RETURN OF THE KING question and answer

I’m going to try and write out some key memorable bits from The *Lord of the Rings: Return of the King* question and answer thing at the end of the movie. I’m writing them down in no particular order, but as I remember them. The microphone kept cutting out, so most of the QandA was sans microphone. So here goes (and some of this may in fact be completely WRONG, as I am working off of my memory of the event):

*The people who were there:
–Peter Jackson
–A producer (whose name I don’t recall)
–Fran Walsh (Peter Jackson’s wife and one of the writers)
–Sean Astin
–Ian McKellen
–Orlando Bloom
–Elijah Wood
(and if I’m forgetting anyone, they have vanished from my mind, and I will surely suffer for a thousand years as a result)

*The question and answer thing was run by an Aussie/Kiwi (or hell, maybe a Scottish guy) that I didn’t recognize and whose name I didn’t catch. He asked most of the questions of the director, a producer (didn’t catch his name), Peter Jackson’s wife,Fran Walsh–who was one of the writers–and the cast. There were probably five or six audience questions. The MC was pretty good at keeping things light and moving. The director and cast seemed quite giddy, as people who are sleep-deprived and jet-lagged tend to get: they had just flown in from the world premiere in Wellington, New Zealand!

*The MC began by asking Fran Walsh about writing the adaptation of the book. She said that it was quite difficult and began to discuss how they had gotten started with it. She said that Peter Jackson had been wanting to do an epic fantasy movie “just like LOTR” and she had said, well, why not just do the LOTR? She discussed a lot of the back-and-forth discussion that had gone on and how they had initially wanted to do it as two movies. Their original production company had wanted to do just one movie and that had been a total deal-breaker.Fortunately, New Line picked it up and suggested three movies, instead of two.

*The MC asked the cast whether they had read the books before working on the movie. Sean Astin had read them as a child. Ian McKellen (who was charming and witty throughout) hadn’t read the books before arriving in New Zealand, but he spoke about how useful they were as a “bible”. He spoke about how he would use the books to suggest line changes in the script. PJ jumped up and said, now wait a minute! That’s not the whole story. We would be on set and I would look up to see Gandalf striding towards me with a book under his arm. IM would basically sell particular line changes/additions by acting them out. Then SA jumped up and said: He helped *us* with that as well! and PJ said: Oh ho! the truth comes out. And there was much mirth all round. I seem to recall Orlando Bloom saying that he had never read them before arriving in New Zealand, though he’d always meant to, and once he was there, he did. Elijah Wood said that he was the “black sheep of the cast” and he had never read the books, either before, during or after the filming of the movie. He talked about how he was surrounded by so many people who were so familiar with the book and how busy the filming schedule had been for him. Also, that the process of filming (or the journey of making) the movie was where he derived inspiration from the Tolkien’s source material.

*Orlando Bloom talked about sitting down next to someone on set one day and saying, “so, what do you do?” and the person replied that he had made the chainmail armor. OB thought he meant “design the armor”, but it turns out that the person was one of the two man team that handmade ALL of the chainmail armor by twisting little plastic rings onto each other. Apparently, according to PJ, they literally wore off the fingerprints on their finger and thumb in the process of this. I think it was IM who then remarked on their remarkably successful career in crime, as a result. Also, OB is going to be in a movie about the Crusades, for which PJ’s film company will be making (providing? reusing?) the chainmail. Hopefully not the same two guys… I’d imagine that they would want to move on to something else. Actually, I remember that the chainmail was actually brought up later by the producer… [morebelow]

*The MC asked PJ if he ever had dark moments of the soul or utter despair, when he doubted if he could pull off making this huge epic trilogy of movies (really one VERY long movie broken in to three chunks). PJ replied that there weren’t any moments when he felt despair, because he was always filled with such amazement (and gratitude?) that he was able to work on making the LOTR into a film. He said there weren’t really moments when he felt physically exhausted, because he was like a turtle, but there were definitely moments when he felt completely mentally exhausted. He said that he dealt with this in a couple of ways: 1) he rewatched old movies that had inspired him by their visual splendour/originality in the past–he listed GOODFELLAS, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and a couple of others; 2) he said that whenever he felt mentally exhausted, he would play a game with himself, wherein he would sit down and try to come up with just one new idea–whether about a shot, a piece of direction for the actors, a change in the script, etc.–that would make the scene they were working on better. I thought that this was quite fascinating.

*The MC asked IM about how he got in character to play Gandalf. (and maybe this is where he talked about LOTR as a bible-like resource?) IM said that when he arrived in New Zealand they set him down with the wig-maker (“and we’re all wearing wigs in this movie! have you ever seen such fabulous hair!”) and the make-up artist. They went through all manner of wigs and noses (“I was Fagin at one point!”) until he looked into the mirror and saw Peter Jackson smiling and that’s when he knew what Gandalf looked like. PJ jumped up and said: “Actually, it was when IM looked at me in the mirror and winked at me: that’s when I knew we had found Gandalf.” Then he said: After that it was easy. Once you have the look, then you have the talk and once you have the talk, you have the walk. And once you have the walk, you’re practically there.

*The MC asked OB how he got into character playing an elf, an imaginary race of immortal beings. OB said that the bow had a lot to do with it. He said that as soon as he got off the plane, someone pushed a bow at him. PJ told him to imagine elves as being a combination of samurai/assassin. Apparently, OB was so good at the elvish “walk” that he was made to show some of the other elves how to move. OB imagined that elves would be dreadfully bored.

*The MC asked the producer fellow when he was really converted to the project (being a member of the studio, he wasn’t part of the project from the beginning). He said that watching the chainmail being made (and how MUCH chainmail had been made) was the moment at which he realized that he was a part of something really amazing. (then followed OB and PJ anecdotes about chainmail-making guys)

*Someone in the audience (sounding Cockney) asked PJ why all of the Orcs have Cockney accents. PJ replied that that was because Tolkien had written it that way and they had wanted to be as true as possible to the books. The MC asked him (rather pointedly–which supports Scottish) why the comic relief hobbit (Pippin) and the comic relief dwarf (Gimli) both had Scottish accents. PJ replied that, well, Billy Boyd WAS Scottish and that… well… [and he said something funny about Gimli, but I can’t remember what.]

*There were a lot of questions about scenes from the book that had been cut out of the movie and added back into the DVD. I won’t go into the specifics of these because I don’t want to drop any spoilers for people. PJ talked about how he thought that the DVD format was great, because they could add back in all of those scenes that were removed for the theatrical reliease, and that the extended DVD versions seemed to be more for the fans of the book. He talked about how the DVD format seems to be a lot more forgi
ving than the theatrical format. (Someone piped up about popcorn and watching movies in your pajamas… IM?) He talked about how the removed scenes really slowed down the pace of the movie and that’s why many of them were removed. He said, rhetorically, “You [to the audience] wouldn’t really have wanted to watch a four hour movie just now, would you?” To which, the audience cheered and clapped and laughed. The MC said, “I think you’re talking to the wrong crowd, Peter.” PJ just laughed.

[possibly more later]

snarling past the steep

sidling up to some kind of tickling notion, glancing at it askance and hopping arms akimbo contrariwise. there’s all this and that to distract, the fluffy chaff that chokes the air withal. (better watch one doesn’t stick inside your eye!)

even pointed sticks seem like a great investment, some days, when the burling heap of disquietude lurches or, on display, witness some kind of proud parade of utter orthodox duplicitude or incomptitude. or even sheer, bafflingly obtuse rules and regulations… and the looming bureaucraticals snicker in their wiseacrey spectacles and twirl their (and they all have ’em, even if you can’t see ’em) bulbous mustachios: symbolic of something tantamount to encroaching mold or bermuda grass. (blink or turn your back and allvsudden yer drowning in muckish undergrowth)

so sigh the undertakers, when forced with that weed removal.