There And Back Again: A Geek's Adventures in MiddleEarth! CHAPTER FOUR!!!
I awoke today after a complete day of rest and relaxation… wandering about Wellington, visiting some pubs… walking along the waterfront. Just being a regular chap in the non-Tolkien side of things down here.
After doing my morning push-ups and sit-ups and jumping jacks for 3 hours, I approached the door to my room on my way to shower. There was a pair of white envelopes alongside my morning paper… Shoved beneath my door.
"Bribes," I exclaimed.
I opened the first envelope to find a set of faxed instructions on where to go for the day’s sets. Where was Peter… where was the coronation. All of that sort thing… I started flipping through looking for the tons and tons of money… but all I had was blasted maps and instructions.
Dammit, how can I be a bloated sellout without bribes? Que sera sera…
Well I get in my cab and hand him the directions sheet. We begin our drive through Wellington, through a mountain and suddenly… I arrive at a place where I’m supposed to flash my magical necklace.
I get out and pay the chap. I now begin looking around… Hmmm, must find Stage O… well, I figure the sign saying "PRODUCTION OFFICE" with the arrow… would lead me at least in the direction of the person that would lead me in the right direction.
SO I walk in, and to my left is a bulletin board with everything from a caricature of Peter Jackson as a Hobbit, to a production person pictured with the leg of an oliphant.
Directly in front of me is a garbage can with a sign that said something like "Outdated Script Pages Here". Well, I thought, "Blimey… JACKPOT!" So there were three people in the room…. How to get rid of them all? First I ask for someone to get the Publicity lady for me, that got rid of one. The other two seemed busy… so I stumble over to the garbage can and back up against it…. Humming innocently the entire time…. Hmmmm hm hmmmmm hm hmmmmmmm…. Backing up, hands fall upon it…. Suddenly I notice the chains and the locks! Curses and crashes… The pages know the way in, then they musts knows the ways outs as welll…. Mussst gets me precioussss…
This is when Melissa, one of the on-set publicists for LORD OF THE RINGS appears with a slight exasperated look upon her lovely face. Apparently I’m not where I’m supposed to be. Somehow the Cabbie delivered me to the TOTALLY WRONG location… and that the correct location was the exact opposite direction from my hotel. Sigh…
So she calls me another cab, I hop in and begin the trek to a new location. We enter this shipping yard… a billion fallen trees litter the yard… we take a left left right straight to a concrete bunker/STAGE O.
Again, there seems to be a notable absence of cars… and as the Cabbie (Gabby 2) leaves me… I feel like I’m an extra in ON THE WATERFRONT… I’m careful not to touch or move anything, as I’ve always been told that Union Dock Workers are highly sensitive to that sort of thing. Of course that’s an American Dock Worker thing… but I don’t know… I’m awfully far away from that which I know.
I walk through this door… to my right is a large opening with stacks of lumber perhaps 25 to 30 feet high. I now pass through an area covered with tables and the beginnings of the lunch hall…. Next I stumble past a divisional section into an area that is… well, this is a knoll covered in tundra style vegetation with a huge sort of stormy quilted sky backdrop before it. The vegetation upon the knoll is a bit sparser than those hills I’ve seen upon other stages… as if this is a section that is giving way to a new form of landscape.
Next, I pass a couple of column bases that I know must be… of Minas Tirith… for they are of the same Alabaster marble that the entirety of that walled upon walled city of legend is constructed of. There is the silver (lost in space robot arm material) accordion tube of Air Conditioning piping through the room before me. I step through an area which serves as a snack farm for famished film folk.
I step around this area without so much as a nibble. I move forward into what I can only describe as being beautiful. This is an Alan Lee painting brought to life.
The floor is inlaid marble…. The hall is made of three primary colors. White, black and green. There are twelve side arches, which are made up of black onyx/marble? With malachite tops, leading into the arch with is alternating between the alabaster marble and the malachite green. Within 10 of the arches are gigantic White carved ‘Kings of Gondor?’ I believe.
This is a damn cool set. Right now as I type this, I’m in… what I believe to be Minas Tirith’s Tower Hall.
The actor, John Noble, I believe is the bordering on madness King… Faramir has just now given his report to his liege and father. Denethor is of course outraged at the turn of events, convinced that his now departed son Boromir would have brought him the ring. The shot I’m watching is the camera, solely upon Denethor.
I’ve never seen this actor playing Denethor before… But he has a look of evil and twisted humanity and sadness all about him. A look of desperate frailty… His hair long and stringy… peppered black and white. When he smiles with a mad Manson-esque look in his eyes… which quickly transforms into a snarl not unlike that of wild dog. He is, quite scary and disturbed looking.
Meanwhile, just behind the camera for eyeline acting and line feeding is David Wenham as Faramir. He is out of armor…. And is now wearing his brown leather two buckled boots…. No heels, flat across the bottom… an olive green flat of cloth covering his below abdomen and legs…. He’s wearing the leather chest piece with the embossed symbol of… the tree in a used and cracked up silver lamet type deal. Though, it is well worn…. It has seen better days…. Faramir is in the absolute best of ‘olden’ times garb… not the brilliant colors of the 1950’s knights in armor…. But more muted… real colors. Everything worn, nothing new looking.
Denethor…. Well when I described his hair to you, in a way, that describes the entirety of his character look. Salt and pepper. He has the days growth peppering of stubble…. His robes a deep deep black with silver/grayish fur…. For me, I’ll call it wolf pelt, but it would probably be something a bit more… a bit of higher standing.
Meanwhile, in the 2nd Unit monitor window, I see what seems to be a coronation scene. This is, well, the coronation scene. I suppose at one level I could be on that set, but frankly… this scene is of more dramatic oomph. Besides, I’ve been curious how good this John Noble chap is. I have to say… DAAAAMMMMNNNNN, intensity is not an issue… I’ve watched 9 takes of this one scene… and everytime the look in his eye… the ferocity… followed by a look of loathing… then fatherly love… then a feigned bit of weakness as he stumbles… then finally indignation and outrage.
I never really had a iron clad mental image of Denethor… I suppose I had always imagined just a weakened old man… That is not what I’m seeing. Here is a man driven to madness by fear.
Alright, everyone has broken for lunch… I had left the computer and came running back to the beast so I would be alone in this Minas Tirith Tower Hall.
This most reminds me one of the chambers/halls of the grand cathedral in Toledo, Spain… the home of the Inquisition…. There was a hall loaded with Statues… that had the old fashioned sense of grace and beauty that this hall resonates with. All that is missing is the ceiling. And as with most sets, that is where the lights hang to light it all. But in my mind I imagine that what I’m looking at right now is merely the lower 25 feet of the room. Still large and grand… but once they tack on the above column inlaid ceiling… or the mural in the ceiling… or whatever it is they choose to go with…. That will be the final stroke of the Alan Lee brush that paints this gorgeous place.
Once back from lunch the crew begins making ready for the reverse on Faramir. Ol David Wenham has to be the son looking upon a fallen father… one that uses words to inject venom and spite into a loyal sons mind. It is a very very hard place for him to be in… but he stands to his beliefs… weathers his father’s verbal spears… and leaves a bit sad and melancholy.
After this shot is completed… I decide to ask Peter about the Scouring of the SHIRE… since this is something that you folks have been on me non-stop to get to the bottom of. Yes, it is in. We do see it, though Peter says they handle it a bit differently than in the book (no follow up on that) but that it does take place and is seen. Peter begins asking me about what other questions I get asked most… and frankly I don’t have them with me today, so I go from memory… I mean, probably the next most asked question about Peter is the ol… Is he gonna do KING KONG next? Peter sort of giggles about this, as whatever project would be coming next for Peter is so far off in his mind… You see folks, Peter will be working on THE LORD OF THE RINGS… well, it’s like this… Peter delivers RETURN OF THE KING right before TWO TOWERS is released… so that means that Peter can’t even begin to think about his next film until mid-2002… but having said that, Peter does very much want to make a smaller film… not because he hasn’t enjoyed this experience, but more or less for a change of pace. When asked about KING KONG, Peter says… ‘Depends what my status is after these,’ and that is what he’ll probably say about every film you were to ask him about.
People have been asking me to ask Peter about Treebeard… Well Treebeard is in the film… not only that, but I’ve seen Treebeard already. The other day… I was so excited in the last report to be seeing the Gates to Moria, that I plum forgot to mention that about 9 feet from the gates, behind some bluescreen was Treebeard. No action figure sculptor or paintjob will ever do this creation justice. It was, stunning. He has branches on him where he places Merry and Pippin… what I saw was the crotch up Treebeard. He had a deep dark intelligent pair of brown eyes… His beard was this… language actually fails me… it’s that mossy stuff you see on some trees… in it you can find a snail… quite a lovely shell as well… I’ve also learned that Treebeard is voiced by an actor already cast as another character…. BUT I have yet to find out who this voice/actor is. As for Sauron, well I won’t be having that question answered… I already know that much.
Right after this Peter gets grabbed to do some more work… but I pick up a conversation with Andrew Jack, one of the Dialect & Creative Language Coaches on LORD OF THE RINGS (the other being the amazing Roisin Carty), who is so kind as to give me a language breakdown on the vocal universe of Tolkien.
Andrew Jack is an insanely perfect speaker and alongside his colleague and professional partner, Roisin Carty, in this amazing and difficult endeavor . I felt like such the lowly commoner just speaking with him. He is very very happy to finally talk about his work on the film…
"You’ve seen how detailed all the work on this film has been… through all the different aspects of production. It is very much the same on my end as well"
We begin simply, just going down the line of the different accent types...
Gondorians --- the speak with a straight English accent with an O diphthong giving them a dark Yorkshire sound.
Hobbit speech--- they sound as though they come from Gloucestershire… in the west country. Which gives them a lighter sound… more timeless… Having said this, Bilbo and Frodo are more educated than the rest and have a slightly more standard English sound. And then Merry is an oddball… coming from a different class than most of the Hobbits.
The Wizards: Gandalf and Saruman--- speak with a straight standard English accent stemming from Received Pronunciation…
Elrond and the elves… Have the same basic accent as Gandalf but there is a linguist quality to them. A highly educated studied sound… coming from the fact that the elves are experts in language. Everything is pronounced very clearly and deliberately. And their Elvish… that is handled by the Elvish expert, Roisin Carty, with the help of David Falo and Bill Welden (Two of the absolute world experts on ELVISH.)
Gollum starts with the Gloucestershire which comes from the time spent as a Hobbit, but as he makes the transition to the CG character… over those centuries… his accent degenerates into the Gollum speak we know. The other day when I had the pleasure to get drunk while everyone else remained perfectly sober… ahem…. I heard Andy’s GOLLUM voice, it is even more evil and pitiable than you have previously imagined.
Aragorn – Viggo is American and brought up in Argentina, he also is Danish in orgin and has an unique rhythm to his speech… He’s kept an R… which might sound American, but is actually an Irish R… He speaks Elvish as well, as he was brought up by elves. He starts off speaking in the dark out of the corner of his mouth… but as he continues his Vocal journey from Strider to… well, you know.
Dwarves --- Lowland Scottish, Celtic influence… has that same Irish R… That gives you an OLD feel.
Orcs and Uruk Hai have a vocal quality that is ugly and brutal… very raw and mean. If you heard those fellows you’d know that they were very crude and raw.
Rohans – these people speak a Rhotic accent… which is an accent that uses and stresses their Rs.
There is a strict rationale for all of this…. When you see a map of the Tolkien universe… they’ve mapped the language much like England and Wales.
Wormtongue is a different animal all together…he is an oddball…based on Received Pronunciation… then goes from there.
Followed the Tolkien appendix to the letter at the back of the book…. "It was a godsend really. It’s all there for how to do it, It’s almost as if Tolkien knew we were going to make a movie."
Andrew Jack (Dialogue Coach) and Roisin Carty (assistant dialect coach) though on this film they refer to themselves as Dialect and Creative Language Coaches… From all things I can tell they’ve been amazing language tag team… always picking up where the other left off.
Next up I find myself watching Faramir and Eowyn being married… Eowyn’s dress is quite literally one of the most beautiful beaded gowns I have ever seen in my life. Miranda is droolalicious here. And that David bloke now gets to flub his kiss about a 1000 times if he is smart at all. I have been volunteering to be the stand in with Miranda… and work out the angles… But noone seems to be taking me seriously… I will say this though… David has been put through the ringer of emotions today.
They shoot the first rehearsal… It’s a double kiss… they come up for air and push on through the emotion… Peter yells "Cut" and they part… All the ladies on set begin protesting that Peter should hold the shot till after they part… when they are smiling into one another’s eyes.
Upon doing a second take like that, Philippa Boyens… who is absolutely delighted to get to this scene tells Peter that it should be a single kiss, and as they come up for air to part… smiling into one another’s eyes…. They shoot it like that, but David and Miranda come back for a second kiss as well. But Peter yells cut just as their lips begin to touch… David comes away protesting… he wanted that second kiss… I’m with David, give him that second kiss!!! Or at least give me that second kiss Miranda! Hee hee.
Take 4 --- My fave… Good long kiss, wonderful post-kiss glow. The gals on set are quite pleased. Very happy.
Take 5 --- Peter’s happy….
The ladies on set are delighted to finally... after what seems like years of shooting, they get their 'girly' scene. Philippa is literally coo-ing after every kiss... And I have to admit, it is beautiful on the monitors... But crikey... only 5 takes? David didn't mess up nearly as much as I would have. If memory serves he had to get dragged behind that horse stuck full of arrows about a good dozen times. Life just ain't fair at all. I will weep for the man!
Today, while Peter is directing the Faramir and Denethor scene…. 2nd Unit is handling the coronation of… well, you know. On that top monitor I can see Gandalf the White placing the crown on a bearded Viggo... but I can't make out the background all too well, this is the satellite feed monitor as it is taking place about 25km away right now. Look for coverage of this day at E! Online someday soon, as John Forde was there today!
The kiss was the wrap, and much rejoicing was to be heard as.... get this, Peter wrapped early today, which means I get this to you early today!!!!