It was Friday night, April 19th, the opening day of ICON 21, the largest SciFi convention in the Northeast. It had been raining all day and it was getting heavier as I neared the Stonybrook University Campus. As I approached the parking lot I witnessed the most spectacular lightening show I had ever seen. I was awed at the ICON organizers and wondered how they managed to get approval from New Line Cinemas to reproduce the scene at Weathertop where Gandalf defends himself against the Ringwraiths. Becausesurely this was a display of Gandalf's mighty fireworks lighting up the dark sky. Still in awe, I headed for the safety of the indoors. Thedarkness and rain reminded me of Bree when the Nazgul attacked the Hobbits.
After getting my media credentials and checking the ICON event schedule for any Billy Boyd appearances, I went to the Dealers tables section. As Billy was not scheduled for anything until Saturday I had plenty of time to peruse the tables. Now, the collection of Dealers tables at ICON is massive. You can purchase just about any Lord of the Rings trinkets you can think of. Some of the items were as follows: Topps trading cards; Decipher's card game; Games Workshop Miniature games; Sideshow Busts and Helmets; the swords "Sting" and "Glamdring" by Royal Selangor Toy Biz action figures; all of Tolkien's books; movie posters; "Lord of the Rings" and "Hobbit" games; autographed pictures of cast and crew; and even the old and hard-to-find ICE belt buckles of Gollum.
If buying Lord of the Rings memorabilia was not your style and you werelooking for more intellectual stimulation, ICON 21 catered for that too.It hosted a wide variety of Tolkien events. There were expert panels, open forums, discussions and fun activities for all ages on the following:
Mythology of Tolkien
Modern Epics: Star Wars and Lord of the Rings
Tolkien Jeopardy; [Prizes from Houghton Mifflin]
Riddle Game- Story and Game from the Hobbit
Tracking the Epic- Literary sources of Lord of the Rings
Women in Middle-earth
Tolkien: The Father of Modern Fantasy
Lord of the Rings: A comparison of the film and the books
Tolkien/TH White and History
Hobbit Story and Coloring Hour
Exhausted from all the Dealers tables, I headed home for an early start Saturday. I met up with Peter and James from TORN Digital around noon. I took them to get their press passes and introduced them to Blaine ( press organizer) and Lea ( media organizer) who for the second year in a row have been very helpful to TORN. After giving them some ICON background info we headed over to the main stage, where Billy Boyd was set to make his first appearance at 1pm. As reported earlier on TORN by other ICON attendees, Billy appeared promptly at 1pm surrounded 4 Storm Troopers and escorted to the stage. I still am not sure if they were there for Billy's protection or on some secret mission from George Lucas to make sure this adventurous Hobbit didn't cause any mischief a month before the launch of the latest Star Wars episode.
Either way, the crowd and Billy seemed to get a kick out of it. I won't get into all the questions that were asked as they have been covered by others already, except for one question that nobody reported on. Someone had repeated the question about favorite scene to shoot and one of the things Billy said was that while he and Dominic were filming the fireworks scene at Bilbo's birthday party inside the tent that he had no idea that the fireworks were actually going to go off. He assumed that it was going to be a CGI shot, so when that rocket went off he was the most surprised hobbit in the Shire and it scared the daylights out of him. I also will offer some insights into the question and answer session. Billy has this "wholesome and fun loving" aura about him. He was genuine and sincere to all, for every question asked of him, his face would light up when he responded. As this was his first convention, he wasn't overwhelmed, but rather he found the attention amusing and seemed to enjoy it. He gave out countless hugs and no doubt would of hugged everyone in attendance if time permitted. From all of the people that I talked to after, they all were impressed by the thoughtfulness of his answers and his sense of humor.
Next it was off to the Billy Boyd press conference where only the media could ask questions. Here follows some of the questions that were asked at the press conference. TORN digital also attended this and will have their own extensive video report up soon. All the questions are mine unless credited to others.
Q. What impressed you the most about the whole "Lord of the Rings" production?
A. "The first moment I was thinking , Oh my God, this is incredible. I had just arrived in New Zealand. For me personally, it takes three days to get over jet lag. I am always dizzy and feeling sleepy. The day after I arrived I went to meet Richard Taylor to be shown around the Weta workshops. I am completely spaced out with jet lag and I am saying to myself, oh too much to take in here. He then opens this door to a room that is filled with row after row of Rohan warrior uniforms. It was like one of those scenes from a scifi movie where youre on a spaceship were they show all the clones of the people and you dont see an end to it. And I am thinking, oh my, there is going to be people in every one of these things.You could go up to any one of them and it was hand-stitched, and made with love. It wasn't stamped out in some machone. That was the day I thought this was something kind of incredible."
Q. What is it like to go from a comic hero to a warrior in one movie? ( Tony at SciFi Talk)
A. "That's the strange thing, it wasn't just one movie, but yet it was. It was difficult. You have to show some transformation in the character. The good thing for Pippin is he does have these moments to do that. The fall of Gandalf he feels quite responsible for. At the end with Boromir and Boromir is teaching us to sword fence, I thought that was a great idea by Peter Jackson becuase you then associate his death to that. You feel it much more then."
Q. Richard Taylor of WETA has said that they had someone go visit the fan websites every morning to see what we had gotten, did the actors check out the fan sites at all?
A. "Before the film started, I used the internet a lot to find out what the fans thought about Hobbits and Pippin in particular. The internet was amazing for that. Normally you would be searching around in a library for the relevant information. Once the movie was out it was difficult not to go online and find out what people were saying about you. I think I speak for everyone, in the first month after the movie was released, we all went on to see what people were thinking."
Q. I hear you are working on a project with Dominic Monaghan. How far along is it? (Tony, SciFi Talk)
A. " Yeah, it is getting quite far along. It is a film script and we are getting ready to show some people. We are hoping people like it, it makes us laugh. We are interested in how film comedies are going at the moment. We felt there wasn't enough Character Comedy, the stuff Peter Sellers would do. We were doing it just for fun, but before we knew it, it was getting finished. So, we thought, let,s see what happens."
Q. After reading "Lord of the Rings" and seeing Ian McKellen as Gandalf, how do you think Peter Jackson did casting the movie?
A. "I think he has done an incredible job. On two levels too. When I watch it I believe every actor is perfectly cast. John Ryhs-Davies is just perfect for Gimli, Dominic (Merry) is great, Elijah ( Frodo) is fantastic and then Sean ( Samwise). I just think it is perfect. Also, to be able to get that, with no primadonnas or anyone messing up the whole vibe of the thing was pretty incredible. So, when you were getting ready to film you never thought, oh I am working with that actor today, and it is going to be strange. You enjoyed working with every actor. Whether it was luck or that Peter is an incredible judge of character, I have no idea. But he did an amazing job!"
Q. What do you think of modern TV prime time dramas like ER and West Wing, and would you do a part in any of them? ( Mark, Soap Opera Weekly)
A."I don't have enough time to watch TV right now, but I love ER. I think it is an incredible program. I just started watching West Wing, I missed the first lot of them but I watch the second series which is great. If a nice part came up in one of them I would definitely do it."
Q.You were in New Zealand filming for 15 months. When Gandalf and Frodo go off to the Grey Havens at the end of "Return of the King", did you feel from a personal point of view that it was an ending? Were you sad because one day this was all going to end?
A. "Yeah, it did! It was an exhausting day, we already had become real close, even though it wasn't at the end of filming when we shot that scene. It resonated so far foward you just thought that one day this was going to end. It was funny speaking to Gandalf in that scene, because I was thinking that we had filmed so far, Gandalf had always been angry with Pippin. It was all "Fool of a Took" stuff. We still had all those Gondor scenes to film and it was nice to think we still had that kind of relationship to build. It was a weird day!"
Q. Were you surprised by all the adulation and popularity you have all gotten from doing the "Lord of the Rings"? ( Tony, SciFI Talk)
A. "Yeah, we really didn't think about it when we were making it, but after it was finished and we had the year to wait before it was released, I did start to think, will it have a universal appeal? Will Peter Jackson be able to make it correct for the fans who know the books, but also a movie experience? I think he has done an incredible job, and the way people have received it, I think it shows that is true."
Q. Growing up in Scotland, did it inspire you to work with great English actors like Sir Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee? And are you a fan of their work?
A. "Yeah, I was! I suppose when I first entered the movie, if you asked who I was the biggest fan of it would be Sir Ian Holm. I loved all his work. That was kind of weird when he came on set. I have been a fan of a lot of them. Like Elijahs work is fantastic and Ian McKellen is an amazing actor. So many, and to be able to work with them. I only realized months after filming stopped, what it had done for my kind of acting. It has definitely affected it and in good ways I hope."
Q. What was it like filming it like filming all three movies at once? ( Newsday-Kidsday reporter)
A. " It was a weird experience, because when we started it felt like it would never end. It is a year and a half and that is a huge amount of time. However, the great thing about that was it gave you the space to explore these amazing characters. It needs that time because Tolkien took the time to write it. He put so much depth into the story, you would of felt like you were cheating him if we didn't have that time. So, it was difficult, but the most rewarding thing I have ever done!"
Q. Did you enjoy doing the comedy in the "Fellowship of the Ring" and then moving on to a more serious dramatic role in "The Two Towers" and "Return of the King"?
A."I really enjoyed both. Return of the King was great because there was so much going on, the stuff with Denethor and Gondor. Gandalf and Pippin getting into that nice relationship after the things that were set up in the first two movies. Also, doing with scenes with Dominic is always so much fun. Some of the stuff we would get up to would crack us up. Nobody else knew what we were up to." ( He laughs heartily at this).
Q. Can you tell us about any future projects you are working on?
A. "In three weeks I will be heading back to Scotland to film the movie "Sniper 470". It is about a soldier/astronaut set in the future, who mans a laser gun in space. He is in a very tight living space, very much army. It is how he deals with his 12-month tour of duty in this weightless environment with no one else there, just waiting for the next enemy ship to pass. How he deals with the fear of being there alone. It is a very exciting script. It is a real kind of actors project. Then there is a Peter Weir film. It is called "Farside of the World". It is set in the year 1806, in Lord Nelson's navy on a big warship and I am really excited about that too. Peter Weir is great."
Ringer staff member Thorongil is a frequent reporter for TheOneRing.net and a moderator in our very popular Tolkien chatroom, Barlimans. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org..