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January 25, 2004 - February 02, 2004

2-02-04 Latest News

Santa Barbara Film Festival Reports & Images!
Xoanon @ 11:16 pm EST

Santa Barbara Film Festival Images
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While, I wasn't at the actual awards ceremony I have the joy of having several friends report back to me and also having the local newspaper at my hands. One story a friend told me about was quite funny and thought you guys might like to hear about it...

It seems that while doing the main filming of Fellowship, the large group of cast and crew was going to a specific location for filming. The majority of the cast was flown in these rather crappy airplanes while another group (including P.J, Sean Bean, and Orlando Bloom) went by car to the location. Sadly it was during a rather heavy storm. While driving though a mud slide happened coming between Peter Jackson's car and the car containing only Sean Bean and Orlando Bloom. S.B. and O.B. tried backing up and going back, but there was another mudslide behind them. So, trapped inbetween two mudslides and the coast on the other side S.B. and O.B. had to go to this little rickety house where a little old woman lived. As all phone lines were down and there was no way to contact Peter Jackson and the crew. S.B. and O.B. stayed for three days with this little old woman until the phone lines came back up and the roads cleared.

I found that a highly amusing story that you guys might enjoy. If you'd also liked I can type up a copy of the news article that came out after the awards ceremony. It proves to be very hilarious with mentions of John Cleese presenting the Modern Masters award along with a fake Kiwi Bird.



Last night I was lucky enough to attend the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Modern Master Award presentation to Peter Jackson. Possessing only general admission tickets and not the coveted “Platinum Pass” my wife and I arrived at the theatre two and a half hours before the scheduled start time to stand in line. Unfortunately that was not early enough to get the prime red carpet viewing area so we only got fleeting glimpses of the special guests as they entered. I can confirm that Sean Astin and Barry Osborne arrived to support PJ. Rumors were flying that Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler and Elijah Wood would also be there, but I did not see them. Philippa and Fran had been at a screenwriter's panel earlier in the day, but I cannot confirm if they were at the evening event.

Once we got into the sold out Arlington Theatre and got settled, we got the usual welcome and thank you to the festival sponsors from the president of the festival board. Then he introduced Sean Astin as "my choice for best supporting actor." Sean came onstage and took the mike amid lots of cheering. He thanked the Festival president for the supporting actor comment and told how he had been doing remote voiceover work with Paul Giamatti recently and took the opportunity to tell him he thought he was robbed of an Oscar nomination. Paul said that Sean was also robbed and that they should consider picketing. This drew approval from the audience. Sean moved on to thank the festival board for inviting him to come and honor Peter Jackson. "How visionary is the Santa Barbara Film Festival?" he asked, "to honor a movie so overlooked by the mainstream media and critics." He said a few words about how honored he was to be there and left the stage.

Next, New York Times Film Critic Elvis Mitchell was introduced. Mitchell wasted no time in introducing a montage of clips from PJ's films and then introduced the honoree himself. There was plenty of time for a standing ovation as PJ made his way up to the stage.

PJ and Mitchell took seats in some comfy looking leather armchairs on the side of the stage and began the evening's interview. Mitchell asked PJ about his beginnings and influences. PJ talked about getting his dark sense of humor from watching Monty Python as a kid with his father who didn't get it. He also talked about his love of movies and, particularly, special effects from King Kong and the Sinbad films, Jason and the Argonauts, etc. He told the story of being rejected for a job at the NZ Film Unit and later buying the company. He told how he took a job as a photoengraver's apprentice because it had the word "photo" in the title so that appealed to him. Then he told of how he bought a 16 mm camera and recruited friends to help him make Bad Taste on weekends which took them 4 years. After showing a clip from Bad Taste, PJ offered that if the Festival board wanted to reconsider their decision to honor him he was happy to just shake a few hands and leave it at that.

Then they moved onto to talk about Meet the Feebles. The NZ film board was willing to back them in another project after Bad Taste became a modest hit for them. But the Film Board balked at the budget PJ and his crew were asking to make Braindead. So instead they decided they could get the money to make a puppet film. (PJ described his first visit to Richard Taylor's apartment/puppet workshop and how RT lived in a room filled with glue fumes.) But they ran well over budget and had to complete filming in secret after the Film Board had pulled the plug and insisted they edit together what they had already filmed. Then they showed a clip from Meet The Feebles.

They talked about PJ finally getting to make Braindead and how it was his chance to make his own zombie movie after the '80's heyday of the low budget horror film. They showed a clip from the movie set in a cemetery. After the clip PJ told how that scene landed them in court when the family of one of the residents of the real cemetery used in the film objected to what they interpreted as necrophilia in the scene. PJ described the comedy in the courtroom as they had to convince the court that what occurred in the scene in question was a disemboweling, not necrophilia.

They then talked about Heavenly Creatures and how it was a based on a case that had fascinated Fran Walsh for some time but about which very little had been written. So they had to do the research themselves, including interviewing those involved and gaining access to the girls' diaries. PJ also talked about the emergence of CG in the nineties and his fear that his old style low budget locally made special effects would be left behind. So he used Heavenly Creatures as a way to break into CG and purchased one computer on which to do the CG effects for that movie. After seeing a clip from Heavenly Creatures PJ noted that while "morphing" was all the rage at that time it looked a little cheesy now.

The Frighteners apparently started out as a script commissioned by Robert Zemeckis for a movie version of "Tales from the Crypt." But when PJ and Fran delivered the script, Zemeckis changed his mind about the "TftC" connection and offered PJ to direct it as a stand alone film. He noted that he had intended to deliver a PG13 film, but that the MPAA insisted that it get an R rating due to its overall tone. PJ thought that this left them with a rather toothless R rated film and that contributed to the disappointing reception. He said that had they known they were making an R, they could have let go and really made it a more intense movie.

After a clip from The Frighteners, Mitchell turned the conversation to LotR. PJ explained that Miramax had picked up HC for distribution in the states and had signed him to a 3 year first look agreement. After The Frighteners PJ and crew decided that the technology was in the right place to make a full blown fantasy film. In their early discussions as to what kind of film to make, they kept coming back to "something like Lord of the Rings." So they decided to find out if LotR was even available to them. It just so happened that Saul Zaentz owed Harvey Weinstein a favor and the rights were available. PJ did not go into the now familiar story of the switch from Miramax to New Line. Instead he talked about how his approach to storytelling had always been to make the world in the movie as real as possible and how this was most important in LotR. He said it was important not to stress the magical elements in the story. This did lead to a confrontation with Ian McKellen who wanted to know why Gandalf was hitting people with his staff in the battle scenes instead of blasting them with magic. PJ said he had to think fast to come up with a reason. All he could think to say was that since they were in the middle of a war his magic staff was out of batteries and he could not get replacements. Apparently Sir Ian just said "Right then" and went back to filming. He also said that for this reason he was reluctant to include the scene where Gandalf uses the magic from his staff when he rides out to rescue Faramir's men, but that that is such an iconic moment from the books that he went ahead and filmed it.

PJ also reiterated Elijah Wood's well known quote that these were the most expensive low budget movies ever made. He talked about flying to locations in a WWII era troop transport plane and not knowing if the plane could lift all their equipment. That led Sean Bean and Orlando Bloom driving to locations and getting stranded by a storm at a country farmhouse for three days.

After some final clips from LotR and some testimonial video clips from Ian McKellan, Hugo Weaving, Richard Taylor, Elijah Wood and others, the festival Artistic Director Roger Durling came out to thank Mitchell and to introduce Santa Barbara resident and Monty Python alum John Cleese to present the award.

John Cleese said that it was amazing that a New Zealander could make such masterpieces as the LotR films, and that this was like a person from Bakersfield painting the Sistine Chapel. (Bakersfield is a small city in the central California valley that gets no respect, much like Fresno.) Cleese presented the Modern Master Award trophy on behalf of the festival board and -- as his own award to PJ -- a stuffed Kiwi bird. Cleese pointed out that it is ironic that the Kiwi is a flightless bird and yet a Kiwi (New Zealander) is capable of such extraordinary flights of imagination.

PJ took the trophy and the Kiwi and proceeded to the usual thank you speech while holding the Kiwi. He kept gesturing with the Kiwi bird until the audience could not help but start laughing. PJ noticed this and pretended the bird was attacking him and said something about a killer Kiwi. Funnily enough, he continued with his thank you still gesturing with the Kiwi until the audience started laughing again. This time he pointedly put down the bird and picked up the trophy to finish his speech.

It was a very nice evening. All in all, there were no big revelations that the TORn readers would not have already heard, but still it was great to see PJ telling the stories in person and see his reaction to the clips. He admitted not having seen his earlier films for at least 10 years. Later in the evening PJ was to host a late showing of Dead Alive (Braindead) at another theatre in town and then a private afterparty in Montecito. I was unable to go to either event (not that I actually rate an invitation to a private party in Montecito -- Santa Barbara's equivalent to Beverly Hills) so that was the end of my PJ evening.

I hope you can use this. Thanks for the terrific work you do at TORn.



I attended the Modern Master Award given to PJ at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival this weekend. I had gotten my ticket when they first went on sale on Ticketmaster in early January, so I was prepared. I figured there would be some kind of line, and there was when I got there at 1:30. It gradually got longer, and then they started moving us around. First, we were on one side of the walkway, then the other, then they shoved us outside along the side, while they set up two red carpets. Finally, they "unwound" us, supposedly so that the people in front would be up front and able to see and talk to the stars as they came in–but nobody along the walkway would move so the front people were all jammed together; that was where I was.

About 7:15 they started letting us in, and so I got my seat and came back out to take pictures of the people who showed up. First was Barrie Osborne. As I was taking his picture, some young guy said, "who’s he," and I told him. He muttered to his friend, "Gee, I’m surprised that some chick knows about producers." Then Sean came and was mobbed. It’s so clear what a very nice guy he is: he was patient with the fans, willingly signed autographs, and took pictures with them.

I wanted to wait to see PJ, but I figured I better get back to my seat–just as well; it took a while to find out where I had left my stuff. The way the stage was set, there were two large stuffed chairs on the left (where I was–I had a perfect line of sight to PJ) and the announcer on the right. Finally at 7:45 people were finally urged to sit down and the program began. The head of the SBIFF said that PJ was the only person he wanted–and he was delighted that PJ could accept. I think about this time they did a montage of PJ’s pictures–the first five–and PJ is in some of those clips (from Bad Taste–and all gory and bloody). Then they did a LOTR montage–and everyone was cheering and applauding.

Then he introduced Sean, saying that even though Sean had been snubbed by the Academy, he thought Sean had given an Oscar-worthy performance. Sean came out and gave the usual plaudits about PJ. Then Elvis Mitchell, the NY Times film critic, who had praised ROTK (and I believe put it at the top of his 10 best list, or very close to the top) came out to take PJ through his filmography.

Then PJ came up onto the stage–and got a standing ovation from everyone. He does look like a hobbit, with his bushy black hair–and shoes. Then Elvis started talking with Peter about his career–starting with his childhood and early adulthood. He worked at a photoengraving place for a number of years, and later at a newspaper–and 2-3 years ago, he bought the photoengraving business.

We got to see clips of all of his films. Peter said that he hadn’t seen these pictures since he made them, so it was interesting to him to see clips from them. They were Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles, Braindead (or Dead Alive– same movie, alternate title), Heavenly Creatures and the Frighteners. Then after each clip, Peter would say something about the movie. And then Elvis would move on.

One of the comments that Peter made about Meet the Feebles (the puppet movie, which presumes to show the offstage antics of a TV show like the muppets–very scatological and of-kilter) was that the key was not to do it tongue-in-cheek, but to treat it like these were real people in a real world–a theme that is pivotal to LOTR, which he later addressed in more detail.

When we saw the clip from Heavenly Creatures, which was the first time he used CG, there was an overhead shot of the girl running over a hill–as both he and Elvis said, "a Lord of the Rings moment". He said that in 1994 he realized from Jurassic Park and T2 that it was time to get out of stop-motion animation and into CG, so they bought one computer and did the animation on that. (It so happens that his animation on Heavenly Creatures got a lot of praise.) By the time they moved on to the Frighteners, he had 35 computers.

He said that he and Fran who had started with him in Bad Taste on the sets (and he discovered that she was a better scriptwriter than painter–[and presumably other things too]) had learned to start writing the next script during post production because when they went shopping the completed film, people would ask them what they were working on next, and they could whip out a script. Bob Zemeckis asked them to write a script for him to direct for a Tales of the Crypt segment, and that turned out to be the Frighteners–which Bob suggested PJ direct because Bob had gotten busy on other things. Then came the KK debacle–after 6 months they shut it down. So PJ and Fran were searching around for something else–PJ wanted to direct a fantasy "something like LOTR"–and finally they decided to try LOTR.

I think we know the story about how he got it–he went to Harvey Weinstein, who had distributed Heavenly Creatures and wanted his next film and asked him to work on the rights to LOTR; Harvey had just bailed out Saul Zaentz (for the English Patient), so Saul owed him. Saul had been unwilling to give up the LOTR rights, but did so as a thank you to Harvey. And the rest is history.

Then they started showing the LOTR clips. From FOTR, the Council of Elrond from the argument to the end; TTT, Gandalf driving out Saruman from Theoden to Grima’s departure; from ROTK, 3 clips–after Sam has bashed Gollum with the frying pan until "he’s a villain", Theoden using his sword as he rides down the row of spears until they start advancing, and Sam and Frodo on Mt. Doom (do you remember the shire...) until he picks Frodo up, and then a montage, obviously from a trailer, of the rest of the movie.

Peter had a few stories and comments to make. One of the things he said was that it was very important to treat LOTR not as a fantasy, but as history, a truth, actually existing. This is history, 6-7000 years ago, not someone’s fantasy. Thus, everything had to be treated as real, as true–and envisioned from the bottom up. He talked about the elves culture–what they wore, what they sat on, wore, their glassware, their silverware, everything–and for them they chose art nouveau from the 20’s (actually turn of the century). If everything and everyone was conceived of as real, you could accept them reality, their truth–and that made all the difference[–which we can certainly see in LOTR]. He also wanted to get away from the idea of "fantasy" and "magic" –that’s why there’s very little of Gandalf doing much magic. He particularly commented on the moment when Gandalf rides out and uses his staff to send out the beam of light to drive away the nazgul. In the later scene Gandalf is bashing orcs with staff and sword. Ian McKellen came up to him and said, if he had this magic staff that could shoot out light, why wasn’t he using it to obliterate everyone. Peter thought awhile and said that [and I’m paraphrasing] Minas Tirith was at war, and the batteries in his staff were low and the chemist shops were closed so he couldn’t recharge them. Ian said "OK" and went away. You can, of course, imagine that it got a big laugh.

Peter also talked about the first time they flew from the north island to the south island–they ended up on a DC3 that, he said, had first been used bringing American troops to the Philippines in 1943. And the pilot was very nervous about the weight. He had a very difficult time getting them off the ground. When they had to fly to another location, PJ and 2 others and Sean Bean and Orlando chose to drive in 2 cars. They drove right into some torrential rains. It turned out that Sean and Orlando got caught between two landslides and they ended up at the house of a little old lady for 3 days–they couldn’t get out, and couldn’t be picked up by helicopter.

PJ described what he did as "exalted child’s play"–that’s what he’s been doing all these years as a filmmaker.

Finally, the SBIFF director came back out. PJ had mentioned that Monty Python had been one of his influences, and the director said that to give PJ his award was a member of Monty Python –John Cleese. Cleese said he had two awards to give PJ. He first presented PJ with the Modern Master award (lots of cheers) and then he said he had another, personal award–which turned out to be a stuffed kiwi. Cleese made some cute jokes about NZ, and then Peter thanked everyone for the award. He mentioned that the Golden Globe, which is a globe, has Australia on it, but not NZ. While he was talking, he was holding the kiwi, which he kept poking himself with. Finally, he poked himself in the neck with it, humorously, and then dropped it.

And basically that was it. We all cheered and clapped again. I left, and as I was walking around the building to my car, I ended up by the side door, where a few people were waiting. And then they started coming out–Philippa and Fran, then Sean: he said, "I need a pen," and I gave him mine, and asked if he could sign my program too, and he said, "That’s how it works"–and did. All the teenyboppers chased after him, so that when PJ came out, there were far fewer people, and he signed my program. I got to personally thank him for the gift he had given us.

Then I went home. I took pictures, but they aren’t very good, and my camera battery died just after I took the picture of Fran. I hope to send them to you soon.



I attended a couple of events yesterday (Saturday, January 31) as part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The first event, which took place at 11:00 a.m. in the Lobero Theater, was a panel discussion titled, "It Starts with the Script." The panel included Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (besides lots of other great screenwriters). Here's the description of the panel from the festival's web site:

[begin quote]

Trace the journey of writers and their scripts as they make their way to the big screen. Top writers will talk about their most recent screenplays. Panelists include: Fran Walsh, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King; Philippa Boyens, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King; Jim Sheridan, In America; Denys Arcand, The Barbarian Invasions; John August, Big Fish; Anthony Minghella, Cold Mountain; Patty Jenkins, Monster; and Tom McCarthy, The Station Agent. Moderated by Frank Pierson, President, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

[end quote]

With all the talent on the panel, there wasn't much time for Fran and Philippa to speak, but there were several questions from the audience directed at them. The following are paraphrased from my notes; apologies for not being able to give you a complete transcript.

The moderator, Frank Pierson, is a great screenwriter in his own right, having written the scripts for such films as Cool Hand Luke and Dog Day Afternoon. He joked about how difficult he's always found it to work with a co-writer, and asked Fran and Philippa how they managed that part of the process.

Fran said it was pretty much a "war of attrition," in the sense that they would fight for what they believed in, and whoever (among the three of her, Philippa, and Peter Jackson) believed in his or her position the strongest would eventually wear the other two down.

She mentioned that they're still in the early stages of writing King Kong, so it's actually pretty difficult for them to work on the script, since they all have to be together to do it. She said that after so long working together on The Lord of the Rings, they pretty much were all "on the same page," so they could work independently and then bring what they'd done to the others for comment. But at this early stage on King Kong, Peter is telling them, "Oh, no, you can't work on that yet, because I can't be there to discuss it with you."

In response to a question from the audience about what their favorite scene was from the book that they were _not_ able to get into the movie, Philippa said there really weren't any, because they worked so hard to find ways to get their favorite parts of the book into the film, even if it ended up being used in a different scene or being spoken by a different character than in the book. She specifically mentioned what is probably my favorite example of that from all three movies, the scene in The Return of the King where Gandalf talks to Pippin about death and the afterlife as the forces of Mordor are pounding on the gate inside Minas Tirith. She said that scene was Fran's idea, because Gandalf had actually died, so he could talk about that from a position of experience. And that passage in the book (which is the description of Frodo's arrival at Valinor, and which Philippa interpreted as really being about Frodo's death and passing over) was so beautifully written, Philippa said, that it made her really happy to have that language in the film.

Fran, in answering a question about how she knew what to take from the book and what to leave out, talked about how as a screenwriter you write what you think will work, then you see it on film and it's different, and you have to make changes, and then you see it in edited form and it is different again, and you have to make more changes. You have to put aside your preconceptions and see how it actually plays.

She talked about how, in the early stages of making the three films, it seemed so unlikely, some ways, that it would be successful. There were many, many characters ("too many, really"), and many risks associated with the production. No one knew if it was going to work, to make any money. And the pressure to produce something that would be commercially successful was very strong, because New Line had basically gambled the company on the films' success.

Philippa Boyens, in talking about some of the criticism that purists had made regarding changes from the book, spoke specifically about the scene where Frodo sends Sam away on the stairs of Cirith Ungol. "'But that doesn't happen in the book', people say. 'Sam would never leave Frodo like that.'" But the way it works in a movie, Philippa said, is that without that, you'd have this long climb up the stairs, with nothing really happening. Gollum is using all these machinations to try to split Sam and Frodo apart, and if it doesn't actually happen, there's no payoff on-screen payoff. (One thing my wife has observed about this change is that it also helps heighten the sense of jeopardy in Shelob's Lair, since Frodo is alone, rather than with Sam.)

Late in the event there was a question from the crowd about King Kong, leading to Fran making what was, to me at least, a rather startling comment. She said they had thrown out the old script they'd had, and hadn't really started on the new one yet. And since they were scheduled to begin filming in August, they were up against some pretty intense deadline pressure.

Philippa commented on having watched the original 1933 King Kong, and the 1976 remake, and apparently she wasn't very impressed with the latter movie. "I loved that silver lame ["lam-may", that is] dress, and possibly nothing else [about the film]."

At the end of the session there was a question for all the panelists about how the process of screenwriting had changed for them now that they were so successful. Fran said that while things were definitely different for her now when she comes to the United States, that back home in New Zealand people are harder to impress. She told a funny story about how when she got her first Oscar nomination (for the Heavenly Creatures screenplay), she talked to her father about it, saying, "Dad! I'm up for an Oscar!" And his response was, "Well, you've been nominated. You haven't won anything yet." And then, after the ceremony, she called him up to say, "Dad, did you see me on the Academy Awards?" And his response was, "Yeah. You were fifth." Which got a laugh from the crowd.

* * *

That night I also attended the presentation of the Festival's "Modern Master Award" to Peter Jackson. I was there with my daughter, who was there with a big group of her friends from her school. The event was held at 7:30 p.m. at the Arlington Theater. The mother of one of the other girls waited in line starting around 1:00 p.m., so when we arrived (at around 4:30 p.m.) we were able to join up with her near the front of the line. Near the start of the event my daughter and five of her friends were lining the railing along the red carpet near the entrance to the theater, acting giddy for the local TV news and screaming excitedly at pretty much anything. Sean Astin arrived and did an interview down at the other end of the carpet, but they opened the doors of the theater and started seating people before the girls had a chance to scream at anyone famous. (Later, however, one of the girls, who had done a work internship with the local TV station, was given a chance by one of the cameramen she knew to go say hi to Sean Astin, and he was nice enough to give her a hug and sign a bunch of autographs for her, including the Two Towers DVD booklet that my daughter had brought.)

The event itself was pretty fun. They introduced Sean Astin (to a huge ovation), who gave a very nice and heartfelt introduction of Peter Jackson (to an even bigger ovation), after which Elvis Mitchell, a New York Times film critic who also hosts a program called "The Treatment" for Los Angeles radio station KCRW, came out and interviewed Peter on stage.

The interview covered Peter's entire film career, and included projected clips from each of his movies. It was pretty funny seeing my daughter's reaction to his early "splatter" films; she's only 12 years old, and thought most of that was pretty disgusting. I'm not really a fan of that genre either, but I found myself defending the films (which were, after all, pretty disgusting :-), pointing out to her that they were _supposed_ to be that way, and that some of what she was being put off by was the films' low-budget production values.

Elvis asked Peter about what the early influences were that led him to be a fan of splatter movies, and Peter mentioned his parents letting him stay up until 11:00 p.m. on Sunday nights as an 8-year-old to watch Monty Python's Flying Circus. He said he didn't know what his parents were thinking in letting him do that; his father, he said, certainly thought Monty Python was "complete rubbish." But Peter loved it, and mentioned one skit in particular that involved lots of over-the-top mayhem and gallons of blood, which at the time he thought was the funniest thing he'd ever seen.

He said he'd never really been able to do a straight horror film without subverting it with comedy. And he mentioned how much he'd like to do another zombie movie.

He talked about how he got into the film industry, and how in 1970s New Zealand there weren't really any movie jobs to be had. He said he'd tried to get a job as a color balancer (I think? I don't have notes from this part) at a film processing company, because that was the only way he could think of trying to break into the business. And he wasn't sure why, but he was turned down for the job. He said he could understand why they would have felt that way; he was young, and probably came off as wanting the job a little _too_ much. And anyway, he said, laughing, he'd recently been able to buy the company, which got a big laugh from the crowd.

He said he'd started out wanting to work in visual effects, but that he'd figured out pretty early on that what he was really interested in was telling stories, and that as a special effects guy he could end up working on things he didn't really like, telling someone else's stories. So that led to his learning to be a director.

When they showed clips from his early movies, the audience laughed at the funny parts and groaned and laughed at the disgusting parts, and gave polite applause (at least) after the clips from Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles, and Braindead. Peter Jackson commented several times about how much fun it was working on those movies, doing "guerilla filmmaking" on tiny budgets. He also told a funny story about how he ended up in court after Braindead came out, when a family whose ancestor's grave was shown during a graveyard fight scene sued the film for depicting what the suit described as necrophilia. Peter laughed at how surreal it was to be in a New Zealand courtroom, with judges and lawyers in traditional wigs, arguing over whether a particular scene actually showed sex taking place between the zombie and its victim, or whether (as Peter's producer testified) it was actually only a _disembowelment_ being shown. After a few days, Peter said, the suit was thrown out.

Peter commented several times on how he hadn't seen these films in 10 years or more. He said he has a personal quirk about viewing his previous work; after he has made a movie he enjoys watching it with an audience to experience their reaction, but then he wants to move on to the next thing he's working on.

Peter talked about how he came to make Heavenly Creatures, researching the characters in the film. The newspaper accounts from the time really didn't explain the motivations of the two girls involved in the murder, he said, just describing them as "evil", so he and Fran Walsh traveled to the area where the film's events had taken place, and went around interviewing people (quite old, now) who had been involved in the events to try to reconstruct things.

He talked about casting the then-unknown Kate Winslet for the part of Juliet Hulme. He said he knew he wanted English actors to play the recently-arrived-from-England Hulme family, so he went to England and auditioned around 50 actresses for the part of Juliet. When he saw Kate's audition, he said, it was obvious that she was going to be a big movie star; she brought so much intensity to her work.

Peter talked a bit about how The Frighteners got made, and discussed how, in the clip that they showed, the little baby in the jumper was his then-two-month-old son Billy ("he can't believe that's really him when he sees it now," said Peter), and the ghost having trouble with his jawbone was Sean Astin's father John.

Eventually we reached the Lord of the Rings movies. It really was very powerful seeing clips from all three movies in quick succession. And it was nice to be able to applaud the films with Peter there, on the stage, giving him a token of the deep gratitude many of us in the audience feel for what he has done in adapting these books.

Between the clips, Peter told some stories I hadn't heard before. He mentioned the same Elijah Wood quotation that Philippa Boyens had mentioned in the screenwriting session that morning, about how these were "the most-expensive low-budget movies ever made." He told how, after they'd done the first few weeks of filming at their studios in Wellington, the cast and crew had filmed the Merry-and-Pippin-dancing-on-the-tables scene, and then packed up at lunchtime and headed off to the airport to fly a chartered plane to the South Island for some location shooting. And they arrived at the airport and turned a corner to see their charted plane, and it was a camouflage-painted WWII-vintage DC3, which prompted an outburt from Orlando Bloom of "Are you ----ing kidding me?" (Peter didn't censor the comment, but I know how sensitive you can be at theonering.net about harsh language. :-)

So then they're loading up the plane, and the pilot is looking dubiously at all the crates of equipment being put on it, and he says, "You know, this plane can only carry 8,000 pounds. How much does all this stuff weigh?" And Peter said they were looking around at each other, and saying, "Gee; we don't know. How much _does_ this stuff weigh?" So they ended up leaving a few crates behind.

Peter continued: "And so we're rolling down the runway, and trying to get enough speed to lift off, and the pilot hauls back on the controls and the plane lurches up into the air and then, bam! [Peter slams his hands together] it comes back down onto the runway, and then lifts off again, and bam!, back down again, and meanwhile Elijah and some of the younger actors are shouting, 'Woohoo! This is great!'"

Peter also told the story about how, when they subsequently needed to move to a different location on the South Island about 300 miles away, they decided that they'd rather just drive, rather than taking the same plane again. And how, when torrential rains fell during that drive, Sean Bean and Orlando Bloom ended up being trapped on a remote, winding mountain road between two landslides, and as darkness was coming down they went to the only light they could see, and knocked on the door of an 80-year-old woman who lived alone in a farmhouse there. And the woman subsequently took care of them and fed them for the three days until they could be rescued.

After the Return of the King clip was shown, along with clips of several cast members praising Peter Jackson, and the audience had given the biggest round of applause so far, Roger Durling, the artistic director for the festival, came out and gave his own very moving thanks to Peter Jackson. Audibly emotional, he explained how, when the festival was deciding who would receive the Modern Master Award this year, there really was no one else the could consider. He said that Peter Jackson epitomizes the phrase "modern master," even if he (Peter) tends not to acknowledge it. He thanked Peter for his courage, his conviction, and for the purity and childlike exuberance of the vision that he brings to his films. And then he said that, given Peter's having mentioned the major influence that Monty Python had played in his life, he was proud to introduce John Cleese, who would make the actual presentation.

John Cleese was very funny in his remarks, commenting on how he first visited New Zealand in 1965, "twelve years after that island's discovery, actually." He said how fortunate we were that Peter Jackson had agreed to come all the way to Santa Barbara to receive the award, since otherwise, "all of us would have had to go there to give it to him." After some more-serious remarks praising Peter, he gave him the award, and then gave him a second award consisting of a stuffed kiwi, commenting that it was perfectly apt that a flightless bird should be given to someone capable of communicating such amazing flights of imagination.

Peter accepted the award and made some very nice remarks thanking John Cleese, Elvis Mithcell, Sean Astin, the other participants in the event. He said how nice it was to receive a kiwi, and how when he received the Golden Globes award recently, he'd looked at the award (which is actually a globe) afterward and realized that although it shows Australia, it doesn't actually show New Zealand. He said it was probably a good thing he hadn't noticed that at the time, or he probably would have said something at the ceremony. Anyway, he said he'd fix it now, getting a Sharpie or something and adding it.

He said that when watching his own earlier work he certainly didn't feel like a master. He said that he felt incredibly lucky to have been able to make movies that were true to his own vision, without being forced to compromise and do things he didn't want to do.

As he was giving these remarks he was holding the award in his left hand and the kiwi in his right hand, and he was gesturing with the kiwi to make a point, and poking the air with its beak, and it was pretty comical-looking, which caused a laugh from the audience, which made Peter realize what he was doing, so he put the kiwi down and switched to gesturing with the award, which got a bigger laugh.

He said that as a boy he'd loved to imagine fantastic stories, and movies were a way to share those stories with an audience, and that he was just doing exactly the same thing now he'd done when he was making his first movies with an 8mm camera. He said how lucky he was to make movies, and how great it was that we can go to beautiful cinemas like the Lobero Theater, and sit in an audience together and experience our own individual reactions, but do so as part of a group, rather than isolated the way we are when watching TV or DVDs. And he encouraged any aspiring filmmakers in the crowd to stay true to their own visions, and not to let people turn them aside, but to persevere.


Paul F.

I'm a regular ToR.n reader who attended last night's "Modern Master" ceremony at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, which honored Peter Jackson for all of his achievements. The 2000-seat historic Arlington Theatre was packed with an enthusiastic crowd, and an enjoyable night was had by all. After a short intro by a member of the SBIFF's board of directors, Sean Astin appeared, and made some heartfelt comments about what PJ had done for him. Then Elvis Mitchell (a film commentator with NPR) came on, made some introductory comments, and brought PJ up on the stage.

What followed was an insightful retrospective of PJ's work, all the way from "Bad Taste" and its home-filmed predecessors to LotR. Elvis had a lot of interesting (if sometimes pandering) questions for PJ, who, being the champ that he is, gave fully rounded accounts of his earlier filming experiences. The audience could really witness the evolution of PJ's skills as a filmmaker, and not just because he was getting progressively bigger budgets... he was subconsciously honing his craft. Even when one watches snippets of "Heavenly Creatures", some camera techniques (e.g. 'flyover' filming of characters on hilltops) that later appeared in LotR are evident.

Once the retrospective was over, none other than John Cleese appeared, who presented the Modern Master award to PJ. He also gave PJ a stuffed Kiwi bird, which Peter obviously enjoyed getting, and held onto tightly as he gave his acceptance speech. In fact, at one point he became aware that he was waving it around wildly to emphasize his points, and he then put it down in favor of the "real" award... quite a comical moment, and one of many during this incredible evening.


Greenleaf's Cat

Awesomely entertainingwonderfully funa night to remember foreverunder the stars within the courtyard of the beautiful Arlington Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara, we spent an evening with Peter Jackson... thank you Santa Barbara International Film Festival! After waiting in line in the brisk evening air with hundreds of other eager Ringers with general admission tickets, the evening truly began as we walked down our own red carpet parallel to Peter Jackson as he made his way through the gauntlet of paparazzi about 10 feet to our right. Snapping pictures with cameras held aloft, hoping to get even one that turns out focused and with the worlds favorite hobbit centered in the frame, we made our way to the carved oaken doors of the theatre. As we entered, happy SBIFF volunteers handed us free full-size programs filled with memorabilia honoring Mr. Jackson as a Modern Master.

Passing through the lobby to enter the cavern of the theatre proper, my friend and I passed within a foot of none other than Monty Python legend  John Cleese, who as it turns out, was to later present Peter Jackson with not only one, but two, awards that evening (well get to that later). After finding seats, my friend went on a quick and dirty mission to see if Mr. Cleese would bestow his autograph upon us. It turns out she was one of two lucky fans to get autographs before others were gently escorted away from the somewhat shy, reclusive actor. Sitting back in our seats, the announcement was made that the evening would begin as soon as the audience had gotten settled in.

The lights went down and, to our great surprise and appreciation, Sean Astin was called forward to the stage to welcome the participants to the event. Cheers, hooting and thunderous applause all around as Sean took his position behind the podium. What a great, unassuming man is Sean Astin...we could have listened to him all evening! Lucky for the two of us, it would not be our last encounter with Sean for the evening.

As Sean Astin exited the stage, lights were focused on the other side where a small seating area with two comfortable leather chairs, a table with flowers and water, and a large viewing screen behind had been set up. Film critic from New York, Elvis Mitchell, was introduced as the host for the evening and was joined on stage by the great man himself, Peter Jackson. The evening was a combination of vignettes from all of Mr. Jacksons films from Bad Taste to The Return of the King; interview questions from Mr. Mitchell about Peters development as a film maker from his youth to present day; and, tons of interesting, personal stories and insights from the honoree that we would never have heard in any other TV interview, documentary or article. We sat there in awe, in tears of hysterical laughter, in joy from getting to share such a personal evening in a wonderfully intimate environment with Peter Jackson. It was truly an evening for the fans!

After 2 hours or so, the time for the award ceremony had arrived. My friend and I were overjoyed to hear the announcement as John Cleese was introduced and took the stage to present Mr. Jackson with the Modern Master Award. After some witty and very Cleese-like comments about New Zealand, its distance from the rest of civilization, its recent discovery  early 1950s according to John, its dimunitive size, the unique nature and understanding of its people, its lack of restaurants remaining open after 6 p.m., Mr. Cleese started to introduce Peter himself. Comparing the likeliness of a Modern Master film maker coming from New Zealand to the chances of a resident of Bakersfield having painted the Sistine Chapel, Mr. Cleese announced that he had not only one, but two awards to present that evening. First, he honored Mr. Jackson with the official award from the SBIFF Board of Directors. With appropriate applause, the audience honored Mr. Jackson as he accepted and took his bows. Following, to the chagrin of the SBIFF board  I would think, Mr. Cleese presented his own award to Peter in the form of a stuffed kiwi bird, thus totally overshadowing the official award. More witticism and laughter followed Peter to the podium as he readied to make his acceptance speech.

Unassuming as always, Mr. Jackson graciously thanked everyone who made it possible for him to be where he was at that moment. Setting the Modern Master Award reverently onto the podium where he was speaking, he seemed oblivious of the fact that he still held the stuffed kiwi award in his right hand. As he got more emotionally involved in what he as saying to the audience, he started gesturing with his hands  both hands, quite emphatically. Titters, giggles, roaring hysteria overtook the audience as he continued to speak while flailing this poor stuffed bird about in the air to emphasize his speaking points. It took a few moments for Mr. Jackson to become aware of the cause for the joyous response of the audience. Blushing and stammering slightly, he realized he still held the bird aloft. Bringing it down to the podium with his hands under control, he continued on with his speech and we were treated yet again to the site of the flailing kiwi as Peter once again forgot he held it. Finally, he laid the bloody stuffed bird down on the podium and finished his speech with no further mishaps.

To a standing ovation, Peter Jackson said good night and left the stage. The main evening was over for the majority of the audience. A warm glow permeated the atmosphere as ticket holders praised the event and filtered out of the theatre. However, for us the evening could not yet be over. Where and how could we continue the magic? Having been a resident of Santa Barbara for many years and having a locals familiarity with the Arlington Theatre, I lead my friend to the rear, outside door of the theatre which happens to be next to the parking lot where, maybe...just maybe, the great mans car was parked and waiting for him to take his leave.

Waiting hopefully with about thirty others  mostly teenage girls  we were blessed first with the appearance of Sean Astin. He graciously signed autographs and took pictures with fans as he made his way to the waiting vehicles  two large, black SUVs. Finally, we were blessed with the appearance of Peter Jackson himself, who also was amenable to signing autographs and taking pictures as long as he had room to move towards the waiting transportation. I took pictures while my friend made her way through the crowd to seek signatures from the two great men. We had created and printed out copies of our own collage of LOTR cast members with Peter Jackson included and brought them in hopes of getting at least one signed. Not only did we get one signed by Peter Jackson, Sean Astin and John Cleese, but both Sean Astin and Peter Jackson accepted one as a gift of appreciation  of course our cards were stapled to the back in case anyone ever wanted to get in touch.

In an evening of memorable moments and quotes, one of the most cherished for us as LOTR fans came from Sean Astin as he took a moment to actually stop and look at our pictorial tribute and said, Look, youve put me right in the middle.

Thomas Shippey Lecture in BC
Xoanon @ 8:50 pm EST

Pabar writes: Thomas Shippey will be giving a lecture on The Lord of the Rings at the Unversity of Victoria, Victoria, B.C., Canada this week. The lecture is part of the Lansdowne Lecture series and is free and open to the public:

Title: "From Book to Screen: Problems Tolkien set for Jackson"
Thursday, 5 February, 7:30 p.m. in FRA 159

Thomas Shippey has kept two interests for many years: medieval literature, especially the earliest literature of Anglo-Saxon England, and modern fantasy and science fiction. These two interests come together in his two much-reprinted and translated books on J.R.R. Tolkien. Professor Shippey is uniquely qualified to opine on all things Tolkien: he taught at Oxford University at the same time as J.R.R. Tolkien, and as Professor of English Language at Leeds he inherited Tolkien's chair and syllabus. He has been an advisor on Director Peter Jackson's three Lord of the Rings movies.

1-31-04 Latest News

John Howe Exhibit in Paris
Xoanon @ 7:34 pm EST

John Howe Exhibit in Paris
John Howe in Paris

Thanks to Shinji & Kylia for these reports and pics!

Hi there !

I attended the signing session with John Howe in Paris about two weeks ago so here are some pictures and a little review of it, that u can use for the website if you want to!

On the 17th of January I and a few mates attended a signing session with John Howe at la Fnac des Halles in Paris. It was planned to begin at 3.30pm so we got there at noon assuming there wouldn’t be lots of people there already. We were proved wrong since there must have been about 100 hundreds people lining up... apparently some people turn up as early as 10am! Anyway, the session was a major success and the staff were quite overwhelmed.. John arrived at 3.15pm and started signing at 3.30: talk about punctuality! Our patience was rewarded by a signature and nice quick chat (there were 7 of us so we could sort of hang around....much to the dismay of the store staff!

And well.. i also made some leeeeembas bread so it did help... Dunno if John ate it but he looked pleased by my gesture (he probably though I really was a LOTR geek!), he said something like that “Ah lembas bread for my next journey to Mordor!”, what a comic eh! Anyway... although it went terrifibly well for us lot, we were slightly disappointed that we didn’t get a little drawing. So much for waiting 5 hours... but well next time we know we have to camp over the night if we want one! ;)

Also, I’ve joined some pictures from the exhibition that’s running till Feb 15th at the BNF. They arent many of them cos we aint allowed to take any pictures so i’ve sort of “steal” them! The picture of the books “Bilbo the hobbit” is from there as well, they are exhibiting some early editions of Tolkien books.

Oh and another piece of information about John Howe (I swear I aint managing his fanclub!):

An exhibition of John Howe paintings and drawings of Middle Earth and Tolkien’s books will be running from the 7th of February in Chalons-en-Champagne (51). It’s at the Bibliothèque Pompidou. There will be a private viewing on the 7th at 6pm, and John will be present.

45 copies of poster of the exhibition will be available for all to buy for the price of 43euros. For that price, it must be nice!

Anyway, I will be going to that viewing next Saturday and I got the authorisation to take pictures and even film the event so I will send you all that in the following week..


FIDM Exhibit Showcases ROTK Costumes
Xoanon @ 6:35 pm EST

Ringer Spy Grima Wormtongue writes: The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum Galleries present: 12th Annual "The Art of Motion Picture Costume Design" exhibition.

The 2004 Exhibition will feature over 100 costumes from 23+ films from 2003. Some of the films represented will be: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Haunted Mansion, The Last Samurai, Seabiscuit, Cold Mountain, Master & Commander, and The Cat in the Hat.

Exhibit is open February 2 thru April 8
10am to 4pm daily, including Saturday. Closed Sundays.
FIDM Museum Galleries On The Park, 1st level.

919 South Grand Avenue (corner of Grand & 9th street)
Downtown Los Angeles
Admission is free.
Group tours can be arranget at (213)-624-1200 ext. 2225
Parking under college building (Entrance on 9th street).

I've gone to this exhibit for the past two years, which featured costumes from FOTR and TTT, and it was amazing to see them up close! This is a great exhibit and I highly recommend it. I hope this information is helpful!

Life, the Universe, and Everything In Utah
Xoanon @ 6:16 pm EST

Heather writes:

I love your site. You do a wonderful job of keeping it up-to-date, interesting, and user-friendly.

For once, I have info you may wish to add to it. From February 19-21, Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, will host Life, the Universe, and Everything: the Marion K. "Doc" Smith Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy. That is a very long name for a fun and educational event that's now on its twenty-second year of existence.

The symposium will feature a number of panels and presentations related to the Lord of the Rings, as well as the movies, artwork, and related works of fiction. There will be a presentation on Tolkien's linguistics. At least two panels will focus on the movies' costumes. One panel will discuss the movies in the context of translating works of fiction to film. Friday evening's variety of activities will include LotR trivia games. In addition to the LotR-related activities, the symposium also features panels and presentations on writing, art, gaming, media, and CYOW (create your own world, à la Tolkien--topics covered this year include social movements, politics, the history of warfare, a weapons demo, and creating a believable magic system). We'll have several writing workshops. We'll have dancing, feasting, spontaneous filking, an art show, and all manner of good, wholesome fun. Guests include Jim Conley and Bill Widder, representatives of the prestigious Writers of the Future contest; Bob Defendi, rising star in the RPG business; Sam Longoria, the actor who brought the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man to life and has done amazing amounts of interesting stuff; Michael R. Collings, professor and poet extraordinaire; Dave Wolverton, well-known sci-fi author; and David Farland, well-known fantasy author. Best of all, the symposium is free to the public! Registration, as well as most events, will be on the third floor of BYU's Wilkinson Student Center. [More]

Making The Biggest Film Production Of All Time
Xoanon @ 5:41 pm EST

Richard Taylor (Visual Effects Supervisor is head of the Weta Workshop) and turned out to be one of the great surprises and delights of the entire press junket. Richard's eyes sparkle as he discusses what he loves and he's immensely passionate ­ much more so than (where I must admit I felt he was a bit of a windbag, since every interview seemed to catch him in stern and stoic mode, sounding somewhat like he was practising an Oscar speech ­ sorry Richard! It was for this reason that I, and so many others, fell under his charm so quickly). I just like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Richard for being so generous and personable.

Since we've done the round table, how's about taking a different focus for this one-on-one interview?

"Now's your chance," Richard grins.

You're about to work on a remake of King Kong. I would imagine that for you, as head of FX, this would be a mighty challenge. Were you, like stop-motion guru Ray Harryhausen or even your mates Peter Jackson and bigatures' king Alex Funcke inspired back in the early days by the original (Funcke revealed his excitement to me personally about working first on a movie trilogy of his favourite books and now an as faithful as possible' remake of his favourite movie; and especially creating the great gate which protects the natives of Skull Island from Kong. , after a chance meeting ­ of all places - at the toilet door of the Wellington Howard Shore symphony)?

"Unfortunately I can't talk about Kong, contractually! But I can tell you that I didn't actually see Kong until much later in my life because we had no access to it on the TV and had no access to the movie houses. I didn't actually see my first video on a video player until 21 years-old; so I was fairly unaware of it. Other Ray Harryhausen movies, most definitely inspired me [it's a common misconception is that Harryhausen was the FX genius behind Kong. He wasn't. However it was during his childhood first viewing that he made his critical decision to pursue stop-motion filmmaking as a career].

"My biggest inspiration in fact came from the Thunderbirds. The works of Derek Meddins, who was the special effects technician that made the models and effects on the Thunderbirds. That was a huge inspiration I had a real crush on Lady Penelope for a while ­ little hottie that she was [laughs]."

It's great you can umm, admit that (actually I did too when I was knee high to a grasshopper but I thought that was a purely English thing).

"So King Kong came later in life. Peter introduced me to King Kong."

Did you enjoy the rest of the Gerry Anderson series, like Joe 90, Captain Scarlett et al?

"Oh yeah, without out a doubt. Absolutely. I was a Space 1999 buff. I was so into that show and so loved the technology and the models. So I didn't ever really relate to how I could be a model-maker in the TV or film industry when I was a teenager but I just knew I wanted to make models for a living. I thought it would end up being more to do with the theatre or shop-window displays, things like that. I really was inspired to make models for a living never thinking I'd ever end up here [laughs]."

Can we go over some of the initial steps that brought you along this path?

"Sure. I've always enjoyed making things. I'm not wildly artistic. I've made an artistic life from hard work as opposed to artistic genius."

Richard's characteristic modesty doesn't necessarily carry over to testimonials from friends and associates. I bumped into a Uni-mate friend of Richard's on the way back to the airport, who freely described Richard's college/Uni work as outstanding, amazing and incredibly diligent ­ noting one particular occasion when he turned up with a project he'd made overnight for an assignment that left everyone else's work for dead and unintentionally made them all seem very amateur hour. That Uni-mate is now a daring, photographic reporter who makes his living travelling to and shooting some of the most thrilling and/or unseen wilderness of NZ.

But I digress

"But I've enjoyed making things. And if you've got a mind full of fantasies, growing up in New Zealand and you want to realise them, you're going to have to make them with your own hands. You're not going to find them at the corner store. So that gave me the impetus to start doing things. I met my partner, Tanya, when we were 13 but ultimately, at the age of 15, we decided that we would try building a career out of making things. So we were making models, though we didn't know what they were for.

"But when we went to Wellington and discovered the television and film industry, it was a revelation and realised there could be an outlet for our efforts. We were captured by the idea of creating models for film and about three years into our careers we met Peter Jackson. And he, likewise, was utilising miniatures, models and puppets to create the worlds in his head. I would like to think that we saw in each other a very similar and interest in trying to realise these ideas."

Would you say there was an instant person-to-person chemistry between you? I imagine it would've been great to find another like-minded person after all that time.

"It was. He was the first person we'd met that was just INTO it, that sat and watched cool movies and really introduced us a great deal to the world of special effects and the special effects industry. He was so intrigued by the history of special effects and knew so much about it. Unlike ourselves, he had been a filmmaker since the age of eight and had the intention of, one day, becoming a special effects technician. I don't think he had ever originally thought he might be a director.

"But there was a wonderful feeling that we had found someone who could inspire us and, in turn (hopefully), we would assimilate that inspiration into the product Peter needed to tell his stories."

It's easy for us in journalist land to wax rhapsodic about how you were always meant to work together ­ because working relationships with long-term filmmaking buddies rarely go back as Tanya, yourself and Peter's does ­ but can you put your finger on an early moment when you realised you really had to hang onto this relationship?

Well we never really talked about that. We never would it's not quite like that as such. But we just knew by the fact that we were in the same vicinity, we had no intention of ever leaving Wellington and we had exactly the same goals; which were: using our creativity and technical ability to the highest levels that we could that ultimately our paths would cross. And 10 years ago, we cemented that by going into business together: Peter, Tanya, Jamie [Selkirk] and I, all set up Weta as a company and then Camperdown Studios as a company ­ which has really given us the tools to realise the film projects we want to work on."

And that's grown exponentially.

I now live in Adelaide ­ and it's given me a theory about smaller, more remote cities. Do you mind if I sound you out with it?


In isolated places, you tend to do things only because you want to not peer pressure or for fame, but because it's what you want to do. And genuine, original voices tend to emerge a lot better in that isolation. But also the amount of determination you need to have is enormous, because if you are going to ­ for some reason ­ make it, it's going to be against all odds.

"Correct. That's exactly it ­ and very well put; because we went seven years before we met another person that did what we did. So we were working in a vacuum and a vacuum to the world that was Wellington, New Zealand ­ and never reckoned that we could possibly do it some other way or even that this was unachievable. I never stopped to say, "gawd, this is harsh. Should we really do this?' We just did it. And it was bloody hard at times and it still is hard. We do challenge ourselves all the time, but we never, ever thought that we shouldn't be doing it because we hadn't been told how to do it.

"Ignorance is often a great ally. Embracing the unknown and just charging in is a good way to work in life. You can come unstuck or trip yourself up but it's better that you trip yourself up occasionally than that you never get on the road at all. And the people we continue to hire from New Zealand predominantly come from rural upbringings; outback New Zealand where they've developed a culture of giving it a go. There's a cliched New Zealand phrase that describes the mentality: you grab what you've got and you give it a go. There's a New Zealander called Richard Pierce that arguably flew before the Wright Brothers [perhaps this provided the inspiration for Colin McKenzie's flight' in Peter Jackson's excellent mockumentary Forgotten Silver, which starred Thomas Robins aka Deagol]. I think that that the immensity of him has been lost in the debate over whether or not he flew before them."

Colin McKenzie?

"That's right. Forgotten Silver suggested it. Good, I'm glad you saw that. But what was truly great about Richard Pierce is the Wright Brothers were living in an aeronautical community, discussing aeronautical concepts and theories with other people, the world over. They were collaborating and were well financed ­ and all tribute to them, they got off the ground. This guy, Pierce, woke up one morning in New Zealand and decided that he would throw himself into the sky ­ and stay there. And endeavoured, therefore, to build a contraption that would do just that ­ with no influences; in fact the opposite: he had extreme levels of uncertainty around him. Was he completely mad or foolhardy? But he did indeed achieve it. And that's the testament to that kind of tenacity and vision that exists in the Perths, Tasmanias, Adelaide, New Zealands, and the outback areas of both our countries."

That leap of faith can be assisted by that fact that, you mightn't know if what you're attempting is possible but you don't know you can't do it either.

"No. Until you fall on your face, you didn't know it was going to hurt. We've always operated on that mentality."

I've been so proud that these movies have been made in our part of the world by people from this part of the world. But I always had a suspicion that with you guys, it was a case of discovering you had the chance to make The Lord Of The Rings so you just went for it and worried about the gravity of it later; if at all.

"No we never went into it with that mentality. It's hard to believe it today, but we never thought, this is a great chance for New Zealand to showcase itself, to prove to the world that Weta can do it , that New Zealand can do it.' We never thought that. We always thought, shit, this is a great opportunity to make a lovely movie as well as we possibly can.' That was the challenge. You don't head off with the intention of winning a war. You head off with the intention of challenging yourself and making the best product you can. The results we have today are the relative to the way we challenged ourselves, not how the expectations of the world challenged us. I think that, ultimately, that's what made it the movie it is. It's come from the hearts of the people that made it, as opposed to the expectations of the audience, the punters, the peers and critics."

So much of the films captured the Zeitgeist of the way the fans imagined the world of Middle-Earth. We're talking about everything from the way you used the art of Alan Lee and John Howe when you could have sourced any of the other thousands of artists that existed (it's arguable that in he true hearts and minds of Tolkien fans, only the work of Lee, and to a lesser yet formidable extent, Howe and Ted Nasmith, caught the spirit best while still leaving room for the imagination of fans. The one artist I personally had bothered to hang on my wall was the one artist you used. In hindsight it seems like the only choice, but that's just not the way it was back then) to the music you used. There were so many fears.

"I've got something to add to that. When I was at this country boarding school, I won an art award. I was 15 and there was one book shop in the one town that I was living near and it had one art book in it and that art book was Faeries. I sculpted those characters, I drew those characters, I put them on my wall. Twenty years later, Alan Lee walked into our lives." There's a distinct moment of lingering disbelief in Richard's voice here.

Do you think you'll be able to continue working together?

"I'm sure about it. He is an English person that wants to return to his home n England. He's been away on a long working holiday but I don't think he considers himself to be a Kiwi. He wants to return back to the beautiful village in southern England where he lives. But I think we've forever cemented a relationship that will bring him back to our shores. As we hope with John Howe as well. All testament to John, for he mustn't be forgotten in it all, because he did great things.

"But you're absolutely right. It was somewhere in the ether that these films were going to be made by this group of people at this particular time. Technology took until the end of the 20th Century to catch up with Tolkien's vision. Peter Jackson, coming from English parents and upbringing; his aesthetic, mentality and ethics were just right at that time, to tackle a work of this stature."

And that's all we have time for.

"Well thank you. And a special thank you for those questions. They were very good."

Well thank you Richard.

'Rings' characters discuss Oscar snub
Tehanu @ 4:04 pm EST

Sadly, I don' t know where this came from. Bouquets to the writer Molly J Ringwraith, whoever you are!

Jan. 27, 2004 MINAS TIRITH (AP) The city of Minas Tirith has been abuzz today over the news that 'The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King,' while receiving 11 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, did not receive any nominations for acting.

"Eleven nominations?" said Pippin Took, of the Shire. "Well, that's good news."

His friend Meriadoc Brandybuck responded by swatting him over the head with the newspaper and protesting, "But the cast is a part of this movie! Aren't they?"

Their kinsman Frodo Baggins shared Brandybuck's dismay. Upon reading the list of nominations, Baggins commented with an ironic chuckle, "They've left out one of the chief characters: the cast. I want to hear more about them." Waxing solemn and soulful, he added, "The movie wouldn't have got far without the cast."

"You almost don't want to watch the awards ceremony," contributed Baggins' gardener and loyal valet, Samwise Gamgee, "because how can it be happy? How can the awards go right when so much bad has been nominated? Folks in that Academy had lots of chances of voting for these actors, only they didn't."

Legolas Greenleaf, of the Mirkwood realm, commented somewhat cryptically on the Academy's choices, "A red sun rises. Lame decisions have been made this night." When asked to clarify his opinion, he told reporters that he had not the heart, for the grief was still too near, and retired for a walk in the forest.

His companion, Gimli son of Gloin, had sharper remarks to make upon the chosen nominees. "Mystic River? What madness drew them there? You'll find more cheer in a graveyard!"

But wizard Gandalf the White urged a more optimistic approach. "Do not be too eager to deal out Oscars in judgement," he advised. "That is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the Oscars we are given."

Meanwhile, his colleague Saruman the formerly-White was in favor of retaliation against the Academy: "Too long have those peasants stood against us," Saruman said, referring to the Academy's failure to give any fantasy film the Best Picture Oscar yet. "Leave none alive! To war! There will be no dawn for film critics!"

Treebeard, of the Ents, told reporters after much deliberation and exchanging of long names, that he was in agreement with this proposed course of action. "There is no curse in Elvish, Entish, or the tongues of Men for this treachery," he declared. "My business is with Beverly Hills tonight. With heads made of cotton candy and rock."

"I do not doubt their hearts," Eomer of Rohan conceded. "Only the size of their brains." He then returned to the task of loading up forty of his men and horses with toilet paper and Maps to the Stars' Homes, for a "secret midnight mission" that he regretted he could not give details about.

At least one individual, calling himself Smeagol, claimed to be making plans to steal the Oscar statuettes. "Oscar is sooo pretty, sooo golden," said Smeagol. "We will take the statuesss once the Hollywood snobses are dead! Ye-esss, precious!" He then quickly added, groveling at the feet of reporters, "No! No! We were only joking! Smeagol wouldn't hurt a fly! Nice movie industry." He crawled away before he could be questioned further.

Still others appeared not to care about the snub. Lady Eowyn of Rohan said with a shrug, "The women of this country learned long ago that those without Oscar nominations may still get dates to awards ceremonies. I fear neither critics nor fans." Lord Boromir, a native of Minas Tirith, dismissed the concerns, claiming, "Gondor has no actors. Gondor needs no actors."

But overall the mood was one of mild disgust. As Lord Aragorn put it to reporters, "The day may come when the Academy is able to find their ass with a flashlight. But this is not that day."

1-30-04 Latest News

Hall Of Fire Chats This Weekend
Frode @ 11:48 pm EST

The drama between Frodo, Sam and Gollum lies at the heart of Peter Jacksons 'The Return of the King'. The dynamics between the three travellers change as they slowly make their way from the Emyn Muil to Mt. Doom. Not only is there a growing strain between Frodo and Sam, but as they get closer to Mordor the Ring wears down what remains of good in the tormented mind of Smeagol.

What kind of understanding exists between Smeagol and Frodo? Why does Frodo turn on Sam the way that he does? What do you think about the way Sam treats Smeagol? We will look at all these personal relationships and how they evolve. Also we will discuss how the balance of power shifts between Gollum and Smeagol. What finally decides the struggle in Gollums favour do you think? Join us in #thehalloffire as the take a look at this strange guerilla group.

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

1-29-04 Latest News

Earn a Degree in Middle Earth Studies
Xoanon @ 2:29 pm EST

January 26, 2004

"…Earn a Degree in Middle Earth Studies…"

Institute for Middle Earth Studies
215 South Saint Joseph Street
The Century Building, Suite 305
South Bend, Indiana 4660l

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Cloverdale College is pleased to announce the establishment of The Institute for Middle Earth Studies and the inauguration of an internet degree program leading to a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Middle Earth Studies, beginning April 2, 2004.

The purpose of the Institute’s degree program is to foster an intellectual and academic interest in the literary works of J. R. R. Tolkien specifically and fantasy literature generally. The B.A. and M.A. degrees in Middle Earth Studies consist of a series of six open-book competency-based examinations designed to assess the student’s knowledge of the texts. These open-book examinations are textually sequential and students must master the materials in each before proceeding to the next examination. Students must re-take these examinations until a satisfactory score is achieved. There are no re-take fees.

The Ph.D. is based upon a series of six essays on pre-assigned topics which result in a doctoral dissertation of between 25,000 and 40,000 words. The dissertation must be defended in Oxford before the Institute faculty. The doctoral presentations are normally held at the White Horse and the Eagle and Child public houses, both favorite meeting places for Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.

Cloverdale College is an internet school of religious education in the Unitarian Free Church tradition committed to the principles of reason, conscience, and freedom of thought and expression. Established on the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Sunday School Union in England in l803, Cloverdale College is fully accredited to award degrees by the Accrediting Commission International.

1-28-04 Latest News

Los Angeles Film Critics Awards Report
Xoanon @ 9:28 pm EST

Ringer Spy Nerdanel writes: The Los Angeles Film Critics Association presented their 2003 awards Monday night at the St. Regis Hotel in Century City. (These awards were announced January 7.) The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won two awards: Best Production Design (Grant Major) and Best Director (Peter Jackson). Barrie Osborne accepted the award for Grant Major, who is in New Zealand working on King Kong, reading from an email from Major. At one point Osborne said "and then he thanks me, but I'll skip that," which got him heckled by Peter Jackson.

Peter Jackson accepted his own award. He thanked, among others, Fran Walsh, also in attendance. He explained that he had met Walsh 18 years ago when she was recommended to him as someone who was good with scripts. At the time, Jackson was working on Bad Taste, which had no script, so he asked her to paint part of a set. She was not very good at that, he said, but he discovered she was indeed good with scripts.

In a conversation with Ringer Spy Nerdanel after dinner, Jackson said he had just finished editing the Extended Edition of RotK and that it was 4 hours and 10 minutes. Nerdanel was either too polite or too dense to ask whether that includes the credits.

Return of the Hero
Xoanon @ 9:07 pm EST

The most impressive movie spectacles of 2003, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" and "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," both derived from famous sets of adventure novels by English writers, emerged as the top contenders for Academy Awards when nominations were announced yesterday in Beverly Hills, Calif.

"The Return of the King," the final installment in an epic trilogy derived from a mythological saga by the late J.R.R. Tolkien, received 11 nominations, including best motion picture and director (Peter Jackson). "Master and Commander," which draws from a cycle of 20 seafaring tales by the late Patrick O'Brian, took the runner-up spot with 10 nominations, also including best picture and director (Peter Weir).

Curiously, neither film is nominated in the acting categories. Both Russell Crowe and Paul Bethany of "Master" would have made worthy contenders. A frequent nominee in recent years, Mr. Crowe won as best actor for "Gladiator" in 2000.

A third finalist for best picture, "Seabiscuit," a celebration of the beloved racehorse of the 1930s, also failed to break into the acting finals, despite deserving candidates for supporting actor in both Chris Cooper and William H. Macy.

A fourth best-picture finalist, "Lost in Translation," a hushed and atmospheric comedy about culture shock in Tokyo, brought comedian Bill Murray a best-actor nomination for his role as an actor for hire as a Japanese whisky pitchman. Writer-director Sofia Coppola, daughter of "The Godfather" director Francis Ford Coppola, was nominated for both screenwriting and direction. "Lost in Translation" is her second feature, and she became the first American woman nominated in the directing finals.

The fifth best-picture nominee, the fatalistic murder melodrama "Mystic River," directed by Clint Eastwood, secured Oscar nominations for three cast members: Sean Penn as best actor, Tim Robbins as best supporting actor and Marcia Gay Harden as best supporting actress. Miss Harden won in the category three years ago for "Pollock." Mr. Eastwood also was nominated as best director, a category he won in 1992 with the Western drama "Unforgiven."

The six nominations for "Mystic River" are concentrated in major categories, but only Mr. Robbins, cast as a woebegone Boston resident who becomes a murder suspect, seems to be a favorite to win. It's a little hard to believe, but Mr. Robbins' nomination is his first. He seemed a deserving candidate in the past for "Bull Durham," "The Player" and "The Shawshank Redemption" but never cracked the finals.

"Seabiscuit" and "Cold Mountain" shared third place in total nominations with seven apiece.

Two cast members from "Cold Mountain" reached the finals: Renee Zellweger as best supporting actress and Jude Law as best actor. Gary Ross, the writer and director of "Seabiscuit," is a nominee for screenwriting but not direction. Anthony Minghella, who directed "Cold Mountain" from his own screenplay, fell short in the screenwriting and directing categories that he won in 1996 with "The English Patient."

The first movie in the "Lord of the Rings" cycle, "The Fellowship of the Ring," released two years ago, received more nominations than "Return of the King" — 13 — but had to settle for just four Oscars. One of those winners, cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, is not an Oscar nominee this year. Curiously, he was nominated for one of the annual awards bestowed by his peers in the American Society of Cinematographers.

"The Return of the King" begins the 76th annual Oscar contest as the consensus favorite. Academy voters, who number about 5,800, had the option of honoring the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy in three consecutive years. The second installment, "The Two Towers," was not a best-picture finalist last year, but director Jackson has been nominated for each installment.

The preponderance of footage for all three movies was shot by Mr. Jackson during an extended production period in 2000 in his native New Zealand. The immediate box-office success of "Fellowship" transformed a $300 million gamble on the part of distributor New Line Cinema into a farsighted international triumph.

Mr. Murray and Mr. Penn, a four-time nominee who has yet to win an Oscar, could make the race for best actor a close call between humorous and sinister portrayals. The other nominees are Johnny Depp in "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" and Sir Ben Kingsley in "House of Sand and Fog." Mr. Kingsley is a former winner for "Gandhi" in 1982. Mr. Murray and Mr. Depp give comic characterizations more prominence than they usually have at the Oscars.

The best-actress category portends a close race between a favorite comic actress, Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give," and relative newcomers playing extremely troubled women: Charlize Theron as a serial killer in "Monster" and, in "21 Grams," Naomi Watts as a woman who has lost her husband and children in a car accident. Voters also nominated a pair of long shots: Samantha Morton as a devoted young Irish housewife and mother in "In America" and the teen-ager Keshia Castle-Hughes in the Maori fable "Whale Rider." Their showing proved costly to such eligible actresses as Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman, last year's winner in this category for "The Hours."

Renee Zellweger is regarded as a comfortable favorite as supporting actress, in part because she probably would have won as best actress last year for "Chicago" if Miss Kidman had not been a finalist. In addition to Miss Harden, the competition will come from another former Oscar winner, Holly Hunter, nominated for "Thirteen" (she won as best actress in 1993 for "The Piano"), and two accomplished character actresses, Patricia Clarkson in "Pieces of April" and the Iranian exile Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ben Kingsley's wife in "House of Sand and Fog." Although a virtual unknown to American moviegoers, Miss Aghdashloo may have support in the movie community because she has lived in Los Angeles for many years.

The other nominees for best supporting actor include a recent winner, Benicio Del Toro, nominated for "21 Grams." His previous supporting-actor prize came for "Traffic." The other three contenders are Alec Baldwin in "The Cooler," Djimon Hounsou in "In America" and Ken Watanabe, a leading man in Japanese films, in "The Last Samurai."

The directing category also made room for an unexpected finalist: the Brazilian Fernando Meirelles, nominated for the crime chronicle "City of God." He would appear to be a distant long shot in competition with Mr. Jackson, Mr. Weir, Mr. Eastwood and Miss Coppola.

To its credit, the music division recognized the merits of the song score from "A Mighty Wind" and made a number composed by cast member Michael McKean and his wife, Annette O'Toole, "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow," a finalist for best song. It will contend with "Into the West" from "The Return of the King"; the title song from the French animated feature "The Triplets of Belleville"; and a pair of ballads from "Cold Mountain," "Scarlet Tide" by Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett and Sting's "You Will Be My Ain True Love."

Also nominated as best animated feature, "Triplets" finds itself in a short field with "Finding Nemo," the likely favorite, and "Brother Bear." The nominees for foreign-language feature come from Canada ("The Barbarian Invasions"), Sweden ("Evil"), Japan ("Twilight Samurai"), the Netherlands ("Twin Sisters") and the Czech Republic ("Zelary").

Four domestic features will compete for best documentary: "Capturing the Friedmans," "The Fog of War," "My Architect" and "The Weather Underground" — along with a Spanish import, "Balseros."

Billy Crystal returns as master of ceremonies for the 76th Oscar presentation, which will be telecast live by ABC from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood Feb. 29. The show begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

The veteran writer-director Blake Edwards, whose credits encompass five decades, will receive an honorary career award. He was nominated only once, for the screenplay of "Victor, Victoria" in 1982. This could be a year in which the academy makes partial restitution for its chronic neglect of comedy specialists.

Carleton grad hopes third time is Oscar charm
Xoanon @ 8:50 pm EST

BY CHRIS HEWITT, Pioneer Press

After three straight Academy Award nominations, Barrie M. Osborne is glad he gave up on renting tuxedos.

"I decided the first year it might be wise to buy a tux," says the 1966 Carleton College graduate. A nominee for producing each previous movie in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, he anticipated Tuesday's news about being nominated yet again for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," his own favorite of the three. "I'm very happy. I would have been surprised if we weren't nominated, to tell you the truth, but winning is another matter."

Oddsmakers have 11-time-nominee "The Return of the King" as a prohibitive favorite to take home the trophy, so Osborne is optimistic about his chances when the awards are handed out Feb. 29 at the 76th Annual Academy Awards: "When we haven't won, I honestly feel it is an honor to be nominated, so I haven't been disappointed. But it's always been a dream for me to win an Oscar, a real thrill and a lifetime dream."

The dream began when he was a student at the Northfield college, attending screenings of classic movies at the school's film society. "We used to watch all the foreign films and the David Lean films, and I got excited about what an honor it would be to make a film like any of them," Osborne said.

Having spent five years working on the trilogy, Osborne is ready to cap it all off with an Oscar win. And, yes, he will have a speech ready, just in case he needs it.

This is an article that was printed today in the Minnesota St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper about LOTR producer Barrie Osborne.

1-26-04 Latest News

Party Goers: Reserve your Tux today!
Celeborn @ 9:16 pm EST

Attention all Return of the One Party male attendees! We have made an amazing deal with the Gary's Tuxedo Store in Sherman Oaks, CA for a 25% off discount on any tuxedo rentals in their shops. This gives you the freedom to choose a variety of Tuxedo combinations and still get a significant discount. No matter which options you prefer, a 25% discount will be taken off of the total price when you mention to them that you are using the TORN Discount for the Lord of the Rings Oscar Party. (The discount code is: TORN)

Everyone who needs a tux may go into the store now (listed below) to get fitted, or, for those of you who are not local, you may get fitted at any tuxedo shop near you and call them in to the store where you will pick up your tuxedo:

Gary's Tux
Sherman Oaks Fashion Square
14006 Riverside Drive # 27
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
M - F 10am - 9pm
Sat 10am - 7pm
Sun 11am - 6pm

Golden Globes News Roundup
Xoanon @ 10:05 am EST

Golden Globes 2004 Images
Click for more images

Take a look at these images from the 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards held on tonight (Sunday, Jan. 25) in Beverly Hills, California. Here are a few pictures from the red carpet. More images soon as they arrive! [More]

ROTK Wins First Golden Globe! ROTK has won it's first Golden Globe! Howard Shore has won for Best Original Score! Howard was there to receive the award and thanked the Hollywood Foreign Press, he said it was a great honor for him to work on this film.

ROTK Wins Best Original Song Golden Globe! ROTK Has won another Golden Globe! Best Original Song! Fran Walsh and Howard Shore both accepted this award! Howard had to run back from behind the stage (after just winning the best Score). Fran Walsh dedicated this award to Kiwi-filmmaker Cameron Duncan, who passed away before ROTK was completed.

PJ Wins Best Director Golden Globe! Peter Jackson has just won the Best Director Award! He stood up and gave Fran Walsh a loving kiss on the lips, hug Producer Bob Shaye, he also thanked the Hollywood Forein Press, he thanked Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, as well as Mark Ordesky. He said he felt supported all the way by New Line. He also thanked all the cast and crew, and he said he loved every single day he worked on the set.

ROTK Wins Best Drama Golden Globe Award! ROTK has won it's fourth and last award it was nominated for! ROTK has won Best Dramatic Picture!! Accepting the award was Peter Jackson, along with Bob Shaye, Michael Lynne, Fran Walsh, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett and others. The stage was full and many people were cheering! Philippa Boyens, Dominic Monaghan, John Rhys-Davies was also spotted on stage. Peter Jackson thanked Tolkien and Saul Zaentz. It was a quick speech due to the time limits of the show...but CONGRATS PJ ET ALL!!!!

1-25-04 Latest News

A Conversation with Bernard Hill
Xoanon @ 1:07 pm EST

Peter Jackson Talks With Bernard Hill
Peter Jackson Talks With Bernard Hill

Like rain across the meadows OR Pelennor Fields Forever­ in the hall of Theoden king, a conversation with Bernard Hill

by Nazz

Bernard Hill (Theoden):

Any Briton worth their salt knows Bernard Hill. Despite his relatively unknown status elsewhere (though international audiences may have previously know him best as the ill-fated captain of James Cameron's Titanic - bet no one ever asks him to drive their boats ­ Peter Jackson has immortalised him in the powerhouse, difficult role as King Theoden of Rohan for The Lord Of The Rings movies), Hill is a staple and giant of the British acting community and is especially well known for his array of depictions of the working class. Like me, he's also originally a Manc (short for Mancunian - from Manchester if you need that subtitled).

Even you had trouble placing the face, it's likely you've seen it many times before. A master of becoming the character, Hill has also been seen on the big screen in Gandhi, True Crime, The Scorpion King, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Ghost And The Darkness and No Surrender. He'll next be seen as the father of the male protagonist of Wimbledon, co-starring Kirsten Dunst.

He's probably best known to me for his work in British productions from stage and the movies (Shirley Valentine, The Bounty, Blessed Art Thou, Going Off Big Time, The Criminal and the highly recommended Mike Leigh debut, Hard Labour); yet I've always been mesmerised by him in TV series such as the now-legendary, hard-hitting realist play-for-the-day turned-mini-series, Boys From The Black Stuff, Dennis Potter's Lipstick On Your Collar (as a deranged uncle ­ it also featured Ewan McGregor's first appearance), as well as award-winning productions of I, Claudius, Henry VI trilogy and Richard III, Antigone, and Great Expectations.

To me, this was one of the bigger moments of The Return Of The King junket day, though various journalists had no real idea of who he was. Those who did, knew to be prepared.

As Bernard enters the room, we greet him with a hearty, 'Hello! How are you doing?'

BH: "[amiable English accent] Very well thanks. How are you?"

[Female NZ reporter] We just made Sean show us his tattoo but there's so few of us left now, we hope you all don't mind?

BH: "I wasn't allowed a Fellowship tattoo. I had to have one, but I wasn't allowed a Fellowship tattoo."

[Female NZ reporter] So which one did you get?

BH: "Ummm. There's a guy called Mike Greelish, who was one of the leather patterners down at Weta, and I was struggling for a tattoo 'motif'. So I went to see him about some travel patches made for some of the guys as leaving presents and I wanted some stamps put on them their own stamps. So Aragorn had his own stamp etc, stuff and stuff, and they said, 'oh, here they are.' And there was one lovely one and I said, 'oh which is this?' and they said, 'that's Theoden's stamp. His personal motif.' And he said here you are. And I said, 'Christ. Thanks!' Then I thought, 'hmmm ' and took it down to a tattooist and he redraw it­ slightly smaller because it's quite big ­ and then he drew it on my arm and tattooed it."

[Me] Would you mind showing us?

Rolls up his sleeve.

[female Woman's Day reporter] Is it a horse?

BH: "No. It's like a Celtic motif. It's nothing kind of nothing identifiable."

[Me] So even after all your experiences and other projects, this film meant that much to you enough to for you to get a tattoo? That's pretty impressive. Have you any more tattoos?

BH: "Well yeah. It's a big thing getting a tattoo the first time. You can't go out the next day and wash it off. It's there for life. Your kids are going to see it­ and your grandkids are going to see it [laughs sheepishly]! And my father had one of a big sailing ship on his arm that was a constant source of embarrassment to him as he became more and more of a snob."

We all laugh.

BH: "Well he was in the Royal Navy [laughs]! Joe Jack from Manchester a miner. And then he went off to the Navy in the war and all that kind of stuff, and then obviously had that as a memento ­a jack the lad Manc."

[Male reporter] It's a long way from the Mike Leigh films and Boys From The Black Stuff you did in your early career, to the wilds of New Zealand. How's that been?

BH: "Oh I dunno. Very similar. Coz they were small budget films with not much fat on them in terms of finance. And although this has got a fair bit of funding, the feeling is very similar. Coz on low budget films, you're not there for anything other than the work ­ coz there's no money in it and very little kudos ­ you're just there coz it's a worthy project and it creates a kind of camaraderie and group feeling that's ­ well, I thought, unique to that level of filmmaking; but it came out here. It's just the same. Someone said, it might've been Liv, 'it's the most expensive low budget film I've ever worked on.' And everyone knew exactly what she was talking about. I think it was Liv. You can say it was me if you like in case she doesn't like it! But somebody in the room said it. It's a very specific feeling, and because of the way Pete organises his work and sets and stuff ­ it's a very egalitarian society he operates and there's no hierarchical difference between someone who gets the coffee and someone who kills one of the Uruk Hai or someone who directs the bloody thing ­ it's the same people."

[Me] Do you mind talking for a moment about Boys From The Blackstuff, because I remember seeing it on TV when I was living back in Manchester at 12 years-old and I still remember how it became a household name across England. And how your character and the catch-cry, 'gizza job,' seemed to be on everyone's lips. Was that fun to do ­ and even more, was it hard to live down?

BH: "Let's not bore everyone here with that stuff. Let's talk about The Lord Of The Rings not Boys From The Blackstuff. That's another conversation maybe. We don't want everyone else falling asleep [everyone laughs]."

[female reporter] What did you think of the movie?

BH: "I saw it yesterday. I thought it was wonderful. I was frightened really at the beginning. I didn't know what was where it was going to go. I think people were more worried about this one than the other ones really. Because we had to get One right, coz it he didn't get One right, Two and Three would have sat on the shelf somewhere. But after, Two, well, he could resurrect the whole thing with Three. But if he didn't get Three right, that would have been it. He would've gone out on a bad note really. The whole thing would've been tarnished by the memory of Three. But I think that was why more people were worried about Three than anything."

[female reporter] Were you ever worried when you first signed on that Peter Jackson wouldn't be able to pull this off?

BH: "No. No. I mean Peter's an intelligent guy and he's got a massive crowd of people around him. You've only got to wander around to I mean, we got shown around the different areas and elements and sections ­ and it's pretty obvious that you don't get all these things because you're an average filmmaker. You get this because you've got a great dream and a great vision, backed up by, really, what's turned out to be a phenomenal talent. I don't think people were aware of that as much as they are now. But it's certainly proved to be the case. I mean he's a phenomenal, phenomenal filmmaker."

[same female reporter­ possibly Lizzie from Triple M] What was it like filming those huge battle scenes? Was it really full on and rigorous?

BH: "Yeah. It was f***ing hard work. It was really, really hard work. Coz we all had the stuff on and that armour was heavy. It was difficult to move in and stuff and because we were strapped in so tight, breathing wasn't the prime concern really [all laugh]. And we were all sitting on horseback.

"The stunties were all in that plastic stuff, that head-to-toe prosthetic stuff. And that stuff was sweaty and smelly. They had to be de-fungus-ised every day. It felt like you were putting on a whole suit of dish clothes every day and they stank of bleach or some kind of disinfectant. So you had to go in that, then they stick the head on as well, then the helm on top of the head. I'm not going to complain [all laugh]! They suffered a lot more than I did. And they were on foot and they used to fall over and get hurt and get trodden on and all sorts of stuff.

[Me] Was the arc of the character meaty enough for you?

BH: "Well we worked that out when we went to the workshops coz there was no real script to start with. It was a rough precis of the book with all the unfilmable stuff taken out. And then we worked that, and as each thing became more relevant to the schedule, we'd work those things out.

"So I went to Peter and Fran's house, with Peter, Fran and Phillipa, and worked on the script. A lot of us did. So we had a say from the very beginning. It was a very kinda organic procedure where we could say, really, where we thought the character should go and they had their own ideas obviously. They'd been working on it a lot longer than we had. But they put their ideas in and I put mine. They listened to mine as I listened to theirs. It's a real trick to get to a stage in a movie like this, where you can actually determine the lines you might say."

[Me] So what are some of the things you brought to the table for Theoden?

BH: "Two main areas. One was the 'tkatkatkatka' [extends his arm as if holding a sword and makes the sound of the sword touching each of the Rohirrim's weapons]. That was all my idea - which terrified me. That came out of a visit to the Weta workshop in the first week. I saw all the spears and weapons and stuff like that; and for some reason I thought of Pelennor Fields ­ y'know, like you do [chuckles] ­ and I thought of a kid going down the railings with a stick hmmm the king touching everybody's spear it might be a Rohan tradition that kind of thing. I was thinking in those kind of terms; that the king gives his spirit and sword to them, that he goes into their spirit somehow through the spear, and we're all in this together. This is it, we're all going to die, but you've got the king's spirit in you. That kind of stuff.

"So I phoned Phillipa and Fran and said, 'I've got this idea for Pelennor Fields.' They were like, 'Pelennor Fields?!? That's nine months away [chuckles]!' So I said, 'but I've got this idea!' And they said, 'well okay, what is it?' So I told and they, [sounds like their contemplating it] 'hmm, okay.' So I kept bringing it on, and they were like, 'yeah! Okay! We've got it! We've written it down. And y'know '

"Then I thought, 's**t! What have I said?!?' Coz I couldn't do it. From the horse performers point of view, I couldn't have done it. Then I went to more and more horse training, and I took more and more lessons; maybe 20 hours a week. And that's apart from riding socially on the weekends ­ and I turned myself from a rider to a horseman. And that was the pay off really that fact that we actually went out and did it, that we filmed it, I did it and it was my idea. That was a real trip.

"And I actually DID it. I thought it was going to be Because they knew it was one of my big things, they gave me this unbelievable dialogue to say. 'Ride for ruin and the world's end.' For something to say, you don't get better than that, really. 'Death! Spears shall be broken a red day.' I can't remember now but God, was it a good speech.

How many takes did you do?

BH: "A few. We had trouble with the horse because," and Bernard talks of the horse like his opinion was perfectly valid, "he didn't like it [everyone laughs]. We had to swap the horse because he didn't like it, and this is the horse I trained on. He didn't like the death bit. He didn't like death so when we rehearsed it, the first AD said, 'okay, well we thought we'd do this and stand here and blah blah.' You know, we rehearsed it properly. And I'd done a little bit and showed them what we were going to do. And they're all there, 250 of them, and I said, 'okay now I'm going to shout death. DEATH!' And they all went, 'DEATH!' And the horse went 'bye! Not my idea of a good time no, sorry! Horses don't do this.' [all laugh] So we had to leave."

"Oh then the other one was the fact that in that arc of development, which is what you were referring to earlier on, I'm persistently interested in this duality that exists within everybody's dichotomy. That there is good and evil in everybody; that you have to have evil to have good and vice versa which is why we're fascinated by the good and evil dilemma we face today, I think. It's because we have the microcosm of it inside ourselves. We are the embodiment of good and evil it's all inside us. I don't believe there's anything on the planet that we're not actually a part of. That we are everything.

"Look, once the earth cooled down and started to form into seas and the crust and stuff like that, nothing left and nothing arrived. So we've been in a stable state for a couple of billion years. So, everything that's here, including ourselves, is all part of the same organic process. As we've developed and stuff, I think we're a microcosm of the whole. That's pretty deep!

"Anyway, I think that's true."

[An aide interrupts to whisper that Executive Producer Bob Shaye has arrived. Bernard seems unruffled and seemingly unimpressed].

BH: "Alright, okay. That's good. Tell him to wait or come in. He might learn something."

"Where was I? So inside every human being, there's all the properties that every other human being has. Some human beings are born into some predicaments and some into other different predicaments. Now one of those predicaments, maybe, is that you have to be a king or queen. And inside that, the human being is always there. Now you might have this terrible thing you've been trained to do for your whole life to be a king and all that, with the rabble and the cheerleading and being royal and keeping the troops going and all that. In the old days, it was to get them to the stage where they could actually believe that they could die honourably.

"But underneath that was the human being that had the doubts and fears. So I wanted that in it. I wanted a king that, beneath all the surface, which is why you get that moment on the battlements of The Two Towers. When he's going, 'no one's ever breached this Deeping Wall! No one's gonna get in!' And Aragorn says, 'what are you talking about?' And Theoden says, 'What do you want me to do? If they're going to die, I want them to die well. So when YOU'RE king, and one day you just might be, just LEARN. [laughs]' Which is what happens. In Film 3, Theoden's dead and he's there, Aragorn's the king."

At this point, his talent wrangler virtually drags Bernard out of the interview room because he chooses not to be rushed by anyone.

With a distinguished and genuine, 'thank you guys,' he's pulled out of the room to his final appointment of the day.

Funnily enough I bumped into Bernard on two other occasions before the weekend was through. One was on the Red Carpet where he saw me ­ directly opposite the speech stage right near the mouth of the Embassy Theatre and in the front row. Pole position! - and, in typical Bernard Hill style, broke off from a TV interview partway through his last question to say hello, ask how I was and share the moment. He was to chat with me for a good few minutes (quite something on a red carpet I can tell you) ­ and I'm still looking for that quote on the end of my tape but that'll be the last thing I transcribe. His assistant recognised that Bernard seemed fond and relatively friendly for me and broke the ban by mouthing a question as to whether I'd want a photo with him. Did I what?!? The guy had been a personal hero for 21-years! As luck would have it, I ended up getting two photos.

The next time I saw him was at the lavish After Premiere party, early on when he was taking a time out in a slightly open to have a cigarette in what was supposed to be a non-smoking affair. He looked less relaxed and more like he just wanted to go home for some rest or be in the sanctuary of the fellowship of actors. But all did their bit to honour their guests before nipping out the back door (I saw John Noble, Bernard and Liv among the 2000+ but the people I actually talked to from the production were Lawrence Makoare, a slightly frightened looking Sarah McLeod [she seemed so surprised to be recognised, she may have thought I was stalking her or something!], as well as Paul Morell and Peter Tait, the actors who played the King Of The Dead and Shagrat and their respective partners yes, there's more story there. The latter two told me quite a few nuggets and couldn't believe I recognised them without prosthetics. They deserved some attention too ­ and were much less under siege than the 'stars').
Given my reputation for the tobacco ­ you might remember my One Ring Super Spy moniker, Ciggie Fagash (yes the same person who supplied Xoanon and OneRing.Net with the first pictures of Saruman, Galadriel and Gimli as well as other scoops) ­ I was glad to be offered a spot next to him to cure my gasping need for a smoke-o.

To my eternal despair, all eight of my photo sets were lost/stolen at the Adelaide Premiere; including the one Viggo's assistant took of us together on the red carpet. Sure I don't have the material evidence of my trip or photos taken with the two kings any more (even though my friends, family and workmates all pored over them before the loss), but as Viggo pointed out when talking about his own souvenirs:

"Like everyone I got my sword, but if that doesn't get through customs or gets stolen, lost or damaged, in the end it's not that a big deal. It's just an object. The thing that I know I take with me - and everyone else does - is something that's inside: the memory of the experience. That's the gift I take away with me."

Of course, I've also got my tapes and modest photos friends took. But these interviews weren't just for me. You don't have to believe it, but after sharing so many years with you as an invisible community, poring over every detail, becoming prouder and prouder, I thought of you all on the entire trip. These memories and questions were for all Tolkien fans and fans of Peter Jackson's films especially the ones who couldn't make it or weren't allowed into the junkets themselves. That's why I share them with you.

If you ever want to drop a line, I'm at . Check out our weekly website from time to time

Thanks and credit must be extended the other journalists who shared these round-tables with me. Each of us had to share the talent time with others. I've endeavoured to credit the journalist when their names and publications where mentioned; unfortunately this rarely happened.

This one's for my parents and the Mancs.

McKellen's 'Dance of Death' Oz Report
Xoanon @ 12:25 pm EST

Ferny writes:

Last night was my first time to the theatre. And what better way to experience it than to have the one, the only, Sir Ian McKellen grace the stage. McKellen starred in the superb production of "Dance of Death" at the Theatre Royal, Sydney.

Before the actors even appeared on stage I could tell by the stage design and dressings that this was going to be a fantastic production. The design and props were very detailed, down to the rust streaked walls from the antique metal staircase. The lighting and sound was also well designed: the warm glow of candlelight played intimately off the actors faces, while the sounds of a raging storm played in the background.

And the actors themselves were amazing. McKellen was the stand out performance (not being biased, of course…) as he convincingly portrayed the arrogant, bitter and sarcastic Edgar, who would stumble awkwardly about the stage as an arthritic old man (although the stumbling was also induced by his hearty drinking habit). McKellen and Frances de la Tour had amazing chemistry and tension as they played the ever-feuding couple, who’s combined animosity and hatred had made their 25 years of marriage a living hell. The drab setting reflected the situation in which they had created, ostracising themselves from all aspects of social life.

Their relationship would range from wisecracks and insults, to roaring hatred and abuse. More than once McKellen’s booming voice made me jump, and I was seated about 50 feet away!

Even through all the fighting and hatred, there were moments of tenderness and intimacy which showed that despite their loathing of one another, they were bound by their complex tapestry of love and hate. As Edgar’s life fades away you discover that death is the only means of breaking their bond.

McKellen, at times was hilarious as he bantered with his wife, and had the audience in stitches as he paraded around the stage in his officer’s uniform. In comparison, the scenes where he would collapse into seizure- like fits were very realistic. One was often torn between despising or pitying the couple, as the unsuspecting cousin of Alice, Kurt, experienced. Each character would be very persuasive in their attempts to win his sympathy and turn him against the other.

All in all it was a brilliant production, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity of seeing it.

Dallas Musuem of Art Tolkien Marathon Report
Xoanon @ 12:17 pm EST

Sam and son, Little Frodo write:

My son and I would like to share our experience to the Dallas Musuem of Art's special presentation reading of Tolkien's classic- The Hobbit. Let me start by saying that my son and I were the ONLY ones who were there from beginning to end! I guess you could say we were the only ones that had our own "going there and back again" adventure.


My son and I began our adventure by first leaving my beloved daughter, who is very much a Took at heart, with our favorite childcare provider Arwen. They and my most dearest friend Frodo bid us a fond farewell and safe journey.

Dressed as Frodo and Elf, my son and I boarded the DART (train) to Downtown Dallas. We arrived at the train depot at around 3:30 and proudly walked 3 blocks in our tolkien attire to the Dallas Museum of Art. Being that we arrived early, we stopped to watch an ice sculpture working wonders with a large block of ice outside the main entrance of the museum for a while. We then proceeded to look for the auditorium were the Tolkien events would take place. Once found, my son and I looked at some of the museum pieces. Frodo told me that is was supper time so we located a restraunt and ate. We listened to a band while we ate.

After supper, we purchased several candy bars (they didn't have Lembas bread) to munch on during the long journey that was ahead of us.

We got to the auditorium early to ensure that we got a good seat. Sadly and suprisenly, we did not need to worry about that because not too many showed up. I thought for sure since this was mentioned in the news section of TORN, we were in for a crowed. But alas, it was not so. :-(

But this did not dampen our spirits! We sat in the first row, center of the screen which had the map of Middle Earth (3rd age) projected on to it. During the breaks, the original cover of The Hobbit was projected on to the screen. Off to the left of us, was the podium where the readers would stand. All together there were 13 readers for the first day and 16 for the second day. Each reader had 20 minutes of reading to do. This was a good thing since some were not so good at dramatic reading. Others were excellent and caused the small audience to roar with laughter!

At the end of every hour, we were given a break with trivia questions and prize giveaways presented by our Master of Ceremonies, the very British - Eden Davidson who was a close look-alike of Viggo Mortisson and who had a gorgeous, deep barritone voice. He was also the first reader.

The prizes were DVDs, LOTR games and other things. Surprisenly, there was an impromtu costume contest. Mr. Davidson called those of us who were in costume to come to the stage for an audience vote. There were several hobbits and an elf. I won. Actually, I think it was my story that won me the prize. You see, I am a mere 5 foot 1 and 3/4 inch tall. So although I may be dressed and look Elven, I am actually half Hobbit whos parents separated while I was still very young. My father went back to Hobbiton and my mother stayed in Rivendale with me. Being half Hobbit would explain my defiency in height and the not so thin waist that I possess. The audeince applauded and laughed at my explanation and I won!

The readings went on until 12 midnight. There was a 15 minute break before the movies began. Time for our first Hobbit snack.

Well that is all for now. I will be letting you know about the happenings of DAY 2 on Monday or Tuesday. I will have pictures as well.

Here was the schedule for this 24+ hour adventure.

DAY 1: 5PM to 12 midnight: Live Reading of The Hobbit (first half of the book) by various local celeberties (none of whom anyone outside of dallas would know- he-he-he)

DAY 2: 12 midnight: Screening of LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring
3:15 a.m.: Screening of LOTR: The Two Towers
6:30 a.m.: Screening of the animated movie The Hobbit
9:00 a.m.: Screening of Tolkien Remembered
9 - 10 a.m.: A Merry Gathering for a Hobbit Breakfast in Costumes
10 a.m. - 5 p.m.: Live Reading of the last half of The Hobbit

Expanded Coverage on Hollywood Jesus
Tehanu @ 3:04 am EST

Greg Wright's January column has been posted on Hollywood Jesus, available at the URL below. It begins, "Go back and re-read the sequences related to Pippin and the palantir, and I think you'll find something pretty striking: that Jackson does a better job of dramatizing Pippin and his relationship with Merry than does Tolkien... But finally, the big lesson for Tolkien is that there simply are things bigger than us that we can't grasp, that we can't control; and that, if we meddle with them, we may be placing ourselves in grave danger... The point is not that these things are necessarily evil in themselves; but that, like the palantir, we can't always be sure of the powers behind such things, whether good or ill --" [More]

Also, coverage of "The Lord of the Rings" at Hollywood Jesus is expanding for 2004!

In addition to Greg Wright's usual ongoing series of monthly features, HJ will be adding three new monthly features as well -- something new every week!

First, Greg will be presenting a series of guest features from writers and ministers who have followed the work at Hollywood Jesus. The guest list includes Jeffrey Overstreet (Looking Closer), Cliff Vaughan (Ethics Daily) and Regina Doman (Caelum et Terra) among others. This month's debut column: The Voice of Saruman is a look at the significantly missing episide in Jackson's movies -- is contribued by Brian Overland, a prolific writer of technical books and movie reviewer (The Door).

Also debuting today is the E-mail of the Month feature, highlighting some of the more interesting (and controversial) correspondence that courses through Greg's PC.

Debuting next Wednesday is a series of interviews with cast and crew of Jackson's epic film series. The first of Greg's entries in this series is The Wolf in Wolf's Clothing: An Interview with John Rhys-Davies. The ever-colorful creator of Gimli for the screen is his irrepressible self in this discussion of our generation's "supreme challenge."

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