic. But he did say he hoped New Line straightens things out and that he gets a call when they do. He admitted seeing someone else do it would be really "weird."

3) An audience member complained about the absence of Tom Bombadil and the scouring of the Shire, to boos from the audience. Peter basically went on to reiterate why those segments were best cut, which we've all heard a thousand times.

4) Someone complained about the lack of Merry in ROTK, and Peter described a new scene for the EE DVD in which Merry and Eowyn take a break with the Rohirrim on the way to Pelennor and have a "nice conversation." He mentioned something to the effect that we'll get much more of each character, esp. Merry and Pippin. He reconfirmed that it would be 4hr. 15 min, although later he alluded that they might only use 40 min. of the extra hour shot for ROTK EE.

5) Bernard Hill had a nice commentary on all of the coincidental parallels between LOTR and the modern "good vs. evil" situation in the world. He said that no matter what side of the fence you stand on, it's amazing how relevant LOTR is. He also brought up the fact that midway through the press for TTT, Peter had commented to him that the berserker orc at helm's deep who runs in with the torch to break the deeping wall was essentially a "suicide bomber." Hill noted that This is a common worry and occurence in our time now, but not at the time they were filming, and he thought it incredibly ironic how that cultural context could actually sneak in.

There were a few other questions, and if I remember, I'll post again. Near the beginning of the interview, someone yelled "King Kong!" and PJ proceeded to act like KONG (since he was three stories tall) and acted like he was grabbing the actors and throwing them around. They played along and dodged his hands or flung themselves through the air. It was quite a bit of fun, and poignant; it really illustrated just how much of a bond and sense of gratitude there was between everyone who labored on this magnificent gift. They all seemed like such genuine, talented people, and I'm so happy they've achieved so much.

One extra tidbit- At one point, Elijah mentioned that Sean Astin was deeply interested in politics and headed for world domination, and PJ started chanting, "Sean for President!" And everyone joined in! After the laughter died down, Sean rubbed his hands together and said in a sinister voice, "All in good time..."



First I should tell you that ROTK remained sold out with no hope of tickets being released when I finally left at 8pm, despite my day-long attempts. Still, there were people waiting (there is always hope!) and they were waiting OUTSIDE in the zero degree temps. I actually hope to read later that some of them got in, as would befit such sturdy hobbits types.

But on to more cheery news.

OK, there was a huge line buying leftover tickets when we arrived but still there were scattered empty seats (it's a big house). I would say probably 25-30 seats went empty for Fellowship - 10-20 for Towers (and seemingly none for ROTK). The good thing is that you really can see from any seat, the screen is so huge, the sound is perfection. Just after 10AM, a very cute and cheery Elijah and Sean were brought on to introduce Fellowship. My favorite part of the day was how huge the audience response for them was. It was truly thunderous applause, went on a long time, embarrassing both of them, and THEN people stood up and kept clapping even more. I really liked getting to see them experience that. They sort of hung back on the edge of the spotlight rather than moving forward. I think the size of the room and our enormous love for them was a bit intimidating. Anyway, they were sweet and humble and Sean said when he thinks of The Lincoln Center he usually thinks of Lawrence of Arabia or Gone With The Wind and the audience went nuts, clearly believing that LOTR is already worthy of such company. Elijah asked if this was anyone's first time and got a big laugh. Then he asked if anyone had been at Trilogy Tuesday and about a fourth of the audience waved and yelled. Then they both gave us some advice about how to avoid muscle damage (from sitting so long) and wished us well and off they went. Someone tossed an envelope and Elijah trotted back to pick it up. He held it up and then dashed off to more applause. The movie started, and when the LOTR title came up the audience roared happy applause again. It was an attentive and enthusiastic crowd. Very well behaved. All of Bilbo's, Pippin's, and Gimli's jokes played well and Aragorn's vanquishing of Lurtz got its usual big reaction. Seeing Fellowship after having seen ROTK is especially pleasing as the hobbits' innocence is so beguiling when one knows what hardships lie ahead for them.

After Fellowship ended (to more thunderous and sustained applause, there was about an hour's break. Many people had brought lunch with them and the Lincoln Center staff permitted us to sit and eat right there in the lobby. I ran into a few folks I have come to know from LOTR midnight showings, etc. It was fun to stop and chat about our favorite subject!

Then, for the Towers introduction we were treated first to Bernard Hill. His theatre training showed, as he walked right to center stage, holding a mike and getting the best of the spotlight. He spoke about how he loved working with Peter and playing Theoden, the gorgeous locations and said something with a funny referrence about his neice falling in love with a "horrible man" who needed a shave. We gave him a thunderous welcome and standing ovation, too. Then Andy Serkis was introduced and instead of coming out, we heard Slinker and Stinker arguing about whether to go out or not. Then out bounded Andy, with his coat still on, and we roared for him, too. He talked about how what happened in the world affected the writers and the work, he was very complimentary of Fran and Phillipa. Then he and Bernard stood together with their arms around each other and waved as we applauded all over again. Someone yelled "Thank you!" and I wished it had been me. Then Towers started and again, when the title came up the crowd clapped its mighty approval. It seemed to me that lots of people in this audience were seeing the extended version for the first time. There were big reactions for nearly all the extended scenes; the ones I remember were for "roast chicken" and Gollum's "ashes and dust scene", The Eowyn/Aragorn Dunedain scene (featuring stew! heh heh) and HUGE APPROVAL reactions to Legolas/Gimli "43" (every line got a laugh and there was applause at the end). Then even BIGGER approval reactions came for Merry & Pippin in waist-deep water (every line, every reaction got laughs), and then their follow-up scene in the storeroom brought the house down, a real "thank you for that" applause. It was a great day.

I will try not to be too jealous when I read about the post ROTK cast Q & A.



Flourish reports from the Lincoln Center LOTR event:

What a wonderful day! We had not just the very great pleasure of seeing the three films back-to-back in a superb theater with an adoring audience (and with the luxury of meal breaks in between) but the chance to see the actors in person and feel the thrill that ran through the house when they walked out on stage, and the rush of excitement and affection for them that brought the entire audience to its feet to cheer and applaud them. And this was a pretty sophisticated New York crowd, mind you! We basically went wild.

Elijah Wood and Sean Astin introduced FOTR, Andy Serkis and Bernard Hill introduced TTT, and all four of them introduced ROTK and did the Q&A afterwards.

The actors spoke a lot about their surprise and pleasure in finding that people are grateful to them for "getting Sam right" and so forth (someone shouted "Thank you!" from the back of the house), and about their amazement at how big a phenomenon the films have become and their assured place in film history (enthusiastic applause). Elijah asked the FOTR audience how many had already been to Trilogy Tuesday and it looked like about half the 1100 people there were hollering and waving their arms in reply. He appeared quite happily astonished.

Before ROTK he asked how many in the house had already sat through FOTR and TTT, and of course virtually everyone cheered madly. Sean said something about how insane we were, and how we would probably sit through even more if it were possible (loud cheers and applause), but I didn't get the same sense of pleasant kidding from him that I got from Elijah on the same subject. Sean went on a little too long about "idiots" for tact, I thought.

Elijah also asked the audience whether they thought the EEs were better than the theatrical versions (we had just sat through the EEs of the first two films). Immense cheers!

When Andy Serkis was announced to introduce TTT, he didn't come out right away--instead there was heard a brief but acrimonious backstage discussion between Gollum and Smeagol about whether to "go out there" or not. Andy won and came out to a very enthusiastic reception.

The films were wonderfully presented and the audience was great. We cheered and laughed, and most of the last half-hour of ROTK was accompanied by huge bursts of happy applause.

For the Q&A the actors were joined by Peter Jackson in the form of a huge video picture live via satellite from New Zealand. They all were relaxed and happy and took questions from the audience with grace and good humor. When the image of Peter appeared on the screen the actors got silly and were bowing down before it, which PJ said was quite appropriate. (I'm not sure he could see the proceedings as well as hear them; I don't think so.) Then they had him hold his hands out and make scooping gestures while they pretended to tumble about in his fingers. That was pretty hilarious--and probably the cheapest special-effects shot I've seen in quite a while.

There was nothing original in any of the questions or the answers--at least not if you've been reading about the films even a little bit on the Internet or in the print media! Someone asked about the omission of Tom Bombadil and the Scouring of the Shire and the audience booed him, but PJ gave his usual calm and rational answer. Other questions for the actors that I can recall off the top of my head were about what they're doing now, whether they had any difficulties working in NZ for such a long time (Bernard Hill said the hardest thing about it was leaving), and what was the most memorable or resonant line they felt their character had in the films.

Sean said, "That's easy, it's 'I can't carry it but I can carry you." (huge applause)

Bernard Hill said, "I know your face."

Andy made a joke about Gollum's lines that I didn't quite get because of laughter from the audience, but he said he particularly liked Gandalf's line, "Do not be too ready to deal out death and judgement. Some who die deserve life..."

Elijah didn't seem to have an answer ready, but Sean suggested, "The Shire has been saved but not for me," to which Elijah agreed.

Early in the Q&A Bernard Hill got into a long and solemn monologue--I think in answer to a question about the relevance of the films' themes of good and evil in today's world--in which he spoke in rather oblique terms about the way the real world has changed in the last four years and how that gave scary prominence to those themes, and finally he worked himself up to mentioning 9/11 and the Two Towers-Twin Towers thing. There was no reaction from the audience--perhaps it was respectful silence (this was New York after all), but I had the idea that the evening had had such a party atmosphere until that point that just no one wanted to hear about the World Trade Center right then.

I think it was PJ (or perhaps Bernard Hill) who said something about Sean and politics, and PJ was chanting, "Sean Astin for president" which got a big round of applause. Sean responded by saying that there were quite a few New Zealanders at the ROTK premier who were promoting PJ for prime minister "and they weren't kidding."

Andy talked a bit about the "addiction" theory that motivated his characterization of Gollum's little problem with the Ring, and he gave generous credit to the screenwriters Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh (more applause) and to all the technical people he'd worked with. He also mentioned that when his agent called him about a "three-week voiceover job" for an animated character on the Lord of the Rings films, at first he told his agent he wanted to turn it down and said, "There are lots of parts in that movie--can't you get me a better one?"

Peter had combed his hair and wore a striped polo shirt that the actors kidded him about because they said it was dirty. Honestly, I couldn't tell.

All the actors have made quite a few films since LOTR wrapped so it's amazing that they're still willing to talk about their experience so often and so readily. They each spoke a little bit about what they're doing next--I think if I understood him correctly that Andy said he would like to continue exploring CGI and motion capture roles as a sub-genre of acting (one very interesting thing about watching ROTK and TTT back to back was seeing the huge improvement in Gollum's articulation that was possible in a single year). Sean said he had a lot of scripts to look at, and Bernard Hill said he was leaving the screening early "to go to Sean's room and nick a few of those scripts." He went on to say that he was very reasonably priced and was sure that Peter would vouch for his good working habits. Solemn nods from huge Peter!

Elijah said he'd shot "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" this year and paid Jim Carrey what seemed like a very backhanded compliment on his acting performance in it--I can't remember exactly how he worded it but I thought it was one of those damning-with-faint-praise things and it raised Peter's eyebrows for a moment. Elijah then mentioned the film he's making in England this spring called "Hooligans."

Sean said he'd met with Robert DiNiro that day and characterized him as "shy." He said he hoped they'd be working on something together soon. The audience seemed to agree.

Peter answered a question about a possible film of "The Hobbit" by saying that it is a somewhat problematic situation at the moment since New Line has the rights to make it but not to distribute it, and they would like to have both. He also said the storyline is far less complex than LOTR, which presents filmmaking problems because it is such a linear tale. What would also make it hard to adapt, said Peter, is the ending, in which after all the fuss about defeating the dragon Smaug, he is killed by a character who appears out of nowhere and the story continues on to a huge battle in which the dragon has no part. New Line hasn't spoken to him about "The Hobbit" at all, said Peter, but if they got the rights he hopes they will because, as he's said before, it would be "strange" if anyone else made the film.

There were flashbulbs popping all over the place during every appearance of the actors on stage, but virtually no opportunity for autographs during the event unless you were in the front row and caught the actors as they were walking off the stage. No matter--it was enough of a thrill just to be there!



The conversation via satellite with PJ worked reasonably well. As you see,one of the funniest photos is of the 4 cast members on stage kneeling to PJ on the giant screen behind them.

Small scoop: In response to a question about Merry and his character development, PJ said that in the EE there is a good scene between Merry & Eowyn in camp on the way to Minas Tirith and another one later between Merry and Faramir.

The first audience question, can you believe it, was about Tom Bombadil and the Scouring of the Shire. PJ's response , "Are people still upset about that? They've has three years to get over it." He then repeated his explanation that Tom is just not central to the spine of the story and the Scouring is anti-climactic.

The discussions were quite good - I have a ton of notes. I transcribed a lot of it last night and will finish up after the conversation which is at 2PM today.

Roughly a thousand people attended. it was extremely cold in NY. People arrived just after 9AM and left after the Q&A at 12:45AM Sunday morning.

Nazz Chats with Viggo & Liv
Xoanon @ 12:09 pm EST

Ringer Spy Nazz attended the MANY press confrences during the ROTK media blitz last month. In this article he chats with actors Viggo Mortnesen and Liv Tyler.

Special thanks to Rip It Up Magazine in South Australia for this transcript.

ROTK Premiere: DenmarkROTK Premiere: London

Viggo Mortensen and Liv Tyler play the lovers Aragorn (the returning king of the title and the elf, Arwen:

[question courtesy of Anna from The Age, Melbourne] They share their thoughts on working together and the love affair between their characters.

Liv: "He played with my ears a lot [laughs]! He had this habit of liking of slipping a stroke of my ears into as many shots as he could when we were together."

Viggo: "I liked the ears. Very nice."

Liv: "The most impressive thing, I think for everyone, about Viggo, was he got this phone call and had to get on the plane and arrive the next day."

Viggo: "She's changing the subject [laughs]!"

Liv: "He was so passionate and I learned a lot from Viggo about the material. He was always encouraging us to speak more Elvish together in our scenes. So in many ways, I credit Viggo for making our love story feel so rich and believable in many of the ways it is."

Viggo: "I appreciated the fact that Liv seemed to understand these characters' relationship was like those couples you see from time to time, maybe there's one in your own family, that have been together for a long time, decades maybe - but not out of convenience. They're just comfortable together and you can just see it in the way they move around each other, the way they almost absent-mindedly touch, finish each other's sentences or show affection to one another. They understand that their union is more important than their individual existences. I think that's really the story of Arwen and Aragorn.

That's something they really value - and in a very limited time we had to get to that fairytale relationship without it seeming to be a cliché; and that there was something solid beneath that."

ROTK Lincoln Center Event
Xoanon @ 12:13 am EST

ROTK Lincoln Center Event
Click here for more images

Julia writes:

I am sending you several pictures that I took today at Lincoln center. There are 2 pictures of Sean Astin, 3 of Bernard Hill and 1 of Andy Serkis.

I attended the Lincoln Center showing of the Lord of the Rings movies on Sat January 10. Well I actually saw only the Fellowship of the ring because I didn't have tickets prior to the show. My sister and I arrived there at 8.30 am and waited in line for about an hour. We got pretty good seats and there were actually lots of tickets left. Then we right away went to the stage entrance to Alice Tully Hall, conveniently located just around the corner, to wait for the arrival of the cast even though we weren't really expecting to see anyone. We stood there for several minutes when a black car drove up and ELIJAH WOOD got out of it. There were only 5 other fans waiting there at the entrance with us (which was pretty strange - with a theatre full of fans I expected crowds to be standing there waiting for autographs), and when Elijah came out we were all really shocked and surprised and did not say a word, just watched him walk by two feet away from us. He didn't even seem to notice us, even though we were right there, didn't turn, look ar say "hi" as other cast members did. I wasn't able to get any photos of him except for one of his back which I'm not sending you. After he went inside, we waited for about 10 minutes when at 5 minutes before the start of the show another car pulled up and SEAN ASTIN came out. This time we were ready. I got a picture of him just when he got out of the car and one with him that my sister took. He was really nice and polite (when my sister dropped her wallet he right away said "Oh look, you dropped something.") He posed for pictures and gave everyone autographs even though he was late.

We watched Elijah and Sean talk on the stage for about 5 minutes before the Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition, which by the way was wonderful. After the movie we left the theater and came back to the stage entrance at 1.30, half an hour before the Two Towers was going to start. At about 1.57 pm a car arrived with BERNARD HILL and ANDY SERKIS. When they got out they both smiled at us when passing by. Bernard Hill even said "hi" to the fans and managed a "You look cold" before the security guards rushed them in, a woman telling us that they couldn't give autographs because they were late. We decided to wait for them to come out instead of going to the Two Towers because we noticed that the car they came in was still standing there with the driver in it obviously waiting for their exit. The actors did come out about 15 minutes later, and this time they took time to give EVERYONE (around 15 people) autographs even though the security kept telling them to get in the car. Bernard Hill was very understanding, to the summons of the security he said something like "These people have been waiting here for a very long time!" He then asked every person their name and wrote them things like "with love" or "lots of love to you too," plus decorated the signatures with little Xs. He had time to pose for several pictures, joke and say something to everyone before he finally got in the car where Andy Serkis was already waiting. As they were pulling out he rolled the window down and waved to the thankful fans.

Thus ended our first encounter with the LOTR cast members (as well as with celebrities in general - we haven't met any before) which proved to be amazing - we're still star-struck!

1-10-04 Latest News

Tehanu's ROTK Review UPDATE 2
Tehanu @ 9:52 pm EST

This is a second update to some of the ideas discussed in my review of ROTK and the update I wrote to include people's responses. A lot of people wrote to me about the scene where Elrond tells Aragorn that Arwen is dying. I sadi that it diminished Aragorn by making his motive for saving Middle-earth personal (ie doing it for love) rather than heroic (ie doing it for the common good of all). Other people disagreed:

Barbara wrote: "Arwen's fading forces _Elrond_ to reforge the sword, and it's this _sword_ that is the last missing piece of symbolic motivation that Aragorn needs to enter the Paths of the Dead and follow _his_ path from there. It's not Arwen who really matters in this scene, it's the sword."

Lossefalme wrote: This is in response to a point brought up in your "ROTK Review: Updates and Corrections"

Elrond: "I bring hope to mankind." Aragorn: "I save none for myself."

For me, this exchange brought to mind a conversation between Aragorn and Gilraen as told in the appendices. Gilraen tells Aragorn that she will soon die, that she cannot face the gathering darkness. Aragorn tries to comfort her.

"But she answered only with this linnod: Onen i-Estel Edain, u-chebin estel anim" - English translation: 'I gave Hope to the Dunedain, I have kept no hope for myself." [And in the Extended Edition of FOTR, we even see Aragorn tracing the inscription on his mother's tomb - which is this line, surely - Tehanu]

"So, I took it not as having to do with Arwen, but as an acknowledgement of his mother, and, more importantly, Aragorn signifying to Elrond that he has now made the commitment to live up to his destiny and will accept his place as king (or die trying). By doing so, he finally gains Elrond's approval," says Lossefalme

Katrelya made a good point:

"At first, I thought the scene with Arwen on her death bed - which isn't in the book - detracted from the story. However, it showed Elrond's unconditional love for her, as opposed to Denethor's possessive love for his dying son Faramir, which is in the book, of course. This scene provided the audience with Elrond as a foil for Denethor. Elrond is willing to finally let go of Arwen; Denethor wants to keep Faramir with him, even if it means killing him! Elrond, of course, is the wiser of the two dads. Ultimately, both Elrond and Denethor let their children go. "

Which reminds me - on my last viewing, I finally caught the expression on Elrond's face at the coronation scene, where Arwen leaves his side and goes to Aragorn. It's a complex mixture of pain and love and bittersweet acceptance, and it backs up what Katrelya said about Elrond being willing at last to let his beloved child go, despite the pain it costs him.

A few people have written in with suggestions for great paintings that seem to have inspired some of the shots in ROTK. Kathe writes, "I totally agree, as Faramir goes to his doom, down through the incredible set of M.T. the images are between Italian and Dutch early to mid renaissance - the faces and film tint and lighting and the colors of the clothing- great!"

Denethor eating while Faramir rides to his doom reminded Odile of this very disturbing Goya painting of Saturn eating his children. [More] Carla thought that the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian I found by Rubens is most similar to the 7th image downhere She said, "I knew this one looked familiar it reminded me of a shot of Frodo I see everyday (it just so happens to be my desktop background) Though not actually seen in any of the films, it made a quick appearance in the Two Towers preview (seen in the shot by shot analysis on your site. They share almost identical expressions...beautiful."

That's great, but I'm still looking for more!

Thorongil's 'Gollum' Book Review
Xoanon @ 8:39 pm EST

Gollum: A Behind the Scenes Guide of the Making of Gollum (The Lord of the Rings)

Order your copy of 'Gollum: A Behind the Scenes Guide of the Making of Gollum' on Amazon.com today!

As all of us here at TORN are big fans of Tolkien's works, we have varying opinions and levels of how much we like or dislike Gollum in the books. While engaged in many discussions over the years with other TORN staffers and ringers from around the world, I have never heard anyone say Gollum was their favorite character. Well, after seeing Andy Serkis' perfomance as Gollum in all three LOTR movies, that may very well change. In "Gollum: How we made Movie Magic", by Andy Serkis, we get another wonderful Houghton Mifflin LOTR movies tie in book that is delightful, fun, intelligent, humorous and easy to read. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down!

In this 120 page book, Andy lends his thoughts from the moment he first got called to audition, through the entire principal photography and into the final days of post production. What originally was supposed to be a three week job turned into 5 years of intense, emotionally and physically draining work. "Gollum" is very insightful on the ever evolving transformation of Gollum, the character, by Andy and the entire crew that worked on the films. From the moment Andy first acted out Gollum, Peter Jackson and the production crew knew they were going to have to rethink Andy's involvement in the process. Andy tells us how he would have to do certain scenes three or four different ways. First from Motion Capture ( the process of digitally converting an actors physical movements onto a computer generated model),secondly to actual on screen shooting of scenes with Elijah Wood and Sean Astin, then thirdly to having Andy off camera delivering his lines with the same timing to the same exact scene he just shot, then lastly to ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement).

Andy shares with us in depth details explaining the whole process of motion capture and the technology behind everyone of Gollum's shots. He gives a very thorough account on his exhaustive performance as Gollum and everything he did to make Gollum the most actor driven CGI character in film history! Andy puts it simply, " What we had achieved collectively was to take a great character from literature, filter that character through great screenwriters, then take the emotion, physicality and voice of an actor's performance, ..... and synthesize them in a range of animation techniques and motion capture. This was then rendered inside a skin so real it looked as if you could touch it, then meticulously lit and placed back into original environments so that Gollum unquestionably existed as a real being. The audience was enabled to feel a connection with this hideous-looking creature rather than just being impressed with technical magic."

I guess part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much was the way Andy relates some of the experiences he has while he is in New Zealand. He has an amusing way of making us laugh as we follow along with him as he personally goes tramping all over New Zealand. It brought back clear memories of how beautiful New Zealand is when I was there over 3 years ago. Just reading Andy detailing his adventures or misadventures in New Zealand makes this book a worthwhile read. Then throw in some of the truly incredible sketches and drawings from the designers and animators that worked on Gollum, to go along with their candid commentary while working on creating Gollum, and we have another must read book for any Tolkien or movie fan!

Order your copy of 'Gollum: A Behind the Scenes Guide of the Making of Gollum' on Amazon.com today!

Pavement Magazine’s ROTK Issue
Xoanon @ 7:57 pm EST

After the phenomenal popularity of New Zealand magazine Pavement’s previous two The Lord of the Rings special issues, the magazine is about to publish its third and final instalment to this amazing trilogy.

Once again, Pavement editor Bernard McDonald spent a week on the set in Wellington during pick-up shoots for Return of the King, interviewing cast and crew, including director Peter Jackson, conceptual artist Alan Lee, writer Philippa Boyens and New Line executive Mark Odesky. In addition, Pavement writer Melinda Williams interviews a number of New Zealand cast members, Stephen Jewell interviews Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore and correspondent Desmond Sampson interviews Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee) and Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) at the New York press day.

Viggo Mortensen has been photographed exclusively by Pavement for the cover and 6-page feature, while the 30-page extended feature on Return of the King features dozens of film stills and production photos.

The issue can be purchased directly from Pavement. Contact Pavement via email on pavement@pavement.co.nz or PO Box 309, Auckland 1, New Zealand. Cost of each copy is NZ$40 (rest of world), NZ$30 (Australia) or NZ$15 (NZ). Includes postage and handling. Please supply relevant credit card details. Bank cheques must include an additional NZ$15 to cover bank charges. In addition, A2 cover posters featuring Viggo Mortensen are also available for NZ$20 each or NZ$10 if purchased with a copy of the issue. Allow 2-3 weeks for delivery. Pavement also has 60 copies left of The Two Towers issue (NZ$80 each), featuring Orlando Bloom on the cover. Sorry, no copies of Fellowship of the Ring issue left.

Sean Astin Attends ROTK Screening with 'K-Mozart'
Xoanon @ 5:06 pm EST

sean astin Attends ROTK Screening with 'K-Mozart'
Click for more images

HobbitMerry writes:

On Monday night, January 5th, 2004-- a radio station in the L.A/Orange County area called K-Mozart (and I believe they are on 105.1) held a special free screening of Return of the King with Sean Astin as a guest for Q&A afterwards. I am guessing they gave away passes, but I acquired mine through a friend who couldn't attend the event herself (thanks again, Ariavaswen!).

Mr. Astin graciously answered questions from all kinds of fans, including an adorable little nine-years old girl from the audience who asked him which of the LOTR movie was his favorite.

Sean comments, amused, "And I love how you're up on a Monday night..."

He assures questioning Tolkien fans about their "issues" with ROTK, that they may be even more satisfied with the movie once the extended DVD comes out. He says that all of the actors has battled for scenes that were cut out in the final, theatrical release-- but they also hope that all those scenes will be put back in the DVD. He also mentions that the extended DVD will be coming out in July.

He talks about how Dominic Monaghan wants to plan an annual reunion with all the cast members so they could all keep intouch.

Sean also says that it was unbelievable how many opportunities LOTR has opened up for him as an actor and as a director. He half-jokingly mentions that for the past two weeks, he's gotten more calls from his agents than before since he is now "on the top of their list."

When he talked of the lenght of the movie, he mentions that many people have told him that the movie was "too long." Two girls (dressed as Frodo and an elf) on the front row (where I was also seated at, of course!) let out shocked gasped in response-- much to Sean's amusement, and he teases them saying, "They're not wearing cloaks, okay?"

Anyways, here are a couple of the pictures among the many I took that night. Afterwards, I exchanged a few words with Sean and received a generous, long, warm hug from him-- which I had to end because my guest, Ami, and I desperately needed to go to the bathroom. Haha-- when will I learn to NOT drink large sodas during a LOTR movie?

Astin Transcript from 'Live! with Regis and Kelly'
Xoanon @ 12:46 pm EST

A BIG thank you to Diamond for sending this transcript to us!

[During the beginning of the show, Regis pronounced Sean's name 'Austin']

Regis Philbin: Alright, he stars in the blockbuster trilogy that was once again proven to be another epic hit in its third and final installment just gangbusters (?) box-office. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King hit the theaters with a big, big bang and here's the star of the show, Sean Astin!

[Huge cheering as Sean Astin walks out, shakes hands with RP and hugs Kelly Ripa and waves]

Sean Astin: You can call me Astin (?)...

RP: You know, I remember when you came when you came here for 'Rudy'!

[SA: yeah] I said the Sean "Austin"

SA: You can call me Austin, and you don't have to say anything. Watching you...Donald Trump and I were watching you read the theology about pet heaven [audience laughs] and I was like 'I believe! I believe!' [Audience laughs] So, you can call me anything you want but, Kelly keeps you straight so

RP: Oh yeah, she's right on top. So anyway, you look nice and lean and trim

Kelly Ripa: Yeah, very fit!

SA: Well, you know, there has to be life beyond beyond Samwise for me.

RP: Yeah, well you got a new role now so you're in training for that one, right?

SA: Yeah, uh well I finished that one, [RP: Oh you finished it?] yeah I survived it which is good. Yeah, it's with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. "50 First Dates" it's called. I play a guy who uh who swears he's sort of a muscle building phenomenon, he's not really a muscle building phenomenon. But...but he swears that he is.

RP: Are you in competition with Adam for the girl?

SA: No, she's my sister. [SA and KR laugh]

RP: You dare let your sister go out with Adam Sandler?

SA: Um well that is an issue that's at stake in the picture. So, yeah, yeah.

RP: Adam has seemed to develop like uh...a repertory group there.

SA: I want in.

KR: Will you be part of that you think?

SA: I hope so. I hope so. We were just talking about um...I was talking to my wife because there's a press junket in Hawaii in two weeks, and this is for me, personally, the most extraordinary time of my my life and career...um, professionally, just because of of the success of the films and the way the critics are talking about it and stuff, so, there's so many incredible opportunities. And I said to my wife should I should I got to Hawaii or should I do this or should I do that. She said "Adam is so blood loyal to people that he he hires he puts you in his movies when you're up or when you're down and you're up right now. But when you're down go to Hawaii."

KR: Right, sure.

RP: You take Kelly's advice because I thought it was excellent advice, you know, they signed this cast up for for three movies,[SA: Hmm] nobody knew how big they were going to be and now they're like the biggest box office hit of all time. And her advice was to go in and ask for more money.

SA: Yup. Yup.

KR: Absolutely.

RP: Which is what she did around here. [Audience, SA and KR laugh]

KR: Not yet, young Regis, not yet!

SA: This is what I said to Kelly when I came in this morning, I said we have a new house thanks to you.

RP: Oh, no kidding?

SA: And I meant it because there was a moment when uh...when we were talking to New Line about uh about. you know, acknowledging our the work and everything. And the aftermath of the huge success of the pictures and um...and I remember Kelly saying "Don't you let them tell you--" so

KR: I was sitting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

SA: I know but New Line...I we're very grateful to New Line, they were they acknowledged us we're happy, we're grateful.

RP: They bought you a new house?

SA: Well, they uh...they gave me more money and with that money we bought the house.

KR: So what happens is what they're doing you know...when youre going out there and your shooting this this...trilogy...these three movies...you have, say, a budget. You don't know. You suspect, you think, you're not sure of the impact it will have world wide. So this movie, I think, far exceeded anyone's greatest and wildest dreams so now it's time to pay the cast what it deserves.

SA: Well...it's not just...well listen, you're gonna have Donald Trump out here, he can tell you about the sort of mechanics of grizzly negotiations and how things happen, but uh...Nicole Kaylor (?) she works for New Line is back there [he points back stage] and she was like "Don't let them just talk about money, tell them that...the New York Film Critics you know, they acknowledged the picture and Peter got a Directors Guild nomination and talk about the uh that stuff". But the economics of the picture are uh are extraordinary. I think it's made over...I think its made somewhere near $800 million world wide in three weeks.

KR: But so many people do say it's the most beautiful thing they've ever seen. It's the move beautiful movie they've ever seen.

SA: Yeah, well...you know what; because money wasn't the point for the filmmakers...They really invested their passion for for story into the movie so...

RP: Well, when we come back we'll talk; we'll show you a clip from the new one.

[Back from commercials]

RP: Well, some people are saying that this is the best movie of all time. But can it be better then "Rudy"?

SA: Well, Rudy was short and Hobbits are short.

KR: But people are very fanatical about the I mean the books and the movies and everything.

SA: But I get so many presents We go to do question and answer periods after the picture and people give me gifts. You know, buttons from the 60s when they were hippies and "Frodo Lives" buttons, and artwork and poetry and songs and... It's unbelievable. It's the it's the kind of literature and it's the kind of movie that actually inspires people to do their own work. I mean, "Star Wars" was inspired by the books, you know so...Led Zepplin.

RP: But you what is really a hit, people begin naming their own children after the characters. I haven't heard one person name their kid Frodo. [SA and audience laugh].

SA: Not to get back to the pet theme, but I know a lot of dogs named Frodo. Who I'm sure will go to heaven, right? [Everyone laughs]

RP: Now um, your oldest daughter has a cameo in the role, huh?

SA: Yeah. She has a moment, she has a moment in the end yeah she plays my Hobbit daughter. [KR and some audience members "aww"] Yeah, she's immortalized in that at three years old, at the last shot of the last scene of the last picture.

RP: Isn't that nice? You'll always have that film to look at.

SA: And now we have the baby, so I keep telling her the baby looks so much like her, when the baby gets older, when Elizabeth is older we'll just tell her it was her. [Audience laughs]

KR: That's a great idea! No sibling rivalry.

RP: You know, Sean, when I met you, you were not married. How long have you been married?

SA: We were married...I was married. I got married before...a year...no, a few months before Rudy...7-11, July eleventh 19--

RP: But I interviewed you before that.

SA: Oh yeah, for Toy Soldiers, yeah I'm sorry, you're right.

RP: So you've been married for what ten years?

SA: Ten or eleven years, yeah.

RP: No kidding? How's it going?

SA: She's great. She hasn't left me yet. [Audience and KR laugh] Honey, if you're up and you're watching don't leave me yet.

RP: Did she go over with you to New Zealand because that's a long time.

SA: Yeah, she and Alexandra were with me every step of the way. That was the best...for me, that was the best part about making the movies, 'cause as a father and a husband you want to feel like you're doing your job and and...and giving them a life that's meaningful, and giving Alexandra the opportunity to fly in helicopters and meet incredible people.

RP: The experience. Should we play a little clip?

KR: Yeah, Sure!

RP: Well now here we go, [audience claps] Sam and Frodo on their journey to return the Ring. Take a look at this from the Lord of the Rings

[Clip is show of Frodo drinking the last of what's left of Samwise's water; Frodo says "There'll be none left for the return journey." Sam responds "I don't think there'll be a return journey, Mr. Frodo." Ends with Sam offering his hand and pulling Frodo up]

[applause and cheers from audience]

RP: It's in theaters right now!

KR: Frodo and Sam are my favorite on screen couple.

RP: They're always together. Anyways congratulations, thank you very much!

SA: Thank you.

Andy Serkis Press Confrence Transcript
Xoanon @ 12:32 pm EST

Ringer Spy Nazz attended the MANY press confrences during the ROTK media blitz last month. In this article he chats with actor Andy Serkis.

Special thanks to Rip It Up Magazine in South Australia for this transcript.

ROTK Premiere: Los Angeles
Andy Serkis at the ROTK Premiere in LA

It's quite something to watch a legion of professional film critics left as breathless as they were when watching the preview of the third and final film of Peter Jackson's The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, The Return Of The King. Regardless of your opinion of the trilogy, it's affect on cinema history is academic. One such example is the creation of first completely believable, actor-driven CG-generated character: that of the devastated and duplicitous Gollum a feat so incredible it virtually insists the Motion Picture Academy create a new category to recognise its mastery.

Here we catch up with the actor behind this revelation, the hyper-active and enthusiastic, Andy Serkis, for an exclusive one-on-one interview.

An animated, whirlwind of passion and ideas, Andy's mind seems to be constantly racing, with such energy firing behind his remarkable eyes that it takes t -10 seconds to be swept up in his enthusiasm and affability.

This film is one helluva payoff - most sequential films mess it up by now

AS: "They do don't they? But not on this. It's great. It's so rewarding. But that's Pete isn't it? He's just such a truthful story-teller - like Tolkien. He respects Tolkien and drew from that, and I think between Pete, Phillipa and Fran, they kept getting drawn back towards the retelling of the book in such a major way. But that's such an incredible thing to do, to do that for fans of the book like yourself, and also people who haven't ever read the book before. To be able to bring these films to the world like that is stunning."

It's been great to share this love finally with non-reader people en masse. In some ways the films have exorcised the books from false geekdom because now a very large new audience realise that the magnetism of the books isn't because its fantasy - because that's really a misreading - its because its just a darned good, consumately well-told story. I have been amused to hear people saying things like, 'oh I can't wait another year to find out what happens next!'

Err, dude, go and buy the books. You'll never look back.

AS: "[laughs] But they're all falling in love with it aren't they? It's amazing."

Let's shoot back to the beginning - though it's an obvious masterpiece now, you must have been on tenterhooks at the beginning over whether this would work.

AS: "I was terrified when we started because Gollum was such a fantastic creation of literature. And Tolkien invested so much in him. He must've loved the character if you go by the writing. To a lot of people, the fans of the book, he was memorable character going right back to The Hobbit. So the responsibility was very huge. Peter felt that responsibility and I felt, as an actor taking it on board, that there was a big responsibility.

"Because there hadn't been an example of a CGI character working well in a live action film before, early on I was kind of questioning whether this was a good idea - to be actually frank about it. There were stages all the way along the line when it could have gone wrong but, the fact is, Peter had such a persistence of vision about how he wanted to do it that. It really emanates from the fact that he wanted him to manifest himself as a CG character but that the performance had to come from an actor. So he was going to go to any lengths to get that reality and reciprocal energy you get between actors on a set rather than an actor and a tennis ball on a stick - which is how, previously, it's been done. There's just no the CG character's not rooted to the environment, not rooted to the person it's acting with.

"The psychologically complex nature of Gollum and also his dramatic function within the scenes means he has to be driven for real, from a sense of emotional truth."

Complex is just the word. I thought he was impressive in The Two Towers but we find out they were just the outer layers of the onion in The Return Of The King. We find out we didn't really know him at all.

AS: "It shifts again doesn't it? That's really clever from the writers' point of view. They were at a point where they said, 'well we could just stick with what we've got for the third film or take him down this psychological thriller journey.' So it's great.

You get a pay off, seeing where he comes from, his back history, that he once was a Hobbit, a human being who's kind of been landed with this addiction, and then you actually get to see this what we've established in The Two Towers is Smeagol, this childlike side, this naïve side that's been abused. Now Smeagol begins to be the one that¹s manipulative - like children can be. I mean, I've got two young children and they can be very manipulative [laughs]! And that Gollum is conversely, the one we thought was the dark side, the vengeful side, the evil side if you like (which I don't particularly believe in, evil that is) and he's almost overpowered by this manipulation by Smeagol. It's almost like you trust Gollum more because it's coming from the gut. At least his emotions are up front! He's on the attack for what he wants, whereas with Smeagol, you don't really know where you are with him."

Was there a moment where this new change in his characterisation made you feel as though the rug had been out from under you as an actor and what you'd already committed to film?

AS: "It was ultimately the way to go of course but initially, yes, I did question it. The construct of how I imagined the characters to be was what you saw at the end of The Two Towers. I remember coming back to do reshoots on The Return Of The King and Fran [Walsh, co-screenwriter and Peter Jackson's longtime partner] said, look, I think we should go this way with it.' And you're right, it did make me question my world view a bit [chuckles]; but I realised she was right. I suppose it's the point at which you write him off and say he's irredeemable as a character; which I still think we've managed to not do. I still think we've handed that responsibility back to the audience. The point at which you write him off is the point where you go, 'right that's it. Forget. I'm not interested in the character any more, really.' I think we've managed to keep that open right to the last second."

What's his accountability? Do you think the evil inside the ring chose him to be a ring-bearer?

AS: "That's it. It's really about why and how the ring found him, and that thing Gandalf said about how Gollum will have his part to play in the journey; so be careful how you deal out judgement. That's the nub of the argument of how and why we played Gollum they way we did."
When we look at Gollum's origin - this reminded me of a question I've had since the first time I read the book: were Gollum's action a product of the ring or was it an inherent evil in him that was there from the beginning? I mean the first time he meets the ring, he chokes his cousin to death. And though it's not in the movie, he starts out by using the power of invisibility of the ring to spy on people, gets sprung by his tell-tale 'Gollum' sound, and eventually takes to eating Hobbit babies before being run out of Hobbiton.

"That's a good observation. Going back a bit to when he chokes his cousin, Deagol, to death having said that, his cousin is also consumed by it. It's just that Smeagol doesn't have the moral stature to withstand the impact of the ring. I mean, he just doesn't have it.
"[Sighs] It's like a child murderer really. I keep thinking about a child committing a murder because the don't have the ability to police their emotion or what they choose to go with on the spur of the moment. So he pays for that moment for the rest of his life. It's almost like a gut reaction. This thing is so powerful and beautiful and consuming that he can't stop or police himself.

"It's like, in England, we had Jamie Bulger murder, and those two boys who were imprisoned as a result. The question is, at what point are children culpable? I always think about with Smeagol. At what point is he culpable for he's done? That moment of loss of innocence with children - I mean I see my two children doing things and I think, 'are you aware of that being a malicious act?' Do you know what I mean?"

Yes, I'm a father myself and - not that my little girl has too many moments like this!- but you quickly become aware that under certain circumstances no one can be meaner than kids.

AS: "That's right. And you think how the hell have you come to be doing that? And yet if you demonise them, you cease to be able to understand them so that's primarily why chose to make Smeagol as empathetic as possible to the audience."

Kids have to test the boundaries, there's no other way for them to learn first-hand how the world works.

AS: "Yeah. I think Tolkien writes Smeagol as being curious - and that's a really big clue to the character. There's a curiosity in him - that's why we started with him hooking this worm. It's almost like he's just seeing what happens really. There's a fascination of what actually happens [when you do things]. I guess it's testing the boundaries of what you feel your power is in life. But I never saw him as evil or malicious."

That's an important perspective. I'm sure if people had asked Hitler about his motivations, he would have never considered himself evil.

AS: "He believed what he was doing is right."

When an actor plays someone purely as just evil, there's very little access to them as a believable human. It's about the choices you make and their consequences.

AS: "Yes."

This film is proof-positive about how casting can be everything. I had an advantage on most audience members because I knew your work and had been impressed by it before you were cast.

AS: "Really?"

One role in particular, assured me of your ability to play this character, and it was Bill Sikes in the recent BBC TV adaptation of Dickens' Oliver Twist.

AS: "Oh right," says Andy with surprise.

There was something about the way you managed to humanise a typically one-dimensional thug. If I can cite one tough scene in particular, it's just as Bill decides to beat his longtime girlfriend, Nancy's brains out for delivering Oliver to his grandfather. Instead of just maliciously going straight into the brutal rage, you wordlessly gave Bill's a flicker of love just before they glaze over and he does the deed. It was heart-breaking.

AS: "Cheers."

Now I would never, in a million years, have thought they'd have cast the net so far as to actually get the perfect people for the roles. I really enjoyed your work but was expecting far more 'Hollywood' actors for all the roles. What was it that brought Peter to you?

AS: "I guess it's difficult to say why someone picked me," he chuckles coyly, "but I think what Peter and Fran saw was and it's interesting that you mention Bill Sikes, because I do like to redeem so-called irredeemable characters. I think Peter and Fran saw it was important to have some empathy for Smeagol. The combination of the physicality and the voice and the way I think I psychologically approached him as this thing consumed by an addiction that they really thought it was worth doing it with me."

Alright, last question time: King Kong - are you going to, as the rumours suggest, get back in the motion capture suit to play him as well?

AS: "It's umm it's" (he splutters, seemingly caught on a subject he's not quite ready to share or commit on.) "There have been talks about it but I'd do anything to work with Peter again. Nothing's been confirmed or anything its it could happen or it could not."

Well thank you.

Dedicated to Jenny & Michael Macklin-Shaw, my family and friends.

Hall Of Fire Chats This Weekend
Frode @ 12:21 am EST

Having seen all three movies it's time to take a look at the movie trilogy as a whole. How coherent are the different storylines? How well do the individual movies work on their own? How does the focus shift between characters from 'The Fellowship of the Ring' to 'The Return of the King'?

We can now sit down and judge how well the script-writers have adapted the story in the book to a set of movies. How well are the changes made to Tolkiens story justified? Are all the threads picked up or are some left hanging? What do you think were the most important parts of 'The Lord of the Rings' for Peter Jackson to tell? Join us in #thehalloffire as we take a look at Peter Jacksons 'The Lord of the Rings'.

Upcoming topics:

weekend 170104-180104
The Great Whine and Cheese Party; Time to went all the frustrations with Peter Jacksons movies, and also time to share all your favourite moments.

Saturday Chat:
5:30pm ET (17:30)
[also 11:30pm (23:30) CET and 9:30am Sunday (09:30) AET]

Sunday Chat:
7:00 pm (19:00) CET
[also 1:00pm (13:00) ET and 5:00am (05:00) Monday morning AET]

ET = Eastern Time, USA's East Coast
CET = Central European Time, Central Europe
AET = Australian East Coast

Do you have a possible topic for Hall of Fire? Drop us a line at

1-09-04 Latest News

Shore Scores Triple Nominations for ROTK
Xoanon @ 1:57 pm EST

Los Angeles, CA, January 2004 - Composer Howard Shore, who won the Academy Award in 2001 for his score for the first installment of "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," can add a number of nominations to his list of honors. Shore recently received a Grammy nomination for "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and two Golden Globe nominations for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" for the Best Original Score and Best Original Song "Into The West," performed by Annie Lennox and co-wrote with Fran Walsh and Annie Lennox. He also received a Broadcast Film Critics Award nomination for Best Original Score and is a front-runner in this year's Oscar race for the three hours plus of new music he created for the final film in Peter Jackson's epic trilogy. The score for "The Return of the King" has been awarded Best Score by the Online Film Critics Society and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" soundtrack spotlights guest appearances by acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming and renowned Irish flautist Sir James Galway. To date, the three "The Lord of the Rings" soundtrack albums have sold over 3 million copies worldwide and the first two albums have remained on the Billboard Top 100 Soundtracks chart since their original release in 2001 and 2002, respectively.

Shore has created a concert version "The Lord of the Rings Symphony: Six Movements for Orchestra and Chorus." He debuted the symphony at the premiere in New Zealand in November, and is currently scheduled to conduct the work throughout the United States, Europe, Australia and Canada in concert dates this year.

New Line Cinema's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" currently in theatres, concludes the compelling journeys at the heart of J.R.R. Tolkien's revered trilogy. Produced, co-written and directed by Peter Jackson, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" is produced by Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson. The screenplay is by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Jackson based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien. Cast members include (in alphabetical order) Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Brad Dourif, Bernard Hill, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, John Noble, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler, Karl Urban, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, and Elijah Wood.

Oscar By The Numbers
Xoanon @ 1:26 pm EST

Rob writes: Thought this might be of interest to your readers. I did the research myself so you can use it if you like.

Out of the 75 Best Picture Oscars awarded, this is how the winners were spread.

Romance/Love Story (comedic or serious) 9
Musical 12
Life Story or Parable (either true or not) 22
Historical Epic (regardless of whether it is biography, romance,
political etc) 10
Political or with main point being Political Message 17
Comedy 4
Thriller/Horror 1
Fantasy/Science Fiction 0

Out of the approximately 400 nominated best pictures only 23 could be considered fantasy and only one, Forrest Gump, actually won and some would argue it wasn't really a fantasy but more of a life story/parable/political/comedy. Almost all of the others were the biggest movies of their year and six of them are in the top 20 domestic box office of all time. Here are the other fantasy movies that were nominated but lost. It's an impressive list.

Wizard of Oz, It's A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, King Solomon's Mines, Mary Poppins, Dr Strangelove, Doctor Doolittle, A Clockwork Orange, The Exorcist, Star Wars, Heaven Can Wait (twice), Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Field Of Dreams, Ghost, Babe, The Green Mile, The Sixth Sense, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, LOTR Fellowship and LOTR Two Towers.

Also not one of these movies won for best director (except Gump gain.) It's worth noting that Heaven Can Wait was nominated twice (also in 1943) and lost twice.

Adjusted for inflation 35 of the top 100 domestic movies were fantasy another 15 were animations (only one of which was nominated in the last 25 years - Beauty & The Beast.)

Doesn't bode well for the movie but who knows he might buck the trend.

1-08-04 Latest News

Andrew Lesnie Press Confrence Transcript
Xoanon @ 8:39 pm EST

Ringer Spy Nazz attended the MANY press confrences during the ROTK media blitz last month. In this article he chats with Director of Photography Andrew Lesnie.

Special thanks to Rip It Up Magazine in South Australia for this transcript.

Andrew Lesnie On The Red Carpet
Andrew Lesnie at the ROTK Premiere in NZ

Andrew Lesnie - Academy Award winning cinematographer of The Lord Of The Rings films (for The Fellowship Of The Rings) Cinematography: The art or technique of movie photography, including both the shooting and development of the film.

Andrew Lesnie won an Academy Award for his work on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and was nominated for the American Society of Cinematographers Award and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts cinematography award, among other awards and accolades.

Lesnie held the Australian Cinematographers Society's coveted Milli Award for 1995 and 1996, making him Australia's Cinematographer of the Year two years running. He also won the 1997 Australian Film Institute Award for best cinematography for Doing Time for Patsy Cline, and a 1997 A.C.S. gold award for the same film. He won the 1996 A.C.S. Golden Tripod Award for Babe, in 1995 for Temptation of a Monk, and in 1994 for Spider and Rose. His other feature credits include Two if by Sea, The Sugar Factory, Fatal Past, The Delinquents, Dark Age, Boys in the Island, Daydream Believer and Unfinished Business, among others.

Lesnie also handled second unit photography on Farewell to the King, Incident at Raven's Gate and Around the World in Eighty Ways, and shot the documentaries The Making of The Road Warrior, Stages (about Peter Brook and the Paris Theatre Company in Australia), and The Comeback, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. His television credits include "The Rainbow Warrior Conspiracy," "Melba" (A.C.S. Merit Award), and "Cyclone Tracy" (A.C.S. Golden Tripod Award for best photographed miniseries). In addition, Lesnie has garnered A.C.S. Awards for the short films The Outing and The Same Stream.

How are you feeling?

AL: "Good, glad we're almost done."

These films seem to be a return to classic cinema right down to the great close-ups and an almost David Lean style. When you came into this, how much input did you have. For instance, we've seen the storyboards of the initial concepts ­ can you help us see where your influence came in?

AL: "No! Next question [laughs]!"

How was the food?

AL: "The food was great [laughs]."

"I don't know what I wanted. I never go into a project that set in my ways. I try to have as few preconceptions about what I'll do as possible: what it's going to look like, how we're going to do it etc. You end up just trying to immerse yourself in, I suppose, the subtext of the story.

"I'd read the books as a teenager, but obviously you're up for reading the books again. The project was well under way when I came in. The art department and visual effects departments had been well under way ­ there was quite a range. I came aboard pretty late in the scheme of things, even though I did three and a half months of prep.

"So I came aboard and y'know, I read the books, I read the scripts, I talked to Peter Jackson and he'd done storyboards, so I looked at them. He was always saying, (I've done these storyboards but they're not the bible." It's just a game-plan but we can change it.

"Then I started going around to Pre-Viz [the Pre-Visualisation Department, which essentially amount to computer generated, moving storyboards]. So I'm watching the guys in Pre-Viz three dimensionally doing shots. It ends up that Peter's dumping me in there because they're trying to do the stairway at Khazad-Dûm. They're really quite talented young guys and graphic designers but they've got no concept of (shots' as such. What they've got, of course, are these virtual cameras that can go anywhere so they've got these insane shots that are moving a lot but aren't really communicating anything.

"So I'm spending days in there [chuckles], trying to formulate these sequences saying, (you can say the same thing only with a lot less movement and much more economically.' So anyway, it was like my pre-production was spent more in I'd like to say I had this massive think tank and came up with this big, formative game-plan; but it was just a result of conversations and immersing myself in the artwork, reading the booksŠ you start dreaming a bit and coming up with ideas. We decided there were certain stops that appealed to me [camera and lens term. An aperture stop is a physical constraint, often a lens retainer, that limits the diameter of the axial light bundle allowed to pass through a lens.. A field stop is the aperture located at an image plane of an optical system that determines the size and shape of the image]. Sometimes you can't really put a reason on why certain things pop up or stand out. Hopefully you're grounded enough in your craft that your palette is large enough that you know enough things to draw on in any given circumstance. So when you get an instinctive feeling for things you can say, ŒI feel that that's appropriate.' But if anyone asks you to rationalise it, you might be completely stuffed!

"At the same time, I know that Peter is a filmmaker who likes to be flexible. He can change his mind at the drop of a hat so you gear up in a way that allows for that. You start designing lighting scenarios that allow for him to change his mind and come around to do this and that, instead of that and this. Then you can keep up a certain momentum up on the floor ­ which is also very important too for the castŠ not to actually grind things to a halt for too long. So you start trying to imagine how you want this world to be, but also juggling that with the practical working systems of the shoot."

Let's go back a step. How old were you when you first read the book of The Lord Of The Rings?

AL: "About 17."

Were you already into the craft of cinema by that stage?

AL: "Yeah I think so. Maybe not cinematography but film-making, definitely. I had a Super8 camera out there and I was making little thrillers."

Did you picture any sequences from the book in your head when you were reading it?

AL: "No but it did leave me with several graphic images. The image I most remember out of absolutely everything was one that was emblazoned in my mind. I imagined the two little figures [of Frodo and Sam] climbing up the slope of Mount Doom, which was in the foreground ­ and in the background, on these huge plains, there were just millions of people fighting. It probably hit me then that you could tell really personal stories within a really epic context.

"In this particular image, knowing the back stories, that these two little figures that were climbing were going to directly affect the outcome of what was happening down below. That makes where they're going, how they're going critically and whether they're going to get to where they're going, critically important. Even if you didn't know their whole story, their success or failure will affect everything that's going on down below ­ and I learned how important that could be as a dramatic device. It's like it raises the stakes and makes everything more excitingŠ without ever knowing why. You're telling more of the story at once.

"People ask me what cinematography is and I always answer that it's conveying the subtext of a scene. You look for what a scene is about, when you stand there onset, even before the actors turn up to block it through. You stand there and, even though you may have asked it several times before ­ or even have left it until the day, you sit there and ask what the scene is about. Now it's a pretty basic question but it's sometimes the most important question. I look at some films that people haven't asked themselves that question and they've gone and filmed it ­ and they definitely haven't answered that question! In the entire process of making it, I see films where I look at scenes and go, Œthis is about nothing. This isn't progressing the film in any way shape or form [laughs]. I'm learning nothing more about the characters and it's adding no depth to this film.' At which point you go, Œwell obviously, no one asked themselves the question.' It seems basic but it's too often overlooked."

Rings exhibition Hours Extended
Xoanon @ 8:22 pm EST

The Science Museum will keep the doors of its blockbuster Lord of the Rings exhibition open until midnight this Friday and Saturday - to cope with the demand for tickets as visitors rush to catch the show before it leaves Europe.

The exhibition, which contains over 600 props from the films, has attracted over 200,000 fans young and old since opening last September and closes at 10pm this Sunday.

Visitors enjoy an up close and personal encounter with props, costumes and sets from the films at the same time as the final instalment of the film trilogy, The Return of the King, packs out cinemas.

The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy - The Exhibition has already sold more advance tickets than any previous exhibition at the Science Museum. The exhibition (not the Museum) will stay open until midnight on Friday 9 January and Saturday 10 January and until 10pm on Sunday 11 January to cope with the massive demand for tickets. Visitors will need to book in advance to guarantee entry.

To prevent the advanced filmmaking technology displayed in the exhibition from being copied, the use of cameras and mobile phones is prohibited.

The fascinating exhibition includes:

-Demonstrations of special effects, including the combining of 'real' and 'digital' action and CGI (computer-generated-image technology).

-A scaling interactive explaining one way that the films managed to make characters seem different heights, and which allows visitors to become Hobbit sized in a scene from The Fellowship of the Ring - and then buy a print of themselves.

-A display on the prosthetics which transformed actors, including Hobbit hands and feet.

-Weapons belonging to Arwen, Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn.

-Outfits including Arwen's riding costume, Galadriel's stunning dress and Gandalf's robes.

The exhibition culminates with a face-to-face encounter with the central icon from the films - The One Ring.

· Tickets can be pre-booked on 0870 906 3890 24 hours (booking fee applies) or at www.sciencemuseum.org.uk

Exhibition Until 11 January 2004

Ticket Prices

Monday - Friday: Adults £9.95 Children/Concessions £6.95
Saturday - Sunday: Adults £11.95 Children/Concessions £8.95
Public information and booking line
0870 906 3890 (booking fee applies)
Opening hours

The Museum has extended the weekend opening hours for this exhibition
Friday - Saturday 10am - midnight
Sunday 10am - 10pm
The exhibition will be open Monday - Thursday 10am - 6pm

For more information, images and interviewees contact: Ben Ayers, 020 7942 4357, b.ayers@nmsi.ac.uk

Alternatively visit the Lord of the Rings exhibition media centre at:

Notes to editors:

· Admission to the main galleries of the Science Museum is free.

· The museum is open daily from 10am - 6pm.

· The exhibition is developed and presented by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in partnership with New Line Cinema.

· © 2003 New Line Productions, Inc.; The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, The Return of the King and the characters, events, items and places therein, are the Trademarks of The Saul Zaentz Company, d/b/a Tolkien Enterprises, under license to New Line Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This e-mail and attachments are intended for the named addressee only and are confidential. If you have received this e-mail in error please notify the sender immediately, delete the message from your computer system and destroy any copies. Any views expressed in this message are those of the individual sender and may not reflect the views of the National Museum of Science & Industry. This email has been scanned for all viruses by the MessageLabs Email Security System.

TV Watch: Elijah Wood 'Daily Show' Transcript
Xoanon @ 12:30 pm EST

A BIG thank you to Lisa for sending this in!

John Stewart: My guest tonight - an actor starring in the third instalment of the mega Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Clip shown of Sam, Frodo and Gollum on the cliffs above the Dead City (secret stairs), when Gollum tries to frame Sam for taking the lembas bread. Ends when Gollum says “He took it!”, and the frame freezes on Frodo looking wide-eyed at Sam.

JS: Somebody took it! (audience laughs) Please welcome Elijah Wood! Come on!

Audience claps and the band plays as Elijah comes out and waves. Jon and Elijah shake hands and embrace.

JS: Good to see you.

Elijah Wood: Good to see you as well.

JS: How are ya?

EW: I’m good. Frodo looks pretty ragged that clip.

JS: Oh, he was hungry, he’s tired, he’s with Chris Katan and uh, the other guy… (Elijah laughs and audience laughs) That’s it. Um, now, you’re coming on actually to promote the movie, and we’re hoping to give it a little bump. I know things have been rough with it… (audience starts laughing)

EW: It needs a little help

JS: A little push.

EW: They put… they put us into second high gear, you know… just go out there and rally the troops… get the people into the theatre…

JS: That’s what I’m hoping to do because I think it’s a little film that really can. I think people should see it. (audience laughs)

EW: It’s like… it’s like the little engine that could.

JS: That’s exactly it.

EW: I think that we believe in it, it’s got a lot of love and heart and soul behind it, so…

JS: I agree. I’m looking forward to the fourth one. (audience laughs)

EW: So am I.

JS: What if they… I guarantee you somewhere in Hollywood, someone’s going to go be going “we gotta find a fourth one”… (audience laughs)

EW: Right.

JS: Get me Tolkien on the phone! (audience laughs). Uh…

EW: Exhume the body! Get it out!

JS: There’s gotta be another manuscript (Elijah laughs). With all this… you’ve accomplished all this… tell me the next thing that you would love to do. Is…to be acting, to be anything… what’s the thing you’d love to do the most?

EW: Uh… start a record label.

JS: Seriously?

EW: Yeah, (laughing) I really wanna start a record label. (audience laughs). I’m…

JS: Can I tell you what’s so weird about that?

EW: What?

JS: I happen to play French Horn (audience laughs).

EW: We could… we could release…

JS: You could produce my…

EW: There you go.

JS: Uh, would you… you mean you want to go to clubs and sign bands and that sort of thing or…

EW: Yeah. I mean, I’m a huge, huge music fan and I’ve always wanted to do something in music, but I never wanted to be in a band because I love music too much to mess it up, so… (he laughs, audience and Jon laugh) I thought, you know, I’ll start a label and support acts that I care about and try and get them exposed…

JS: Now, what kind of music do you think you would uh… like what’s the type of music that you enjoy?

EW: It would be pretty varied. My taste is all over the place, so rock, and jazz, and pop…

JS: I enjoy the uh… [not sure of what Jon said here - Mrs. Roxy?] (audience laughs)

EW:I grew… I grew up with rapping…

JS: He taught me to spell. (audience laughs)

EW: Did he? I… he taught me to spell.

JS: You… so you go to clubs and…. do you have somebody in mind right now that you like? Is uh… I don’t want to put you on the spot in terms of a band, but is there… is there someone out there that you’re thinking…

EW: There’s a couple of things… there’s a few things that I’ve got my eye on. Nothing I can really say…

JS: You can’t tell us because then other people dive in there… it’s the whole business.

EW: Well, it’s not necessarily the business… I just don’t know if he would appreciate me mentioning…

JS: Can I say this?…

EW: Yeah?

JS: Keep your eye on this Led Zepplin… I think they’re going places (audience laughs)

EW: You think? I think there’s a bidding war at the moment though…

JS: You think?

EW: Yeah. I don’t….

JS: Is that a dirty business… is that the kind of business you think you could… you could get involved in… I hear everything about the music business, as much as entertainment, is dirty..

EW: It’s worse… the music industry.

JS: The music industry is worse… that’s what I’m suggesting.

EW: Yeah, but I would… I would do it on my own time and not get involved in the politics.

JS: Or, the other way to do it is become a vicious [word beeped out!] (audience laughs)

EW: Well there you go.

JS: Either do it on your…

EW: I have yet to learn those skills, so… (Jon laughs) Exactly!

JS: Why not? That’s my point.

EW: Exactly. Twenty…. I’m about to be 23 and now’s the time.

JS: You’re only going to be… that’s crazy.

EW: Yeah, generally….

JS: You really should get moving. You need to start accomplishing things. Because clearly… (Elijah laughs and audience laughs). When I was 23, uh… I believe I was found laundering naked with my ass cheeks taped together. (audience and Elijah laugh, audience whoops a bit). And that was, if I may say so… one of my better days. (Elijah laughs). Do you have another, uh, movie plan? I mean, this thing went for so long in terms of filming…

EW: Four years…

JS: Do you get back to New Zealand at all?

EW: I do. I do. I’ve been back this year… and last year

JS: A pretty place?

EW: Amazing. Such an amazing place. I mean it…

JS: How many people you’d say are in New Zealand?

EW: Uh… I think it’s… [unsure] three million... in all?

JS: Let me ask you this…

EW: The population’s pretty small.

JS: What are their names? (audience laughs) Is it a place… is there a huge tourist industry? I imagine, there’s… there’s films…

EW: There’s a lot of duncans [not sure of this word] out there, for some reason.

JS: Big on the duncans?

EW: Duncans.

JS: What would be the… the livestock, the animal life.. is there yaks, cattle, what…

EW: Sheep.

JS: Really?

EW: In fact, there are I think 30 or 40 sheep per every New Zealander.

JS: I’m glad they were able to look because I know class size is important for them. (audience laughs)

EW: (laughing) Right.

JS: I don’t even know what the means (Elijah laughs). Uh… do you spend… is it… are the seasons the same as ours, is it….

EW: They’re the same, they’re in reverse, so… it’s in the southern hemisphere, so it would be summer now.

JS: Right, I knew that. (audience laughs)

EW: It’s warm there, yeah… and the water, when you flush the toilets… the water spins in the opposite direction.

JS: Really?

EW: Yeah, and people love that about it.

JS: And this is true… in comedy movies, when you flush the water, it comes up right in your face. (audience laughs)

EW: It does, it does… and you get little… (imitates getting sprayed in the face)

JS: Right, and you do this (imitates getting sprayed)..

EW: Yeah…

JS: And then you turn and look at the camera and go… (simultaneously, Elijah and Jon go “woo!”, putting both hands up and making a goofy face toward the audience) (audience laughs).

EW: Yeah.

JS: Uh, well, I’m so pleased. You’re… you’re one of the nicest people in the business that I’ve known,

EW: Thank you.

JS: and truly a talented guy, I’m just so pleased that everything’s working out for you so well.

EW: Thank you so much.

JS: Good luck with the record label. When you want to hear some real French Horn, you come and let me know.

EW: You know it!

JS: I’ll lay down some beats, that we….

EW: Some fat beats.

JS: Thank you very much.

EW: Rockin’….

JS: Lord of the Rings, Return of the King, in theatres now! Go see it! Elijah Wood! (audience cheers as Elijah shakes hands with Jon)

Cinemarati Award Nominations Announced
Xoanon @ 11:56 am EST

(New York City) -- CINEMARATI, the renowned organization of professional online film critics from across the globe, today announced its distinctive nominations for the fourth annual Cinemarati Awards.

Five films, an intriguing mix of blockbusters and indie treasures, lead the slate. *The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King* and *Kill Bill: Volume One* received ten nominations apiece. *Raising Victor Vargas,* *Lost in Translation,* and *American Splendor* each received eight nominations.

Unlike other professional awards, the Cinemarati Award Nominees -- eight each in twenty-four categories, recognizing the best cinematic efforts of 2003 -- now enter Cinemarati’s signature public process, where nominees go head-to-head in matchups voted on by its Member Critics in full view at http://www.cinemarati.org .

This year, lauded performances like those of BILL MURRAY and NAOMI WATTS sit alongside rarely recognized turns by CHIWETEL EJIOFOR (*Dirty Pretty Things*) and VALERIE LEMERCIER (*Friday Night*). Newcomers fare especially well, with multiple nominatons for *In America*’s SARAH BOLGER, *The Station Agent*’s PETER DINKLAGE, and the first-ever triple nominee, ROBERT PULCINI, for his first-time feature directing, writing, and editing work on *American Splendor.*

The recent flap over awards screeners did not affect this year’s deliberations. "Cinemarati Member Critics have never depended upon screeners," said awards co-chair NICK DAVIS, lead critic at Nick’s Flick Picks. "We appreciate seeing films with a public audience of filmgoers, on a big screen, the way movies were intended to be seen."

Over the next three weeks, the nominees will be whittled down to one winner in each category through a series of playoff-style votes. The playoff process results in some interesting oddities. This year, in the Best Lead Actress category, Scarlett Johansson in *Lost in Translation* squares off against… Scarlett Johansson in *Girl With a Pearl Earring* in round-one voting.

Results of each round of voting will be posted in the Cinemarati Roundtable, and discussion participants -- movie lovers from around the globe -- are encouraged to lobby the Member Critics to vote for their favorites in susequent rounds.

"The entire process happens out in the open," explains founding member MARYANN JOHANSON, of FlickFilosopher.com. "No other critics’ group offers the moviegoing public a peek into the backroom of award discussions, but we at Cinemarati find that it invigorates the dialogue between film audiences and film critics. It’s an exciting experience."

Winners will be announced on Monday, January 19th.



The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Lost in Translation
Kill Bill: Volume One
The Company
American Splendor
Mystic River
Raising Victor Vargas


The Triplettes of Belleville
City of God
Friday Night
Millennium Actress
The Barbarian Invasions
To Be and To Have
BUS 174


The Triplettes of Belleville
Finding Nemo
Millennium Actress
Looney Tunes: Back in Action
The Animatrix
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
Kill Bill: Volume One (anime sequence)


Capturing the Friedmans
Winged Migration
The Fog of War
To Be and To Have
BUS 174
Lost in La Mancha
Love and Diane


The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Platinum Extended Edition)
Looney Tunes: The Golden Collection
By Brakhage (Criterion Collection)
Alien: Quadrilogy (Box Set)
The Adventures of Indiana Jones (Box Set)
The Directors Series: Michel Gondry
West Side Story (Special Edition)
Tokyo Story (Criterion Collection)


Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean:The Curse of the Black
Paul Giamatti, American Splendor
Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa
Sean Penn, Mystic River
Peter Dinklage, The Station Agent
Jack Black, The School of Rock
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dirty Pretty Things


Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation
Uma Thurman, Kill Bill: Volume One
Zooey Deschanel, All the Real Girls
Patricia Clarkson, The Station Agent
Jamie Lee Curtis, Freaky Friday
Naomi Watts, 21 Grams
Valerie Lemercier, Friday Night
Scarlett Johansson, Girl With a Pearl Earring


Peter Sarsgaard, Shattered Glass
Sean Astin, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai
Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams
Paul Bettany, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Djimon Hounsou, In America
Eugene Levy, A Mighty Wind
Will Ferrell, Old School


Catherine O’Hara, A Mighty Wind
Hope Davis, American Splendor
Altragracia Guzman, Raising Victor Vargas
Holly Hunter, Thirteen
Alison Lohman, Matchstick Men
Frances McDormand, Laurel Canyon
Sarah Bolger, In America
Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
A Mighty Wind
Raising Victor Vargas
Mystic River
The Magdalene Sisters
The Station Agent
City of God


Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider
Victor Rasuk, Raising Victor Vargas
Peter Dinklage, The Station Agent
Emma Bolger, In America
Sarah Bolger, In America
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dirty Pretty Things
Cillian Murphy, 28 Days Later
Martin Compston, Sweet Sixteen


Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation
Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill: Volume One
Robert Altman, The Company
Gus Van Sant, Elephant
Alan Rudolph, The Secret Lives of Dentists
Peter Sollett, Raising Victor Vargas
Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, City of God

THE ORSON WELLES AWARD for the Year’s Best Directorial Debut

Peter Sollett, Raising Victor Vargas
Thomas McCarthy, The Station Agent
Andrew Jarecki, Capturing the Friedmans
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, American Splendor
Billy Ray, Shattered Glass
Peter Webber, Girl With a Pearl Earring
Jacques Cluzaud and Michel Debats, Winged Migration
Eli Roth, Cabin Fever


Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation
Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill: Volume One
Peter Sollett & Eva Vives, Raising Victor Vargas
John Requa, Glenn Ficarra, Arnie Marx and Terry Zwigoff, Bad
Mike White, The School of Rock
Eve Ahlert & Dennis Drake, Down With Love
Jim, Naomi and Kirsten Sheridan, In America
Thomas McCarthy, The Station Agent


Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson, The Lord of
the Rings: The Return of the King

Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, American Splendor
Craig Lucas, The Secret Lives of Dentists
Billy Ray, Shattered Glass
Brian Helgeland, Mystic River
John Collee and Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far
Side of the World
Braulio Mantovani, City of God
Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, and David Hayter, X2: X-Men


Peter Sollett and Eva Vives, Raising Victor Vargas
Thomas McCarthy, The Station Agent
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, American Splendor
Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake, Down With Love
Braulio Mantovani, City of God
Billy Ray, Shattered Glass
Randy Pearlstein and Eli Roth, Cabin Fever
Avner Bernheimer, Yossi and Jagger


Robert Richardson, Kill Bill: Volume One
Harris Savides, Elephant
Andrew Lesnie, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Lance Acord, Lost in Translation
Tim Orr, All the Real Girls
Harris Savides, Gerry
Agnes Godard, Friday Night
Eduardo Serra, Girl With a Pearl Earring


Annie Collins and Jamie Selkirk, The Lord of the Rings: The
Return of the King

Sally Menke, Kill Bill: Volume One
Geraldine Peroni, The Company
Sarah Flack, Lost in Translation
Lee Smith, Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
Robert Pulcini, American Splendor
Daniel Rezende, City of God
Tim Squyres, Hulk


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Kill Bill: Volume One
Down With Love
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Girl With a Pearl Earring
Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary
American Splendor
Big Fish

BEST SONG (Original or Adapted)

"Swinging Belleville Rendezvous," The Triplettes of Belleville
"Battle Without Honor or Humanity," Kill Bill: Volume One
"More Than This," Lost in Translation
"The Steward of Gondor," The Lord of the Rings: The Return
of the King

"A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow," A Mighty Wind
"The School of Rock," The School of Rock
"You Will Be My Ain True Love," Cold Mountain
"Here’s To Love," Down With Love


Howard Shore, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Philip Glass, The Fog of War
Gabriel Yared, T-Bone Burnett and Jack White, Cold Mountain
Benoit Charest, The Triplettes of Belleville
Marc Shaiman, Down With Love
Alexandre Desplat, Girl With a Pearl Earring
Lisa Gerrard, Whale Rider
The RZA, Kill Bill: Volume One


GreenCine Daily http://daily.greencine.com/
DVD Beaver http://www.dvdbeaver.com/
Senses of Cinema http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/
The Fog of War http://www.sonyclassics.com/fogofwar
Masters of Cinema http://www.carldreyer.com/masters/index.htm
#6 The Tulse Luper Suitcases Web Archive
Midnight Eye http://www.midnighteye.com/
Bright Lights Film Journal http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/


"Liner Notes: By Brakhage," Fred Camper,
"Noe Exit," Jessica Winter, *City Pages*
"Faster, Pussy Wagon! Kill! Kill!," R.J. Smith, *Village
Voice* http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0340/smith.php
"In Search of the Code Inconnu," Robin Wood, *Cineaction*
Issue 62, 2003 – not available online
"Awakening to *A.I.*’s Dream," Gregory Solman, *Senses of
Cinema* http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/03/27/ai.html
"The Eastwood Variations," Kent Jones, *Film Comment*
"Their Souls for a Freebie," Armond White, *New York Press*
"Straw Dogs," Dana Knowles, *The High Hat*

ROUNDTABLE FILM OF THE YEAR chosen by visitors to

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Kill Bill: Volume One
All the Real Girls
The Company
Lost in Translation
American Splendor
Big Fish


The 2004 international roster of Cinemarati critics features widely read writers from across the planet, representing some of the most heavily trafficked film sites on the World Wide Web, including NETFLIX, FLICKFILOSOPHER.COM, SLANT MAGAZINE, FILM THREAT, MIXEDREVIEWS.NET and APOLLO GUIDE.

The Cinemarati member critics are:

Acquarello, Strictly Film School, http://www.filmref.com
Catherine Cantieri, Hole City,
Shay Casey, Daily Reviews, http://www.daily-reviews.com
Jill Cozzi, MixedReviews.net, http://www.mixedreviews.com
Nick Davis, Nick’s Flick Picks, http://www.nicksflickpicks.com
Michael Dequina, Film Threat/MoviePoopShoot,
Bryant Frazer, Deep Focus, http://www.deep-focus.com/flicker
Mark Freeman, Critical Eye, http://home.vicnet.net.au/~freeman
Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine,
Stephen Himes, Film Snobs, http://www.filmsnobs.com
Dan Jardine, Apollo Guide/Netflix, http://www.apolloguide.com
MaryAnn Johanson, FlickFilosopher.com,
Jeremiah Kipp, Culture Dose/Matinee Magazine,
Nathaniel R., The Film Experience,
Gabriel Shanks, MixedReviews.net, http://www.mixedreviews.com
Vern, Then Fuck You, Jack, http://www.geocities.com/outlawvern
Jeff Vorndam, About Film, http://www.aboutfilm.com
Brian Webster, Apollo Guide/Netflix, http://www.apolloguide.com

For further information about Cinemarati or the 4th Annual
Cinemarati Awards, please email gabrielshanks@cinemarati.org, or call (201) 686-9131.


1-07-04 Latest News

Barrie Osborne Press Confrence Transcript
Xoanon @ 11:08 pm EST

Ringer Spy Nazz attended the MANY press confrences during the ROTK media blitz last month. In this article he chats with producer Barrie Osborne.

Special thanks to Rip It Up Magazine in South Australia for this transcript

ROTK Premiere: Denmark
Barrie Osborne at the ROTK Premiere in Berlin

Barrie Osborne (producer - now a proud citizen of New Zealand):

How much involvement did the producers have in casting the films?

BO: "Pete and Fran ultimately picked the cast but they would show us testing tapes people they were considering to cast. We'd get together and say, 'yes that's a good idea. Don't like that idea' There were a few people I had a hand in directly - in particular Hugo Weaving of course. When it came to Elrond, they weren't sure who to go with. I said Hugo and they said, 'wow, do you think we could get Hugo?' I said, yeah.

"Elijah got on the film by sending in his own casting tape because he was totally overlooked."

What about Viggo?

BO: "Viggo came in late because we had someone else cast in the role [Stuart Townsend]. It was an idea that Pete and Fran had, to go with an unknown Aragorn so he could be this ranger that no one knows about. It would have been an interesting journey but - not that he wasn't a good actor - he was just too young for the role. He himself felt that.

"We were extremely fortunate to get Viggo. I think early on, [Executive Producer of New Line] Mark Ordesky kinda pushed the idea of Viggo. Then Peter and Fran, when they decided the other actor wasn't going to work out and we brought in Viggo, there could have been nobody better than Viggo to play that role. He was terrific. Not only did he become King of Gondor but he also became a leader and example for the rest of the cast. He and Ian McKellen were both champion actors, really professional, really dedicated and really committed. So they set the best example to the younger cast members about how you conduct yourself on-set; how to conduct yourself professionally and still have a good time."

As producer, was there moment were you could have a sigh of relief?

BO: "No [laughter]. I think when it's all done I really do feel - and I don't know if I used this analogy already in this group - that I stuck my fingers in the power-point and someone just turned off the electricity after five years; because it's been a pretty intense experience. Making any movie is an intense experience but we've done this for five years - or I have. Normally you finish a movie and take a couple of months off and get to relax and regain your perspective. We've never had that opportunity. We've gone right from one movie to the next one. It's been really intense."

The Academy Awards is that just something that, if it happens, it happens?

BO: "The way I look at is, we made really classic movies and I think those stand the test of time. I know they will. I think the work on these films is as good as the work on any film. Getting honoured is getting nominated. Winning is somewhat a stroke of luck depending on the circumstances, depending on whatever other films are out, depending on what captures people's imaginations at that particular time. Certainly I'd like to win. It'd be fun to win and it'd be a great honour. I'd love to see Peter win best director. He deserves it and it would also be a great honour but it is dependent on so many other factors that I don't really feel hung up on it. Going to the awards is a great celebration of film."

TV Watch: McKellen on 'Richard and Judy'
Xoanon @ 10:47 pm EST

Stevan writes: but Ian McKellen was on the chat show "Richard and Judy" in the UK this afternoon.

It was a casual 10-15 minuite interview in which he talked about Return of the King, his appearence on The Simpsons, and a little about The Hobbit.

About Return of the King, he mentioned about how almost every word was dubbed as on location it was too noisy and the studios in New Zealand weren't sound proof. They also showed the clip of Gandalf, Pippin and Faramir talking in Minas Tirith, where Gandalf and Pippin are on a horse together. They talked about how they got the difference in size to look realistic and he said that Billy Boyd's face was digitally added onto that of his small double, who was a woman.

Of the hobbit, he basically said what has already been reported, that New Line are trying to get hold of the full rights to make and distribute the film, once it is sorted Peter Jackson does want to make it, and that he very much wants to play Gandalf the Gray (said he preferes Gandalf the Gray to Gandalf the White.

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