2 January 2002
Q: One of the problems I always had with the book was Gandalf — intelligent, resourceful, commanding, certainly. And yet, through Tolkein's prose style, never truly endearing. Your interpretation, I feel, finally captured the generous heart that I felt the character had often lacked. You brought a great deal of life and heart to the film.
A: Perhaps you identify one advantage of film over the written story - that the characters go on existing and reacting when they are not the centre of action and when the writer's attention is elsewhere. Gandalf on screen often reveals his spirit in his reactions as well as in the tone of voice which, again, isn't always appreciated by the reader.
From: Kiri Greenfield
Q: On the tower of Orthanc during your imprisonment, there flashes before the eye, etched into the stone, the image of a pentacle. As a pagan-druid raised in a counterculture steeped in folkloric reference to Middle-Earth, I wonder why this significant, much misunderstood symbol is hinted at in the rich sets of the Lord of the Rings. Do you know? Does the history of Orthanc somehow require this?
A: Perhaps as result of your beliefs, you are more observant than I. Next time I see the film, I shall look out for the pentacle. Sorry not to have an answer but perhaps Peter Jackson's website might help.
Q: While they were filming without you, did you ever feel that you were missing something? Also, what was most fun scene for you to shoot?
A: During my heavy 12-month schedule, I was always grateful to have a day off from filming, particularly when later I heard of the rigours of being on some of the wilder locations. I was certainly glad to miss the flooded episodes near Queenstown, when work was waterlogged and stopped.
My favourite scene was north west of Erewhon in the South Island of New Zealand when a helicopter lifted us onto virgin snow and then circled the mountain top filming the Fellowship trudging in single file. See if you can spot the shot and the two valiant extras impersonating Bill the pony!
Q: I have read many posts about elder actors unable to get work and yet in LOTR, you've got 4 "greybeards" playing powerful roles. Do you have any sense that you (and the trilogy) might be reopening the way for older members of your profession? I once, many years ago, saw a production of Lear with a 40-year-old in the role. Talented though he was, he lacked 'weight'.
A: Yes it is gratifying that actors of long experience are central to the film, alongside the younger ones.
Filming is less arduous than stage work. An actor who was himself King Lear's advanced age would have to be superhuman to perform the part more than once a week. I recall John Gielgud's advice to an actor preparing as Lear: "Get a small Cordelia!"
From: Mark McCoy firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Which of the three Lord of the Rings movies do you believe will be the best?
A: Peter Jackson is on record as saying he must try to make The Two Towers better than The Fellowship of the Ring and then make The Return of the King the best of all. Can anyone doubt that he will do just that?
Q: The following question's speculation may show to you my ignorance/naïveté regarding Hollywood, but here goes: There has been speculation about a Best Picture nomination from the Academy of Motion Pictures for this film. I suppose that you can make the case that each part should be considered on its own merits, but this film is unique. The story of "The Lord of the Rings" won't be completed for two more years, so in effect, what we have so far is a work in progress. Supposing that the film deserves the nomination, should each part be considered individually, or should we wait until 2004, by which time, the entire work can be evaluated? For that matter, could a 9-hour film, released in three parts in three separate years, be considered for an Oscar in its entirety?
A: These are the sort of questions which puzzle and excite the "Oscar" sites on the web. I would happily settle for Best Picture for each of the three films plus an extra special one for the entire trilogy at the 2004 ceremony!
From: Siobhàn email@example.com
Q: Do you get many strange people writing you bizarre missives all the time, asking whether you like pants or whether you'd like to go to their birthday party? If not, would you like to go to *my* birthday party? It's in May. We'll have cupcakes. Peace and Long Life!
A: Here in the e-post mail room we censor the over-bizarre. In May, apart from celebrating my own birthday, I shall unfortunately be unavailable for yours, filming the X-Men sequel. Enjoy the cupcakes. As for the pants, it depends who's wearing them.