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September 30, 2004 - October 07, 2004

10-07-04 Latest News

FACTS Con in Belgium this Weekend
Xoanon @ 9:20 am EST

The folks from FACTS 2004 write: This weekend FACTS 2004 will take place, the biggest science fiction, fantasy & anime convention in the Benelux. Last year's edition, the fourteenth already, (which was attended by John Rhys-Davies) drew nearly 5.000 visitors, a number we sure hope to beat this year again.

This year we will be welcoming quite a few guests again, amongst which David Carradine, Dirk Benedict, four Star Wars actors and Lawrence Makoare.

We will be having four PS2 consoles with the new game 'The Lord of the Rings : the third age' (courtesy of E.A.).

And of course the Belgian LOTR fanclub Elanor will be attending our show, as will many dealers with lots of LOTR related merchandise.

FACTS 2004 will take place on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th, both days from 10 AM till 5 PM. Entrance is 7,- € per day, cos' players get in at 4,- €. (children under 10, accompanied by an adult, get in for free).

The fun will happen in the I.C.C. (Internationaal Congres Centrum), Citadelpark in 9000 Ghent. The convention room can easily be reached by car, by train (the station Ghent St-Pieters is only a five minutes walk) and by bus.

For more info, you can always visit our site at facts2004.com

10-06-04 Latest News

Kong Set Images!! Skull Island Progresses!
Xoanon @ 5:59 pm EST

Kong Set Images
Click for more images

The site I've photgraphed is new in the last 3 weeks and is located on Queens Drive in Lyall Bay across from Wellington airport on the south coast. I literally live on the street next door, and less than 300m from the construction site. (I also look across the bay to the airport where I can still see the massive Gollum on the roof of the airport terminal reaching for a ring, but that's another story!)

Back to the site. The land was empty until shipping containers starting being stacked a few weeks ago, after which the framework started going up. One of the workers there just this morning confirmed that they are indeed building a film set for King Kong, "constructing rock walls", and the blue screen is plainly obvious.

The site is fenced with "chicken wire" as you'll see in a couple of the shots, and only small scrub and trees separate it from the main coast road. I took the shots from across the road, well on public land in case you're wondering.

Photo "1" is looking south at the entrance to the site. The airport and Lyall Bay is off to my left, the road also heads past the set to the left and a steep bank flanks the site on the right side, which you'll see in photo "2". The rest are reasonably self explanetory.

The photos were taken yesterday - Wednesday 6 October here in NZ.

Back to KongisKing.net

Astronomy of Middle-Earth Lecture Report
Xoanon @ 2:33 pm EST

Skyway Moaters writes:

Just thought I'd drop you a line to let you know about a "Tolkien Event" that took place this past Monday evening at The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility here in the Hampton Roads area of Southern Virginia. The lecture was entitled: "Moon Runes, The Light of Earendil, and Durin's Crown: The Astronomy of Middle-Earth", and was delivered by one Kristine M. Larsen, Ph.D., Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Central Connecticut State University. The event took place in a large lecture hall at the Jefferson Labs facility described above, and the good professor (a true Tolkien Geek BTW) was playing to a packed house.

Dr. Larsen very clearly delineated the pains to which JRRT put himself to get the phases of the moon to be consistent with the timeline of the novel and talked at length concerning Middle Earth/Endor/Arda/Aman Cosmology, the Silmarillion's creation myth, and: the creation of the 'lesser stars', The Two Trees of the Valar, the 'greater' stars and finally the Sun and Moon (Aran and Isil); illustrating with a well turned out slide-show presentation the relationships of all these things to our 'real world' night skies.

We learned for example that The Big Dipper is analogous with Tolkien's "Sickle Of the Valar", Menelvagor (Sindarin name, Menelmacar in Quenya) - 'Swordsman of the Sky' = "Orion the Hunter", The Star of Earendil = Venus, and "red Borgil" = Aldebaran - NOT Betelgeuse as I had always guessed. An assertion very well supported by the passage in the text from FOTR: "Away high in the East swung Remmirath, (The Pleiades) the Netted Stars, and slowly above the mists red Borgil rose, glowing like a jewel of fire. Then by some shift of airs all the mist was drawn away like a veil, and there leaned up, as he climbed over the the rim of the world, the Swordsman of the Sky, Menelvagor with his shining belt...". Borgil CAN'T be Betelgeuse because it rises BEFORE Menelvagor/Orion.

It turns out that the 'identity' of the constellation depicted in the "Crown of Durin", that the Father of Dwarves saw reflected about his head when first he gazed into icy 'Mirrormere' - Kheled Zaram, is a subject of much debate among 'Astronomically savvy' Tolkienites. I could be meant to represent "Corona Borealis" - the "Northern Crown" (seven stars in approximately the same arrangement depicted on Durin's Door) or possibly "Cepheus the King", another famous circumpolar northern constellation, lying next to both Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper - a circumpolar group of stars and would, theoretically, be visible all the times if one could see stars during the day. The main difficulty with such an identification is that Cepheus only contains five prominent stars. Heck, to me "Durin's Crown" looks most like "Corona Australis" - the "Southern Crown", but that would mean the Misty Mountains and Moria would have to have be in the southern hemisphere, oh well. But then again, are we talking flat Arda? Round Arda? Pthlblt! Now my head hurts.

Funny thing though, no mention was made of "The Southern Cross" - "Crusis" (Crux), that I could have sworn was mentioned in some essay or other I remember reading years ago, as having a Middle Earth analogue. Oh well again.

Professor Larsen lectures frequently and apparently travels extensively doing so. So keep an eye out for academic lectures and events in your area, and catch this excellent presentation should you get the opportunity. Highly recommended for all Tolkien geeks, erm, SCHOLARS, of every stripe. AND you can check it out on-line @: physics.ccsu.edu or physics.ccsu.edu Please see attached photos and feel free to use them on TORN if you like.

10-05-04 Latest News

Christopher Lee Weekend
Xoanon @ 1:42 pm EST

The folks from specialsignings.com write: Further to our recent JINNAH promotion in Liverpool we have now negoatiated a full weekend event for CHRISTOPHER LEE. This is a 2 day event, held on November 13th & 14th, and is available on 1 day or 2 day tickets.


People are able to bring along their own items to be signed or purchase items at the event - so for all those people who have LOTR or Star Wars cast items this is your chance !

We have confirmed Mr Lee today and have approached some other actors from his various films and will announce them if and when they confirm. [More]

10-04-04 Latest News

Charity Auction Has LOTR Goodies
Xoanon @ 7:13 pm EST

The BehindYou.org team write: October is US National Spinal Health Month and to mark this BehindYou.org is running a charity raffle - Raffle for Research.

Tickets go on sale today, October 4th, at just £1 ($1.50) each, or 15 for £12 ($18). For this small donation participants will be in with the chance of winning any of the following prizes:

Argonath Book-ends, Samwise Gamgee bust, rare Orlando Bloom magazines, Official Orlando Bloom Calendar, hand signed Alexander Siddiq postcard, signed Travis postcard, selection of Orlando Bloom photos, LOTR quiz book. The draw will be made on November 4th.

All the money from the tickets goes directly to Spinal Research (registered charity #281325). For more information on either the charity or the prizes available, please visit our site at BehindYou.org.

We at BehindYou.org hope that you will help us spread the word by giving us a link on your website. A button and banner has been attached to this email, please feel free to use either when linking to us.

Thank you very much.


Collectormania 6 Images
Xoanon @ 7:08 pm EST

Collectormania 6 Images

This is the story of how two TORn discussion board members got a chance to party with the stars this weekend. Jordan the discursive and myself (Cheshire Cat), discussion board members, arrived in Milton Keynes on Friday afternoon. Jordan had flown in from the U.S. especially for the Collectormania 6 event and we were looking forward to a weekend of fun. Little did we know just what a blast it would be.

Friday afternoon we ambled around some of the Collectormania stalls and sneaked a peak at a few of the celebrities who were there signing autographs. This year it was very much a sci-fi event with many Star Wars and Star Trek people in attendance.

Saturday morning we took a leisurely stroll down to the event at about 8.30ish, to join to queue to meet Billy Boyd, C6’s biggest LOTR attraction this year. We found ourselves behind 215 other people who had already got there before us! Still, we were easily guaranteed a chance to see him later that day with our virtual queue tickets. So we headed off to meet some of the other LOTR contingent. First of all, Bob Anderson sword master - he looked a little dazed by the whole proceedings but was really quite charming and when I asked if we could take his picture, he gave the warmest of smiles. He signed my Production Notes and we moved along. Sala Baker was a surprise guest this year. After Miranda Otto had pulled out of the event at the last minute we weren’t expecting a replacement, but it was lovely to see Sala again. After numerous meetings, he has become quite an old chum. The advantage of going to a convention like this with someone who has flown thousands of miles to attend, is that people remember our faces and we soon became recognized. We are also firm believers in talking to these people as human beings, making intelligent conversation and chatting in a relaxed manner. This way they are happy to talk to us for a good long time.

We met Nathaniel Lees, Ugluk the Uruk-hai, who turned out to be an attractive gentleman with the most lovely deep, rich voice. He was charming and great to talk to. Thomas Robbins who played Deagol was an absolute hoot. When he heard the Alabaman accent of jordan’s he started imitating her with an incredibly accurate and funny southern accent. The rest of the weekend would bring a hail of “Hi Sugah!” every time we came across him. “How yer doin’ Honey?” He was a charming person with a fantastic sense of humour.

Soon after, we are having a little chat with Sala and as we turn around a familiar face is coming towards us. “RICK!” There was Rick Porras ambling around in the crowd. We recognized him instantly having had a brief chat to him at the TORn Oscar party in Hollywood and we told him how nice it was to see him again. He was relaxed and enjoying the atmosphere.

A while later we join the queue to meet Royd Tolkien, great grandson of J.R.R. We had seen him on the stage at the Oscar party and now we were honoured to meet him in person. He is so polite and pleasant to talk to. We asked about his experience at the Hollywood party and he said it was mad, but great fun. We let him know that we were looking forward to seeing him again at the Q&A session the following evening and he admitted that these things scare him to death! He hates appearing on stage and having to talk.

By this time Rick Porras had taken a seat between Royd and Billy Boyd and although many people probably didn’t even realize who he was, he was happy to sit and watch the proceedings.

After lunch, we finally got to see Billy. By this time the Collectormania staff have handed out over 880 tickets for the virtual queue. There were going to be a lot of disappointed people that day, this was 2.15pm and he was up to the 200s. Anyhow, we get our turn but by this time they are enforcing a ‘No posed photographs’ rule to try to hurry the queue along a little quicker. As jordan has travelled so far for the express purpose of meeting Billeh, he is good enough to chat to her for a good long while and she gets a hug and a kiss. Mission accomplished!

Now on the Saturday we just had the Collectormania Party to look forward to. This is jordan the discursive’s report from that party which we posted on the TORn Discussion Board the following day in a haze of giggly excitement:


We had VIP tickets, which entitled us to go into a small, smoky, crowded rooms and pay too much for drinks. After an hour or so of this, we decided to step outside for some air, and to see the specialty cars that were on display for the party. They had the Starsky and Hutch car (CC had a ride, or rather a screech around in it!!), the Batmobile, the Kit car, and a James Bond car. It was great fun to sit outside and watch people tearing off for rides in those cars!

So we're sitting, just watching the people, and up walks Nathaniel Lees (Ugluk) and Thomas Robbins (Deagol)! I called out "Hi Nathaniel! Hi Thomas!" They both turned towards us and yelled out "Alabama!" Thomas started swearing (just joking around) in a Southern accent - it was sooooo funny! They went on through to a private room, so CC and I returned to watching the cars and the people.

A few minutes later, we saw Nathaniel standing on his own a few feet away from us. We walked up to him to say hello, and he gave us a nice smile, and then asked me for a light! I handed him my lighter, and the three of us struck up a very nice conversation. He told us about his family, about his various homes, and about his background in the theatre (he was trained at the Globe!). He told us some funny stories about getting on his makeup each morning before filming would start - he said they would be awoken at 2 am for a 7 am start!! Once they turned into Uruk-Hai, he said no one would even really speak to them, because they looked so menacing! In his words, "We were a gang! Even Viggo wouldn't mess with us!"

After a good 10-15 minute chat with him, he excused himself to go get a drink. CC and I had big grins on our faces, and again, went back to sit down and watch people.

A few minutes later, Sala walked out of the VIP room. We were seated maybe 15 feet from the door, and we didn't want to speak to him or annoy him, but he saw and walked right over to talk to us! He asked me for a cigarette, and when I pulled out my pack, he looked at the brand, and said "You've got to be £$%"£$^* joking! You're a %^*^£$%&^ legend!" Seems we like the same brand. ;-) He stood and talked to us for a long time, maybe 15 minutes or so. Various younger girls would come up to speak to him, and he was kind to them, but he never moved away from us. He seemed genuinely glad to stand and talk with me and CC. Needless to say, we were thrilled.

When Sala started getting cold (it was really a cold night), he went back inside, and CC and I went back to watching people.

Then, a few minutes later, Royd showed up! *swoon* He was talking to a group of people, so we didn't bother him. But after a while, CC and I decided to leave, because it was getting late and it was really cold. We walked past Royd, and I just touched his arm, intending to say hello and goodnight. He turned from the people he was talking to, and talked to CC and I for again, 10-15 minutes! We had such a lovely conversation with him, talking about where he lives, whether he had fun at Collectormania, etc. Turns out he lives sort of close to where CC lives, in the northern part of the country.

After talking to him for quite a while (*swoon*) CC and I really needed to get going. We said goodnight, and he suddenly just grabbed me in a big hug, and then gave CC a big hug! *SWOON* We walked back to the hotel on rather wobbly legs!!!


Sunday morning, following a leisurely breakfast we wandered back to the main C6 hall, said a cheery good morning to all the guys and wandered off to do some shopping. The Question and Answer session was to take place at 5pm and it would be our last event of the weekend. We were pleased to see the Q&A was to be attended by all 6 LOTR guests – Billy, Sala, Thomas, Royd, Nathaniel and Bob Anderson. It was a lot of fun. The guys kept us entertained for well over an hour answering questions politely and humorously. At one point a rather sheepish looking Billy Boyd turns to the audience and says “Do yer mind if I go fer a pee?” When he walks back on stage a few minutes later, he is carrying a glass of yellowy coloured liquid and grinning he takes a big gulp to a hail of ‘Eeeewwwwws’ from the audience. He’s wicked! They were questioned about the night of the Oscars and I asked what they thought about the TORn party. Billy said he thought it was amazing but was sorry that he’d missed most of it. He really had quite a disastrous evening.

As Royd had expressed such a dislike of answering questions on stage, we did of course make it our mission to ask him one! Jordan gets the microphone, and in her obvious Alabama accent asks him a question. He peered through the glare of the stage lights to where she was standing and wailed “You promised you wouldn’t!!!” It was very funny! Thomas, seated next to Royd, then shouts out a “It’s Alabama! Hi there Honey!” We seem to make something of a name for ourselves at these things.

The Q&A was great fun. At one point an oldish lady stands up to ask a question at the back of the auditorium. She says she wants to ask Bob a question at which point Sala says “Hey, it’s your wife – she wants to know what time you’re getting home!” It is indeed Mrs Anderson and asks him the most lovely question “Is it true that you have been presented with a hat that says ‘Grumpy Bob’ on it?” Bob has to admit that it’s true and tells us the story of his nickname. He’s a hoot.

A little boy in the audience asks a couple of questions and a little later on the organizer brings him onto the stage to meet the guys. After receiving a big hug from them all, he is invited to sit on the spare chair next by Thomas and he stays there for the rest of the evening. The guys are so kind to him and he was over the moon! What a great night for him.

A charity auction, hosted by Billy Boyd rounds off the evening with a great deal of money being raised for an Epilepsy charity he supports. He sells off signed photos, Weta t-shirts and a sake dish signed and shared by Elijah, Dom and himself at the ROTK premier in Japan. He even auctions a kiss with Thomas, which raises £110! As the lady makes her way to the stage, Thomas is seen limbering up his lips and acting as if he’s warming up for a marathon. What a giggle. When she arrives on the stage he grabs her, dips her and gives her a big smacker on the lips to howls from the audience.

Finally our exciting Collectormania weekend was coming to an end and it was time to head home but carrying so many happy memories. Jordan and the Cat weave their Collectormania magic once more. A great time was had by all.

'LOTR' symphony sets Elvish to music
Xoanon @ 6:47 pm EST

By Web Behrens
Special to the Tribune
Published October 3, 2004

The members of the World Festival Symphony Orchestra are accustomed to performing on strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion. It's just the specific forms of these instruments that might feel a little foreign to the musicians as they rehearse this week: Ney flute. Hardanger fiddle. Bodhran drum.

Members of the Chicago Children's Choir, meanwhile, have sung in many languages over the years: German, Italian, French, Russian, Japanese. They've even sung in one "dead" language -- Latin -- but not until now have they tackled a mythical one.

How do you say "impressive" in Elvish?

These occurrences become the norm for the musicians performing "The Lord of the Rings Symphony," which will unfold at the Auditorium Theatre on Friday and Saturday as part of a tour spanning four continents. The event will likely prove a first for many audience members, as the phenomenal reach of the blockbuster films extends into the concert hall, luring many to their first experience before a serious orchestra.

"Anywhere in the world it's been performed -- Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, London, Sydney, Taipei -- it's all been done locally," says composer Howard Shore. "To me, that's the real joy of it, awakening interest in symphony orchestras."

Local performers

"The Lord of the Rings Symphony" requires about 225 people to perform its six movements. Ninety-eight are members of the World Festival Symphony Orchestra, an organization of local musicians who regularly perform with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony, Lyric Opera, Ravinia Festival and Chicagoland Pops. (They come together as needed for events such as the Andrea Bocelli or Three Tenors concerts.) A similar number of performers come from the Chicago Children's Choir and Concert Choir, a multicultural group of 9- to 18-year-olds.

From city to city along the tour, the music is generally played, sung and conducted by local artists. The exception is Sissel, the mononymic Scandinavian blessed with an incandescent soprano. Shore tapped her to sing most of the solos, including "Gollum's Song" and "Into the West."

Unlike many people attached to the project, Sissel has very little familiarity with the films or J.R.R. Tolkien's novels. Before her first performance in March, she recalls, "all my friends told me, `Oh Sissel, you have to read the books. You have to read the books!' I said, `Ah, well, it's a little bit late now.' I feel like, through the music, I already know everything."

One other presence sometimes appears onstage: Shore himself. Although he's collaborating again with "Rings" director Peter Jackson on "King Kong," Shore appears for a talk before the concerts (free) and at a champagne reception afterward (an additional $75). Shore will not, however, hold the baton at the Auditorium; German conductor Markus Huber will.

Shore's resume includes several film scores each for directors Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, David Cronenberg and David Fincher. Over the decades, he built a reputation for diversity, from his early TV work as music director for "Saturday Night Live" in the '70s to a harmolodic collaboration with jazz artist Ornette Coleman on the 1992 soundtrack to "Naked Lunch." Still, it wasn't until the unparalleled success of "The Lord of the Rings" that Shore won mainstream recognition (in the form of the Grammy and three Academy Awards) and began to attain name recognition.

He also inherited an international base of devoted Tolkien fans, who have heartily embraced him along with the films. They line up for his autograph and treat him like a rock star -- no small adjustment for a 57-year-old composer.

"People do want to meet you," he allows with understatement. "It's very gratifying."

"I've been writing music for a long time," says Shore, a Toronto native and New York resident, during a phone conversation from England, where the two-hour symphony was recently performed by the London Philharmonic. Everything he's learned in his life led him to "The Lord of the Rings," he says. "I've been writing music since [I was 10], and I'm in my late 50s. So this piece took 40 years to write. It actually took four, but you know, it's a culmination of 40 years of work in music.

Learning the way

"When you started, you were just the hobbit with the ring, saying, `I will do this. I will take the ring to Mordor, although I do not know the way,'" he quips. But before long, he learned how to navigate his way through Middle-earth, seizing upon Tolkien's invented languages, as well as actual ancient instruments, to help evoke the sound of this mythical world of the past.

"The beauty of the languages [Tolkien] created is they had a certain sound," says Shore. "So all right, so it's about sound -- once it is about sound, that takes you into the musical realm." The choruses performing the Symphony across the world all learn Elvish phonetically. Shore used the languages and instruments as he composed leitmotifs for the many different characters, races and locations in the film -- more than 50 in all.

"Part of the reason it works in this symphonic setting is because the structure holds up on its own," says Doug Adams, a Frankfort, Ill., musician and author of the upcoming book, "The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films." "A lot of times, film music is a bunch of stingers for when something scary happens, or now it's happy because everybody's in love. This one brings its own structure to the picture."

"There's a different style of music for each culture of characters: hobbit, elf, dwarf," adds Adams, who will appear with Shore during the Q&A before the concerts. "If you go to the symphony performance, it's very much like an abstract version of Tolkien's story."

As an extra treat for film fans, the Symphony will include projected images that correspond to the music: original sketches and storyboard art by artists Alan Lee and John Howe.

Although in many ways he completed "Rings" in March, after composing and conducting the final notes for the "Return of the King" extended edition DVD, side projects connected to his masterpiece are keeping Shore busy.

"My main focus right now is the box set," he says, referring to an intended nine-CD collection he hopes to release next year that will include every note from the movies. "My dream is to put everything out, all of the music in the films, plus [Doug Adams'] book, plus some treats for the fans -- you know, some rarities."

Meanwhile he can present the symphony. It might only be a fraction of the total 12-hour composition, but it's not just preserved on celluloid or pressed on a disc. "Here now is a living, breathing concert piece, and there's a certain music joy to that," Shore says. "I mean, that's really what making music is all about.

"The Lord of the Rings Symphony" will be performed at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. A pre-show Q&A with composer Howard Shore and local author Doug Adams is at 6:30 each night, free to those with tickets to the performance, which cost $35-$80; 312-902-1500.

Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune

10-03-04 Latest News

'Editing' ROTK Lecture Report
Xoanon @ 5:56 pm EST

Hobbitfan writes: I have just returned from Annie Collins' lecture on editing ROTK. She began with a great clip of Jamie Selkirk talking about the editing process of the movies.

She described how she got the job (first she helped storyboard animation, then digital work, then editing) and what it was like to work with Peter Jackson. We saw several clips of her, Jamie, and Peter editing portions of ROTK (every single time PJ was reclining on a couch), including a very interesting and unfamiliar scene between Faramir and Denethor, with Denethor upbraiding Faramir for letting the Ring be taken to Mordor by a "half-wit halfling". Faramir shoots back that if Boromir had taken the Ring, Denethor would not have known his own son.

Then five different takes of John Noble getting tears in his eyes and growling "Leave me!" ROTK:EE, perhaps? Peter made some very funny jokes, especially when they were editing the lighting of the beacons and he said something along the lines of, "Wow, imagine if you'd been up there sixty years and you're about to retire, and now you finally get to light the beacons and your matches are wet!" Annie described how Peter would always get home at half past five to be with his family, and that they couldn't work on Saturday mornings because that was when Billy Jackson had soccer.

After this we saw three different versions of the great scene of Rohan vs. Mumakil outside Minas Tirith,;the first being very basic and choppy with blocky computer graphics, the second having some matte painting and better animation, and third was the finished copy. By far the most amazing part was when she told us a story about trying to get the scene where Sam rescues Frodo from the Black Tower emotionally right. All the actors were gone, so Fran Walsh had to work with what they had. The first version was okay, but, as Annie put it, Frodo seemed "mad as a hatter" and Sam was still goody-goody; basically, one-dimensional characters with not a lot of drive. Then we saw the scene that ended up in ROTK, using the same shots and only a few different takes, but edited so differently, the mood was entirely different. Then came question time and people with tickets got into the exhibit for only five dollars (if you weren't a member). All in all a wonderful experience.

Tolkien Lecture in Longmont, CO
Xoanon @ 5:52 pm EST

Altaira sends along word of Tolkien lecture in Longmont, CO

Joseph Pearce, author of, "Tolkien: Man and Myth" and, "Tolkien: ACelebration" will be making several presentations as part of a two dayseminar entitled: Unlocking The Lord of the Rings. The presentationswill take place on Saturday evening, October 2, and Sunday morning,October 3rd in Longmont, Colorado.

Two presentations Saturday evening explore Tolkien, the man, and whyhe believed in the relationship between myth and truth. The Sundaymorning presentation will explore why Tolkien referred to The Lord ofthe Rings as a "fundamentally religious work."

Follow the link for exact times and locations. The cost is $25.00which includes refreshments at the Saturday evening event.Registrations will be accepted at the door. [More]

Ringcon 2004: Seattle
Xoanon @ 5:48 pm EST

The folks from Ringcon write: SEATTLE, WA, September 30, 2004 – The fifth Northwest RingCon will be held October 29th through 31st at the SeaTac Doubletree Hotel in Seattle. Lord of the Rings enthusiasts and fantasy lovers of all ages can experience a weekend of music, dance, costume-making, and fun, all in the context of the Middle Earth universe.

Guests include Bruce Hopkins, (“Gamling”), authors Peter Beagle (The Last Unicorn) and Greg Wright (Peter Jackson in Perspective), Peter Tait (Shagrat). Royd Tolkien, great-grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien will make a special guest appearance.

Premier Lord of the Rings costume designers, Cat and Judy from Alley Cat Scratch will hold special costume-making workshops throughout the weekend. A Masquerade Ball and Costume Contest, accompanied by the music of Heather Alexander, will top off the convention on Saturday night. Attendees can have their pictures taken with one of the guests of honor before and during the ball in the backdrop of the mysterious Fangorn Forest.

Tickets for RingCon can be purchased either as an entire weekend package deal or according to individual events. For pricing and registration information, go to www.ringcon.com. Contact RingCon staff at 1-800-359-5948, or by snail mail at RingCon, 12016 134th Avenue, Kpn, Gig Harbor, WA 98329.

10-01-04 Latest News

LOTR: Audience Choice in Santa Monica
Xoanon @ 7:55 pm EST

Hurricane Kailin writes: The last movie in this year's Santa Monica Drive-In at the Pier series will be the first in the Lord of the Rings series -- The Fellowship of the Ring. Due to the length of the film and earlier sunset times, the screening will start at 7:30. Admission is FREE but tickets will be required for entry. Free tickets can be picked up between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at any Santa Monica Visitors Center location: Santa Monica Place Mall, 2nd Floor West; the Visitor Kiosk at 1400 Ocean Avenue; and the new Visitor Information Cart on the 3rd Street Promenade between Arizona and Wilshire. Check www.smff.com or call 310-458-8900 for additional outlets and more information. Especially enthusiastic guests may feel free to dress the part!

Over 1,000 fans of the Drive-in voted in the audience choice web poll. The Santa Monica Drive-In has been a great success, featuring ten movies in as many weeks, representing several different genres, time periods and interests. Welcoming crowds of 2,000 - 4,000 each week, the Drive-In raised almost $1,000 each week to help individuals undergoing cancer treatment.

All proceeds from these events support Cinema Fighting Cancer programs and help fund the Cancer Relief Fund; last year's Drive-In helped support 13 families going through treatment. Founded in 1999, Deep Ellum Film, Music, Arts and Noise, Inc., (DEFMAN) is a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization working to promote the art of filmmaking while raising funds to improve the quality of life for individuals fighting cancer. For more information on DEFMAN and "Cinema Fighting Cancer", please visit www.smff.com.

The Santa Monica Drive-In at the Pier is proudly produced by Deep Ellum, Film, Music, Arts and Noise (DEFMAN) and the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation and presented by Adelphia Cable with support from Arrowhead Water, the City of Santa Monica, CityTV, Comedy Central, Deep Ellum Pictures, DIRECTV, HBO, 95.5 KLOS, Lantana Hines, Lightning Entertainment, Premiere Magazine, Showtime, Starz Network, Sundance Channel and the WB Network.

Hall Of Fire Chats This Weekend
Demosthenes @ 7:29 pm EST

"Under the Mountain dark and tall, The King has come unto his hall! His foe is dead, the Worm of Dread, And ever so his foes shall fall."

"And ever so his foes shall fall" ... or so the Dwarves think.

After hearing of Smaug's death by an old trusted friend, the Dwarves are euphoric, revelling in treasure-lust. But the reality of a large host of unified Men and Wood Elves gathered below the mountain for their just rewards only reveals the stubborn necks of the Dwarves and hints at their possible death.

With Bard as their leader, how do the Lakemen now appear? Should the Men and Elves have chosen a different approach when they came to parley with the Dwarves? What is the responsibility of the Dwarves toward the two parties? Will Bilbo's stomach save Thorin and Company once again?

Come join us for #halloffire as we discuss The Hobbit, Chapter 15: The Gathering of the Clouds

Upcoming topics:

10/9/04, 10/10/04: Tom Bombadil
10/16/04, 10/17/04: The Hobbit: Chapter 16: A Thief in the Night
10/23/04, 10/24/04: Political Systems in Middle Earth
10/30/04, 10/31/04: The Nazgul/Ringwraiths
11/6/04m 11/7/04: The Hobbit: Chapter 17: The Clouds Burst

If you have a potential topic, drop us a line!


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Chapter 1 and MP3: Sean Astin's 'There and Back Again- An Actor's Tale'
Calisuri @ 12:45 pm EST

TheOneRing.net would like to give you a sneak peak at Sean Astin's upcoming book 'There and Back Again - An Actor's Tale' published by St. Martin's Press. Below is the entire first chapter of the book as well as an exclusive MP3 of Sean Astin's reading of an exclusive excerpt. We hope you enjoy both segments and pre-order the book through our affiliate links with Amazon.

Exclusive: Mp3 Excerpt: [Click Here]

Pre-Order at Amazon.com. [Click Here][Audio CD]

There and Back AgainCHAPTER ONE

I sensed from the very beginning that The Lord of the Rings had the potential to be something extraordinary. Not merely extraordinary in the way that, say, Raiders of the Lost Ark was extraordinary-as pure, cinematic adventure, a thrill-ride of the highest order-but as something even more. I'm talking about epic filmmaking not seen since the clays of David Lean or John Ford. I knew that the director, Peter Jackson, was a man of prodigious talent and vision, an artist capable of creating a film that might one day be mentioned in the same breath as Lean's desert classic Lawrence of Arabia. The Lord of the Rings, I thought-I hoped-could be like that: Oscar-caliber art on par with the best films ever made.

How did I know this? Well, sometimes you just get a gut feeling. It's as simple as that. As a journeyman actor I've survived by seeing an opportunity pop up on the radar screen, guessing kind of intuitively what the odds are of success, and then determining whether I want to be part of that project. Sometimes, for practical, real-world reasons, I've made decisions knowing full well what the cycle would be, and that my association with a given film might even have a minor negative impact on my image or marketability. As in any field, you calculate the odds and make a choice, and then you live with it. You can only wait so long for Martin Scorcese to call; sometimes you have to take the best available offer. I've done any number of low-budget movies in which my participation was based primarily on the following logic:

All right, it's a week out of my life or six weeks out of my life, the money is pretty good, and I don't have to audition. Let me take a look at the script. Does my character have a banana sticking out of his ass? No? No banana? Well, then, how bad can it be? It's a third-tier knockoff of a Die Hard movie, but the morality is reasonably intact; the violence is kind of sophomoric, but not gratuitous, and for the most part everyone keeps their clothes on. Most important of all, is anybody in the business ever going to see it? Not likely. Okay ... where do I sign?

Ah, but old movies never really die, do they? Not anymore. Thanks to video and DVD, the Internet, and late-night cable television, they live on forever, seeping inevitably into the public consciousness whether they deserve to or not. Case in point: a cold winter day on the south island of New Zealand, back in 1999. One of many days on the set of The Lord of the Rings when things weren't going quite as planned. The kind of day where the scene called for filming six hundred horses on the top of a windswept deer park, so the crew was furiously washing away snow with fire hoses to make it look like it wasn't wintertime-resulting, of course, in a veritable sea of mud. In New Zealand we traveled almost everywhere in four-wheel-drive vehicles, so thick and persistent was the slop. At times it felt like what I have read about soldiers fighting in the trenches in World War I. We couldn't go anywhere without getting muck splattered all over us. On our shoes, our clothes...our capes. (We were hobbits, remember?) No hyperbole or disrespect intended, but there were times when it almost felt as though we were part of a military operation. It was that rugged, that spartan, that precise. Mountainside locations looked almost like battlefields, dotted with tents and armies of workers. The general, of course, was Peter Jackson.

Well, on this one particular morning I saw Peter sitting in his tent with a bemused look on his face. Now, protocol on movie sets often dictates that directors, even those as approachable and thoughtful as Peter, be given space in the morning hours-it's a time for preparation, not long conversations. But, as I approached, planning to offer no more than a cheery "Good morning:' Peter began to nod ever so slightly. With his unruly hair, stout frame, and generally disheveled appearance, Peter has often been described as "hobbit-like:' and certainly the impish grin coming to his face now supported that notion.

"Sean:' he said dryly. "Guess what I saw last night?"



Ob, boy ...

Icebreaker was the rather benign result of one of those "business" decisions I just mentioned. Some two years earlier I had accepted what most people would consider to be a princely sum of money (sixty thousand dollars) for roughly two weeks of work. I had a good time making Icebreaker, which was filmed at Killington Ski Resort in Vermont. While there, I dined at a couple of nice restaurants, discovered a lovely antique bookshop, and made a few good friends. Peter Beckwith, the producer, and David Giancola, the director, are genuinely nice men who treated me well. One of my costars was die incomparable Bruce Campbell, regarded as perhaps the king of B-movie stars. If you've seen The Evil Dead or any of its sequels, you've seen Bruce. You know his work and his s ability to bring a certain campy grace to almost any project. I wasn't really familiar with Bruce's work at the time, but most of the people I worked with were, and they said things like, "Oh, man, you have no idea how cool it is to work with this guy." In truth, Bruce was pretty cool. And a total pro, I might add. I had fun working with him.

Everything about my experience in Vermont was pleasant, if ultimately forgettable. But let's be honest here: the movie is a piece of shit.(1) Sorry, Dave. Sorry, Peter. But you know it's a piece of shit, too. By that, I mean, it isn't socially edifying, and it doesn't aspire to be artistic or even particularly clever. It's just mindless, harmless entertainment. (Check out the movie's promotional poster, featuring yours truly with a pair of ski goggles perched on his forehead, a revolver in his hand, and a look on his face that fairly screams, "Mess with me, and I'll kick your ass!") But we all got along well and had a pleasant enough time, and while we were there we took our work as seriously as possible.

For me-for all of us, really-it was a smart business decision to do Icebreaker. These guys figured out a formula: how to package and presell the movie, how to raise the money, how to film the thing, and how to have fun doing it. So more power to them. And, frankly, I needed the work and the cash that came with it. Little did I know that two years later I'd be on location in New Zealand, working on one of the most ambitious projects in the history of movies, a $270 million version of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and that Id be standing face-to-face with Peter Jackson, one of the rising stars of the business. Peter, it turns out, is not just a filmmaker, but a fan of films, all films, with a massive private collection that keeps his garage screening room humming day and night, and a penchant for channel surfing in the wee hours that makes it virtually impossible to hide anything from him.

Including Icebreaker.

"Very nice," Peter said, and left it at that, because nothing else needed to be said. It wasn't an insult, nor was it meant to embarrass me (well, maybe a little). It was just an acknowledgment of where I'd been and where I was. Most actors (and most directors, too) have such things on their résume's, and part of the obligation of the fraternity is to remind you of that every once 'in a while. It's healthy for the ego, if you know what I mean. But in this setting no one else had any idea what Peter was talking about. The cast and crew seemed unfamiliar with Icebreaker, but they understood that the director was gently busting the balls of one of his actors, and that was sufficient, especially since that actor was a bit of an outsider.

You see, on the set of The Lord of the Rings I think I was sometimes perceived as the Hollywood guy (which is not necessarily the same as a movie star). The director and the vast majority of his crew were native Kiwis, and most of the actors were from the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Even more so than Elijah Wood, who as Frodo was ostensibly the film's star, I got the sense that I was the American actor. I was the kid who had grown up in Hollywood. I had been raised by a pair of pop culture icons, Patty Duke and John Astin. On a production that had been quite vocal and public in its reluctance to hire American actors (not out of any overt jingoism, but merely as a way to demonstrate faithfulness to Tolkien's vision), I was the most visible exception to the rule. I was Rudy, for God's sake. You don't get any more American than that. Rudy was the underdog. And I guess, in a way, so was I.

Let me say something about the purpose of There and Back Again. Forests have been felled and more ink spilled about The Lord of the Rings than for almost any other film franchise in recent memory. I have talked extensively about how positive my experience in New Zealand was, about the family bonds that were created, and the love and passion and dedication that everyone involved brought to their work. My intent here is absolutely not to disavow any of that sentiment; rather, I want to amplify and explore some of the other kinds of emotions and dynamics that I felt. Furthermore, I want to explain how a lot of my early experiences as a professional actor informed my thinking and attitudes during much of the filming. So ...

To get an idea of how my career has advanced-and sometimes stalled-we should really go back to 1989. Shortly after graduating from high school, I traveled to England to work on a World War Il ensemble film called Memphis Belle. It was a good role in a major Hollywood movie, starring a handful of talented young actors, among them Eric Stolz and Matthew Modine, and it figured to help me regain some of the momentum I'd achieved a few years earlier, when I'd starred in The Goonies. I was serious about my life and career, although admittedly lacking focus and direction. I wanted to go to college, but I also wanted to be a movie star and a filmmaker.

It was an exciting time in my life. I was eighteen years old, had just graduated from high school, and was traveling at my own expense to take part in a Warner Bros. movie. The producer, David Putnam, was one of my heroes. I greatly admired his films and had followed his career as an executive; in short, I wanted to emulate him in some way. I'll never forget the day that he gathered the American actors together at the Atheneum Hotel in London and told us about his belief 'in the power of cinema. His words confirmed a lifetime of instincts and crystallized my imagination. We were about to embark on a filmmaking experience of real significance. The story dealt with an important moment 'in American and world history, and we all wanted to get it right. I loved the idea that I was becoming a global citizen and that I was likely to travel all over the world experiencing new cultures and meeting people completely different from myself. I sensed that I was destined to become a star and that my dream of becoming a filmmaker was about to come true. It had been a long time since The Goonies, but now it seemed as though my career was ready to take off, and I would be able to accomplish the loftiest of my goals. How? I really had no idea.

One day near the end of principal photography on Memphis Belle I took a walk in the garden at Pinewood Studios with the Academy Award-w Mining cinematographer David Watkins. This 'in some way was a rite of passage. David was one of the most revered and gifted cinematographers 'in the business, having worked on, among other films, Catch-22 and Out of Africa (for which he won an Oscar). He was a legend in the cinematography world, not only because of his artistry, but also because of his personality, which was at once generous and biting. David didn't suffer fools gladly, nor did he fall at the feet of Hollywood's gentry. Warren Beatty told me that David once said to Barbra Streisand, when they first began working together, "We're going to have to do something about that!" while pointing rather dramatically at her nose.

Anyway, instead of being rude, David decided to offer me guidance and inspiration. I began telling him about an original idea I had for a short film based on nothing more than a single image I had carried with me since I was fourteen years old. It had popped into my head one day while driving with Mark Marshall, Steven Spielberg's assistant, during the filming of The Goonies. Mark was taking me home, and we were on Ventura Boulevard, with the sun setting, listening to Kansas sing "Dust in the Wind" on the radio, when suddenly I had a vision of two soldiers-one Vietnamese, one American-hanging upside down next to each other, with a burning red sun between them. Why? I don't know. My best guess is that it had something to do with my having recently seen Francis Ford Coppola's classic Apocalypse Now for the first time. That, combined with the fact that every day when I went to work on The Goonies, I was escorted to the set by my guardian, Joseph "Peppy" Passarelli. A big Italian man with a bushy mustache, Peppy had been a corpsman in Vietnam, and during our many hours in the car he often shared tales of his time 'in Southeast Asia. Anyway, between Peppy and Apocalypse Now, and Kansas and the setting sun, I couldn't get this image out of my head.

So here I was years later, walking with David Watkins, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and sharing with him my idea for a small personal film, not at all sure how he would respond to it, but wanting his feedback nonetheless. The truth is, I was a bit lost. I knew I had missed a window of opportunity for college. I'd applied to Cal State-Northridge right out of high school, mainly because it was one of the few schools that did not require the SAT for admission. This was important to me because I hated the notion of having my intelligence quantified by a single exam. (In the interest Of fun disclosure, I should reveal that I did once register for the SAT, and even started to drive to the testing site, only to miss the exam after locking my keys in the car at a gas station while battling a bout of performance anxiety.) I was accepted at Cal State-Northridge, but I knew, based on the filming schedule of Memphis Belle, that I would almost certainly be 'in England when the fall semester began. If I'd returned immediately upon the conclusion of principal photography, I might have missed no more than a week or two of classes, and I suppose I could have made up the work, but I opted instead to travel. Some of the other guys had cool trips planned, and I wanted to be like them. I took a cruise through Greece, and I paid top dollar because I didn't know you could do it more cost effectively than that. To be honest, I didn't really care. I had some money in my pocket and a small degree of notoriety, and so I had a good time. It was a wonderful experience, but I embraced it knowing full well that it would delay my entrance to Cal State-Northridge.

It's fair to say that I was somewhat conflicted about what I wanted to do with my life. Here I was, part of this big World War 11 movie produced by the estimable David Putnam, who, a decade before Saving Private Ryan galvanized public o pinion, had captured my imagination and made me understand the importance of movies. One reason David wanted to make Memphis Belle was his outrage over the gratuitousness of Top Gun, which a few years earlier had trumpeted the machismo and courage of modern-day fighter pilots in what he considered an almost cartoonish manner. David was after something else, something more subtle, more honest. He wanted to celebrate the greatest generation!) He understood how critical and important the Images of war could be, and so he believed it was a sacred responsibility to portray such behavior in aft its complexity. I believed what he told us with my whole heart. I wanted to be an important filmmaker, just like David Putnam. He had been the president of Columbia Pictures, and now he wanted to try to improve the quality of British film.

The first day I met David, I said, "Mr. Putnam, I'm not going to ask you for anything except, please, let me go to Asia when it's time to promote this movie." He said he'd try, and true to his word, he took me with him to Thailand, Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong. In no small bit of irony, we wound up promoting the movie on the eve of the Persian Gulf War, and I found myself on a dais with David and Matthew Modine, fielding questions about our positions on the conflict in Iraq. Memphis Belle was a celebration of American air supremacy during World War 11, and a reflection on the kinds of sacrifices that made Allied victory possible. The Japanese journalists seemed justifiably skeptical about whatever propaganda we were supposedly engaged in. To our credit, David, Matthew, and I took refuge in our roles as artists whose primary mission is to examine and reflect the best and worst of what human nature has to offer. I've always had notions of a political future for myself, probably since my mom told me in the fourth grade that I could be anything I wanted to be, even president of the United States. Well, I believed her, and now at nineteen I found myself "on the record" about serious issues at a serious time. But I remember feeling that my country was at war, and I should be at home with my family.

It was during this trip that I met (via telephone) the woman I would eventually marry. I was sitting in the bathtub of a fancy hotel *in Tokyo, watching CNN and listening to Bernie Shaw as he crawled around the floor of the Al Rasheed Hotel, when the phone rang. The voice on the other end sounded as though it belonged to a beautiful young woman, and as it turned out, that was precisely the case. Christine was working for a commercial agent who had set up meetings for me in Japan. It was bizarre to think about "selling" myself as a marketable commodity to advertisers while we were *in the first stages of a new war. I couldn't help but wonder about my place *in the grand scheme of things. I remember the issue came up of whether the draft might need to be reinstated if the war dragged on. As David Putnam and I were arriving at the airport for our journey home, I said quite emphatically, "I'll go. If they call, I'll go" I knew that I was saying it just because it sounded good, so it was somewhat self-serving. But I meant it, too. Although my political feelings about it were not necessarily the same as my personal feelings, I believed that if the draft had been reinstated, I would have been obligated to serve, and I would have embraced that obligation. Of course, I'll never really know what I would have done.

I guess I was trying to take myself seriously, maybe too seriously, but then there are worse mistakes a young man can make. I was not all that sophisticated and didn't have an extensive vocabulary. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to accept the responsibility of being an adult. I needed help, though. I needed guidance. So as I walked that day through the garden with David Watkins, one of the great artists of the medium, I solicited his opinion and advice. I told him that when I got home, I planned to shoot a 16-millimeter short film about this image in my head, the one of the two soldiers.

"Why do it sixteen?" he asked. "Why not thirty-five-millimeter? You know, it's not that much more expensive."

I felt like I'd been hit over the head with a bat. Until then, I had thought of myself as a student, someone not yet ready to embark on the journey of a grown-up filmmaker. But this simple suggestion from one of the industry's giants changed my life. He wasn't talking to me like a kid or a student. Implicit in his comment was the idea that we were equals. Maybe not in terms of accomplishments, but certainly in terms of potential. I don't think he realized what he did for me in that moment, but I will forever be grateful to him.

Practically speaking, David was right, of course. I'd planned to shoot the film in 16-millimeter partly because it was cheaper, but mainly because it seemed less pretentious. Real filmmakers shot in 35-millimeter; aspiring filmmakers settled for 16-millimeter. David Watkins understood the difference, and now so did I.

When I got home, I poured tons of energy into my work. Along with two of my friends, I produced and starred in a play. I took an acting class with Stella Adler, and I went to work on my short film. I also began building my own production company, Lava Entertainment.

In late January 1991, 1 finally met Christine in person, and we were almost instantly inseparable. We became life partners in every way imaginable. We like telling people that we were comfortably codependent. Along the way we moved in together, traveled to Asia, backpacked across Europe, and fell madly in love. I was nineteen when we met; Christine was twenty-two. Not long after we returned from Europe, I went to Indiana to meet her family. I think Christine's father had mixed feelings about me. On one hand, he knew I had at least a shot at the brass ring, and thus might be capable of giving Christine the kind of life he naturally felt she deserved, the life any father wants for his daughter. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure he thought I was a complete Hollywood idiot, because I had no education, no practical experience, and no formal plan for achieving any of my lofty goals. This was a no-nonsense guy who had worked hard his whole life. A career firefighter, he had spent his life's savings and much of his family's emotional equity in a failed attempt to own and run a grocery store. When I met Christine, her family was finally coming out of the aftermath of that experience, so I was viewed by her clan as either the knight in shining armor or a flaky prince. Her family was nervous and scared and hopeful, all at the same time; I just didn't want to let them down.

As I think back, I realize that Christine's dad really wanted me to marry his daughter, which was good, because I never wanted to lose her. The life Christine had known and still does know in Indiana is one of stability, unquestioning love, loyalty, and support from her family and community. I revere that quality in her and them, and I am proud to consider myself a very real part of their family.

I always felt like I was destined for greatness (2) on some level, even if I was afraid to express those feelings out loud, but I didn't mind expressing them to Christine on our first date. It meant the world to me that she didn't laugh. She believed me; she believed in me. She took me absolutely seriously, and I found that incredibly romantic. She was the sexiest woman I had ever met, and she was into me, which I found inordinately shocking. I remember a couple of rakes who were my friends at the time looking at Christine, and looking at me with utter stupefaction, and saying, "How did you land this girl?"

I had no answer.

Not everyone was happy about my relationship with Christine. Among the skeptics was Milton Justice, a friend and one of my earliest mentors. Milton is a brilliant and creative man, a Yale-educated actor-turned-producer who earned an Academy Award in 1986 for his work on Down and Out in America, a documentary feature about the lives of transvestites and transsexuals. Milton was one of the producers of Staying Together, a movie 'in which I had starred in 1987, and he agreed to help me and my friends produce a play in L.A. that we wanted to act in. He would also help by producing my first short film with me, introducing me to Stella Adler, helping me land representation from what was then the biggest agency in town (Creative Arts Agency), and getting me into the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. Needless to say, he had a manifest impact both on my career and my thinking at a critical stage in my development.
Our friendship started simply enough. Milton had produced a play that Id been in, and as I was trying to figure out the Hollywood game of forming meaningful and important relationships, I invited him out to dinner 'in the hope of picking his brain and perhaps absorbing some of his wisdom. I took him to a nice restaurant, which I think he found rather charming. I was an eighteen-year-old kid, and he couldn't believe I was paying for his dinner, since actors, especially young ones, just didn't do that kind of thing. But there was so much value to knowing him and learning from him. And I liked him a lot, both as a person and a potential business partner.

So we developed what I considered to be more than a friendship; it was a mentorship. Milton supported me; he believed in my ambitions and ability, and wanted to help nurture my talent, and eventually help trade on it, of course.

Milton and I worked well together-until I met Christine. When I told him how much I cared about her, and how I planned to marry her, he was dismissive.

"You say that about every girl."

"I know. But this time it's different."

Not long after that, when I told Milton I didn't want to continue carrying such large overhead expenses-I was spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars a month, with barely anything to show for it-he became incensed. He took it personally and walked out. And I let him go.

We had been working out of a rent-free space, which is a funny story on a couple of levels. First, Milton and I had independently known about a postproduction facility in Hollywood called Matrix Alliance. I knew one of the guys who worked there, having worked with him on several occasions over the years. His name was Barney, and whenever I had a looping session at Matrix, Barney always seemed to be in charge. There was an upper room in the industrial area that nobody was using, and one weekend while Barney was on vacation with his family in Palm Springs, Milton and I literally moved in. We put their boxes into a storage area and turned on phones and furnished the space with rented furniture; I even put some posters up on the walls. On Monday, when Barney returned, I called him in and said, "Hey, Barney, look-Lava Entertainment!" He was, like, "Oh, boy, look what you did."

But I calmed him down by appealing to his genuinely decent nature.

"Please:' I said, "I can't afford to pay for office space. Let me use it. You won't even know I'm here. Eventually it'll pay off, and if you need the space, just say the word and we're gone."

The funny, silly, sad lesson for me probably won't ever become the stuff of Hollywood lore that I wish it would. You see, during preparations for On My Honor, my first short film, I called virtually everyone I had ever worked with to ask for help. To a person, no one would contribute a cent, but just about everyone offered help in some way, shape, or form. Notably, Steven Spielberg offered to let me use his editing suites at Amblin on the Universal lot. I'll never forget driving into Universal Studios with ten or so reels of film in cans in my hatchback. Those cans represented a thirty-thousand-dollar investment, and I had them cooking in the L.A. sun in my car! Regardless, here I was, a bona fide filmmaker heading for the sacred work space that Spielberg had so generously offered for my use. I found myself alone in the editing room with no idea how to load the 3S-m' i film into the Moviola in order to look at it. I was terrified that Steven would pop his head in, and I would be exposed for the neophyte/ fraud/Idiot that I had pretended not to be. I opened the first canister of film and picked it up incorrectly. The core of the film fell out, and there I was, sitting in a tangled ball of film. I hightailed it out of there and have only been back once, in a faded audition attempt for High Incident, Spielberg's television show about the LAPD. Ironically, Steven told everyone in the room that he'd seen my second short film, Kangaroo Court, and that I was an excellent filmmaker.

The point of this story is that I was too embarrassed to ask for help and too impatient to figure out a problem on my own. I believe that mistake cost me the possibility of having Steven check up on me and the untold benefit that might have come from the folks at Amblin seeing me as a familiar face around the shop. While I deeply regret my fallibility in this regard, I am grateful to Milton Justice for stepping into the breach and working with me despite my idiosyncrasies. I think today he stiff considers me someone he'd be willing to work with, and that thought makes me happy.

As it turned out, Mark Rocco, a young director, was paying for a big suite of offices adjacent to our "storeroom" office, and he was in the process of putting together a movie about homeless drug addicts. Mark, the son of actor Alex Rocco, went on to forge a reasonably successful career, highlighted by a critically acclaimed movie tided Murder in the First, which features Kevin Bacon giving perhaps the performance of his life as a prisoner on death row at Alcatraz. At the time, however, Mark was just a hungry young director, eagerly trying to make contacts and assemble projects. Judging from the traffic in and out of his office, it seemed that a key component of his strategy was to form friendships with young Hollywood actors. At first, I thought he seemed like a scurrilous individual, and I didn't have a lot of respect for what he was doing. I knew he was planning to make a movie about street kids, and he just seemed kind of creepy.

Oddly enough, we wound up playing basketball together on a semi-regular basis. I would come out of the little cubicle that I had co-opted and play hoops with the people who were Mark's assistants, friends, partners, and so on, and he ended up offering me a part in this movie about drug addicts and homeless kids called Mere the Day Takes You. My first response was to turn down the offer, but then I agreed to do a cameo. I was trying to figure out what he was doing, and whether he had a real script, a real budget, and the ability and resources to put together a legitimate project. I had my doubts.

"It's union scale:' Mark said."That's the best I can do"

At this time I knew almost nothing about the fine art of negotiation. Id had a very complicated relationship with my representatives at CAA, trying to figure out how money was made and eventually coming to the realization (obvious to anyone with a bit less naivé) that they were more interested in making money for themselves than for me. So I was really grappling with the dynamics of what negotiations were. I was learning on my own the way things work in Hollywood-that multiple sets of books may be kept, and that on virtually every movie a quiet sort of compensation can occur. The studio has contractual obligations with the network or the producers or the distributors, and cash goes under the table, behind doors, and so on. It seems to happen on virtually every project. You just have to decide how much you want, what you think you can get, and what you're willing to not know.

In the grand scheme of things, this is a fairly innocuous little story about a very small, independent film, a director seeming to do whatever was necessary to get his movie made, and a young actor trying to figure out how to make deals and keep his integrity while profiting at the same time.

"I can't give you any more money," Mark said, "but is there anything else you'd like that would make you consider doing this? Can I give you a birthday present?"

My thoughts turned to my younger brother, Mack, also an actor. He'd made quite a good living working on the television show The Facts of Life. Unfortunately, he'd spent most of what he'd earned by spending crazily on such things as renting an indoor hockey rink in Los Angeles just so he and his buddies would have a place to play. Mack was always begging me to join them, but there never seemed to be enough time, and anyway, I didn't have any of the proper gear. I'd grown up playing baseball, football, and basketball. Hockey? In Southern California? It didn't make much sense. Now, though, as Mark Rocco asked me if there was something I might need, the thought of Mack and his ice-rink buddies flashed through my mind.

"You know, I could use some hockey equipment."

The next thing I knew, I was in Mark's office, hoisting a huge black hockey bag over my shoulder, filled with top-of-the-line gear: skates, helmet, mask, pads, stick, everything. I remember the weight of that bag felt like the exact weight of compromise; it felt like the weight of having sold out. I wanted the bag and everything in it, and yet I wanted somehow to keep a firm grasp on my own integrity, and it occurred to me then that perhaps it was possible to do both. The very idea of that possibility, that moral ambiguity, confused and bothered me.

Looking at Mark Rocco, I realized that he was a young businessman, maybe even an artist (I wasn't sure yet), who would do whatever was necessary to get his movie made, including extending favors to his actors. Instead of despising him for it, I admired him. I even admired the fact that he'd gotten off cheap with me. That was a conscious decision: I chose to admire him, or at least that aspect of him. His determination. His will. His creativity.

"Okay, Mark," I said, "I'll play the lead in your movie."

He smiled.

"What changed your mind?"

My answer was complicated, but it came down to this: Mark had tapped into my own integrity. I had perceived him as something other than what he really was. Originally, I saw him as a. guy who was not only trying to figure out how to cash in on actors' success in order to get movies made, but worse, was also trading on the misfortune of homeless kids. I couldn't understand why he was doing that. I questioned his integrity. It seemed like he was profiting from other people's experiences, and he was just a slimy, backroom sort of guy. Mark always seemed to be shrouded in a veil of thick gray cigarette smoke. He had dark unruly hair, he dressed badly, and he seemed to be perpetually sleep-deprived. To my eyes, he could even have had some firsthand experience with the material he was filming- But none of that mattered now, because he had done it. He'd found a way to reach me and get his movie made. I felt like I had compromised my integrity.

There was just one problem.

"We're closing a deal with David Arquette to play your part, "Mark said. "But I think we can get him to take the smaller part you had agreed to play, and you can play the bigger part."

Sounded good to me, although there were a few other stipulations. Mark wanted me to visit a juvenile detention center and interview some of the kids there. He wanted me to meet with doctors to discuss the ravages of heroin abuse.

"One other thing ..., "he said.


"You have to lose ten pounds in the next ten days."

"No problem."

Not exactly true, as it turned out. With the help and guidance of a doctor and nutritionist, I shed the weight. I subsisted on four hundred calories a day, mostly raw vegetables and chicken breast, and by the time shooting started I was carrying only 125 pounds on a five-foot seven frame. (As a point of reference, my ideal walking-around weight these days is about 165; for the role of Samwise Gamgee, I deliberately packed on another thirty to forty pounds, bringing me up to a nearly corpulent two hundred.) The benefits of this transformation were instantly evident on screen: I was gaunt, haggard, sickly. In other words, I looked like either a drug addict or someone who is terminally ill. Not quite Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, but definitely moving in that direction. The unwanted fallout of this rapid weight loss was that it wreaked havoc on my metabolism, a problem I still face to this day. But I have no regrets. Where the Day Takes You remains one of the greatest creative experiences I've known. It showed me what I could do as an actor, how it was possible to develop my craft through hard work and sacrifice and research. I've done some good movies, and I've done some bad movies. Where the Day Takes You is a good one. It belongs in the pantheon of really interesting films about drug abuse, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as My Own Private Idaho and Drugstore Cowboy. I'm proud to have it on my résume. Thank goodness things worked out the way they did, and my initial thoughts about Mark turned out to be wrong. I regret that I underestimated him as an artist.

Oh, by the way. That hockey equipment? It's still in the bag. Never been used.

1. "Piece of shit" is a phrase I use comfortably in everyday conversation. In this context it's meant to be both funny and descriptive, but not mean-spirited. It does, however, reflect a certain point of view, which I can't deny.

2. Please forgive me for being pompous, and grant me a little fun. There's a very thin line between delusions of grandeur and extraordinary human achievement, if only in the early stages of planning. If I succeed-wonderful! If I fail-well, at least you all were gracious enough not to spoil my good time.

Copyright 2004 by Sean Astin

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9-30-04 Latest News

New Line Options Funke's 'Dragon Rider'
Xoanon @ 9:38 am EST

Scholastic Goes Back to Press on Cornelia Funke's Latest Novel

Dragon Rider Hits #1 on New York Times and Book Sense Best-Seller Lists

NEW YORK, Sept. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Scholastic announced today that it was going back to press for 100,000 copies of its new breakaway best-seller, Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, bringing the total to 250,000 copies in print. Scholastic released Dragon Rider in mid-August with an initial print run of 150,000 copies. In less than a month the book hit #1 on The New York Times best-seller list as well as the Book Sense best-seller list. In the two short years since Funke's debut in America, there are currently 2,000,000 copies of her books in print in the U.S. and Canada.

Scholastic is supporting Dragon Rider with a $150,000 marketing campaign including distributing thousands of advanced reading copies, a national print and radio advertising campaign and a national publicity campaign. Cornelia Funke will be touring to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles in October, as well as to Boston where she will be a speaker at the New England Booksellers Association regional convention and Detroit where she will speak at the Great Lakes Booksellers Association regional convention. Funke will also be doing a live web chat on October 5 at 1 p.m. EDT. at http://www.scholastic.com/corneliafunke.

A best-selling author in Germany, Cornelia Funke made her American debut in the fall of 2002 with The Thief Lord and became one of the most successful first-time children's authors in the United States. The book was a New York Times best-seller for 25 weeks and winner of the 2003 Book Sense Book of the Year Award. According to USA Today, " ... this exquisitely told tale of adventure and intrigue set in contemporary Venice can be read, or more accurately devoured, by teenagers and adults."

In 2003, Funke followed up with another best-seller, Inkheart. The first title in Funke's Inkheart trilogy was on The New York Times best-seller list for 21 weeks. The novel was also a Publishers Weekly and Book Sense best- seller and was a finalist for the 2004 Book Sense Book of the Year Award. The thrilling adventure about a young girl, Meggie, whose father can make fictional characters come to life by reading a book out loud, was hailed in a starred review in Publishers Weekly: "Funke once again proves the power of her imagination; readers will be captivated by the thrilling world she has created here."

Cornelia Funke recently announced a deal with New Line Cinema who will develop her Inkheart trilogy as a potential kid's fantasy franchise. In a Variety article, New Line executive Vice President Mark Ordesky said, "It's the perfect segue from 'Lord of the Rings' to 'Inkheart.' Apart from Cornelia's huge status within Europe, her international popularity is only just beginning to crest."

Dragon Rider tells the story of Firedrake and Sorrell, two dragons whose peaceful valley is threatened with danger. Together they set off to find the mythical Rim of Heaven - the only place in the world where dragons can be safe forever. Along the way they meet an orphaned boy named Ben who volunteers to be their navigator and quickly becomes their friend. With an evil dragon hunter on their trail, their quest turns into a battle for survival. A true adventure, Dragon Rider is an exciting, heartwarming, and ultimately triumphant tale about the power of belief and the true meaning of home.

Cornelia Funke is published in America by Scholastic in partnership with The Chicken House-founded in the United Kingdom by Barry Cunningham, the original publisher of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Mr. Cunningham first learned of Cornelia Funke through a letter he received from an eleven- year-old girl wanting to know why her favorite children's writer wasn't published in English.

Scholastic Corporation (Nasdaq:SCHL) is the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books. Scholastic creates quality educational and entertaining materials and products for use in school and at home, including children's books, magazines, technology-based products, teacher materials, television programming, film, videos and toys. The Company distributes its products and services through a variety of channels, including proprietary school-based book clubs, school-based book fairs, and school-based and direct- to-home continuity programs; retail stores, schools, libraries, and television networks; and the Company's Internet Site, http://www.scholastic.com.

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