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Interview with Lawrence Makoare
Only a few years ago Lawrence Makoare, the 6 foot plus tall New Zealand native was working on a road crew in Auckland. He is now playing the major heavy in the first of three LOTR films, having a blast and losing his head, literally.
Xoanon recently chatted via telephone with the soft-spoken actor, who was very candid about his experience making LOTR, working with Christopher Lee and what hes doing next!
TheOneRing.net: Lawrence, it is so nice to finally speak to you, lets start off with a simple question. How did you first get involved with the whole LOTR production?
Lawrence Makoare: Well I've been acting for nine years now, and my agency called and told me I should go up for an audition for LOTR, it all happened from there. I went for the audition, I really wasn't expecting anything back, but to my surprised they called back and told me I got 'a' part in LOTR. This was a huge bonus for me anyway, because of the books, I've heard about the books, I've never read it but I've got so many friends and family that have read the books countless amounts of times, I think they were more excited than I was about it.
TORN: How long until after you got the role did they call you in for makeup and screen testing?
LM: It wasn't that long after I got the final 'ok' that I was called in. They wanted to do a cast of my face so they could make all the prosthetics and send it all down to WETA Workshop, with Gino Acevedo, who is the Senior Prosthetics Supervisor of WETA Workshop, Jason Docherty and Ben Hawker who were constantly with me throughout my whole time on the SET of LOTR. At any given time I had 6 people working on me at the same time while we were filming. It was the biggest makeup experience I've been through in my whole career so far.
TORN: speaking of make-up, you were covered from head to toe in it; can you tell me more about that?
LM: Yes, my whole body, literally head to toe was covered in prosthetics. The head came in 5 pieces, the body came in all different stages, my arms, and my chest was glued on, my legs, feet, fingers, and hands! (laughs) every-single-part of my body was completely covered!
TORN: And then they put armor on top of all that
LM: Yes! And in allot of places the prosthetics were 4 inches thick, so it was pretty hot in there, especially when I was doing the physical stuff like running through the forest on a pretty hot day, and doing all the fight scenes, particularly with the armor on it was really really hot. It was like wearing a really tight wetsuit, if you can imagine that, except this was a little thicker than the average wetsuit.
TORN: Now that you're in the film, are you more into LOTR? Are you trying to get into the phenomenon?
LM: Yes, certainly, because it's a trilogy, there's so much more of the story that I do not know, so yes, I'd like to read the books. Because I've never read a book, and then seen the movie it was based on before. So I want to try and do that and see what those people's view of the film is. So I'm going at it the opposite way, I'm not really much of a reader, but I'm starting to get into books now, when I was young I wasn't really into reading books.
TORN: Tell me more about your fight scenes; did you do any special training?
LM: Bob Anderson, the swordsmaster, trained us; he did the Star Wars' fight scenes, with the lightsabers. We were working with Bob quite allot to get all the sequences and action down; we were working out the routines. We did about a 10-minute fight; just to see what Peter liked, and if he wanted is shorter we would cut it shorter. I was working with Viggo Mortensen, Viggo and myself would work on the whole fight scene. It was really good; it was a learning experience, and something I've never done before, outside some of the weaponry from my culture, some of the weapons are similar.
TORN: How did they shoot the scenes where you lose your arm and head?
LM: Oh that! It was really weird, I thought they would use a blue sock or something to cover my arm, so they can use the blue screen effect, but they didn't, we were in the forest just like you see it, I was asking them if they want me to hold my arm behind my back and the WETA digital guys just said 'no it's ok, we'll take care of it later'.
TORN: So no blue screen anything?
LM: No, none at all, it was amazing what they did, it was all casual for them, it's really amazing. It was the same thing with my head, they just wanted me to tilt my head sideways and it was going to be removed later on. I thought I'd have to go back to the studio and to a blue screen type thing, even my prosthetics guys were curious as to how we were going to do it. Because different departments in WETA handle different things, the prosthetics guys really didn't know much about the digital side of things. I was amazed at how they did it.
TORN: Amazing, now on the site we have pictures of you at the premiere in New Zealand, how did you like that whole event? Have you ever been to something like that before?
LM: Absolutely amazing, I've been to a premiere here locally in NZ before for other films, and that premiere was really small, really tiny compared to the one in Wellington, it was awesome, mind blowing, I was talking to Sam Neil, and I asked him 'are your premieres like this?' and he said 'nothing like this, this is amazing', and it was.
TORN: Lurtz doesn't speak very much in the film, but he does have a few lines, did they use your voice in the film?
LM: Yes, it was my voice, we did allot of ADR. But allot of my scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, the actual directors cut was 5 hours long, many scenes were dropped from the film, allot of my scenes were dropped. A bunch of them were my speaking scenes as well, many of scenes that weren't shown in the movie that I liked. (laughs)
TORN: Can you tell us about some of those?
LM: Well, there was the scene where I was just born, we shot allot of different scenes for that, the one they used was the one where as soon as they ripped open the sack, I grabbed the Orc Overseer and strangled him. Well we shot other scenes where I was practically in my armor, and the Orc Overseer comes to inspect us with Saruman, the overseer starts whipping me and beating me because I am not listening, Lurtz doesn't like that and lifts hum up by one arm and slowly crushes his neck.
TORN: Like Darth Vader
LM: Yeah, that's it (laughs) the thing I liked was the fact that we even rehearsed that scene with Bob Anderson, what we didn't use was a dolly, like a see-saw, so when you lift the person up it is much easier to do, but they didn't use a dolly, I had to use my own strength (laughs). But what we didn't cater for was the fact that the fellow I was lifting would be wearing a full costume and armor, because in practice we were just wearing our plain clothes. I didn't count of him being so heavy when it came to shoot it, so here we are, camera is rolling, I pick him up and am yelling
and pick him up. And after the shot the assistant Director was like 'great sound effects, very cool' and I said 'I wasn't doing sound effects! I was really yelling! He's heavy!!' (laughs)
TORN: (laughs) Alright! Take 47! Let's go!
LM: (laughs) Yeah right! No thanks!
TORN: So we hope to see allot more of you on the DVD if all the rumors are true that the full cut will be on DVD
LM: Yes, apparently that is what Gino was saying that the DVD will come out with more of the film, mind you Peter had to drop out allot of really really good stuff, because of the 2 hours they eventually had to remove. Man, some really good things, what a waste of footage that would be.
TORN: We see you in full costume in the film, and Lurtz looks mammoth, but you yourself are a built person, do you work out or play any sports?
LM: Before I started acting I worked on the Auckland city council doing road maintenance and stuff like that, it was very physical work. Wed be shoveling 40 tons of detriment a day, so that really beefed you up. But as soon as I got into acting, which is allot easier, and is a lot less physical so I've lost allot of my bulk. I've also stopped playing allot of sports, due to contracts with different films, they prohibit you from playing sports. All in all it's taken away allot of my fitness. Yeah, but I try to get in a few things now and then.
TORN: How did you like working with such a legendary actor like Christopher Lee?
LM: It has actually been a highlight of my career working with Christopher Lee, he's just amazing, and hes the King of horror! To work with him was amazing.
When I was getting my makeup done, which took 11 hours, when I was in full costume, you'd have allot of time to think about things and your character. I was thinking about Christopher Lee and how he used to scare me as a kid as Dracula and all those great films.
As I was getting my face put on, during our first day working together, which was actually the scene where he has me standing in his chamber and he's walking around me saying (in a great Christopher Lee impression) 'Do you know how the Orcs first came into being?...'. So that was our first day, and before I saw him I was thinking 'I'm going to scare the bejesus out of him!', in revenge for scaring me as a child. Some of the prosthetics folks warned me 'Oh no you can't do that, he's 78, his ticker ain't what it used to be!'
Needless to say it was a silent approach when I actually did meet him, he saw me and said to me (Christopher Lee impression) 'You must be very uncomfortable, you know, 36 years ago when I was playing the mummy...' and I was thinking 'wow! I wasn't even born then!'.
TORN: Well, he packs allot of history
LM: Oh yeah! Whenever there was a break he'd tell me stories about all the films he's done, we couldn't talk for too long because we had a job to do, but he was a really nice guy. He was just so friendly, that would certainly be the highlight of my career, would be working with him.
TORN: Speaking of your career, you worked on 'The Maori Merchant Of Venice', anything else youre working on?
LM: The Merchant of Venice is coming out next month, in March. The latest thing I'm doing is the next James Bond film. I'm flying out to London soon, then Iceland and perhaps LA. I'm not too sure what I'll be playing, I'll be getting the script soon so I'll know more then, no doubt It'll be a bad guy.
TORN: That's actually one of my childhood dreams, to be in a Bond film, good stuff.
LM: Yeah, the first one I saw was with Jaws in it, I don't recall which one it was. I actually wanted to talk to Sean Bean, if he was coming over for the premiere because you know he was in 'Goldeneye', I wanted to talk to him about Pierce Brosnan and how it was working on a Bond film. Unfortunately he didn't make it to the New Zealand premiere, so I lost the chance to talk to him about that.
TORN: And speaking of Chris Lee, he was in a bond film as well, so that's something all 3 of you will now have in common.
LM: Who was he again? The man with the golden gun right? Oh yeah! Very cool (laughs)
TORN: Well Lawrence, it was great talking to you, good luck in all your future film projects, and I hope to speak to you again soon!
LM: Cheers, thanks a lot!