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August 07, 2001 - August 15, 2001

8-15-01 Latest News

There and Back Again, or, Everything You Wanted to Know About Bash, But Were Afraid to Ask
Jincey @ 10:24 pm EST

Wednesday, the 1st of August - The First Wave

After getting stuck on the Dan Ryan Expressway (ha!), getting lost, and spending a good while wandering around, trying to decide why Barnes and Noble stores appear to outnumber houses in the northern Chicago suburbs; I arrive at the Hilton, Saint in tow. We arrived just in time, in fact, to rescue Luthien from taking a grievously mis-scheduled nap!

We checked in, moved our stuff up, and I went down to the basement to meet with the event people, where I wrote checks that made me cry. I returned to my room to find that there had been some sort of coup in my absence, and jincey and Balin had made themselves quite at home. Introductions were made, jincey tried to squeeze me half to death, and we discussed the first order of business: dinner!

We settled on a place called The Ram, a brewpub that turned out to have a fantastic prime rib. We chatted for a couple of hours, and set to table with a vengeance. I devoured my prime rib, and a good portion of jincey's as well - a pleasure, as we both like our beef prepared the same way, it seems: in such a manner that a skilled veterinarian may be able to restore the cow to life.

After dinner, we returned to the hotel, splitting up for the evening. There were thoughts to think, and Saint and I were hitting Six Flags on Thursday... roller coasters 'til ya hurl!

Thursday, the 2nd of August - Everybody Get Together

The official first day of BarliBash. And it was raining. Hard. They said that the northern suburbs (where, of course, we were) got four inches of rain on Thursday morning. So, Six Flags was nixed, and we went down to breakfast.

The usual deal, breakfast...we ordered, and Luthien proceeded to eat everything that went untouched for more than thirty seconds. No idea how that young lady stays in such good shape - she eats like a linebacker, but entirely fails to look like one.

It turned out that the weather had bunged up the incoming flights - typical delays were about three hours, which put most of our folks arriving in the late afternoon. So, we went to Barnes and Noble. Yes, that's right - in the midst of one of the nation's largest, most interesting cities, we went to a bookstore. For nearly three hours. Sad, isn't it? =]

We returned to the hotel, with nobody new having arrived, and went to our rooms for a bit. Not fifteen minutes later, the deluge began. Tookish, Thorongil, and Corvar arrived practically at the same time; rapidly followed by Ringlass, Opus, Zorina, Balin, and Gamgee. So, to kill time while waiting for the reception to begin, what do you think we did? That's right...went to the bar! The rest of our crew (Arathorn, PipeSmoke, Pippin_Took, and samgamgee7) arrived while we were getting warmed up for the evening, and the gang was all there!

We made for the reception, and proceeded to spend a very brief three hours talking, laughing, and drinking Mormegil's kind, kind donation. Somewhere along the line, things got a bit out of hand, and the munchies (thoughtfully provided by Zorina) began to be hurled about the room. Let me tell you, a macadamia nut to the back of the head smarts a bit. =]

Following the reception, some of us went swimming. Some of us (myself among them, because I was exhausted) went to bed. And the rest? They huddled together in jincey's room, basking in the soft glow of an LCD screen, and dropped by Barli's!

Friday, the 3rd of August - Chicago, Chicago, That Toddlin' Town

As a result of the hotel's shuttle availability, we woke revoltingly early on Friday. A few of us went to breakfast, then we boarded the bus for the train station. Most of us were still only half-awake on the train ride into the city, and it was a fairly quiet journey. Then the skyline came into view, and the buzz started. We left the train, threaded our way through to Union Station's Grand Concourse, and out onto the street. We headed immediately for the Sears Tower, taking some pics along the way, and waited a good forty minutes in line to find out that visibility was zero, due to the morning haze. =[

Upon this disappointment, we decided to deal with our fates as only Hobbits can (yes, Hobbits...why not?) - by going to get something to eat. Nothing terribly interesting this time - McDonald's on Jackson, except for Tookish, who stopped for a bagel - but enjoyable nonetheless. After all, what's the food matter when you're in the company of magi and kings, elves of might, Hobbits and Maiar, and even a wayward dwarf or two?

During breakfast, and afterwards (and, to be honest, for some time prior), we'd been discussing what various folks wanted to do with their mornings, and whether to split off into groups. As it happened, a near-consensus was reached, and the majority of the group headed off to the Adler Planetarium, to watch jincey drink water and smirk knowingly at references to the planet Saturn.

Your intrepid chronicler, on the other hand, had already been to the Adler Planetarium this year. It had been several years, however, since I'd stared, awestruck, at Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte"; or spent a half hour trying to absorb Pollock's "Greyed Rainbow". So, I went to the Chicago Institute of Art, and did those things. I also spent some time in the Institute's drool-worthy collection of medeival armor and weaponry, and visited Picasso's "Old Guitar Player", who always looks like he could use the company.

When the Institute started getting busy, and I could no longer stare at a painting without looking at the back of five peoples' heads, I began to make my slow, meandering way back to the rendezvous site - the Sears Tower. During my trek, I stopped in and browsed a bit at Tower Records... listened (and gave) to a number of fine street musicians... almost got de-incarnated by a taxi, because I wasn't paying enough attention... and had a very pleasant snack. Then, as I was enjoying my post-snack pipe, preparing to wait the next twenty minutes or so for the group, who should come trundling towards me but Saint, Gamgee, Pippin_Took,and Arathorn.

We discussed our respective mornings (I still like mine better than theirs), sat a spell, and decided it was time to take an elevator better than a thousand feet into the air. After we ate, anyway... Sbarro beckoned! What could be better than hot, greasy food before making one's way to look at the world through a piece of plate glass nearly a quarter-mile above the concrete??

At various times surrounding our meal and ear-popping elevator ride, we ran across the rest of our party, and found ourselves standing once again on the sidewalk, in front of the Tower, again deciding what to do. The general consensus was that it was too late to head for any other attractions, so we decided to make our way back to the station, and head for the hotel.

As we walked, Luthien decided it would be amusing to accost me with her water bottle. I hear the sound of scrunching plastic, and feel water on my face, and wetting my shirt. I try to grab the water bottle, and Luth darts away. So, I did the only thing I could think of - ran up to her, grabbed her by the arm and leg, threw her over my shoulder, and continued to walk towards the train station with my burden. =] After much merriment and picture taking (if you haven't already, you should be able to find at least *one* picture of me and Luth's flailing legs), we conga-lined onto the train, and headed for the Hilton.

That train ride, on that pleasant Friday afternoon... things got very interesting! We experienced the spectacle of Luthnana - the photographs don't do it justice, and I am not going to explain the entire incident. We learned that Tookish does a great faux-French accent, and enjoys sharing bread with others. We spent twenty minutes trying to get jincey to raise her face above the level of her seatback, and stop screaming every time she saw a camera. Simply put, we had a great time - and it was just beginning.

When we got back to the hotel, we suffered a loss. Luthien, who'd arrived a day early to spend time with the rest of us who'd come early (yeah, yeah, there's no accounting for taste), was leaving us. We said our farewells, and sent her to the airport in the capable hands of Thorongil, assisted by the rather more active hands of Saint.

While Thor and Sainty were taking care of Luth, the rest of us were making dinner plans. Corvar recommended a surf'n'turf place called Bob Chinn's Crab House (the waitress t-shirts read: "I got crabs at Bob Chinn's"). We said, "Steak and seafood? Sounds like a plan!" So, we made our way up the road to the restaurant, where we ordered a pitcher or two of Mai Tais, and started browsing the extensive menu...extensive, at least, if you like steak and/or seafood. As it happens, I do. As it also happens, so does jincey. Never, *never* get between jincey and a plate of shrimp. The doctors were able to reattach Balin's finger, but they say the nerve damage may be permanent.

At one point, Corvar, Gamgee, Saint, samgamgee7 and myself left the table to enjoy some Old Toby at the bar. I was expecting crab cakes to be waiting for me upon my return, and was quite looking forward to them. When I arrived back at the table, I found the crab cakes... or what was left of them. A plate, covered by a lettuce leaf, with a few crunchy bits and smears of dipping sauce. I was floored. They ate my crab cakes! Those... those... those...* Curunir sighs. What, I decided, can ya do? I laughed, said, "Ah, well... were they good?" I was informed that they were really fantastic... and was presented with my appetizer by Tookish and his grinning co-conspirators, jincey and Thorongil. I will, someday, get them back. ;-)

We settled the rather extensive bill, waddled our bloated carcasses to the cars, and drove back to the base. Within a half hour, most of us had gathered in the bar, to have another drink and talk long into the night. By one in the morning, we were down to a bare handful - myself, Saint, Wesley (who had mystically appeared shortly before dinner), Gamgee, Thorongil and Corvar. We discussed film, we discussed the mechanical quirks of VCRs, and we laughed. A lot. It was a good end to a good day, surrounded by good people.

Saturday, the 4th of August - Every Which Way

We were in no rush - it had been a late night, and there was nothing particularly urgent to attend to. By the time those of us who were staying behind woke up, the GenCon-ers were already long gone. Staying in the hotel for eight hours didn't seem terribly appealing, so Arathorn, Gamgee, Opus, Pippin_Took, Saint, and myself piled into the cars, drove to the train station, and went back downtown!

First stop: the Rock'n'Roll McDonalds. Double quarter pounder with cheese, while listening to Buddy Holly on the radio and staring at rock memorabilia that's probably worth more than the property!

Second stop: Virgin Records. I spent all of ten minutes browsing in the music section... I was caught up in the books. They had the best selection of comics and graphic novels I'd ever seen in one place - not to mention a section on movies and television that was very impressive. After wandering around there for an hour and a half, we started off towards our final destination.

We walked along Chicago's "Magnificent Mile", looking at the buildings, the Public Art that is so wonderfully common there. We listened to the music (Pippin_Took got yelled at for trying to take a picture of a street musician without making a donation) that seems to be everywhere there are people. Finally, we approached our destination - Gamgee took a picture of the sign, which declared that we were about to enter...

Third stop: FAO Schwarz, the world's coolest toy store. Level one: stuffed animals big as your *car*. Level two: toys for small children. Level three: JACKPOT! Legos! Lincoln Logs! Star Wars and X-Men and GI Joe! Some sort of mirror that Saint managed to try to stick his head through on the escalator! This is a *great* level!

We wander around, playing with the display toys, drooling on the AT AT and Snowspeeder that fill the area from floor to ceiling near the Star Wars toys, and wish we had Bill Gates' bank account info.

We left reluctantly, and hailed cabs back to Union Station. We had time to kill, as usual, so we sat and chatted for a while. We boarded the train, and chatted some more, and then I hit my head on the upper deck... for the second time that day. Such moments may not seem terribly interesting to those of y'all who weren't there - but it was those moments that made the Bash truly enjoyable. The things we did were a lot of fun, but none of it would have mattered, if not for the people.

We got back to the hotel in time to get cleaned up and ready for the banquet. The bar was ready, the food smelled wonderful... there was a piano in the corner, for Arathorn and Opus. And best of all, the room was full of friends. We talked, and ate, and talked, and laughed. We listened to Ara and Opus play Chopin, Bach, Ravel, and Burt Bacharach. We drank a series of toasts with homemade mead, generously provided by Wesley - to absent friends, to those who work so hard to make Barliman's such a great place, to the Professor. The group even gifted their unworthy organizers with beautiful volumes of the Professor's work - a gesture that was very much appreciated, though the friendship I gained is more thanks than I ever could have expected. The sense of community was palpable, and wonderful.

It only got better from there. We adjourned to jincey's hotel room, where we sat and talked more. We passed around our favorite editions of the books to be signed by one another - we got to sign a book that had been signed by Elijah Wood, even! From jincey's room, we moved to Tookish and Gamgee's, where we played late into the night. As Arathorn said in a channel topic, "We had glooooowsticks..." And did we ever! Cervante, another unexpected (but very welcome) guest, brought us piles of the things. We turned off all the lights, and waved them in the windows, making other hotel guests nervous. Tookish wedged two green glowsticks into his eyes and did a dancing high-step around the room, doing a hysterical Gollum impression - you had to be there, I suppose. =]

We stayed up, talking and playing and joking, being utterly slayed by Gamgee and Thorongil (two of the funniest people I have *ever* had the privilege to meet), discussing strange offshoots of Tolkien - Gollum at Christmas and "fell meats" come immediately to mind - until we couldn't keep our eyes open any longer. We finally started heading to our respective rooms around four AM, and tried to get some sleep to prepare us for the task to come.

Sunday, the 5th of August - The Road Goes Ever On and On

"There's not a word yet, for old friends who just met." - Gonzo, "The Muppet Movie"

We awoke, checked out, and headed to Denny's. Who wants to travel on an empty stomach? A few of us had left already, but Arathorn, Balin, Gamgee, jincey, Opus, PipeSmoke, Saint, samgamgee7, Tookish and myself were still present. We had a leisurely breakfast, underscored by quiet conversation.

We gathered in the parking lot to say our farewells - a profusion of hugs and handshakes were given; open invitations ("If you're ever in <Your City Here>, you have a place to stay!") were offered, and goodbyes were said. Then, a la ninety percent of the people leaving the chatroom, the group moved about fifteen feet towards the cars, halted, and began to talk again. Finally, after another ten or fifteen minutes, we succeeded in saying "Namarie, mellon!", and began to make our respective ways home.

In five years, I'll remember this particular trip to Chicago not because of what I did - I'm a comparative local, and have seen it all before. I'll remember this trip to Chicago, as we all will, because of the wonderful people we met; because of the wonderful friendships we found.

Barliman's is a family - no doubt in my mind about it. We came to Chicago hopeful and expectant, thinking to meet new people and make new friends. We left as brothers and sisters, a surrogate family forged in the fires of LotR.

In another year or so, we'll do it again - and we hope you'll be there. Our family has room to grow - there is always a place for one more in the Pony. Won't you join us?


Ted Nasmith Exhibit ala Chalk Farms Gallery
Tookish @ 9:42 pm EST

Chalk Farm Gallery presents "The Tolkien Art of Ted Nasmith"

an exhibition of original paintings by Ted Nasmith

20th September to 28th October

Chalk Farm Gallery is pleased to announce it's 4th exhibition of world-renowned Tolkien artist, Canadian born Ted Nasmith. The exhibition opens on the 20th September with the private view . Ted Nasmith will be here in the UK for the exhibition, at the opening he will be teaming up with musician Casper Reiff from the Tolkien ensemble to present a selection of songs inspired by the author. The show continues until the 28th October 2001 and if his previous exhibitions are anything to go by, we are expecting a sell out show.

Ted Nasmith has worked on many Tolkien publications including “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and has had full calendars of his art commissioned by Harper Collins. The 2002 Tolkien calendar “The Fellowship of the Ring” is out now, and these original paintings will form part of his exhibition. He is currently working on the 2003 “The Two Towers” and the 2004 “The Return of the King”. Ted was the sole illustrator of the recently released “The Silmarillion”, and perhaps his greatest accolade was the approval given to his work by Tolkien himself before his death.

We would like to invite you to attend the private view...

Kind Regards

Paul McGuinness

8-13-01 Latest News

Media Watch: Dreamwatch Magazine
Xoanon @ 1:48 pm EST

Ringer Spy CDIC sends along a great Liv Tyler (Arwen) article from 'Dreamwatch Magzine'. Take a look!

8-12-01 Latest News

Weekly Cast Watch
Xoanon @ 11:04 pm EST

Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn)

28 Days (2000)
Walk on the Moon, A (1999) UK
Thin Red Line, The (1998) UK
Psycho (1998) UK
Daylight (1996) UK
Prophecy, The (1995)
American Yakuza (1994)
Carlito's Way (1993) UK
Young Americans, The (1993)
Indian Runner, The (1991)
Young Guns II (1990)
Fresh Horses (1988) UK
Witness (1985)

Liv Tyler (Arwen)

Plunkett & Macleane (1999)
Cookie's Fortune (1999) UK
Onegin (1999) UK
Can't Hardly Wait (1998) UK
U Turn (1997) UK
Stealing Beauty (1996) UK

Ian Holm (Bilbo)

Joe Gould's Secret (2000)
Last of the Blonde Bombshells, The (2000) (TV)
eXistenZ (1999)
Life Less Ordinary, A (1997) UK
Night Falls on Manhattan (1997) UK
Dance with a Stranger (1985)
Brazil (1985) UK
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Young Winston (1972) UK
Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) UK
Fixer, The (1968) UK

Sean Bean (Boromir)

Stormy Monday (1988)

Martyn Sanderson (Bree Gatekeeper)

Ned Kelly (1970)

Hugo Weaving (Elrond)

Matrix, The (1999) UK
Interview, The (1998)
Babe (1995) UK
Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The (1994) UK

Miranda Otto (Eowyn)

What Lies Beneath (2000)
Jack Bull, The (1999) (TV) UK
Thin Red Line, The (1998) UK
Emma's War (1986)

David Wenham (Faramir)

Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999)
Dark City (1998)

Elijah Wood (Frodo)

Faculty, The (1998) UK
Good Son, The (1993)
Forever Young (1992) UK
Paradise (1991)
Avalon (1990) UK
Internal Affairs (1990) UK

Bruce Hopkins (Gamling)

Lawless (1999) (TV)

Cate Blanchett (Galadriel)

Pushing Tin (1999) UK
Ideal Husband, An (1999) UK
Talented Mr. Ripley, The (1999) UK

Ian McKellen (Gandalf)

X-Men (2000) UK
Apt Pupil (1998) UK
Bent (1997)
Restoration (1995)
Shadow, The (1994) UK
And the Band Played On (1993) (TV)
Ballad of Little Jo, The (1993) UK
Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
Alfred the Great (1969) UK

John Rhys-Davies (Gimli)

Secret of the Andes (1998) UK
Cyborg Cop (1994)
Tusks (1990)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Murdered Madam (1987) (TV)
Firewalker (1986) UK
King Solomon's Mines (1985)

Andy Serkis (Gollum)

Topsy-Turvy (1999)
Among Giants (1998) UK

Harry Sinclair (Isildur)

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Bruce Spence (Mouth of Sauron)

Dark City (1998)
Sweet Talker (1991)
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

Sean Astin (Sam)

Icebreaker (1999)
Kimberly (1999)
Dish Dogs (1998)
Encino Man (1992) UK
Where the Day Takes You (1992) UK
Toy Soldiers (1991) UK
War of the Roses, The (1989) UK
White Water Summer (1987) UK
Goonies, The (1985)

Christopher Lee (Saruman)

Sleepy Hollow (1999) UK
Tale of the Mummy (1998) UK
Jinnah (1998) UK
Death Train (1993) (TV) UK
Safari 3000 (1982)
Arabian Adventure (1979)
1941 (1979) UK
Return from Witch Mountain (1978) UK
Three Musketeers, The (1973) UK
Creeping Flesh, The (1973)
One More Time (1970)
Vengeance of Fu Manchu, The (1967) UK
Psycho-Circus (1966)
Brides of Fu Manchu, The (1966) UK
Face of Fu Manchu, The (1965) UK
City of the Dead, The (1960)
Tempi duri per i vampiri (1959)
Crimson Pirate, The (1952)
Scott of the Antarctic (1948)

Bian Sergent (Ted Sandyman)

Meet the Feebles (1989)

Bernard Hill (Theoden)

True Crime (1999) UK
Loss of Sexual Innocence, The (1999) UK
Midsummer Night's Dream, A (1999) UK
Wind in the Willows, The (1996/I) UK

Brad Dourif (Wormtongue)

Shadow Hours (2000)
Storytellers, The (1999) UK
Bride of Chucky (1998) UK
Urban Legend (1998) UK
Murder in the First (1995)
Trauma (1993)
Body Parts (1991)
Cerro Torre: Schrei aus Stein (1991)
Hidden Agenda (1990)
Mississippi Burning (1988)
Dune (1984) UK

Jim Rygiel (SFX)

Anna and the King (1999)
Last of the Mohicans, The (1992)
Alien³ (1992)
Batman Returns (1992)
2010 (1984)

Howard Shore (Composer)

High Fidelity (2000)
Dogma (1999)
Analyze This (1999)
eXistenZ (1999)
Striptease (1996)
Moonlight and Valentino (1995)
Se7en (1995)
Guilty as Sin (1993)
Prelude to a Kiss (1992)
Single White Female (1992)
She-Devil (1989)
Big (1988)
Fly, The (1986)
Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)
Places in the Heart (1984)
Videodrome (1983)

Peter Jackson (Director)

Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Meet the Feebles (1989)

To get more information, use the sites I use like:

mydigiguide.com, tv-now.com and IMDB.com

Observing Tolkien Fandom: "Wired" magazine and "Legacy of LOTR" documentary.
Tehanu @ 4:56 am EST

Geeks or not, the media are finding Tolkien fans worth documenting, and the amount of interest in this year's Mythcon was proof of that. Smart people's magazine 'Wired' sent a photographer to catch Tolkien fans doing weird and wacky things, which they didn't whenever there was a camera around. I talked to the people at 'Wired' when I arrived in San Francisco and got the impression that they were doing a lot of work to produce a well-researched article on Tolkien fandom. Look out for it one of their next issues.

Another person doing a more elaborate project on Tolkien fans is Dan Timmons, who filmed a lot of footage at Mythcon. He's making a documentary on Tolkien and Tolkien fans called "The Legacy of the Lord of the Rings," using original music, narration, selected readings, illustrations, visual images of the author's Oxford home, university, and surrounding landscape, and interviews with the world's foremost Tolkien scholars and experts - some of whom were at MythCon.

Timmons has scored interviews with world-renowned Tolkien scholars like Tom Shippey and Joseph Pearce, who talk about Tolkien's life and career in the first part of the documentary. The second part seeks to "demonstrate the greatness of LOTR through a discussion of the key motifs and themes, such as the mythic quest, conflict between good and evil, and the religious aura." Here he calls on writers such as Peter S. Beagle, Joseph Sawyer, Patrick Curry and LOTR screenplay writer Phillipa Boyens.

The third part will look at the contrasting attitudes of the literary elitists who dislike Tolkien's work, and the Tolkien fans. Quickbeam and I were interviewed for that section while we were at Mythcon, so we're interested to follow the project and see how it all turns out.

The documentary is still in progress, and Dan mentioned that he would welcome input from Tolkien fans, so if you have any ideas for him, email him on dan.timmons@utoronto.ca

8-11-01 Latest News

Media Watch: Premiere Magazine
Xoanon @ 1:08 pm EST

Thanks to Ringer Spy LC we've got the scans from the latest Premiere Magazine. Check it out for a great look into the character of our Elijah Wood (Frodo).

Thanks to Jen for the transcript!

It feels like this road could go on end- lessly,' Elijah Wood says, spinning around and then walking on the flat, cracked earth of a dry lake bed in California's Mojave desert. 'You are chasing some- thing that you are not actually reaching.' We are staring at a mirage, walking toward it as it recedes in the dry heat. Water appears to surround us, reflecting the sage bush and rocks that create a perimeter around this remote, ancient spot a merely two-hour drive from Wood's home in Santa Monica. 'Now this is spiritual!' he says. 'I'll have to make pilgrimages out here.' In the distance, a brushfire rages, casting a smoke plume high into the cloudless sky, but Wood focuses on the dusty earth below us, and he flops down on his stomach. 'Ahhh, the ground is amazing.' he says. 'What would be incredible would be to camp out here. Can you imagine seeing the stars?' He sits up and peers around, looking again at the mirage. 'This is so cool,' he exclaims, 'You can go anywhere.'

There was little surprise when, on July 8, 1999, New Line announced that Elijah Wood had been cast as Frodo Baggins, the lead character of J.R.R. Tolkien's legendary fantasy 'the Lord of the Rings'. Sure, there had been talk about finding an unknown to be the chosen one, but Wood was clearly perfect: At five-foot-six, with other worldly, wide set blue eyes and elfin features, as well as a reputation for being one of Young Hollywood's most talented and diligent actors, he was ideal to play the diminutive, hill-dwelling Hobbit. 'Elijah instinctively understands how to act for the screen. And he has awesome craft and technical ability,' say Rings director, New Zealander Peter Jackson. 'It's quite humbling to see so much talent in someone so young.'

Joining Wood is a dream cast: Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf, Ian Holm as Bilbo Ballings, Cate Blanchett as the elf queen Arwen. 'It was amazing to be welcomed into a journey that I knew would not only be a journey as an actor but as person as well,' Wood says.' (...) And now, finally, after Ralph Bakshi's animated film in the 1970's achieved mixed results, Tolkien's devoted fans are going to see 'the Lord of the Rings' splashed on the big screen. It begins with 'the Fellowship of the Ring' in December and will be followed by, in consecutive years, 'the Two Towers' and 'the Return of the King'. And Wood will be it's poster child. 'I was jazzed beyond belief,' says Harry Knowels, who runs the powerful Ain't-it-cool-news website, of Wood's casting.

'I think that it's something that you really can't prepare for,' the 20 year old Wood says of the mounting anticipation. 'But as it approaches, it gets scarier.' He has much to fear: Tolkien addicts across the world have been clicking on the official website (a staggering 400 million hits so far) and arguing and critiquing the smallest Rings minutiae. How will they respond, for instance, to news that Wood hasn't read all of 'the Lord of the Rings'? After trying to explain that the books 'became a massive part of my live' just through being on the set, Wood bows his head knowingly (for the record: He did read 'the Hobbit' when he was nine) at the potential Internet avalanche that awaits him. 'I will be crucified,' he sighs.

We see a small compound of vehicles in the middle of the mirage. 'What are these people about?' Wood asks, as we drive up to what appears to be a camper, a few cars... a dolly track. 'Yep, it's a production,' he says, not surprised that even out here in the middle of nowhere, a film crew is at work. A tall blond woman wearing a headset and a deep frown walks over and tells us that they're shooting a Harley Davidson commercial, and ads, 'could you please drive away very slowly so that you don't kick up any more dust? We would really appreciate it.' She punctuates her condescension with a dismissive wave. We drive. 'Not cool man,' Wood says, shaking his head. 'Sure, you have a set, which you need control of but...' he kicks his Adidas sneakers up on the dashboard. 'You can be reasonable, not be a dick. C'mon, guys, this is supposes to be fun.'

Wood has spent half his life romping around on movie sets. But, as a former child actor, he is a rarity: because he doesn't go for a party hopping lifestyle and he tends towards a smart ensemble movies instead of star vehicles, he has truly grown up for us on the screen - as opposed to in the tabloids.

Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Wood was enrolled in modeling school at the age seven by his mother. When the school took him to a convention in Los Angeles, he was quickly signed by a manager. 'He asked me, 'Do you want to act?' Wood remembers. 'At that age, you don't have any fears,' he says. Everything was fun. I was in L.A, seeing palm trees for the first time. It was a fantasy.'

The family - Elijah, his older broher, Zach, his younger sister, Hannah; and their mother, Debbie, moved to L.A. a week later. It was a rather abrupt departure, one which Wood only half explains. 'She wanted dot move fromIowa,' he says. 'She was ready to move. My dead stayed in Iowa to secure everything. Then it sort of happened.'

And it happened quickly. Parts in TV commercials and a Paula Abdul video (directed by David 'Fight Club' Fincher, no less) were followed by costarring roles in Barry Levinson's Avalon; Forever Young, opposite Mel Gibson; and 1993's The Good Son, in which Wood was partnered with Macauly Culkin.

'He was a good kid,' says Wood, who is glad he didn't receive the same instant celebrity that Culkin garnered. 'Child acting is a cutthroat world, which is pretty frightening and really silly in retrospect. But it's the parents who are evil,' he says. Woods credits his family - namely his mother, who, along with his sister, would come on sets with him - for keeping him straight. 'It's a really difficult world to live in of you don't have a strong sense of yourself. My mom wanted me to maintain a reasonable degree of normalcy and to enjoy my childhood.'Family is so important,' he ads. " I rarely meet families who are as close as we are. I feel really blessed.'

The closeness appears to have come at some cost: Wood doesn't mention his father. "It's just not really relevant,' he finally says, after allowing a long pause to linger. 'I was raised by my mom. [moving to L.A.] was a decision that my mom made. It wasn't negative at all: The kids were all cool with it. It was just one of those cases of not having any emotional connection to my dad, so it wasn't a problem.' Wood last saw his father, who is now separated from his mother, five years ago. 'I'm sure there will be issues at some point, [like] wheter or not I will want to contact him. Bit at the moment, there is nothing,' he says. My mother so overcompensated for the loss of a father.'

Central to his mother's teachings, Elijah says, has been the importance of separating himself from the corruption of the movie industry. 'The Hollywood scene is a lot of posturing. It is not in any direct relation to acting,' he says. 'It's important that I stay away from the bullshit and all that attention. Young Hollywood is in constant rotation. I simply want to carry on doing what I am doing for as long as I can, and I don't want to take advantage of a specific moment and burn out really quickly. Believe me,' Wood says, 'The world does not revolve around movies. Mine certainly doesn't.

Which is not to imply that Wood does not loves movies. In fact he is, in the words of his friend Knowels, a 'good geek' meaning he's a fan. He applauds Ang Lee's success with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ('That's the kind of movie that should be making massive money - not [that] fucking Pearl Harbor piece of shit"); bemoans mainstream Hollywood products ('Where did all the good movies gone?); and champions smart films like this years Memento and 1998's Rushmore ('A perfect movie').

'I love film,' Wood says. 'I love watching movies and I love everything it takes to make a movie. I am fascinated by the process on every end, from the technician on set to the sound recording to the cinematographer. And I love acting, putting myself into different people who can learn not only about themselves but about life.'

Wood's education - when he wasn't being taught by a tutor - has clearly come through what he experienced on sets. It's something Knowels learned while razzin him for taking the lead in 1996's Flipper. 'I said why'd you do Flipper? The script was terrible,' Knowels recounts. 'And he said, 'but you have to understand: I was going to get to spend three months swimming with dolphins. 'That's the reason he took the role - he wanted to spend time with a dolphin.'

And as Wood got Older, he delivered nuanced, understated performances - usually centered somewhere within his inscrutable, serious eyes - in films that became more diverse, including Ang Lee's solemn 'The Ice Storm', the end-of-the-world drama 'Deep Impact', the horror flick 'The Faculty' and the in-your-face-relations ensemble 'Black and White'.

'What was bold,' says director James Toback of Wood's involvement in his film 'Black and White' was to take a shot at something that, in a way, violated all of his previous experiences as an actor.' But Wood gamely threw himself in with Toback's cast, which included bijou Philips, Robert Downey JR, Gaby Hoffman and Mike Tyson..

'Elijah was experientially the most wide-eyed,' Toback says. "He stood out as the who had explored the issues [sex, deceit, interracial dating] of the film the least, but in terms of acting he had already gained a lot more in a sense of accomplishment.' The director believes that Wood's inexperience was what drew him to this project. 'I think it was to be able to explore that world in this half-direct way,' he says.

And for his next tutorial, he chose (after signing to do the yet-to-be-seen Chain of Fools) his own version of a year studying abroad in New Zealand.

'[I was] living there with the same people for the same reasons,' says Wood, who, for the second time was on a set without his mother. 'So many different people, different artists. It was a learning experience.

A few miles down the road from the dry lake. Wood bolts out of a bathroom door, kicking up dust. ' Someone's definitely been in there,' he says. 'You know,' he says sucking up air 'When you smell something, you're actually eating molecules with your nose.' Hmmm, Sounds familiar. Isn't that a line of his from the Ice Storm? Wood smiles - and then, 'yeah, well, but it's also true.'

About five months into production on 'Lord of the Rings', Wood and fellow actors Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd and Orlando Bloom took a week's vacation and went together to nearby Australia, to visit another massive fantasy-film set. Episode II of the Star Wars series. They hung out with Hayden Christensen (the new Anakin) Natalie Portman, and other Episode II stars, and swapped set stories. And though Wood says the gathering was amicable, he sensed an underlying tension between the two parties. 'We felt like the rogue crew. There was a weird sense that with the two trilogies, there was this odd, undercurrent rivalry,' he says. 'They all thought that we were quite strange, because we referred to each other has the hobbits. They had a few laughs at our expense.

'Within the First month, we were those characters,' Wood explains. 'We were always together. We were on set together, we went out for meals together, we loved being around each other.' Many of the actors, including their elder statesman, Ian McKellen, immortalized that closeness with fellowship tattoos. That sort of passion ran throughout the production. (...) Everything was open to everyone,' says Wood, who often visited the workshops. 'Everyone was a part of the whole process.' With more than 300 crew and dozens of cast members, not to mention some 20,000 extras, Wellington became its own loving, rogue fraternity. 'Pete said, 'Why would I leave the Shire to go to Mordor?' in reference to Hollywood.' Wood recalls.

'He created a filmmaking world around him that is absolutely ideal. And that's something that the Shire is a perfect world, untouched by the evils of the outside world.'

And if New Zealand is the Shire than surely is lord of the Hobbits. The amiable director, who favors padding around in bare feet, inspires both respect and affection from Wood. 'I have such a love for that guy, Such a gentle, kind person. Quiet but really enthusiastic,' says Wood, who, with his fellow actors, gave Jackson a scale model of the director as a hobbit, complete with pointy ears and hairy feet, after the film wrapped. 'Pete was a total child. He was like a kid in a candy store. He would visually create a moment, and he got so excited about it.' (...) 'It was like magic,' Wood says. 'The thing is, with this movie, we were making magic. We were making these things come alive.'

Wood's director gives him his share of the credit. 'Elijah would find levels in a story that I didn't think possible,' Jackson says, recalling the first moments he knew that Wood really 'got' Frodo. It was a few days into the shoot, when the hobbits arrive at the town of Bree, which is populated by big people. He is four foot tall, in a scary, creepy inn, and he shows a mixture of intimidation and courage, that somehow captured the essence of being a Hobbit on this frightening adventure. From that point, we all knew the film we were making.'

Not that everyone just skipped through the Shire on a pipe weed buzz all day. Jackson's attention to detail made for a very meticulous filmmaking process, whether it involved making sure that the costumes were right or maintaining the appropriate character sizes. Wood usually began his day at 5:30 in the morning, when he had to stand for an hour and half while getting his prosthetic Hobbit feet applied. (He would pass time with reading such books as I am Legend, American Psycho, and High Fidelity). But I his greatest torment came when he was called to work in front of the blue screen. 'That got quite maddening toward the end,' he says. 'When you're looking at the call sheet for the next day and you're like. 'Aw, fuck! Half the day in blue screen.'

But despite Wood's occasional frustration, he was no whiner.' After six months, I didn't think we'd make it,' says Sean Astin, who, like his peers found courage in Wood's example. 'Elijah had such ease. He just threw himself into it with reckless abandon; he gave himself over to the experience. I was like, 'Aren't you tired? Don't you want to go home?' You know, he'd say, 'No, I'm having a great time.' In fact, Wood was savoring the creative benefits of the long shoot. 'We were able to live out our characters' experiences is somewhat real time, because the book takes place over about a year,' he says'.

(...) Wood eagerly bites into a steak, just as five teenage girls (...) approach him at La Salsa, a fast-food Mexican icon joint in Santa Monica. Wood's eyes widen. 'Helloooo,' he chimes happily. One of the girls thrusts a video camera at him. 'Would you mind saying something for the camera?' she asks? Her friends twitter. Wood faces the camera, closes his eyes for a moment, and then says, 'Here is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility is being superior to your former self. The girls stop giggling. They thank him and leave the restaurant while Wood repeats the line, which he picked up off a Radiohead Website. 'Don't you think that is true?' he asks, not noticing the girls now standing outside the windows and quickly descending upon another cute guy. 'So much time is wasted in trying to be better than others.'

After the Lord of the Rings, wrapped, on December 22, 2000, Wood arrived in time for Christmas. When he got home, he found himself without many friends to call - a result of an actor's transitory life, which often means best friends that last a production cycle, but also a product of Wood's adamant separation from Hollywood. 'I have a number of so-called celebrities' phone numbers,' Wood says referring to such former costars as Brook Shields and Salma Hayek. 'But I don't feel comfortable calling them.' He used to have Seth Green's number, but the listing changed.

And yet the friendships he made on Lord of the Rings - especially with his fellow Hobbits, Astin, Boyd, and Monaghan - will be different. 'I'll be always close with those guys,' Wood says. 'They are like brothers.'

Wood is between projects now. If he weren't entertaining a journalist, 'I'd be cleaning my room,' he says of his studio apartment (which he fixed up with some of his Rings salary), which adjoins his mother's house in L.A.

'I'd wake up late, have a cup of coffee, smoke a cigarette,' he says, the latter being of the Indonesian clove variety something he'd picked up from Josh Hartnett on the set of 'the Faculty'. 'I'm not doing much these days... Maybe I'd see a movie.

He's already acted in one film, Ash Wednesday, an indie directed by and costarring Edward Burns, which was shot over 20 days in January (a walk in the Shire, compared to the 274 day Rings marathon). With reshoots still to be done for Rings, Wood says that Frodo remains under his skin. 'Hobbits, basically, besides there size, are just kind of pure, in love with life, in love with friends and friendship, good food, and great conversation,' he says. 'It's al of the wonderful things about life. And I feel like I was a child of like that before I played I played Frodo, but I think I'm probably more like that now.'

So between CD shopping and checking out concept cars on the Internet, he reads the two or three scripts that his agent sends him every couple of weeks. 'I want to do something that is completely different from anything I've done, he says, mentioning the possibility of a Ted Demme movie. He also wants to play older: 'something more mature, more character, more obscure - not your run-of-the-mill person. Something that's a challenge to me and allows me to grow.'

Does that preclude returning to the Shire for a prequel? 'I actually mentioned that to Pete early on. I said, 'What about makeing 'the Hobbit'?' wood recalls. 'He didn't know of 'the Hobbit' would actually lend itself for a film,' cause it's just adventure after adventure. It's not as heavy or as extreme as 'Lord of the Rings'.'

'I'd love to work with Pete, but I wouldn't want to play Frodo,' he says, without hesitation. 'The thing is, we did three movies of probably the greatest fantasy novel, arguably the greatest novel of all time. We jumped into the fantasy realm and treated it like reality. I think this is for fantasy, - for all of us.'

8-10-01 Latest News

Media Watch: Glamour Magazine
Xoanon @ 10:23 am EST

Next Big Thing

Hip, hot Brit acting talent Orlando Bloom landed a mega-role straight out of college. Watch him go….

The tanned 24-year-old with cheekbones like wing mirrors has spent so little time in London lately he's sold his flat.

Straight out of drama school, the Canterbury lad landed a role in Lord of the Rings with Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett. Donning Spock-like eras and a flowing blonde wig, he spent 18 months in New Zealand filming as Legolas Greenleaf a 2,931-year-old Elf. "I wanted him to be substantial, a red-blooded fighting machine," he says. So he spent hours practicing archery, bareback riding and fighting with knives.

His route to stardom included taking bit parts in Casualty and Wilde, but he credits his career to Superman: "Aged nine, I had this girl friend, and we used to have running races in the park to see who would be her boyfriend for the day. I wanted to be like Superman and fly in and rescue her. Once I realised Superman was an actor, I though, 'That's for me, mate.'" He Grins. "I got into acting for the women."

After Lord of the Rings, he's in Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, with Josh Hartnett and Ewan McGregor, which he spent months filming in the scorching Moroccan desert.

So does the jet-set Orlando date? "If I'm dating anything it's my work at the moment," he says. "But out of the blue I did send a plane ticket to a girl (sorry Lindsay :) -Xo) asking her to visit. I guess that's quite romantic." So if you do bump into Orlando, remember to keep your passport handy.

Thanks to thewhiteladyofrohan for the tip!

8-09-01 Latest News

GenCon in Three Hours
Tookish @ 1:03 pm EST

This past weekend a number of Barliman chat room regulars hooked up for some zaniness in Chicago. It was a great event! One of the things some of us did was jaunt over to GenCon, America's annual gamefest.

My first impression was that GenCon was sort of like a smaller ComicCon, without the comics industry. Then I found the football-field sized gaming hall, packed wall to wall with die-hard gamers. They looked like they were having some serious fun!

GenCon is all about adventure/fantasy gaming, and the place oozed this kind of action. Once again, you could see that the Lord of the Rings movies are moving into position for a kill on the marketplace. There must have at least four seperate booths featuring or containing LotR film product or information, including Games Workshop, Decipher, Fantasy Flight Games, and Inquest Gamer magazine (best link I could find for Inquest).

Part of our crew went to the Games Workshop distributors meeting and were quite wowed by what they heard and saw. Hopefully one of them will send us a report on that soon! We filmed their LotR miniatures in action with a scenario laid out on a patch of ground dominated by a Nazgul and expect to air this soon.

I made PipeSmoke run around with me, and we hit the floor looking for LotR. Video cam in tow, we shot some footage of the Games Workshop miniatures, and an interview with Decipher creators and an editor at Inquest. Hopefully those will be public at the second TORN Digital release.

It looks like Decipher has put together a roll-playing scenario for beginners to the gaming world; at GenCon they used some of Game Workshops' miniatures to flesh out the scenario... very cool! More info to come on this soon. On another front, Inquest Gamer magazine will be doing a countdown to LotR, and we'll have more on that later, too.

One of the Convention highlights again was Decipher. They had their LotR display running and it was getting a LOT of attention. But better than this were the promotional large-sized LotR Trading Card Game samples they were handing out.

If you want some of this great Con action, don't miss DragonCon on Labor Day Weekend in Atlanta. Wish I was going!!

Philippa Boyens Interview Part Two
Xoanon @ 12:50 am EST

Phillippa Boyens interver Part II

Be sure to catch Part I here.

Di: [The question was missed while I changed tapes.]

PB: I think, as I said before, the advanced[?] story is pretty clear. One of the things I did deliberately was not reread. I'd already read it several times, and I deliberately did not reread it when it came to the writing process because I wanted what I remembered to stand out. And it does, it really does. I think if you ask somebody who hasn't read the books for about ten years, tell me the story, you would basically know, what you need is there. So, like I said, some stuff is left untold.

Di: Outdoor and location work is very difficult, because you can not control the weather. Did you find yourself rewriting at all to limit those things. So much of the story takes place outdoors, but was there any conscious effort to say, well, we can condense a few things and keep away from one or two extra days of being out here with the snow and the rain?

PB: No, we didn't. That was the whole point of shooting it in New Zealand, the environment and the scenery. We had the most incredible crew in the world. We really did. We had a lot of unit shooting. Peter has always inspired an enormous loyalty, and everybody just picthed in. So if Peter wanted to shoot on top of a volcano then we were there.

Di: He sounds pretty spontaneous at times. If you got a location and he turned around and said, I want that angle, did you find yourself rewriting to accomodate...

PB: [laughs] Matt Cooper is sitting in the audience laughing his head off because Matt was involved with the locations, as was Blair[?], attached to the production and was involved with the contracts to secure some of the resources, etc., etc. He was telling me this story last night, where absolutely that happened, very often. And, like I said, the great thing about our crew was if you get there and the boardwalk is set up that way and you were going to shoot that way, or something catches Peter's eye, then, you know, it's done. But it's just amazing the crew was so unbelievable. And so many Tolkien fans within it.

Di: I take the actors were pretty accomodating. "Let's try something over there."

PB: Yeah. Oh, the actors were phemomenal.

Di: Any other insider information?

PB: Insider info? [laughs, ponders]

Di: You can't tell us anything.

PB: No, it's not that, I'm just trying to actaully think of what that would be. It's probably something that... I'll probably need a question.

Di: You wanted to let the audience know something about what you were all trying to achieve.

PB: Thematically, right. It's interesting in approaching this, I often get asked in media interviews about what is the reaction of the fans going to be to the film. Are we worried about the reaction of the fans to the film? And my response has been; the fans of the book made these films. But in this company I think I can go further and give an explication of that. I think that to say that... for the media to try to bring up sometimes a sense that fans are going to be outraged, if you change this or change that, or whatever, it devalues what Tolkien readers know and understand, in that this is a huge canon of work, a huge literary heritage for all the world. My experience with people who love this book, Tolkien fans, is that they understand that this is a reading of the book. This is a vision, that they themselves do it, that's what it was. And always we've tried to stay true... What is interesting, I was reading in Tolkien's letters his own thoughts on Truth and Story. And to me what was important in creating the film and while you would be making the film is - to me this was what was important- is to bring this world alive. To be able to see it, to be able to experience it, as you can on film, which is a new experience, it's a different experience to reading it. So that's wonderful, I'd love this I think. And the sense of wonderment, is something very important, I think, to be able to bring that to life. To embrace some of those themes, and to get some of those themes out there. I think the concept of the greater good has gotten a really bum wrap. Recently. It feels different from other films.

Di: I think this is going to be released as PG-13. And it is a move about war. But do you have an age range which you think that it will appeal to? Did New Line keep that in mind, to try to widen it out as much as possible?

PB: Again, it wasn't really a studio directive so much as something Peter wanted to do. He wants this to be embraced by as many people as possible, because the books are. In terms of the audience range, I have a twelve year old. I have absolutely no hesitation in her seeing this, there's nothing in there that I would feel... I think that ten year olds would love this film. I mean I don't know if they're allowed to see it.

Di: What is on the professional horizon for you? Anything exciting you can tell us about?

PB: Well, it's interesting, I thought I wouldn't go to fantasy again, you know, because I don't think that's really the right tone for these works. There are several projects out there that are really exciting, and so we're kind of talking.

[A lot of audience members asking questions forgot to talk into the microphone, so their questions were inaudible]

AM1[Audience Member 1]: How long are the films?

PB: I can honestly say I honestly don't know. I think at the moment they haven't locked off the first film. It will be over two hours, the first film. How long over two hours, I don't know.

Di: I believe there's a rough cut right now that's three and a half, which would not surprise me.

PB: Yeah, exactly. Actually, it wasn't three and half. There is a very long version, but it was never perceived to be the version that was to be released. It was, as you said, like a draft really.

AM2: []

PB: It's an interesting question. I think what I said, I'm not sure how it came across, is one of the things I love about this is it's almost an anti-quest. It's a quest to undo a great evil. And what I think I said in that interview was I don't know whether we can do that; can we do that now, do we do that, do we look at things we know to be powerful, enormously powerful, do we have the strength and courage to undo them? I don't know.

AM3: The books contain a lot of darkness and I can imagine in film you can treat those in a horror way. Was it possible to include a kind of sadness...?

PB: Oh yeah, that is the great gift of having great actors. I think, yes, dark. I think the way as a writer that you approach things that thematically can be quite dark is to make them as exciting, as energectic, as adreniline as possible, as edge of your seat as possible, because you need to embrace all of that but you don't want it to weight a film down. And in terms of the sadness, oh, yes, yes.

Di: I imagine some of those actors can bring it on.

PB: It's beautiful. It's not depressing sadness, as everyone who's read the book understands. There's a beauty in it, there's a deep beauty in it.

AM4: To some fans the songs are the heart of the trilogy. Could you say a little bit about how the poetry has been woven into the films?

PB: Sure. I find a lot of his prose to be incredibly lyrical and incredibly poetic. Yes, there are songs. I have insider information. Now I don't know if this will...we haven't approached the third film yet. But Billy Boyd, who plays Pippin, has one of the most beautiful voices. And the moment that Denethor says, "Give us a song, Mater Hobbit", he does, and it's unbelievable. Yes we do embrace that, absolutely. It is very hard, it was a hard thing to know how much you can do...

Di: Did you have a list of songs more to the forefront, so that, if we include it, we'd prefer to go with these?

PB: Yeah, very early on, because Peter likes sometimes to shoot to... to be able to hear in his ear... I see him sometimes writing at the computer with the music playing. We had A Elbereth Gilthonel, it was done by a wonderful... Play Nine[?]... who is a wonderful group of musicians in New Zealand, who also did the music for Bilbo's party, and just hearing that inspires you. This was such a gift as a writer. You got to walk into Weta and see these incredible creations, you had these actors bringing things to life, you have musicians bringing things to it...

Di: Have you had a chance to hear any of the score?

PB: Yes, I have. In fact, Howard is brilliant. Again, fate, fate. Howard came down to New Zealand, we were talking. He very early on recgonized that he wanted to do a choral piece for the dwarves, the mines. And we had spoken a lot about choral pieces, and he said maybe we could get somebody to do something in Elvish. And we just went, not Elvish, Dwarvish, these are dwarf mines. As soon as we said that...so I was just sort of sitting there eating and I said you know, it's male [...] they've got male voices. And Peter just went ahhh, and immediately, if you can imagine the mines, the great Dwarvish miners, male voices like the great Welsh choirs. So one of my favorite things that I did was write some libretto that was translated into Dwarvish for the entrance into Dwarrowdelf. Which probably only the people in this room are going to be able to understand. [laughing]

AM4: I know this is not necessarily your ken, but can you talk a little about the technical side. I've heard a lot of rumors about Peter using new techniques in certain scenes, and ways that he's able to deliver the fantastic side, without it being hokey or silly [...]

PB: I wish I could, and I would, and I'm not stalling or anything like this. I would just hate to...I can only speak as an observer from what I've seen, and the work that Weta Digital is doing is phenomenal, that's all I know. It's like [...], you just go, oh my god, it's wonderful. So again you just get excited as well. So I can't answer that, all I can say is what I've seen, it was incredibly exciting.

AM4: But what you've seen is unique to your view.

PB: Um, yes, absolutely, to my untutored eyes, yes, absolutely. Sorry, I wish I could say more. But I can say it's in incredibly great hands.

AM5: In the book the prologue and the appendices are part of the way that Tolkien implies this vast historical reality behind the story that he's telling, beyond the narrative itself. Obviously those kinds of things don't translate very easily to film. Were there any things that you tried to do to compensate for that and imply this historical reality to the story?

PB: Absolutely, they were wonderful resources, absolutely. It's interesting, actually, a lot of it translated incredibly well, I think, dramatically. Because it works wonderfully, it's Professor Tolkien's own musings, and some slightly eccentric thoughts in those, in the prologue and the appendices, whcih were fantastic! Wonderful color.

AM5: Can I ask you specifically if you use the same notion that the book itself is a translation of a historical artifact?

PB: The Red Book of Westmarch? Yes, it's in the film, absolutely, it's brilliant.

AM6: It's well reported that the hobbits are effectively shrunk down with the use of a computerized [..]. Did you note any difficulties or special challenges you faced in portraying the Tolkien characters on screen such as the elves or the dwarves or the balrog?

PB: Again, I'm sorry, I know it sounds like I'm falling back on the actors, but the actors enormously informed it. One of the things that's great about Peter's process and the way his brain thinks is he very early recognized and identified the fact that as you read this book, you forget about the size difference. You don't consciously keep these guys this big in your brain. And I don't personally believe that Professor Tolkien did. And then occasionally he would remind you. And I think that's the way that Peter's done this in terms of the size. In terms of the different cultures, and wanting to show the huge vastness of this world, which is so utterly important, and I know for people who love these books is incredibly important, is that we had unbelievable artists working on this film, who brought the cultures to life. And as you can imagine, loved the [...] of doing it. So the detail that went into that, and the interesting thing was it was one huge creative engine that everybody else was fed by. The actors would walk into Weta, you know Viggo would go in there when they were doing swords and things like that, and the writng on the swords and even understanding what those runes were, this would help him form his character. All of this sort of thing, it was great.

AM7: All my favorite parts in the book happen at night, such as Sam in Mordor at night and he looks up at the star...

PB: He sees the star.

AM7: I was wondering how much you adhered to the whole sense of night and day. [...]

PB: I should tell you we shot that scene. Again, I don't know, but it was shot. It's one of the most beautiful moments in the book, and it informs so much of what has gone before, and so much of the presence of people like Galadriel and Gandalf himself, and Elrond. So, in terms of tonally, in terms of night and day? The gathering gloom, the gathering darkness? Yeah, I've got a funny story about that. We had to stop shooting in Queenstown, we had to go to wet weather cover. So very quickly we had to go the film that we were shooting in Mordor. Peter was talking to his wonderful, brilliant cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, and wonderful gaffer who was in charge of the lighting, Brian Pettigrove[?], and he was talking about the gathering gloom of Mordor. And then Brian went and talked to his boys and said, [Aussie accent] "Right, it starts off and it's night and it's really dark." And then the sun comes up? "Then the sun comes up, but it's still really dark." [laughs] Brian Pettigrove was utterly fantastic. I remember him in Lothlorien, shooting in Paradise believe it or not, it was like [...] for Lothlorien, completely appropriate. If you ever get to New Zealand you must go and see this. Beautiful, beautiful forest. And Pete went up to Brian and said, "What do you think about the lighting, Brian?" And Brian said, [Aussie accent] "Oh, I think we'll use the avaliable light, Pete. Every available light." [laughs]

AM8: [...]

PB: Sure, it's interesting because there's more than one elvish culture which we tried to observe as well. I guess it's true to say, I don't know if it's fair to say, but elves I think... I don't think timelessness is the right word to say, we needed a sense of ancientry and a sense of the world is changed, moving on. So in terms of the elvish culture, I think we drew upon Professor Tolkien's own writings to let us see as much as we could, and what was in the book, and what the actors found.

AM9: You mentioned some of the outdoor locations. I'm also curious about some of the indoor things, did you have to build certain things, certain sets. And which one did you think was the most difficult.

PB: Yes, enormous sets. Edoras, which was built on top of a carrock of rock in the middle of an incredible alluvial valley, with soaring mountains actually all around it. And they did the most phenomenal job in recreating that.

Di: Those pictures are on the net.

PB: They're amazing

AM9: What's your favorite personal theme in the books that also made it into the films?

PB: OK, I'm going try some elvish. [laughs] My favorite theme? [speaks Elvish line] The world has changed... Bill, you're going to have to help me [laughs] [speaks more Elvish lines] So, the world has changed, I can feel it in the water, I can feel it in the earth, I can smell it in the air. That's my favorite theme.

AM10: [...] the concept of magic [...]

PB: Sure, no, exactly. That's a wonderful question. One of my favorite things of the prologue, somebody mentioned the prologue, is the ordinary magic of hobbits. Ah, it's just such a wonderful concept. And I know that Sir Ian McKellen thought a lot about this, and in terms of the power that is within Gandalf, the power that he summons when needful. The differences between Saruman, that drove a lot of the Gandalf - Saruman... Yeah, power really, rather than magic, I suspect, looking back on it, is what we're talking about. The power of the elves, what is the nature of the power of these people. What is the nature of the power of the world? What is the nature of the power of Illuvatar? Those sort of things. So rather than magic, I mean the great line, "Do not mistake me for a conjurer of cheap tricks, Bilbo Baggins", tells you early on that this is no ordinary visitor.

AM11: It's great to see you here. It's really fantastic that you came all the way across the planet to come and talk to us. And I don't know if the crowd feels the same way, but you really should be acknowledged for making this special trip. [claps]

PB: I think Bill deserves a lot of credit for doing that and just his unbelievable enthusiasm for the project and his understanding for the project, which was great. And also New Line, they embraced this whole... I mean everything about it they've embraced it brilliantly. And for me it's also a deep pleasure for me, it's wonderful, and I've never been to San Francisco, and yeah, I think I want to come and live here. It's wonderful, very, very beautiful city.

AM11: My question has to do with Professor Tolkien's attitude about myth. And if you have read Humphrey Carpenter's biography, you learn a lot about the real core of Tolkien's personal belief about myth, and its appropriate, needful use in communicating to mankind, on the whole, greater essential truths than he otherwise might be in touch with. You'll have to forgive me for paraphrasing so rudely. I wanted to know how closely, as a writer, your own work was informed by Carpenter's biography and your own feeling as a writer about myth.

PB: Well, I love that biography. I read that biography, I had read it, when I was very young actually, which was a weird thing, because I don't normally go and seek out biographies on authors that I loved. It was a great read. And yes it did inform, or gave me a sense of who this man was. So...the rest of that was?

AM11: I was most interested in your personal spin on myth, the way Tolkien [...].

PB: Well, he has informed on a lot of that for me, absolutely, he's like this great teacher that you can go to. I talked about immediacy as necessary in film, and making this film feel real, but you don't want to lose the huge, enormous history that this is based on. I think that we had very early on, Peter made a decision that he wanted people to recognize this as our world, that this is our world. This is not a far off planet, this is Earth. And to do that, this is our mythology, that to recognize that this is where we came from. So I found that myth and theme, one of the great advantages working on this project was, as a writer and adapting it, was just the wealth of what you could go to, when you were looking at those things. I remember reading something of Professor Tolkien, when you said truth...he said something about fidelis, that truth, I think he was talking about something C.S. Lewis wrote (somebody here probably knows this better than I do)... but basically that the truth and beauty of something will rise above - this is what I took it to mean - will rise above and be what is received and what is remembered. Often myth is not necessarily a collection of fact, in fact it isn't a collection of fact. So yes, to that extent, we used it.

8-07-01 Latest News

Philippa Boyens Interview Part One
Xoanon @ 11:58 pm EST

A BIG thanks to Gorel for this transcript of the Philippa Boyens panel at Mythcon, check it out!


Di[Paula DiSanto]: What did you do before this? Tell me some background in terms of writing experience, and of your kinds of experiences in the area of your career in writing.

PB[Philipa Boyens]: It's interesting, we went to Cannes. I got introduced, and the person who was introducing me said, "making her debut as a screenwriter". And I suddenly thought, oh, I am, that's right. Because I've been working on this for four years now. It didn't feel like a debut, but it is. So really this was my first professional venture into screenwriting. Before that, I worked with a lot of film-makers when I was executive director of the museum of [...]. Prior to that I worked in theater, and that's my background. And I came to writing from working with actors and working on performance pieces, helping some plays. I actually gave writing away. And I didn't really have an expectation of coming back there. I had worked with a lot of friends, done script editing, read scripts, which is one of the avenues through which I came to be involved in this project.

Di: And exactly how did you get involved?

PB: I can remember it very clearly. My partner at the time, Steven Sinclair[?], ... had worked with Fran and Peter before, on Feebles and [...]. We got a call, we were at my house and we got a call from Fran. And he put the phone down and he said, you'll never guess what Fran and Peter are working on. And I was doing something and said, "Oh, what?" or something like that. And he said Lord of the Rings, and I just went, "You're kidding!" [...] I think my next thought was, "They're mad!" Which I found out is true. And then I thought, well, that's very brave, a thing to attempt to do. Which I also found out was true, that Peter is really brave. But further to that, so Steven started working with them, he sort of playfully said "Ah, six weeks." [laughs] They asked me to read a treatment, which I did. And I was very nervous about doing that because it was my favorite book. They knew this, this is why they had asked me. [...] But when I did I got very excited because I could see it, and subsquent to that, a sort of very broad overview draft. I gave them some notes. And then, they rang and said, "Would you like to be involved as a writer?" I thought, "Um...yeah!" [laughs]

Di: That took all of two seconds.

PB: Yeah. [laughing]

Di: I understand that originially the script was in two parts. Going from two parts to three parts has obvious advantages. Was it a struggle, were there any disadvantages to going to three?

PB: No, I don't think so. I think that's the best format to tell the story, as a trilogy. But I don't know if it was a disadvantage. Because there was a lot of time pressure, that was the key at that time. New Line came on board, Bob Shaye's famous decision to want to make three movies. We had to work very, very hard. It was almost a page one, well, not quite a page one rewrite, but it involved...

Di: A serious restructuring...

PB: Yes, rethinking.

Di: Did you get to the point where you do have this extra time, you had to make some hard decisions, some things had to be left out. Was it difficult to make those decisions?

PB: I have to say this is not me being smooth. I do like to think of it, and the choices that we made, that we chose to leave some things untold, rather than left out. Unsaid. Because they're there to be discovered for people who come to the book, and for those people who know the stories and love the stories, they understand them. So, in terms of that process, the advanced[?] story of the Lord of the Rings, I think this audience especially, which is why it's such a great audience to talk to, will know that the advanced[?] story, the actual story, is very strong in the Lord of the Rings. When I read that first treatment, that's when I realized it lends itself to cinema in a wonderful way.

Di: Did New Line have any preference for things to stay in or take out.

PB: No, again, honestly they were maginificent to work with. They worked from a place of trust, they trusted Peter, and they trusted his vision. They were incredibly suppportive. They have been throughout the whole thing. There were some wonderful people there who understood this story and understood these books like Mark Odesky, Bob Shaye himself. We were very lucky to go work with some great film makers. They're part of the film making process.

Di: Did you have time for table readings. Just to explain, a table reading is where you're getting the cast together before you actually start shooting so the director and the screenwriters can hear the key actors reading their part all the way through and start to get a feel for the rythym of the story and that sort of thing, if you have to make some possible changes. I know that you're going into production sometimes, and boom, so did you have time for that?

PB: Not an official table reading. We did a lot of work with the actors. Fran and I were involved because it was understood because of the nature of what Peter was intending to do, which was to shoot three films out of sequence, that it would be a continual creative process. One of the things is, we knew we wouldn't have the entire cast, we had 22 main characters in the movie I believe, we never really had the entire cast in one place. We were shooting all over the north island and south island of New Zealand. So what we tended to do was to work on scenes and work with the actors that way. I do remember [laughs], I think the women of the audience will appreciate this, it was late one night when we were in Queenstown. We'd done a light revision on a scene between Aragorn and Boromir, and Fran and Peter worked with them, and Fran and Peter had to go to a dinner. I had Sean Bean and Viggo in my hotel room reworking the scene. At the time, all I was focusing on was, "Oh, this is Aragorn and Boromir, this is wonderful." It was only after they left that I went, "That was Sean Bean and Viggo Mortenson, in my hotel room!" And subsequently some girlfriends of mine went, "What were you thinking!?" And I have to admit, I was thinking Tolkien! I think that says more about me than I need to disclose. [laughs]

Di: Speaking of Viggo, his casting came very, very close to the [beginning of shooting]... Did that impact you at all? Did you make any changes? He's a very different type personality.

PB: Yeah, oh, I have wonderful Viggo stories. I truly can't imagine another actor playing him now, Aragorn. Fate has driven a lot of this project. The day that fate decided he was the right person to play Aragorn was a lucky one for us. I can tell you a little story. He apparently takes a long time to decide on, he chooses his projects very carefully. So suddenly he was offered these three films, to come to New Zealand, for a huge commitment. Peter did a call with him, the studio did a call with him, talked to agents, and Fran and I talked to him about some of our thoughts. Aragorn as a character was one of the more difficult characters because of his journey. Wonderful character, brilliant character, but certainly a character that... dramatically, you need to really think through the story. So Fran and I talked to him about some ideas, and he asked us questions. He really just asked us questions, and we began to realize these were some very acute questions that he was asking. Anyway, he had some time to decide, it was a very short period of time, I can't remember how much. I was in the main office, Peter's office, and he was shooting and I think Fran was on set with him. We hadn't heard an answer from him. I think New Line honestly had, but we hadn't. A phone call came in, and Jan Bacon[?], our wonderful assistant, said "It's Viggo Mortenson on the phone.", and she said take it. So I picked up the phone and went, "Hullo?" And this voice said, "Hi, this is Viggo Mortenson." And he said, "I wanted to ask you a question." And I thought, oh no, it's going to be about schedules or time frames, and I went, "Yes?" And he said - and I had no idea if he had committed or not - he said "So, how old was I when I was taken to the elves?" And I just went, "Yes!" [pumps arm] And I have to tell you, this is true, he turned up at the airport, I think he had bare feet, with a copy of the Volsunga Saga in his bag, which he took off his shelf.

Di: I'm not sure if this is true, I've been reading it on the web, that when Tolkien sold the film rights, he had a proviso saying that no new scenes could be added. Is that true?

PB: No. I think that might be a bit of an urban myth, but no.

Di: If you needed to you could invent scenes?

PB: Yeah... Again, the process of inventing within somebody else's work is.... to me it doesn't feel that good doing it. We are trying somehow to stay true to the characters. There are opportunites within the stories, as everyone here understands, where things are told in reportage, and one of the great, wonderful opportunities you get to do with film, and what I hope that fans of the book are going to embrace and love, as much as I did seeing it, is things such as the meeting between Gandalf and Saruman. Because that is a moment that you can bring alive on film.

Di: It would seem because of the scope, and you had to cut everything down, that it would be more exposition, being able to link things together. DId you find that that was true, that if you had to invent that it would be to serve the story telling for the audience?

PB: Yes, absolutely... and the characters.

Di: We've seen two trailers, thus far. What I noticed in the trailers is that a lot of the on screen dialogue was a paraphrase of Tolkien's actual dialogue. Was there a stylistic reason for the rephrasing beyond the fear that this might sound too archaic for modern audiences?

PB: I think Tolkien's language is brilliant, it's wonderful. And we were so lucky to have actors such as Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Ian Holm, you know, wonderful, wonderful actors, who could take an approach and lift off the page all of that language. In terms of archaic constructions, sometimes it's very potent and powerful to leave it as it is. Sometimes you do it to be clearer. Sometimes it's just something to do with length. I think one of the things you need to do in film is to make it immediate. Peter wanted from the very early stages, and one of the things that drove him when he talked to everybody involved in the creative process was, make it real. And that was from the design perspective, from the performance perspective, from the writing perspective. And in making it real you need to make it immediate, and in doing that you are going to have to relook at some of those constructions. [...]

Di: So we'll see a mix of verbatim dialogue and a sort of paraphrase.

PB: Exactly.

Di: Were any scenes rewritten to take advantage of specific actors, their strengths and their quirks?

PB: Yes, absolutely. It was a great gift to myself and Fran and Peter to be able to work with the actors. They began to assume in your mind the characters, they became the characters. Seeing Ian McKellen walk on set as Gandalf is just something incredibly extraordinary. I think it was, I just thought of it, Trevor Nunn, I think it was, I saw a documentary done by the Royal Shakespeare Company. And he said that: Shakespeare had always been best informed and enlightened by the great performances of great actors. And this is not denying the contributions of great scholars. That holds so true to someone like Ian McKellen playing Gandalf, and his insights into the character are extraordinary. Whenever he walked on set, you just got a sense of security. [laughs] Gandalf's here, it's OK. I'm sure he wasn't thinking this in his head, he's thinking, "What is this?" [imitates Ian looking puzzled at something he's reading]

Di: Did you have to any rewriting to speed up a scene or even slow it down, where you could tell from the available footage that you had shot so far that maybe something needed to be longer or shorter? If it was longer, did you figure it would be edited?

PB: Certainly. If you can you write long, so that you have that luxury of making that choice, making decisions. Editing's about making choices and making decisions, the best way to tell it. As a screenwriter you can suddenly realize that you've said something more than once. Which one was the best way to say it? In terms of lengthening things, sometimes as writers, I think we went into that, often with the support of the actors to hold onto those moments. And Peter embraces those kinds of things, to try to do them to their fullest capacity.

Di: I know a lot of people will be interested in this. Was the decision to expand the role of Arwen directed from New Line or was it the three of you saying we really need to pull this out and go to The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, and put that into the body of the story?

PB: It's so interesting the feedback that you read about the character of Arwen because most of it's incorrect. Ultimatley we drew absolutely on the appendix. People say her role is expanded... there is one sequence which was done for very practical reasons, and I absolutely stand behind it, which I think you've probably all seen [laughs], that works incredibly well. I think you wouldn't be serving the film, you wouldn't be serving the audience, you certainly wouldn't be serving the book if you ignored her character. What stands out for me in the first film, and I have to say that Liv Tyler has a quality about her that is just extraordinary, and what stands out to me is Arwen is a voice in this film who does not give in to despair. Not that necessarily other characters will or do. But in the midst of all this is someone who knows and understands how they feel and is holding onto it and is holding true to their feelings. And that requires enormous openness and understanding and wisdom, and Liv just gives that. And her Elvish is great!

Di: When it was originally published the novel was broken into three volumes from the directive of the publisher. There was no way they were going to do that all at once, because of the cost of the production. It broke up fairly easily because it is six books within one work. When you were breaking up the film, in terms of the, I don't want to say cliffhanger but it almost works that way in the novel, did you find you had to shift where it broke differently, between the end of the first film and the end of the second film?

PB: I think we've pretty much stayed true to the structure of the novels. In terms of shaping ends, one of the biggest things we had to do and one of the most difficult things to do, was at the end of the first film, to leave the viewers with a sense of fulfillment. It can't be just a cliffhanger. You have to feel that you've been on this journey, that something has happened, that something enormous has happened, and it does, as you feel in the book. A change has occurred, a change that's going to drive the second story forward, but also actually has brought one of your main characters, or your main character, to a point and he has achieved something. So we've worked very, very hard. What was interesting was working an action based climax into an emotional climax. And I feel personally for myself, and I'll be really interested to see how you feel about it, the emotional climax of this great sequence at Parth Galen, and on the slopes of Amon Hen, which is very driven and it's this amazing sequence with Boromir, and it's everything you can, in fact I truly believe it's more than you can imagine. But what stands out is the emotional climax which...[sighs]...it's wonderful, an incredible performance by Elijah Woods.

Di: Which of three installments of the film did you find the most difficult and the most challenging in regard to keeping the pace and flow of Tolkien's story?

PB: In terms of each film? It's really hard. Rivendell nearly killed me. Nearly killed Fran. We were like, "Don't make us go back there." [laughs] But it's such a brilliant moment in the book, and you want to serve that, but really if you look at it the story does stop in a way, and you must restart it. So it's how do you get through that so that the story doesn't just stop. How do you embrace what that place stands for, thematically, and you have Alan Lee doing concept drawings of the house, so it's just exquisite. How do you feed into the story and drive the story. Lothlorien, again, and I'm not picking on the elves, it can become a place where you stop and have a cup of tea, which you can't do. But I hope, I hope, that we've managed to capture some of the extraordinary stillness and light, and everything... I have no words.

Di: It has been reported on the internet that the original prologue that was shot for the Fellowship of the Ring, which details the history of the ring, has either been removed or moved to a different location in the film. If it has been moved there are places to put it. I think I remember reading that Peter was concerned that might have been dumping too much information on the audience, and trying to integrate it so that they're getting this history in a more natural way. It could be put in the Shadow of the Past or the Council of Elrond. Could you tell us about how that was rethought?

PB: It's a little bit apocryphal, that story, I have to tell you. It's not completely true. It's part of the process by which these films were developed, the creative process, it was a difficult one. I was talking to Fran about it actually. It's an enormously difficult process, but it was our process, it was the process that we had to do to make these films. In terms of the prologue, or lack of, or is there one, or whatever, you're going to have to wait and see. [laughs] But I can say that the back story, that serves the story, was very difficult to do. It's finding the places where it isn't just exposition, it should never be just exposition. It shoud be character driven, it should be as much as possible character driven, it should be action driven. It should, again, feel real. So the back story was difficult, which was we needed a prologue. And certainly, Gandalf's return to Bag End is very important, and it is obviously a very important imparting of information to the main character, but what you find is it's also a point in the film when you want something to happen. When you need for it to continue to drive forward because you spend this time in Hobbiton, and it's so wonderful, [excited] this cart comes over the hill and you see it all, it's beautiful! It's wonderful, and to embrace that peaceful world, but to understand that that is under threat is very important. Peter was very good, he never closes doors, he's incredibly open. He's always thinking, how is an audience, and as big an audience is possible is going to receive this, and what is the best way to tell the story.

Di: I know there was some reshooting. When the decision was made to do that, did the three of you get together, or was this assigned to you to do a rewrite or two of you or all three of you?

PB: We did it all together. The reshoots were part of the natural process of pickups, which is a part of the process of film making. Fran especially is incredible at structure and she always kept her eye on that and then she's sit down and talk it through, and Peter as well.

Di: You were happy with the reshoot portions fifting into what was already there?

PB: Oh, sure. These guys has been in these characters for fourteen months, they could walk into it easily.

Part II coming soon!

Q&A with Clay Harper from Houghton Mifflin!
Xoanon @ 11:52 am EST

J.R.R. Tolkien/The Lord of the Rings

Q&A with Clay Harper, Tolkien Projects Director, Houghton Mifflin Company

What are some of the highlights of Houghton Mifflin's long history of publishing the works of J.R.R. Tolkien?

Houghton Mifflin has been J.R.R. Tolkien’s U.S. publisher since the beginning, with the first U.S. publication of The Hobbit in 1938, and Tolkien’s work is one of the crown jewels of our publishing program. We have published every book by the author, including children’s stories, poems, and scholarly essays. We’ve also published nearly every significant book about the author and his work, including Christopher Tolkien’s monumental twelve-volume The History of Middle-earth. The Hobbit was an immediate success upon publication, and readers asked for more stories set in Middle-earth right from the start. But it was a very long wait for the expected sequel. The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, didn’t arrive in stores until 1954 — sixteen years later.
As a cultural phenomenon in America, Tolkien’s work has captured a wide public consciousness on several different occasions. In the mid-1960s, the first paperback editions were authorized, and the novels became immediate bestsellers. By the 1970s, Tolkien’s work was very popular on American college campuses and inspired everything from Led Zeppelin lyrics (including “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Ramble On”) to graffiti and buttons (the inspirational slogan “Frodo Lives” and the satirical “Gandalf for President”). Animated films of The Hobbit produced by Rankin/Bass and then a portion of The Lord of the Rings, directed by Ralph Bakshi, appeared on the scene. The Dungeons and Dragons phenomenon was partly inspired by Tolkien’s work, and it could be argued that the big fantasy sections in bookstores owe a large part of their existence to Tolkien’s popularity.

Why has The Hobbit been so popular for more than six decades?

It has been hailed as one of the greatest children’s stories of all time, and generations of readers have identified with the reluctant hero, Bilbo Baggins. Hobbits are amiable, likable, peaceful folk who don’t like to meddle in the affairs of others, and who don’t quite understand the forces at work in their imaginary world of Middle-earth. By nature, they don’t often travel, and they enjoy the simple things in life most of all: home, hearth, family, riddles, song, and good food. The wise wizard Gandalf enlists Bilbo’s help in a quest that Bilbo would prefer to have nothing to do with. There is great humor in the tale, and great adventure as the wonder of Middle-earth is revealed to the reader through the wonder of Bilbo’s reaction to being far from home — and of course there is great danger in the guise of the dragon Smaug the Magnificent, and from other sources as well.

But Tolkien’s real achievement is to tap into the great literary traditions and deepest roots of the English language — Beowulf comes to mind, particularly regarding the dragon’s hoard — and make these modes of storytelling accessible to and enjoyable for children. I believe it is that attribute, in addition to the wonderful cast of characters and the story itself, that has helped the book stand the test of time as a perennial favorite among readers of all ages.

What are the major themes of The Lord of the Rings, and what are its virtues?

The Lord of the Rings is a vastly more complex work than The Hobbit, and many readers and critics have proposed answers to this question over the years. My view is that some of the simplest explanations are the best, but perhaps they are the most difficult to grasp — at least as to how much Tolkien intended. First and foremost to me is the fact that The Lord of the Rings is the profound and spectacular creation of a single mind, a mind steeped in the legends of Europe and exceptionally well versed in the expression of its mythologies — in other words, the sheer enormity of Tolkien’s achievement. To have created a 1,200-page novel with hundreds of characters and centuries of invented history, culture, and language permeating every page and every action in an enormously eventful plot; to have created passages of heartbreaking beauty and gut-wrenching terror; to have made this entire invented world come alive in a very real way for the reader through unshakable logic and intricate design; and then to have set these characters in motion toward such incredible heights of excitement, intrigue, danger, and bittersweet triumph — it’s just mind-boggling to me. And every single incident and character, even every thing, is in The Lord of the Rings for a reason. I’ve never had an experience in fiction that comes close to achieving that.

Is it an epic adventure story? Of course. Is it about good and evil? Yes . . . but not just. It is partly a tale of pastoral, isolated, and innocent beings — the hobbits — swept up in the perilous history of their times. They find that their world is far more complex and dangerous than they had ever imagined. But a bit like soldiers going off to war (which in a sense they are), they find they have an important part to play in the outcome. Tom Shippey argues quite persuasively in his recent book J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century that the book is in part a response to the existence of evil in our world, particularly as it manifested itself in Tolkien’s times. The hobbits must make a simple moral choice between doing what they feel is right and doing otherwise — including the choice of doing at all. They find that they must engage the world around them — just as we all do in the end. So in this sense the book is a kind of coming-of-age tale, structured a bit like a funnel — the story opens up from their happy origins to encompass a vast world of grim danger through which the hobbits must travel to perform what they come to see as their duty. They persevere and ultimately prevail through the power of such simple to state but difficult to achieve virtues as courage, determination, bravery, and the renewable bonds of friendship and love. The world of Middle-earth they encounter is populated by creatures and cultures that embody these and other attributes, including wisdom and beauty but also tyranny, aggression, greed, ugliness, jealousy, and cruelty. In this way, Middle-earth is more than a little like our own world, and the conflicts in it and in the hearts of the characters are as personal as our own. Every single character is changed, marked, by personal experience, as we are in life.

Another wonderful thing about The Lord of the Rings is that it contains a host of aphorisms, which readers have taken to heart, including “He who breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom,” “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,” “The wise speak only of what they know,” “All that is gold does not glitter,/Not all who wander are lost;/The old that is strong does not wither,/Deep roots are not reached by the frost,” and countless others. Whenever I need to decide about packaging issues or strategy for the program, the one that rings in my head is “It is not our part here to take thought only for a season.” Tolkien has created a complete world within a world — our world — inside the covers of this novel.

What should readers know about the author?

J.R.R. Tolkien was born in South Africa on January 3, 1892, and died on September 2, 1973, at the age of eighty-one. He immigrated to England at the age of three but was orphaned at twelve and went to live in an orphanage. From a very early age, Tolkien invented his own languages as a hobby — more than twenty of them by the time of his death. He married his sweetheart from the orphanage, Edith, in 1916. Tolkien served in the First World War, surviving the Battle of the Somme, but nearly all of his closest friends were killed in that war. A student of the English written traditions and philology (the study of the history of words), he worked for a time as an assistant lexicographer on the Oxford English Dictionary. Later, as his career progressed, he taught at the University of Leeds, and then became a don at Oxford, where his scholarly reputation grew.

Tolkien wrote his fiction in his spare time. A jovial and deeply spiritual man, he was good friends with C. S. Lewis, and the two discussed their novels while they were writing them. Tolkien was delighted with the popular success of his novels in many ways, but he always fought their interpretation as allegory. To him, they simply were what they were, and the American college campus craze of the late 1960s, with its embrace of his work toward unintended ends, was a source of consternation. In 1972 he was awarded a CBE by Queen Elizabeth II.

Upon Tolkien’s death, his youngest son and literary executor, Christopher Tolkien, an Oxford don in his own right, prepared his great cosmology of Middle-earth, The Silmarillion, for publication. Christopher later produced a twelve-volume account of the origins, evolution, and writing of his father’s epic tales, The History of Middle-earth.

What is Houghton Mifflin's role in the global Tolkien publishing enterprise?

We work closely with our UK partners, HarperCollins Publishers, to develop ideas for new editions, and we’re in constant communication with the estate of the author to discuss opportunities and results. We also monitor the activities of others and the potential impact on our copyrights, trademarks, and the legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien. Our market is obviously a large and influential one in this global context, but Tolkien’s work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages, including Armenian, Icelandic, Moldavian, Portuguese, and even Esperanto. Lifetime global sales of The Hobbit are estimated to be in excess of 40 million copies, and of The Lord of the Rings at more than 50 million copies — which makes Tolkien one of the most popular authors of all time.

What have been the sales trends in the United States throughout Houghton Mifflin's history?

More than 30 million copies of Tolkien’s work are known to have been sold in the United States since 1938. After each of the major cultural way-points when the audience has expanded, the work has never seemed to fade in popularity. Now Tolkien’s work has been passed down through several generations, and each generation finds in his stories an inspiring set of values and ideals that fits its own life and times. Over the last few years the readership has been expanding at a great pace, and today Tolkien’s work can be found in more retail outlets and on more bookshelves than ever.

Houghton Mifflin's own sales figures in 2000, on a dollar basis, were in the “mid-seven figures," with unit sales (not including set components) of very close to half a million books. In 2001, we expect that the dollar-sales number will easily grow into a substantial eight figures, with unit sales of well over a million units. Our sales (U.S. only) doubled in each of the past three years, and it is very likely that this year’s sales will at least triple last year's before the first film opens. Our new one-volume paperback with movie art on the cover, released in May, has sold five times as many copies as last year's full-year sale of the previous edition through mid-July, and there are already a million copies of it in print through six printings.

What has Houghton Mifflin's publishing strategy been? How has this strategy evolved over the years?

Houghton Mifflin has promoted, protected, and nurtured the work throughout its history, and will for generations to come. We believe that the best advocate for the work is the work itself; for years, readers have encouraged their friends and family to experience Tolkien’s creation, so there is a certain snowball effect whenever the audience expands. We’ve always treated the work like the extraordinary literary achievement that it is — as a timeless classic — rather than as the cornerstone of a particular genre. Because The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s other books invite rereading and close study, many readers who first come to them in paperback later move on to hardcover editions that they cherish for years. Consequently, we’ve published attractive quality paperbacks, solid hardcover editions, copiously illustrated editions featuring the art of J.R.R. Tolkien, Alan Lee, and others, as well as elaborate gift and collector’s editions over the years — and all are built to last. So the novels are available at a variety of price levels, with different packaging for different audiences. Every major new edition finds a welcome home, and the introduction of each is an opportunity to find a new audience and reintroduce the best-selling backlist to retailers and readers alike.

Our current efforts began ramping up in the spring of 1999, with the first U.S. publication of a one-volume paperback of The Lord of the Rings. Later that fall, the three-volume editions and The Hobbit were reissued. Readers often want to learn more about the author and his work once they’ve experienced it — and the growing popularity of Tolkien throughout the Internet community has certainly helped readers find others who share their enthusiasm. In each season since 1999, we’ve steadily reissued and published new related works, including The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Silmarillion, and, for the first time on American shelves, paperbacks of the books known as The History of The Lord of the Rings. The audience keeps expanding to accommodate these wonderful books as well.

In December 2000, Houghton Mifflin reached an agreement to become the sole U.S. publisher of books related to the major motion picture trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, in production from New Line Cinema under the direction of Peter Jackson. We’re using our expertise to reach as many readers as possible both before and after the first of the films opens on December 19, 2001. In May 2001 we introduced the first edition of The Lord of The Rings that used art from the forthcoming films as cover illustration, and as of now (7/01) one million copies of it are already in print through six printings. In September we’ll be introducing three-volume editions in paperback, hardcover, and boxed sets. On November 6, the first two books containing extensive imagery from the films will be available — and there are more titles to come.

Are there unique challenges in publishing film tie-in books?

There has never been an opportunity for us like this one. We’ve been working hard to spread the news of the impending film installments of The Lord of the Rings throughout our expanding customer base for Tolkien. Working closely with New Line Cinema, HarperCollins UK, and our customers, we’re determined to meet the challenge with a carefully calibrated, quality publishing program over the entire three-year period of theatrical releases and beyond. This is the first time that one monumental tale has been told through three films all filmed at once — and the films are being made by a vast crew of extremely talented fans of the books for fans of the book, including those who have yet to read it. We are very encouraged by their determination to be as true to Tolkien’s vision as they can be, and by the fact that the two illustrators most closely associated with Tolkien’s work — Alan Lee and John Howe — have been involved in the production design. You won’t see a flood of opportunistic “product” on the shelves from us or anyone else, but rather a selection of high-quality books that are faithful to the story and that take you behind the scenes of this unique filmmaking effort.

Besides managing the challenging logistics of acquiring, launching, producing, and marketing these new books — and believe me, many, many people are involved — one of the most interesting opportunities for me personally was the chance to look through New Line’s archive of more than 80,000 still photographs from the production in search of cover art for our novels. Our art director and I spent two days hunched over a light table looking through this mind-boggling array of possibilities, and everything I saw looked spectacularly rich in detail and true to the novels to me.

What are your hopes for these films?

I have been a fan of Tolkien’s work for more than twenty-five years and have read The Lord of the Rings many times. It has come to mean something different, something fresh and new, something more powerful and more admirable, each time, and I deeply cherish the images in my mind’s eye, put there through Tolkien’s beautiful prose and poetry. But for more than a decade I’ve also been a fan of the thoughtful, illustrated interpretations of his work in Alan Lee’s and John Howe’s paintings, and to see those visual interpretations serve as the basis for the films’ design, lovingly recreated and crafted in three dimensions, has been a thrill. What I’ve seen of these films so far compliments what’s in my mind’s eye.
Houghton Mifflin obviously has a vested interest in the success of these films directly through our publishing program, but it is my passion and our hope that these films become an opportunity to encourage thousands and thousands of readers to discover Tolkien’s wonderful books for the first time — or to revisit his work again. By that measure, the films are already a huge success.

What are the significant new Tolkien books to be aware of this year?

There is a new edition of The Hobbit, featuring cover art by the renowned illustrator Peter Sis and completely new typesetting which restores the text to exactly the way it was when the author last made corrections; this will reach American shelves in August. In early September there will be a reissued edition of Unfinished Tales, which is a collection of shorter works set in Middle-earth. In late September, new editions of The Lord of the Rings in three volumes arrive — hardcovers, paperbacks, and boxed sets. Then on November 6 come the first of the books that focus specifically on the films: The Fellowship of the Ring Visual Companion by Jude Fisher, an introduction to the characters, cultures, and settings of Middle-earth as depicted in the films, and The Lord of the Rings Official Movie Guide by Brian Sibley, a behind-the-scenes introduction to the challenges that faced the filmmakers, actors, and crew.

What can we look forward to from Houghton Mifflin's Tolkien publishing program beyond 2001?

In the spring of 2002 we’ll publish a book related to the art and design of the first film as well as a completely redesigned edition of Douglas A. Anderson’s The Annotated Hobbit. The lists beyond that are still in development, but you can expect to see more quality books about the films and more books about Tolkien from us in the future.

Do balrogs have wings?

This question, about a pivotal character and incident in The Fellowship of the Ring, embodies one of the great reader-inspired arguments of all time. And there are others: “Who or what is Tom Bombadil?” and “Who killed the Witch-King of Angmar?” My answer to the first question is “perhaps,” but for the second and third, you will have to consult The Lord of the Rings and draw your own conclusions.

Clay Harper, a former bookseller, has worked for Houghton Mifflin since 1988 in a variety of roles, including director of adult marketing. He has been managing the Tolkien publishing program since 1999.

For further information:
Visit Houghton Mifflin at www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com to search our entire catalog.

Houghton Mifflin’s dedicated Tolkien site: www.lordoftheringstrilogy.com

New Line Cinema’s Official Movie Site: www.lordoftherings.net

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