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28 June 2001

"Mercy!" cried Gandalf: "if the giving of information is to be the cure of your inquisitiveness, I shall spend all the rest of my days in answering you. What do you want to know?"

From: Dane

Q: What it is like to re-record your lines as an actor? Is it hard to get the tone and the sync the same as from your original performance of the lines?

A: It works like this. You stand in front of a large screen onto which is projected the image to be dubbed. The original soundtrack as a guide is fed to you through earphones. Three beeps signal the moment when you must speak. I find the best way is to try a number of times until the technician is happy with the synchronisation. Then the director can comment. If another version is still required, the practice will make it easier.

The trick is not to over-elaborate on the original unless an alternative delivery is required.

All in all it's the sort of technical problem that I enjoy.

Q: From October 11 - October 14, the "Middle-earth Celebration 2001" will take place in Switzerland in a beautiful village in two castles. It's the greatest and biggest Tolkien-Event in Europe and many, many Tolkien-Fans will be at this event. They asked John Howe to come to the event and as it looks now, he will come! It would be very, very great if an actor from the movie would visit this celebration and so I want to ask you, dear Sir Ian McKellen, if you, our Gandalf, are interested to travel to Switzerland in October and join our event as a very special guest.   P.S. You can find the homepage about the event at: http://www.mittelerde-fest.ch It's mainly in German, but some pages are also in English.

A: I already know that I can't be free to visit "Middle-earth Celebration 2001" but presume you don't mind others knowing where and when it is. Very good luck for a successful event and give my regards to John Howe please.

From: Matt Swarts

Q: When the Hobbits are saved by Tom Bombadil from the Barrow Downs and he tells them to run naked in the fields, are they going to do it in the film :)?? And by asking that question, it brings up the problem that Tom wont even be in the film, so is that scene going to be cut? And if that scene is cut, how will they explain that Merry and Pippin got the Blades forged by the Westernsee?

A: It is no secret that Tom Bombadil will not be in the movie but as I didn't do the adaptation I don't want to comment on the problems that the inevitable trimming of the novels' multitudinous events can cause. I can confirm that the Hobbits will not be seen naked onscreen.

From: Chris Thurtle

Q: Re: the pictures of "Uruk-Hai coming from Pods" thing...Knowing Peter Jackson better than most of your emailers, do you believe he will make this section blend with the rest of Tolkien's vision, and not stick out like a sore Alien?

A: Nothing I have so far seen of Lord of the Rings suggests that Peter Jackson is anything other than a director of impeccable taste. Braindead is a long time ago now!

From: Debbie Dunleavy

Q: For all of us who have that little twinge of hesitation at the thought of a beloved piece of literature being somehow "man-handled" into a film there is always the hope that there will be those people who will then be inspired to pick up the book. I wanted to let you know that when I played the on-line trailer for Lord of the Rings for my junior high students half a dozen of them went out that afternoon to the bookstore to get the books. All year I plead and cajole and hand them booklists and make recommendations - the movie has done it. They are reading voraciously. I am thrilled to report that LOTR has justified its entire budget without even opening.

A: Thank you for your confirmation that the movies complement and support the original novels. If it continues like this, Lord of the Rings may end up being the most popular fiction of the twenty-first (as well as of the twentieth) century. HarperCollins, who publish Tolkien's work, have seen a 50% increase in sales over the last year.

From: Nicolas Ruedi

Q: Was it difficult to do the part of the Balrog at the bridge of Moria? The Magic used there — is it good enough to please all the fans of Gandalf? Remember that the imagination of the readers has no limits but the special effects...do you think they will be better than the imagination of the fans?

A: You will just have to judge for yourself — but when the Balrog made a brief appearance in the extracts from Fellowship of the Ring already shown to favoured journalists and critics at Cannes and elsewhere, there were audible gasps of recognition. It was good for me too to see the monstrous image for the first time. On the set during filming I was battling only with a yellow tennis ball which marked to the eyeline for the digitalised foe.

Q: I have read press reports regarding your glowing praise of New Zealand and New Zealanders. Do you agree that "Kiwis" are innately self-deprecating and suffer a global inferiority complex? Is the Film industry in NZ going to be a transient phenomenon?

A: In the past Kiwis seeking a career in the film industry have looked abroad for work. Sam Neill, Anna Paquin and Geoff Murphy (the veteran film director who did second unit shoots for Lord of the Rings) have thrived internationally. This makes Peter Jackson's determination to stay put in Wellington all the more remarkable. For his first major American-financed project, he was lucky to need the New Zealand landscapes but I admire enormously his encouraging his local colleagues to train themselves for big-time movie-making. I expect that the future of the NZ film industry, aided by the government's commission, will continue to depend on Peter Jackson and the WETA workshops he set up with Richard Taylor.

Who knows what developments might grow from Lord of the Rings? For instance, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra recorded Howard Shore's score for the excerpts shown at Cannes, and although the remainder of the music will probably be done by a British orchestra in UK, it is now clear that NZSO is as reliable and talented (and crucially cheaper) than others. The impetus for Hollywood to make its movies outside the USA is invariably economic. Hence the large number of American movies being shot in Canada, where US trade unions are avoided. UK, when the pound was weaker, was another favourite for American producers and of late the ex-socialist countries of eastern Europe. As long as it is measurably cheaper to film in New Zealand, Kiwi film-makers will be the beneficiaries.

Additional E-Posts about LOTR may be found in

The Lord of the Rings

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