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ORC: Sunday Report
Xoanon @ 10:21 pm EST
Here is Celebriel’s recap of Sunday events she attended at ORC:
Celebrity Brunch and Silent Auction
Ringers got an early start on Sunday, gathering before 9 AM for the elegant celebrity brunch and silent auction at Delmonico’s, across from the Pasadena Center. In addition to champagne, coffee, and juice, French toast, bacon and sausage, prime rib, salmon, oysters and other items were plentiful.
But fans came for the company more than the food. John Rhys-Davies, Bruce Hopkins, Royd Tolkien, Daniel Falconer, and other guests took time to seriously mingle and chat. They talked about their current projects, personal interests, and LOTR-related experiences. Daniel Falconer, for example, talked about the New Zealand visit of now 84-year-old special effects legend Ray Harryhausen and how inspiring it was to see Harryhausen discuss the techniques and models he used in classic special effects films like “Jason and the Argonauts” and “Clash of the Titans.” (N.B. Peter Jackson and Ray Harryhausen were both inspired by the original 1933 King Kong.) In turn, fans talked about charity efforts they were supporting and shared journals, scrapbooks, and photo albums with the celebrity guests.
Royd Tolkien and Friends
A panel discussion with Royd Tolkien, Peter Tait, Jorn and Jarl Benzon, and Sandro Kopp, moderated by iron man scholar Mike Foster, kicked off Sunday’s Main Stage events.
Royd explained that being a Tolkien in England was not a big deal, saying that the clerks in bookstores never really noticed his name. He was in New Zealand for the last few weeks of filming, explaining, “I wanted to be involved, so I contacted Mark Ordesky (currently COO of New Line Productions). I was used in the final pickup shots.” Royd played a Gondorian ranger, and enjoyed visiting WETA and just hanging around on set.
Royd said that “The Hobbit,” which he first read at age 9 or 10, was his favorite among his great-grandfather’s works. He also mentioned The Letters from Father Christmas, yearly letters and drawings his great-grandfather wrote for his own children starting in the 1920s. Royd clarified his family tree, explaining that his grandfather was Michael Tolkien, the second of the professor’s three sons.
Jorn and Jarl Benzon and Sandro Kopp each played many different characters in the trilogy. They talked about the rivalries between orcs and elves during the Helm’s Deep shoot, and about the rivalries between “fighting elves” and “floating elves.” Sandro’s main role was Gildor, one of Elrond’s elf lords, but he also played a Helm’s Deep elf, a Rohirrim, an orc, an Uruk-Hai, a rider of Rohan, a soldier in the Army of the Dead, a Gondorian soldier, a corsair and a Haradrim. (He is the elf on Elrond's right when the elves arrive for the coronation in Minas Tirith.)
Sandro said the elves had lots of training in archery, swordplay, and movement. He quoted Weta’s movement coordinator on the movement of the elves: “eagles above the hips and deer below." He prepared by looking in the mirror and constantly practicing. There were always new people coming on as fighting elves, so they drilled fairly regularly. The scene in The Two Towers in which the elves, under the command of Haldir, snap into formation took several hours of filming at night. The scene took so long, Sandro explained, because of the complex camera angle.
In another partnership formed while making the trilogy, Sandro and Royd Tolkien are currently working on a book, tentatively titled The Servants of the Ring, which will feature Royd’s photographs and Sandro’s drawings.
“Shagrat still exists for me. He’s still out there somewhere, in a netherworld,” said Peter Tait of his character, the Captain of the Orcs of the Tower of Cirith Ungol. “Shagrat is hunched over, seedy, someone who’s been around for a while. I had a favorite rugby player I modeled him on.” He demonstrated Shagrat’s voice and explained that for fighting, “you have to be quite fierce and get in the zone.” Playing an orc means “you have to be as fit as you can.” Peter kept fit by running, which he noted “is also good for the lungs.”
Panelists were asked about their favorite characters. For Sandro, it was Gollum. For Royd, Aragorn in the book and Gollum in the films, but he said he liked special characters like the Mouth of Sauron.
Back in 1927, Harry M. Warner, co-founder of Warner Brothers, asked, “Who the he** wants to hear actors talk?" If he’d lived long enough to hear the literate and engaging John Rhys-Davies converse with LOTR fans, he’d have had his answer. John Rhys-Davies’ credits rival those of fellow cast members Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee. They range from I, Claudius in 1976 to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for Steven Spielberg and lighter fare like The Princess Diaries 2. On stage, he was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he starred as Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Prospero, and in many other classic roles.
John is beloved by his fans for the time, attention and sincerity he gives them. On Sunday, he spoke about his lifelong interest in science, a career he wanted to pursue before seeing Oedipus Rex on stage at the age of twelve turned his interest to drama. Many of his investment projects are science-related.
A young fan asked him if Gimli was funny on purpose or by accident. John called her up on stage, knelt down and said, “Gimli is not funny.” She remained unconvinced, so on her way off stage he offered some advice to her parents on the raising of young hobbits.
He also retold a famous Orlando Bloom boat story. During training for the production, a boat containing Orlando and John capsized, and Orlando suggested that John had caused the spill. A year and a half later, however, Orlando was involved in another canoe spill, this time with a Gimli stunt double.
John was very honest about his upfront expectations for LOTR: they weren’t very high. He was interested in the role of Denethor, and figured the shoot would give him a chance to explore New Zealand while working. Of the trilogy’s success, he said he was never so happy to be so wrong.
(Note: this reporter missed about 80% of John Rhys-Davies’s conversation because she had to stay in the Red Cross area for half an hour after giving blood.)
Stump the Experts
While John Rhys-Davies’ fans were waiting patiently for their autographs, they were entertained by the Stump the Experts panel, in which fans challenged Cliff Broadway, Ted Nasmith, Larry Curtis and other experts on all aspects of Tolkien’s universe. An early question on Aragorn’s birth date and year had panelists counting backward from his age at the time of his coronation, while others asked the names of Elrond's sons and the number of types of dragons in Tolkien's works.
The Road Goes Ever Onward
Near the end of Sunday’s program, fans signing up for the 2006 One Ring Celebration met with Creation Entertainment to select their seats. While no celebrities have been announced, the convention itself is set for January 20-22, 2006 at the Pasadena Center and will include two evening parties. Will we see you there?