Go back to Special Reports Archives

March 25, 2004 - April 01, 2004

4-01-04 Latest News

Hall Of Fire Chats This Weekend
Frode @ 6:43 pm EST

Bilbo wakes up lost and afraid in the dark. Not knowing where he's going, he starts crawling and all of a sudden one of his hands makes contact with a small cold metal-ring. Putting the ring in his pocket the Hobbit stumbles on towards the roots of the mountains. Deep down by a subterranean pool Gollum is waiting.

What is the nature of the riddle game, and what do you think influenced Tolkien when he thought it up? What do we learn about Gollum and the ring? What did you make of the ring when you first read this chapter? Join us in #thehalloffire as we take a look at Chapter 5 of 'The Hobbit' - Riddles in the dark.

Upcoming topics:

weekend 100404-110404: cinematic possibilities of 'The Hobbit'
weekend 170404-180404: The Hobbit - Chapter 6
weekend 240404-250404: Tolkien and environmentalism
weekend 010504-020504: The Hobbit - Chapter 7

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

Film Ring Replica Goes to US City
Xoanon @ 12:03 pm EST

Jens Hansen - Gold & Silversmith, www.jenshansen.com, Creators & Designers of the One Ring for the LOTR movies, are pleased to announce the gifting of one of the first of a limited edition set of replicas to the city of Eureka, CA.

A group led by Paul Matheson, Mayor of Nelson, New Zealand visited the city of Eureka in California on the weekend to formalise a sister city arrangement between the two cities. As part of the exchanging of gifts Mayor Matheson presented #2 of a limited edition of 100 replicas of Sauron's gauntlet ring. The ring was made in the Jens Hansen workshop for the Nelson City Council and measures almost 2 inches in diameter, and is made of close to 3 oz. of sterling silver & richly plated in 18ct gold.

The Nelson region in the South Island of New Zealand was home to sets for the filming of Chetwood Forest, Rivendell and the Dimrill Dale exit from the Mines of Moria.

Read more:

Nelson Newspaper report

Eureka, CA Newspaper report

3-31-04 Latest News

Shippey Lecture in Holland, Michigan
Xoanon @ 12:14 pm EST

Flashtalon writes: Shippey's coming to Holland, Michigan this week. Thought some other folk might like to know. Snitched from the Campus Website; here's the press release:

Tolkien Scholar to Discuss Film Adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings

HOLLAND – One of the world’s leading experts on J.R.R. Tolkien, Dr. T.A. Shippey of St. Louis University, will present “From Page to Screen: Problems Tolkien Set for Jackson” at Hope College on Thursday, April 1, at 4 p.m. in the Maas Center conference room.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

The lecture will focus on the adaptation of Tolkien’s best-selling fantasy work “The Lord of the Rings” into a trio of films directed by Peter Jackson:“The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001), “The Two Towers” (2002), and “The Return of the King” (2003). “The Return of the King” won 11 Academy Awards in February, including Best Picture.

Shippey was involved with the production of the films, being responsible for proper pronunciation of names in them.

Commenting on his lecture topic, Shippey said, “I think the interesting question about the films is, for all the care taken over details, does the change of medium not create an inevitable change of message? And if so, in what direction is the change? And what would Professor Tolkien have said?

Shippey is best known for two important and influential books on Tolkien, “The Road to Middle-Earth” (1982) and “J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century” (2000). His life and career in many respects follow in Tolkien’s. Like Tolkien, Shippey attended King Edward’s School, Birmingham; both played rugby for the Old Edwardians; both attended Oxford, where Shippey was one of Tolkien’s last students; both taught at Oxford (Shippey for seven years at St. John’s College, overlapping with Tolkien’s last years of retirement); and both held the position of Professor of English Language at Leeds University (Tolkien from 1920 to 1925, Shippey later filling the same chair and following Tolkien’s syllabus before he moved to the United States).

Shippey is currently the Walter J. Ong, S.J., Chair of Humanities at St. Louis University. He is editor of the series “Studies in Medievalism,” which was founded by the late Leslie Workman and for many years was edited and produced at Hope College.

As with Tolkien, Shippey’s academic specialty is medieval literature, especially the earliest literature of Anglo-Saxon England. He has published several books in this field, including “Old English Verse” (1972), “Poems of Wisdom and Learning in Old English” (1976), a critical study of “Beowulf” (1978), and “Beowulf: The Critical Heritage” (1998).

He has long been interested in modern fantasy and science fiction. In addition to his work on Tolkien, he has edited numerous volumes such as “The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories” (1992) and “The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories” (1994). He also writes science fiction and fantasy himself.

Shippey is appearing at Hope as the De Graaf Lecturer for 2004. The Clarence De Graaf Lectureship was established in 1988 by the family of Dr. Clarence De Graaf in memory of his service on the faculty of Hope College. De Graaf, who died in 1986, taught in the department of English for 44 years, until his retirement in 1972, and served as department chair for 25 of those years.

The Maas Center is located on Columbia Avenue at 11th Street.

3-29-04 Latest News

Astin To Shoot in Vegas This Summer?
Xoanon @ 9:35 pm EST

PIPNLVR writes: I spotted this article in Norm Clarkes' "Vegas Confidential" column of the Las Vegas Review Journal a few days ago:


SEAN ASTIN, a loyal hobbit in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, could be shooting a lot of Las Vegas scenes this summer. Astin has expressed a serious interest in signing up with Las Vegas-based Insomnia Entertainment for a role in a casino-set film "Yonkers Joe."

Astin would portray an estranged Down Syndrome-stricken son of an old-school dice hustler who is trying to rekindle his relationship with his son in the middle of plotting a big casino scam. JAMES WOODS is a front-runner for the father's role, said TRENT OTHICK, Insomnia honcho.

Jack Black Takes on 'King Kong'
Xoanon @ 9:19 pm EST

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Comic actor Jack Black has been in cast alongside Naomi Watts in Peter Jackson's remake of "King Kong," the director said Monday.

Black will play Carl Denham, an adventurer filmmaker who is trying to make a name for himself in 1930s New York. Robert Armstrong played the role in the 1933 original. (Jackson has said he is pretending the 1976 update does not exist.)

Watts is playing Ann Darrow, an American actress who makes a living performing in Broadway song and dance shows. The project, which will shoot in Jackson's native New Zealand, is set up at Universal Pictures.

"I've been wanting to work with Jack Black ever since I saw him in High Fidelity," said Jackson, who is also writing the remake along with his "Lord of the Rings" co-screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. "He's a smart and versatile actor blessed with an abundance of energy and charm and I'm absolutely thrilled that he is joining us on 'Kong."'

Black earned a Golden Globe nomination this year for his starring role in last fall's hit comedy "The School of Rock." His other credits include "Orange County" and "Shallow Hal."

TolCon Press Release
Xoanon @ 9:15 pm EST

Press Release: Jasmine Watson & David Salo to Attend TolCon. Northwest Convention Celebrates Tolkien & Fans.

The Northwest Tolkien Society is proud to present the first annual Tolkien Convention (May 14-16, 2004). TolCon, as it has been christened, is a three-day celebration of J.R.R. Tolkien, his writing and the fandom that has sprung up from the amazing worlds he created. The Northwest Tolkien Society's aim is to focus on more than the just the recent movies and to explore as many aspects of Tolkien's life and writings as we can fit in one weekend. We enjoy all aspects of Tolkien fandom-whether you think Peter Jackson created a masterpiece, Ralph Bakshi did, or there will never be a movie good enough to be worthy of Tolkien's name, you will find other fans and panels ready to agree with you.

TolCon will have several programming tracks to examine the varied aspects of Tolkien's life and writings. Linguistics panels will include lessons in Khudzul, Quenya and Sindarin and workshops lead by Lord of the Ring’s Elvish translator, David Salo. Dancing panels will include Elvish line dancing (yes, you read that right). A Day in the Life of a Hobbit track will include “Who Drank My Half-Pint?” Microbrew tasting (for those 21 and over) from the finest Northwest breweries and costuming panels such as “How To Be a Hobbit, Or Just Look Like One”. We’ve also added a gardening track with workshops such as “Enchanted Gardens: Lothlorian in Your Own Backyard” and “A Tisket-a-Tasket, Middle-Earth in a Basket: Middle Earth Inspired Container Gardens”.The TolFilm Fanfilm Exhibition will showcase films of all types made by talented fans: music videos, parodies, documentaries, and other re-tellings of Tolkien’s tales. Activities geared towards Hobbitlings will be available throughout the weekend. A silent auction benefiting People for Puget Sound will run all weekend and you can bid on items donated from our local businesses as well as signed items donated by some of the cast and crew of Lord of the Rings.

TolCon will also celebrate art inspired by Tolkien through the art show, costume ball, and several guests of honor. We will have the jewelry designer from Lord of the Rings, Jasmine Watson, grace us with her presence, and her jewelry will be on display in our Art Show. We'll be covering Tolkien "writing" from everything from the Lost Tales to current parodies written by two of our Writer Guests; Molly Winter and Jaida Jones. Our music guests will include Luke Ski, of "Stealing Like a Hobbit" fame, as well as the Forgotten Celts and Dorian Mirth to give the illusion of actually being in Middle Earth.
Tolcon will be held at the Sea-Tac Marriott, so if you reserve a room you will be able to enjoy all of the panels and fun as late as you like before stumbling back to your room, exhausted (Or you may rest in between panels to keep yourself bright-eyed and fuzzy-footed). In the wee hours of the morning, you can use the complementary DSL connection to let everybody who can't join in the fun know just what they're missing.

Please join us in a weekend of fun, festivities, and immersion in all things Tolkien.

For more information, check out http://www.tolcon.org, or email info@tolcon.org

Howard Shore Ohio Concert Reviews and Pics
Xoanon @ 2:00 pm EST

Samay writes:

Howard Shore Concert in Ohio

Hello. I realize you may have several reports of Howard Shore and the U.S. Premiere of The Lord of the Rings Symphony in Columbus, Ohio. I am not sure if I have any new information, but here is a summary of the evening (3/27/04), along with my own perspective:

Overall it was well worth the 2.5 hr one way trip to see this performance. Mr. Shore really is a wonderful ambassador for the music of Middle Earth. Prior to the performance, he did a short Q&A with the audience. The questions were submitted in advance. Here are notable tidbits:

The music used in the film was never cut to fit a particular scene. Rather, if a scene was reshot or redone, Mr. Shore recomposed the music to fit exactly to final cut. This is a departure from the way scores are conventionally written.

Howard Shore emphasized that he wrote the music like an opera, with each gesture being associated to the film score. He gave the example of the moment when Frodo says he will take the ring to Mordor, and the glance the is given by Gandalf. He said this reminded him of WWII, when a father would be proud of his son for the courage shown while knowing that their loved one may never return.

The music for the Mines of Moria was recorded in New Zealand with a Kiwi orchestra featuring several artists of Maori decent.

I was impressed by how familiar Howard Shore was with Middle Earth linguistics. He was able to have an impromptu discussion on the various forms of elvish in great detail

As each of the films became more successful, Howard Shore was able to have more control over picking the particular vocal artists. He had the most control with ROTK, culminating in a long letter he wrote to Annie Lennox about why he wanted her to sing. At the time, that song was not Into the West, but another which is featured as an extra on one of the special soundtracks for ROTK which Shore refers to as a "rarity."

As the characters such as the hobbits evolved through the trilogy, the instruments used to portray their musical themes changed to reflect this transformation.

Howard Shore just completed recording an additional 50 min worth of music for the ROTK EE DVD.

Now for the concert:

Behind the orchestra and chorus was a large screen. Smaller screens were on both sides in the balconies. These were filled with artists sketches associated with the music as it played. Howard Shore had reduced the 9+ hours music to just over 2, distilling the essence of middle earth. The sketches for me did the same: reducing the depth of color and detail to the lines and figures of Alan Lee.

The music itself was beautiful. At times, it evoked images and emotions much like the film, and I found the projected imagery constraining my ablility to fully immerse myself in its effect. I closed my eyes to remedy this. The concert was organized in six movments, one for each book of the trilogy. The Norwegian soloist Sissel performed soaring high pitched vocals poignantly, and was able to be in the same league as Lennox for a more operatic interpretation of Into the West (though I still prefer Lennox).

I could go on, but suffice it to say that the several minute standing ovation requiring Howard Shore to come back on to stage three times was well deserved.


Roheryn writes:

Report on the US premiere of Howard Shore’s LOTR Symphony

I have a wish for all Ringers – that they could all get to experience “The Lord of the Rings Symphony” conducted by Howard Shore!

I was one of the lucky audience members at Friday’s sold out performance in Columbus, Ohio, which represented the United States premiere of the symphony. (Thanks to TORN, I had heard about the concert months ago, and was able to get my tickets as soon as they went on sale!) TORN has already posted great reports about the previous performances of this program at several other international venues, so I won’t belabor what has already been reported, but I would like to share my personal impressions.

I made the two-hour drive from Cincinnati with my sister “Michelf” in drizzly weather, to meet our Columbus-dwelling sister “Xtina” and her boyfriend. The venue for the event was the opulent Ohio Theatre, a lavish old movie palace that seems to mix the soaring grandeur of Minas Tirith with the golden trimmings of Theoden’s great hall Meduseld in Rohan. (I’ve included a few scans, but my camera was sadly inadequate to the task from our peanut gallery location!) At $15 apiece, we had the least expensive seats in the house. We were in the highest balcony, so we were glad to have binoculars on hand, but the acoustics were fantastic. Sadly, we barely made it to our seats before the program began, and so missed out on Shore’s earlier address to the audience in which he answered questions.

Having listened to all three soundtracks innumerable times, it was enjoyable to hear a fresh rendering of such familiar material. The Columbus Symphony did a great job, and it was interesting to hear some pieces played in slightly different tempos or arrangements. For me, what really made everything come together was the fantastic vocal work of the Otterbein College Camerata Choir and Concert Choir (over 100 voices), who were joined by the Columbus Children’s Choir -- New World Singers (36 young people). They did a wonderful job and contributed tremendously to an unforgettable evening. The choir was arranged behind the symphony musicians, with the children’s choir in the center, flanked on the left by the female chorus, and on the right by the male chorus. Several local soloists got to have a moment in the spotlight: a female mezzo soprano sang Gandalf’s Lament in the Lothlorien section, and a baritone handled Aragorn’s Coronation Song, both doing Columbus proud. A young man in the Children’s Choir sang the soprano parts in the Fellowship portion of the show, including “In Dreams,” though somewhat shakily, it must be said. Oh, but haven’t we been spoiled by Ben del Maestro?

For the soprano parts and featured solos in the Two Towers and Return of the King movements, Howard Shore brought out the Norwegian songbird Sissel, probably best known to stateside audiences as the ethereal vocalist on the “Titanic” soundtrack. Wearing an elegant black gown, she was as lovely to look at as to listen to, and her voice completely blew us away! She handled the Elvish vocals as effortlessly as the two English songs, “Gollum’s Song” and “Into the West.” It gives me chills as I write this just thinking back on her enchanting performance!

It was fun to pick out the unusual things, such as the man beating chains on piano wires for the Isengard selection, the wood xylophone for the Ents, the pan pipes as Faramir’s men prepare to return to Osgiliath, the cimbalon or hammered dulcimer for Gollum’s theme, and of course, the Norwegian fiddle for the Rohan selections. The music swept me away, and it was all I could do not to shout out “Forth Eorlingas!” as the horns sounded the charge! If one may be allowed a few nits in such a wonderful symphony, I dearly would have loved to hear Pippin’s Song (The Edge of Night) and the grand statement of the Minas Tirith theme that we get when Gandalf rides to the Citadel on Shadowfax. But we do get a wonderful rendition of that theme for the Lighting of the Beacons (The White Tree), and since Michelf and I agree that this is our favorite scene in the films, we’re glad we got that one, if we couldn’t have both!

The projected montage of Alan Lee’s and John Howe’s illustrations worked well for the most part. A large screen was behind and above the musicians and chorus on stage, with two smaller projections screens in box seat area on the right and left of the stage. Xtina and her boyfriend aren’t nearly as obsessed with LOTR as Michelf and I are, and they felt that the sketches really helped them to remember what was happening in the films at certain points of the music. The maps and sketches were mostly black and white, but occasionally color added an appropriate touch, such as the pan of the mountain tops tinted with a deepening red wash during the beacon fires section.

People watching was fun, with many an Elven princess gracing the gilded Ohio Theatre. Evenstar pendants and Leaf broaches abounded, and even some of the ushers could be seen sporting gold Eye of Sauron lapel pins! I even ran into some gals that I had met among the TORN contingent at The Gathering of the Fellowship in Toronto this past December! They had driven in from Akron and Michigan, and at least one was cloaked in Elven grey! I would guess there were a lot more teenagers there than one typically finds at the Columbus Symphony, and it is my sincere hope that a lot of non-symphony-goers will have enjoyed the experience so much that they will consider another visit to the Ohio Theatre. As was reported earlier this week on TORN, the Columbus Symphony has faced some hard times, and took a real leap of faith two years ago when they committed to put on this event. Happily, the result was an instant sell-out, which led them to add a second show on Saturday, marking the first time in the Symphony’s history that it had sold out two shows in a row!

When the glorious performance came to its conclusion, Howard Shore and his fellow artists were rewarded with a long and loud standing ovation. There were several curtain calls; each time, Mr. Shore graciously waved his arms toward the others on stage to indicate that the praise should go to the musicians and vocalists and not be focused on him. Oh Howard, don’t you know that we recognize that we are in the presence of a musical genius who’s legacy will live on for generations? We are not worthy!

As our little group exited the theatre, we happened to notice a gentleman who had sung in the male choir, carrying his music booklet. When I told him that I was very interested to see how the Elvish lyrics had been written out, he kindly allowed me view a few pages, and even to take a photo (attached)! He pointed out that the words were written phonetically, not as they would be spelled in Sindarin, Quenya, Rohirric, or Khuzdul. So I guess this tidbit qualifies as a TORN exclusive!


chasa writes:

I wanted to pass along a bit more information on Howard Shore's US debut of the Lord of the Rings Symphony in Columbus. I was really glad to be able to attend the Friday evening show, which was absolutely packed. A few tidbits from the Q&A: one question was about whether or not there would be a special music box set at some point and Howard said that yes, there would very likely be! As a huge LotR music geek, I was really excited to hear that. He anticipated including something like 12 hours of music (obviously much more than is on the currently released soundtracks), with a "rarities" disc that would contain music that did *not* get used on film...possibly showing the development of different thematic elements or maybe first recordings. He also mentioned a book in progress by a Chicago (?) columnist, about LotR music. I'm unclear if he was planning to make that book an inclusion in the music box set. As far as time frame goes, I believe he said a year or so from now, though that seemed a general comment.

Howard also seemed very positive about the desire to do The Hobbit if the rights issues can be hammered out.

The performance was wonderful and I would echo what Deborah said about what a lovely person Howard seems to be. I've always gotten the impression that he's fairly shy and both surprised and touched by the attention he's received as a result of being involved with the LotR movies -- that impression was reinforced by seeing him on Friday! During all of the curtain calls, he seemed much more interested in recognizing all of the other performers on stage before himself. He seemed moved by the enthusiasm with which he was received. I feel *really* lucky because I'll get to see him again when he comes to Pittsburgh at the end of July, and hopefully at that event I'll have an opportunity to say hello to him in person and thank him for the incredible contribution he made to the movies.

3-28-04 Latest News

Howard Shore Symphony and Signing in Ohio
Tookish @ 3:54 pm EST

Dear TORn staff,

After years of visiting your site daily, I am delighted to finally have a report to contribute myself. I had the pleasure of attending the U.S. premiere of Howard Shore’s LOTR symphony on March 26 in Columbus, Ohio. I also attended Mr. Shore’s autograph signing at the Virgin Megastore on March 27.

My husband and I arrived about an hour early for the symphony on Friday. We encountered no problems during our two-hour drive from Cincinnati and reached the historic Ohio Theater without incident. I stopped at the Will Call window to ask if the staff had any suggestions about where I might go if I wanted to try to get Mr. Shore’s autograph after the performance. I was advised that there are five different exits, and the staff had no idea which exit would give me the best chance of meeting Mr. Shore. Discouraged, I thanked them and was ready to enter the theater – however, at that point, another staff member informed me that Mr. Shore would be signing autographs at the Virgin Megastore on Saturday. Woo hoo! I wasn’t sure if my dear husband would be willing to drive all the way back to Columbus the next morning, but at least I still had some chance of meeting this remarkable composer.

When we arrived at our seats, we were thrilled to find Mr. Shore on stage answering some pre-submitted questions from the audience! The Q&A had just started. The questions were thoughtful, but I don’t have any new information to share. He talked about various influences on the music, working with Peter and Fran, his interest in The Hobbit, the Oscars, etc. It was terrific to actually hear him address these questions live and in person instead of reading an article or hearing a news clip.

The performance itself was wonderful. The orchestra and choral groups were not the strongest that I have ever heard, but they were definitely good. For me, the real joy was to watch Howard Shore conduct and to hear the music played live. Artwork from Alan Lee and John Howe was projected on three screens during the performance, and this added an interesting dimension to the experience. It must have been so challenging to take the full score and condense it to a two-hour symphony, but Mr. Shore did not disappoint. Shelob’s Lair was the only piece of music that I notably missed. At the end of the evening, the audience gave a well-deserved and very lengthy standing ovation to Mr. Shore and the performers. He seemed genuinely touched by all the love in the room.

My husband kindly agreed to drive back to Columbus the next day for the signing event at the Virgin Megastore. I discovered on the Virgin website that the signing would begin at 1 p.m. We arrived a bit before noon, and the line was already out the door. We were positioned in the doorway itself, which seemed like an inconvenience at first (due to all of the people coming and going) but ended up giving us a great vantage point. My husband spotted Mr. Shore’s car pull into a nearby driveway before anyone else noticed. A minute or two later, Mr. Shore strode around the corner and walked by us into the store. We were among the first to see him and applaud. Again, he seemed genuinely touched by the admiration. He had no entourage – he didn’t seem to have any minders at all. A short time later, he started the signing.

Mr. Shore was such a good sport – signing autographs, taking pictures, and shaking hands. My main goal was to thank him for his incredible score and to tell him that his music is such a gift to us. That is really all I wanted to do – more than getting an autograph, the most important thing to me was to have the opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you. I tend not to be star struck, but I found that I was getting a bit nervous as our turn approached. Fortunately, I remembered to say what I wanted to say, albeit not without a bit of embarrassment. I asked him to sign my internet-exclusive ROTK CD (the one with the Howard Shore introspective DVD). My husband asked him to sign our program from the symphony, which he personalized to me and made sure to spell my name correctly. My husband snapped a quick picture. I thanked Mr. Shore for the score, but then I forget what else I wanted to say – after having repeated it in my mind at least 100 times! I am a reasonably articulate person, so I can only attribute being tongue-tied to the fact that I was standing in front of a creative genius. On the bright side, I suppose that I now have a funny story to remember. After I thanked him, Mr. Shore asked me where in the CD packet I wanted him to sign. At the time, I did not hear him clearly. Instead of asking him to repeat the question, though, I merely smiled and said that I thought he was incredible. Oh my. Fortunately, he smiled warmly, said thank you very much, and proceeded to sign in a perfectly appropriate place. When my husband snapped our picture, I regained my composure and was able to express the rest of my gratitude.

This was such a wonderful experience. My work schedule does not permit me to travel to conventions, premieres, etc. and I have never met any of the cast or crew. For Mr. Shore to visit us in Ohio was such a treat – one that I will never forget!



3-27-04 Latest News

TORn to Retire Select Shirt Styles
MrCere @ 2:44 pm EST

In an effort to make room for new merchandise, TheOneRing.net is going to retire select styles of t-shirts currently on sale. We have a lot of cool things in the works, so next Friday is the final day that some shirts will be available.

We get a lot of E-mail asking us if older shirt styles will ever be available again and so we are warning fans now that as of next Friday, April 3, the "Evil Wizard" shirts will be taken out of circulation. Currently, these shirts are available in black and steel blue in sizes small through extra large ($20) and in double extra large ($25). This will help us make other shirt styles and merchandise available, some of which have been suggested by fans. Thanks to all who have supported TORn by purchasing and wearing our official gear. If you haven't visited our shirt shop yet, what are you waiting for? [Shop]

Hall Of Fire Chats This Weekend
Frode @ 6:09 am EST

In the last chapter we discussed from The Hobbit, Tolkien makes his
feelings concerning Goblins, and the machines and devices they are
responsible for, quite clear. In The Lord of the Rings we are treated to more of the authors dislike of machinery. Here we find the fallen wizard Saruman, who tinkers in explosive devices and has a 'mind of wheels and metal'.

How does Tolkien use the agents of evil to get across his feelings and
opinions about machinery? Is there a specific type of machinery that
Tolkien singles out? How does the One Ring relate to all of this? Come
join us in #thehalloffire as we discuss Tolkien and technology.

Upcoming topics:

Weekend 2/3 of April: Chapter 5 - Riddles in the dark

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

3-26-04 Latest News

Giant Wednesday SAVE ANGEL Rally
Xoanon @ 4:35 pm EST

Xoanon here, this may have nothing to do with LOTR, but I still feel compelled to write about it. While visiting AICN just now I found out about this large SAVE ANGEL campaign. And I know a lot of LOTR fans will be interested in this.

Joss Wheaton and the folks at Mutant Enemy are STAUNCH Tolkien fans, there have been many a reference to LOTR over the years and I know personally that James Marsters is a big fan. Why should you attend this rally if you are the area? To help fellow fanboys in need!

There is NOTHING like the power of a fanbase coming together to rally the suits, so if you can...please stop by!

Coming To Burbank!! Giant Wednesday SAVE ANGEL Rally!!
Wednesday, March 31 2004
Time: 3 pm - 7 pm PST
Location: The WB Ranch
3701 W. Oak Street
Burbank, California 91505

Hercules from AICN writes: Someone wrote in a week or two ago about spotting pro-“Angel” picketeers around the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, and I thought to myself, “Dang! I can carry a placard! Wish somebody told me about it!”

Now imagine if every “Angel” fan in Los Angeles were to converge on Burbank. I’m pretty sure they all read Ain’t It Cool. This could be our chance.


Saving Angel to hold Viewer Rally at The WB Ranch on Wednesday, March 31, 2004.

On Wednesday, March 31, 2004, dedicated viewers of The WB television program Angel will gather at the Warner Brothers production ranch in Burbank, California to show support for the series and protest its untimely cancellation.

The rally is the latest step in a campaign orchestrated by Saving Angel (www.savingangel.org and www.savingangel.com), the coalition of Angel viewers who have come together in hopes of keeping the show on the air. SavingAngel has collected over $30,000 from devotees around the world, funding an unprecedented series of measures which have garnered national media attention.

"We had hoped that we would touch a nerve in the viewing public, but never expected the response to be so huge, nor the media coverage to be so encompassing." said Lisa Rowe, SavingAngel Media Liaison. "I believe that it sends a signal to the powers that be in TV that viewers really do have a desire to watch good scripted shows, and are speaking up about it."

So far, the campaign has included thousands of postcards and emails to network and media targets on a changing schedule, full-page ads in Variety and Hollywood Reporter, and a mobile billboard driving through the streets of Los Angeles (photos attached). The campaign has emphasized its desire to see quality scripted TV programming remain on the air.

Swing the crebbil!

Tolkien/Lewis Confrence in San Diego
Xoanon @ 2:14 pm EST

Paul sends in word on the following:

C. S. Lewis Summer Conference: The Fantastic Worlds of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien
June 24–27, 2004
University of San Diego

As theatres continue to resonate with the sounds and images of The Lord of the Rings and the media begin to stir in anticipation of a December 2005 feature film release of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, come join together with seekers and Christians of many traditions to celebrate the extraordinary gifts of Inklings’ C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien while also considering the greater significance of their works for our time.

Enjoy a full program of lectures, seminars, panel discussions, dramatic and musical performances, worship, and great fellowship in the beautiful setting of this mission-style campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The University of San Diego blends graceful architecture and lovely facilities with stunning views of both ocean and bay - the perfect setting in which to engage the ideas of Lewis and Tolkien in the good company of friends old and new.

Plenary Speakers Include: Peter Kreeft, Luci Shaw, Paul Ford, Jerry Root, Joseph Pearce, Nigel Goodwin, Dick Staub, and Ben Patterson, with Actor Tony Lawton performing his celebrated one-man dramatization of The Great Divorce, plus special guests Mark Jennings, Lambs Players, and others to be announced. You won’t want to miss it! [Website]

The Rebel King
Xoanon @ 1:56 pm EST

Copyright: GQ Magazine

There's nothing conventional about Viggo Mortensen - not his quiet committed career, not the pictures he paints and definitely not the way he looks at the world. Chris Heath rides with the slightly strange star of "Hidalgo" as he deflects praise from his fans, squares off with his right-wing foes and explains his lust for the East German Swim Team.

THEY'RE ALWAYS KEEN TO TELL YOU that with great power comes great responsibility; what they never get around to mentioning is that with great success comes month after month of annoying obligations that can really mess with your head. Recently, without the solitude Viggo Mortensen values and needs, he has been struggling. "I'm forgetting things in a way that someone who's 70 or 80 would do;" he says. Finally, last week, it took its toll. Cruelly so.

Viggo, in a rush as ever, left his car on the street for five minutes. When he returned, the window was smashed. At first he thought he had been lucky. His computer was still there and so was his money and ... his rucksack was gone. He had just gathered together all the writing he had done during the past three years--maybe a dozen short stories, about seventy-five poems, many written by hand at night, when he would stay alone in his trailer in the Sahara while shooting his most recent movie, Hidalgo. All gone.
He had no copies.

Evening after evening, he searched the area, hoping he might find his discarded words. But no. He hasn't been able to sleep. Flashes of poems fly into his head, briefly remembered fragments that serve only to taunt him about what he has lost for good. "It just made me feel like, `You're not paying attention to the things that matter to you,"' he says. "It's a sign."

For a while now, Viggo Mortensen has been thinking that this is all too much. That whatever it was he wanted and whatever it was he intended, it wasn't quite this. He has been talking and promoting and talking and talking for months on end--whenever the demands of the third Lord of the Rings movie, The Return of the King, recede, those of Hidalgo step in-and he has several more months of this to go. Viggo Mortensen is solicitous and thoughtful in the days we spend in conversation, but forever looming in the background is the strain he feels he is under. One Sunday evening in January, speaking on the phone as he drives back to Los Angeles after snatching a few hours in the countryside, he cracks just a little.

"My life is completely fucked until the end of April," he despairs. "I mean, today I was out driving in the desert, and I was with a horse for a little while, and that was good. But by giving myself a couple of hours, I completely screwed myself for two days. Endless bullshit, really that's what it's become. I can't blame anyone. I'm the one who's said yes to do these fucking movies, and now I'm having to, you know, pay the price for it. I mean, if I had my druthers, I wouldn't do any movies anymore, frankly. That's the way I feel right now."

We meet, for the first time, over lunch at a Los Angeles empanada restaurant he likes. He sweeps in with style, a bundle of stuff in his arms: a scarf from San Lorenzo, the Argentinean soccer team he supports (for the restaurant owner); a pile of photography, art and poetry books (for me); a small round bowl of mati tea with an old silver-color tube through which he will drink in the traditional manner (for him); a bottle of Argentinean wine, nearly but not quite full, with a cork stuck halfway back into its mouth (for both of us). He orders a selection of empanadas and shares each one, eagerly describing its contents; Argentina plays its part in the tale he tells. The story will not remain simple, so perhaps it is best to begin it that way.

Viggo Mortensen's American mother and Danish father met while skiing in Norway, where his mother worked in the American embassy. The eldest of three brothers, Viggo was born in New York in 1958 and given his father's name. Viggo is, he says, considered in contemporary Denmark to be a slightly archaic, eccentric name for a young man. "It would be like being called Herbert," he says. "Oscar. That sort of name."

When Viggo was an infant, his father moved the family to South America. They spent a year in Venezuela but were mostly based in Argentina, where his father did various jobs, including managing a farm where crops grew and cattle grazed. That was where Viggo learned to ride. As a child, he loved comic books and was obsessed with adventure stories, tales of Vikings and explorers. If he was not going to be a soccer player, he wanted to be a gaucho. "I liked the whole cowboy thing, I suppose," he remembers. "Being self-sufficient, living off the land. You know, a knife in the back of your belt."
That is part of what appealed to him about his latest movie, Hidalgothat it is just such an adventure, the story of Frank Hopkins, an American long-distance horse racer who is invited to enter Arabia's most famous horse race on his mustang. It has many of the classic ingredients Viggo learned to love in his youth: the underdog, the person who has lost something in his past and hopes to redeem it in his future; the heroic journey through strange places, facing unexpected obstacles. The movie also allowed him to use the riding skills he learned as a child.

He rarely rode, though, after the family left Argentina. One night, when he was 10, his mother told him that she and his father were going to part. "I remember very clearly the day of leaving," he says, "and that was pretty ugly. I mean, it didn't need to be. It just was. The behavior. The words. That's unfortunate." He and his brothers landed in upstate New York in 1969, in a country still reconfiguring itself after Woodstock and the moon landing, and it was several months before he saw his father again.

Toward the end of the '80s, Viggo would marry and have a son, Henry, with X singer Exene Cervenka, whom he met when they acted together in the messy televangelist satire Salvation! Some years later, they would split, and he was very aware of the echoes of his own childhood. "It bothered me a lot," he says. "It reminded me." And he was determined that even as the marriage failed, the other things would be different. "We have a good relationship and friendship," he says. "It's good for him." Henry splits his time between his parents. "And, I mean, it's good for us as well."

Henry exists in the background of many of our phone conversations: practicing his bass guitar in the back of his father's car (he plays on Viggo and Buckethead's most recent album, Pandemoniumfromamerica), being consulted on scheduling, advising his father on how to use his cell phone. Emptying Henry's pockets to wash his clothes, Viggo is used to finding the detritus of his son's imaginings: rocks and pebbles and bottle caps. Like father, Viggo concedes. He has always collected rocks and stones. He speaks to me of that dilemma you face when you have collected thirty or forty stones in a hotel room and you have to decide which one or two are special enough to take home with you, as though it is a quandary every guest routinely faces before checkout. Only two days ago, he found a particularly interesting small rock by the road in Topanga Canyon. It is almost perfectly round, except for a single small dent. The rock now sits outside his back door, and other chosen rocks litter the house. A few more favored rocks are in the corner of the kitchen, next to where Aragorn's sword leans against the wall.

THE STORY HAS BEEN endlessly told of how Viggo Mortensen accepted the role of Aragorn after the Lord of the Rings shoot had begun and it had become clear that the original choice, Stuart Townsend, wasn't working out; how Viggo had to commit to more than a year in New Zealand without even having read the script or the book, doing so partly because of his son's enthusiasm for Tolkien. What appealed to the actor going in, as with many of his roles, including Hidalgo, was the ordeal. "Ordeal has a negative connotation, I guess," he says, "hut I think mostly it's a positive. I think of ordeal in terms of a test. The challenge of a long and difficult journey. I do think that when you go for a walk by yourself or travel, when you test yourself, all the distractions fall away. Everything gets focused. Whether ordeals are brief or long, they clarify; they purify your life."

That side of his Lord of the Rings experiencehow he thought nothing of sleeping outdoors and called for superglue rather than a dentist when he broke a tooth in a battle scenehas been well documented and perhaps, Viggo suggests, overmythologized. But he has another, very different, side. On the set, he was king not only of Gondor but also of one makeup trailer, a hive of subversive activity Viggo christened the Cuntebago. By then, in the topsy-turvy behind-the-scenes world of these movies, the word cunt had become an obsession, used so often and so inappropriately that within their circle the cast and crew believed it to be drained of all offensiveness. "Everything had cunt," he reminisces. "It was 'cunt this' and 'cunt that'. We had a cuntmas tree, and we had cuntmas angels." As the trilogy appeared, this was not the side of him the audience mostly noticed. Amid the praise his portrayal of the detached, self-possessed, darkly dreamy Aragorn has drawn, he has been pinpointed by many as an object of desire. "That passes," he says, in the most Aragorn of ways, "and they move on to another object." (But if your interest in Viggo Mortensen is purely of this kind, my apologies for all these distracting details. You may instead want to know that you can most thoroughly ogle his naked rear when he seduces plain Lane in a waterfall during A Walk on the Moon. You can best see his penis when he stands naked on a bed for quite some time in The Indian Runner. And you may go now.)

As a child, Viggo Mortensen was unusually curious about injuries. In lieu of bedtime stories, he would press his mother to describe any injuries she knew of in her family. Then, when she'd exhausted her tales of damaged kin, he'd ask her to tell him of injuries to anyone she knew. Then even of any injuries she'd merely read about. "One person in the family was swimming and accidentally got too close to the propeller of a boat," he recalls. "I always think of that."

In time he would have many of his own, for instance, he has broken both legs twice: playing soccer, skiing and in an accident at a Danish smelting plant where he once worked. But the most visible evidence of injury is the scar that runs between his nose and lip, above the left side of his mouth. He was 17 and drunk and at St. Lawrence University, and it was Halloween. "It was just one of those things," he says. "Just sort of clowning around. I grabbed somebody's deerskin rug from his house where this party was, and I think I grabbed some beer. Like, a six-pack. Maybe it was a case. It was just for a lark. And I was running through the bushes and being chased. Then I got shoved into a barbed-wire fence. Stupid, really. Nothing very spectacular or glamorous."
Once the barbed wire had done its work, there was just a film of skin holding his lip together. His friend took him to a clinic, where the doctor realized Viggo was too drunk to need an anesthetic. He was quite a sight. For Halloween he had dressed as David Bowie on the cover of Aladdin Sane, with a red-and-blue lightning bolt painted down the center of his face where the barbed wire had done its damage. "It made a fucking mess," he says. "The blood and the smeared lightning bolt."

THE EARLY DAYS OF Viggo's film career were marked by an epidemic of raised hopes and false starts. He was flown to England to screen-test on-set for the lead role of Tarzan in Greystoke, "in a loincloth, sitting up on this tree branch, pretending to be a monkey," and flew home believing that he had the part. He didn't.

He was cast, however, in Jonathan Demme's Swing Shift, playing a brash young sailor trying to pick up an emotionally fragile Goldie Hawn in a movie theater. He felt it went well, but when he saw the movie lie discovered that they had reshot the scene with Goldie Hawn in the movie theater alone.

Onward he went. In Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo, he was given the role of a young movie actor just starting out, chatting to another actor at a Hollywood party in the '30s. Woody Allen whispered some instructions to the other actor, then said, "Let's shoot it."

"Well, what am I doing?" Viggo remembers asking. "What do you want me to do?"

"Whatever you want," Allen told him. "Just react to whatever he's doing."

The other actor asked Viggo what he'd been up to recently.

"I sort of made this joke," he recalls: "'Oh, I've just been working on this movie, a big break, a Cecil B. DeMille movie,' and he asked, `What were you playing?' And I said, `Oh, this guy, he's got this beard and he's on a cross and stuff...' Some silly fucking thing where the actor's so ignorant he doesn't know it's Jesus that he was playing." (By way of clarification, I ask him: "Let's get this straight. In one of your first roles, you were cast in a Woody Allen movie, and you tried to do the jokes?" "He told me to," Viggo shrugs, laughing.)

Woody Allen seemed happy enough, so this time Viggo suggested to his family that they see the movieand their sonwhen it opened. So they did, and they reported back that the one did not include the other.

There would be further disappointments along the way. Oliver Stone cast Viggo as a sergeant in a war movie he was making. Platoon. Then the financing fell through, but Viggo knew that Oliver Stone would get the movie made in the end, and he would be as ready as an actor had ever been. For the next year, Viggo read every book on Vietnam he could lay his hands on. "I researched that part as thoroughly as I fucking could," he remembers. "Mentally and in every way. Physically."

One day he heard that the film was going into production and that Oliver Stone had recast his role, giving it to Willem Dafoe. About ten years later, Viggo met with Stone again, when the director was looking to make a movie about Manuel Noriega. "Oh, it's great to meet you," the director told him. Viggo pointed out that they had met several times before (Viggo had also auditioned for a part in Salvador, in Spanish, for Stone).
"He didn't seem to remember much of any of it at all," Viggo reflects. "Pretty shocking, because I took it pretty seriously."

Slowly, in between the letdowns and heartaches, a career took shape. From the beginning--a small part in Witness, as the brother of Kelly McGillis's Amish suitor, which offered him only modest time on camera but six weeks of freedom to cycle around Lancaster County, Pennsylvaniahe has been more interested in the experiences that a role could offer him than in the finished film.

In some of the leaner years, this may have been wise. For a while, he seemed fixed in place as the rough bad guy--the vengeful con in Renny Harlin's trashy psychodrama Prison, a jovially homicidal lunatic family member in Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and the no-good older husband in the ill-fated Molly Ringwald-Andrew McCarthy post-teen mess, Fresh Horses. (This is how long Viggo Mortensen has quietly been around: long enough not only to have threatened Molly Ringwald's '80s innocence but also to be blown to pieces on an episode of Miami Vice.)

Fresh Horses was at least where Sean Penn supposedly spotted him and cast him as the bad brother in The Indian Runner, the first film Penn wrote and directed and the first place many people noticed Viggo. Of the many movies that followed, as Viggo's star gently waxed and waned, the ones he mentions off the top of his head as sources of pride are his persistent wooer of Nicole Kidman in The Portrait of a Lady; his wheelchair-bound sniveling ex-con in Carlito's Way; his two turns in Philip Ridley's pair of haunting fables, The Reflecting Skin and The Passion of Darkly Noon; a small Spanish-speaking role in La Pistola de Mi Hermano; the breezily seductive garment seller in A Walk on the Moon; his nasty mustached Demi Moore-assaulting Marine master chief in G.I. Jane; his brief heart-chewing appearance as Satan in The Prophecy; and his most recent work. "I mean, there are aspects of Aragorn that are interesting, I suppose," he says, "and, I hope, in Hidalgo."

But he is honest about not always having been able to pick and choose. "I mean," he says frankly, "I'm someone who has done a lot of mediocre movies." For years he repeated the pattern, waiting and waiting for something special he could cherish and embrace, but then, if nothing arrived in time, accepting whatever he could get when his money ran out.

One day we are driving down the freeway together, and I am quizzing Viggo about girls. Suddenly, he asks me: "Were you someone who, as a teenager, if you liked a girl or were dating a girl, then you'd automatically think of being together, that you had those romantic ideas about?" Viggo says he did. "A lot. Almost every time."

As for the physical side of things, "H was pretty eager to try it," he recalls when pressed. "I was really young. Too young." When you first did it? "Well, sort of tried to, yeah." How young is too young?

"I don't know if I want to get into that." But prelegal?

"Oh, way prelegal, yes. Years prelegal. But it didn't amount to much."

He shares a different thought instead. "In high school, I remember thinking that the East German swimmers were quite attractive," he says. "Seriously," he says, after he sees that I seem slightly amused by this. "Not all of them. Maybe it had more to do with their advanced Lycra bathing suits. Do you remember that? I mean, it's probably just an adolescent thing for a boy with heterosexual inclinations, seeing women in bathing suits that until that time had been one way, and then all of a sudden these Germans were wearing quite sheer suits. Do you remember any of their names? I remember one." The name rolls off his tongue, echoing with half-buried memories. "Kornelia Ender," he says.
LAST YEAR a stiff disagreement blew up between the Lord of the Rings cast and the film company New Line Cinema over the issue of the actors' compensation, particularly regarding the many months of promotion the actors were expected to devote to each new film in the wake of the movies' huge success. Viggo took a primary role in banding the cast members together and spearheading their collective negotiation for an across-the-board payment, though he is reluctant to confirm or discuss his leadership role in this. "I don't know that I did," he says uneasily. "I made it easier for everybody to communicate. Sometimes it was me, sometimes it was someone else." (He characterizes the discussions as simply persuading New Line to stop dragging their heels over something they had already committed to and says that in the end "they were generous.")
Elijah Wood supplies a broader context. He describes how, in New Zealand, Viggo "became Aragorn before our eyes" and captivated them all with his approach and his manner. "It's interesting, because Viggo is such a humble individual.... We sort of viewed him as our king and as an inspiration, and I think that he certainly wouldn't see himself as that. There is a quiet leadership to him, and it's not intentional, and I think it's simply because he takes care of the people around him."

Wood points out that their negotiations were "a team effort, but certainly, it was... I won't say led by Viggo, because I think he'd hate that. He would absolutely hate that. But we looked up to him in that situation, as I think we always have." Wood points out that by banding together and demanding a group settlement, Viggo (along with Wood) was negotiating for a smaller personal settlement than they, as two of the film's main stars, could have demanded. "We definitely sacrificed," he says, "but that didn't matter, because it meant that everyone else was going to be honored in the way they deserved, and that mattered most to Vig and to everyone else."

Wood praises Viggo for quite some time, in these and other ways. Then he interrupts himself, concerned that he is not doing justice to the full complexities of his colleague's character. "We're talking about how much integrity he has and how brilliant he is," says Wood. "He's also completely insane."

In his life, Viggo looks for those moments, happened upon through ordeal or trance or accident, when "you are right where you are and there isn't a need to explain anymore-you are just there. I mean, you're never very far from it," he argues. "You can just sit and be looking at a curbstone, and all of a sudden that's the whole world. I think five minutes can be an eternity if it's well used, you know. There are periods of time that are gems, but you don't have to go into a blizzard in South Dakota or into the rain forests of New Zealand or the middle of the Sahara. You can find that just walking down the street. You can do it in a roomful of people. There are times during these press days when I'm just answering the question and I'm sitting there and I'm looking at the person ... and I see that the rug is blue or yellow. God knows what I'm saying to the person at that point, but I don't really care."

One day he suggests we go to a beautiful place he knows, Huntington Botanical Gardens, in Pasadena. He picks me up in his hybrid, clearing a scattering of CDs and a small ornamental dagger of Henry's from the passenger seat. Only later, when we park, do I notice the full-size fencing saber across the shelf by the back window.

We wander our way to the Japanese garden, where the cherry blossoms bloom, and sit on a steep grass bank. As is his wont wherever and whenever possible, Viggo wears no shoes. He spots an oval-headed balding man, with wisps of gray hair, walking with two younger women.

"Is that Arthur Miller?" he whispers. "Wait till we see his face."

We watch, and even before we see his face, we agree there is something about the way this man walks that is not the way we somehow know Arthur Miller would walk. And the women are somehow not the women Arthur Miller would walk with in a Japanese garden.
"Let's just say it was," Viggo says, and by this I don't think for a moment he is suggesting that we should conspire to lie about it. Just that, with some willpower and a creative refusal to join the dots and draw a line we will no longer be able to cross, we can delay even this small disappointment and keep alive our moment in the park with Arthur Miller a little while longer.

AT MIDNIGHT SPECIAL bookshop in Santa Monica, Viggo is the final, unadvertised attraction at a series of readings from the book Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation, a compendium of reports and photos concerning postwar Iraq, published by his own Perceval Press. H He talks briefly, littering his remarks with phrases like "Bush-Cheney junta," and then reads a poem called "Back to Babylon" that he completed in February 2003. His delivery is soft but firm and low on theatrical flourishes.
We make had ghosts, and are last to know or believe we too will fade...

When he finishes, there is applause, keen enough to show appreciation but muted enough, I think, for the audience members to prove to one another that they are more impressed by the serious business of ideas than by the silly congratulation of celebrity.
Viggo is wearing a green jacket on which he has stitched with light blue thread a vintage United Nations patch. "I just like both the words," he says to the audience, explaining this clothing choice. "United and Nations. I think they go well together. A lot better than separately." There is some laughter.

These can be harsh and judgmental times for anyone who chooses to express contrary political views, particularly if you are primarily known as an actor. (One of the many finely tuned contradictions thrown up by today's overheated celebrity culture is the way entertainers are revered beyond all sense and yet are readily assumed to combine ignorance and arrogance in monumental quantities.) As an interview subject, Viggo certainly doesn't go out of his way to impose his political opinionswe only talk about such matters when I bring them up, and he doesn't encourage me to come to this eventbut he is clearly interested. He had planned a visit to Iraq in winter 2002, to take photographs and to see for himself, but under pressures from movies and family life he ran out of time.

Earlier in the week, he was attacked on the editorial pages of USA Today by the conservative film critic Michael Medved, in an essay titled "Actors' Politics Pollute 'Ring.'" Medved argues that Viggo has been spoiling the movies' pure entertainment by using his role "to trumpet his antiwar and anti-Bush views. Taking him to task for his "pacifist preening," Medved says Viggo has turned up "for numerous interviews wearing a NO MORE BLOOD FOR OIL t-shirt" and appeared at an antiwar rally in Washington, D.C., where he "read an interminable original poem about exploding bombs, burning flesh, flattened huts and American guilt" (this is a farcically inaccurate characterization of the poem Viggo has just read).

Mortensen counters that the rally had nothing to do with his film career and that he doesn't conflate the two. Ironically, Mortensen considers the one occasion on which he deliberately did bring up current events in the context of the movieshandmaking the NO MORE BLOOD FOR OIL T-shirt with a Sharpie to wear on The Charlie Rose Show; (and his other interviews on that one day)as a response to others imposing what he considered an unacceptable political interpretation on movies he felt should he left free of such pollution. The particular instance that fired him up was a review by Time magazine film critic Richard Corliss: It is hard to miss connections with a new struggle. The Fellowship can be seen as Western democracies now besieged by the lunatic faction of Islamic fundamentalism. (Saruman, as played by the tall, lean, bearded Lee, looks eerily like Osama bin Laden.)..."So much death," King Theoden says. "What can men do against such reckless hate?" Aragorn replies, "Ride out to meet them."

Incensed, Viggo wrote to Time, taking issue with what he considered a crass and inappropriate interpretation. In his letter, which Time did not publish, he replied, in part: Your comparisons display the simplistic, xenophobic & arrogant world-view that often makes the government of the United States of America feared and mistrusted around the globe. Please consider the following from Tolkien himself: "Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house."

That was more than a year ago. Viggo is clearly a little perturbed by this recent attack, which he characterizes as both crude and shoddy. "I mean, it was very clear what lie was saying to me: `Shut up. And do what you're supposed to do. You're an actor. Act.'"
He's not too bothered, no matter how he may be branded. "I've been around a long time," he says. "I'll probably still be able to make a living if I feel like being in movies of some sort. That's not the reason to say or not say something. The reason to say something is as a human being. If I can remember it, Joyce said something about the time he was living in and the place he was living in that can certainly be applied to the time we are talking in and the place we are talking in. Something to the effect that: When a man's soul is born in this country, nets are flung at it to hold it back from flight. You speak to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets."

VIGGO MORTENSEN has a TV he watches videos on, but he watches no TV. To take a measure of his detachment from modern popular culture, I give him a brief test. He can name two Simpsons, Homer and Bart, from reading his teenage son's comics and catching the odd moment on TV at his ex-wife's house. Unprompted, he also mentions King of the Hill. But lie can name none of the characters on Friends.

"I know it's Brad Pitt's wife," he says. "What's her name?"

Jennifer Aniston.

"Yeah. I mean, I know what they look like." (He asks me whether I know their character names and seems slightly surprised, and maybe a little bit disappointed, that I do.) He has never watched an episode of The Sopranos, though he's heard it is good and thought highly of James Gandolfini when they acted together in Crimson Tide.

He last watched an Academy Awards TV broadcast in the mid-80s in New York. For a couple of years, he went to a friend's house for pizza and Oscars, but lie found that the spectacle troubled him, the wrong films being nominated and the wrong films winning in a weird business-driven popularity contest. Later, he would also learn to dislike the way the lure of such awards would affect the way some actors did their job opposite him, grabbing attention for themselves to the detriment of the scene, the story and the character.

A couple of years back, at his brother's house, lie was curious enough to watch a little of the ceremony once more, but after ten minutes he had all he could take and retired to the kitchen. "It just seemed absurd," he says.

The opportunities and rewards lie seeks lie elsewhere. And if they do not readily present themselves, he will find them, and find within them the ordeal that makes them of value to him. That is but one more of Viggo Mortensen's many diverse talents.

"However simple the task," lie says wryly, "I always turn it into an ordeal."

CHRIS HEATH is a GQ writer-at-large. This is his first piece for the magazine.

First orcs, then West Ham fans
Xoanon @ 1:30 pm EST

From the London Spy column of the Daily Telegraph

It's all go for fans of West Ham United. Last weekend they rioted during a derby match at Millwall; this Saturday, they will entertain none other than Elijah Wood.

The Lord of the Rings star has arranged to attend the Hammers' crunch match against Gillingham, to research his next film role.

Makers of the film - working title: The Yank - will also be there to video crowd scenes for their project.

"The producers are hoping Elijah doesn't get noticed, so they can just get on with shooting," says a source close to the club. "They want to get it as realistic as possible, with real fans and the real atmosphere. That's why the visit has been kept a closely guarded secret."

Details of The Yank have yet to be announced, but Spy understands that Wood plays a Harvard drop-out who gets caught up in English football hooliganism.

"It's a far cry from The Lord of the Rings, though the battle scenes
might be pretty similar," says one wag.

3-25-04 Latest News

ROTK Cut Short Several Minutes in India!
leo @ 6:08 am EST

Ringer Spy Utkarsh sends in word about a blasphemy, a cinematic disaster in Chennai, India.

I was just wondering, do people know that ROTK was cut short by (at least) 15 minutes in Chennai (Tamil Nadu, India)?

Remember the scene when the Hobbits are returning home and there is a voice-over saying something along the lines of "A year after Gandalf set us on our journey, we found ourselves back home..." right after that, almost before the sentence is completed, the scene is cut and the next thing they show is THE END. The entire farewell sequence is cut off.

A friend just told me that a lot of distributors in India do this and sometimes get away with it because people don't usually notice. I wonder if it's the same throughout the country or just in Chennai. I dont think New Line would have released it like that because it is very primitively cut; the music just suddenly stops and then changes, it's just too obvious...

Shame on you Indian distributor!

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