Like no doubt many "Ringers", I attended the I-Con Science Fiction and Fantasy convention held at the State University of New York at Stony Brook campus the weekend of April 19 - 21 and had a chance to attend a question and answer sessions with Billy Boyd. This is a report about the second session which was held on Sunday afternoon of the Con.
What many not be clear to many fans is that this was Billy Boyd's first convention ever! I took special note, as I was also a sci-fi/fantasy convention virgin!
In the first session, Billy caused a sensation as he was walked into the room surrounded by troop (if four can be called a troop) of Stormtroopers. For the second, he was ushered in much more peaceably by a gentleman who appeared to be an "Elf" of some kind - judging by his costume and his pointy ears.
Like the earlier question and answer period, the format was for all persons who wished to ask a question to line up on opposite sides of the stage and take turns at the microphone. As I took my seat in the mostly filled auditorium, I hoped hoped that the technical people had been able to correct the amplification (acoustical?) problems of the sound system which had made both questions and answers unintelligible to people sitting in certain parts of the hall (and for the most part it seemed that they had). There were other, somewhat less popular changes. Because of delays and also some liberties taken on Saturday by [mostly} younger fans, an announcement was made this time giving the more explicit (and more restrictive) ground rules by the lady in charge, namely that questioners: 1) were limited to one question only 2) were not to ask Billy to show his tattoo, as he has made clear he was honoring the pact he made not to show it in public 3) were to save any gift presentations for the autograph session 4) were not to request hugs instead of asking questions or in addition to asking questions (also a privilege somewhat abused at the first session!) and 5) were not to get on stage (ditto!) A limited amount of flash photography however was allowed this time without it seeming to cause any problems.
Billy answered approximately two dozen questions in the hour long session. And yes, I duly took waited my place in line. And though it seemed I was giving this event my fullest attention, alas, I can now only remember a fraction of them. But here are some of the most memorable - in no particular order - and if some reader catches me muddling the answers from this session with those from the last, my apologies.
A thoughtful young woman asked where he got his energy and his motivation for autograph sessions and public appearances and other interactions with fans. Billy's answer, in brief, was that he truly enjoyed these experiences and that he didn't need to take any extra steps to deal with them - that the fans were getting "just me".
A fan asked if the scene where Pippin looks into the palantir appeared in "Two Towers" or in "Return of the King". He replied that as all the movies were filmed together he honestly did not remember where the breaks occur between them.
In an answer to the fan who described herself as being "obsessed" with Treebeard, Billy described how he and Dominick were filming these scenes high atop a "branch" on a Treebeard simulation, and it became such a bother to come down for "tea breaks" that they would just be passed a cup and a snack and left there sitting there alone by the crew!
Alas, just as in the first session, one young woman asked him to show his tattoo, which he (very politely) declined to do, and two others asked for hugs (which by the way he sincerely seems to enjoy giving!) However afterward, we in line were at this point [rather sternly] reminded of the ground rules, which were subsequently honored.
However, when later a young speech impaired fan signed him her question about where his tattoo was located, Billy smilingly agreed, saying that he was on his ankle in honor of the many months working on Lord of the Rings where he had a strong relationship with his feet!
One of my favorite questions was from a little girl who asked how actors get into the mood to cry on camera. Billy responded that this was actually a more difficult process than many know, as we may see a single crying scene on film - but the actor may have been filming the scene all morning, taken a break for lunch, and then gone back to filming the scene in the afternoon - and that alone can make one cry! More seriously, he said a common technique was to listen to music that moves you or makes you sad before doing the scene to get in the right frame of mind.
For those that insist on their gossip - Billy Boyd does not currently have a girlfriend.
In response to one fan - the exact question I cannot recall - Billy described Pippin's scarf as a sort of symbol - almost a sort of banner - for the Shire, and for Pippin's desire to go back to it. Pippin would return there a shot, he said, except he won't, because it would mean leaving behind friends who still had a journey to complete.
At one point, a fan asked him to sing the "Hey Ho To The Bottle I Go" song from the "Green Dragon Inn" scene which was cut out of the movie. After recalling some lines and getting stuck, Billy admitting [rather sheepishly!] that he could not recall all of the words at the moment. He then asked if the fan knew the song (which she did), and if she would sing it. So we were all treated to two stanzas of the young woman and her friend singing the hobbit drinking song!
But (quite modestly of course) I am saving the best for last - my questions (yes, plural) to Billy Boyd!
Waiting in line, I found I was having a difficulty in picking just one thing to ask him out of the many things I was curious about. The day before I had had the chance of asking if - with all the physical demands of the production - he had been injured while filming. I got back a wonderful story back that he had in fact broken his finger, but not while filming, rather while surfing on vacation, and of having to hide that fact from Peter Jackson (note: this story is told in another post on this site).
Now, finally unable to settle on just one question, I settled instead for honesty. When my turn came at the mike, I told Billy that I could not decide between two questions, and so would let him made the choice. Would be rather answer a question about an "off camera" photo which I felt needed additional explanation, or did he wish to answer a profound question about Lord of the Rings? If the look on his face was any indication, this proposal left him with a dilemma - and he replied, saying that while he felt he should answer the Lord of the Rings question, the mystery of the other rather intrigued him! At this, I couldn't resist a bit of banter, advising Mr.. Boyd that he might find that answering the "profound" one was safer! Billy's response to all this was to turn my proposal into an audience participation event - everyone in the room would choose - by the clapping of hands - the question they wanted answered. The "photo" question won by a landslide - but, uncharacteristically emboldened by all this good fun, I mentioned that if he REALLY wanted to answer both questions, it was fine with me . . . . And once the lady in charge took up her mike and kindly gave permission I asked:
Question 1: Explain a photo publicized on the Internet of Dominick Monaghan, Elijah Wood and himself posing in kilts at an event called the "Edinburgh Military Tattoo".
The answer: His story was charming, I cannot not do it justice here, but essentially, the three "hobbits" attended an event held at a place which was built as a reproduction (I think!) of Edinburgh Castle (a beautiful Scottish landmark) within New Zealand . Billy wore his own kilt, and Dominick and Elijah rented kilts (with Dominick also renting - and wearing - a red wig for some reason!). Viggo Mortensen also attended the event, not in Scottish garb, but wearing Aragorn's belt, which we all agreed was very cool! And Billy almost did not tell the best part of the story - which was to end recall how the hobbits, returning together from this event, passed a playground and gave into a sudden compulsion to get out and slide on the slides. In their kilts. And Billy had an accident - while sliding, somehow his kilt rode up as he was sliding down . . . .and he sustained friction burns on his backside serious enough to bother him for days! (Another "Lord of the Rings" cast injury - you heard it here first, folks!)
Question 2: I, like many fans of the movie, particularly appreciate Pippin as the lighthearted character in what is quite a serious film - yet even he has to encounter ultimate Evil. What would be your own (Billy Boyd's) personal definition of Evil?
Billy paused to think before beginning to reply (I must admit I felt a bit of a guilty pang about his - after all, he'd already told that great story answering to my first question). But then, when he did begin speaking, I was particularly impressed with the tone of his answer. Again, it is hard to exactly reproduce his words - but they touched on his belief he holds that there is an innate morality - an ethic - present in the world, but which is often forgotten, especially it seems in modern times. He said evil for him is represented by persons who take actions out of pure ego, or selfishness, or "just because they can" without regard to their harm or effect on others - and in this pattern being repeated, without learning from past mistakes past, over and over throughout history. A thoughtful answer indeed.
And at the end of the session - encouraging news. Billy Boyd had enjoyed his first con! Also, he said he would love to return -and bring Dominick Monaghan with him next time! (Two hobbits - why not four?)
Afterward, I had a number of conversations (in the hallway, in the bathroom, etc. etc.) with various people who attended one or both question and answer and/or autograph sessions. And collectively, we couldn't say enough about Billy Boyd's charm, his storytelling ability, sense of humor, intelligence, humility. . . . we can just go on and on (and did!). He is a great guest, and comes across as no less sweet or endearing a person than Pippin himself - only considerably brighter! If any of you ever have a chance to meet him, my advice would be not to pass it up!
My understanding is that both questions and answer sessions have been recorded and that they - together with an interview - would be available on a radio show created in partnership with I-CON for fans who were unable to attend the event. I'm working on putting this information together, and will report when (if?) I know more.