Cracker by Damian Christie

Gollum Dies

So I saw the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Unlike Russell Baillie, who seems genuinely torn between his duty to let the people know what’s going on, and sticking to his contractual obligations not to, I have no such dilemma. I’m not embargoed.

Sure, I signed the forms, but what New Line Cinema don’t know, I was drunk at the time. I’ve been doing these sorts of reviews for a while now, I know how they work. “Registration, 8.45 – 9.15” is all about signing waivers, disclaimers and so forth. So, I ordered a wake up call for 6.15, a bottle of CC from room service, and set to work. Sure enough, come 8.45, and I was legally incapacitated from entering into binding contractual obligations. I also have a rather heinous photo on my press pass, but that’s the price you pay for media freedom. Best thing, it's all tax deductible.

What was it like, you ask? Pretty damn fantastic. I’m not going to go into details though, who does what to whom etc. Not because I’m not allowed, mind (because I am), but because it's just no fun. Suffice to say, every dial is turned up to 11, and it is stirring stuff. Chills up the spine.

Some advice though: It’s long. Christ it’s long. Go to the toilet beforehand, and only drink the barest amount of liquid necessary. Otherwise you’ll have the dilemma of choosing between possibly missing something great, or crossing your legs, rocking and slowly sobbing in pain. Still, you drink a bottle of CC first thing in the morning, these things are going to happen.

Second piece of advice, take a cushion and a jacket. You won’t need a cushion if you go to the Embassy though, huge big plush seats, leather (or some simulacrum thereof) in the middle section. And the toilets? Worth the price of entry alone. But yes, and a jacket. Why must it always be so cold in cinemas?

And why must it be so damned hot when I’m interviewing Hollywood starlets? There was something decidedly Adaptation-esque about sitting in a stuffy little hotel room, the sun streaming in, wearing wool, beads of sweat forming on the brow as Liv Tyler enters the room. “Oh, it’s a bit whiffy in here,” first thing she says. Ah-yup.

It wasn’t necessarily my fault though. The print and radio journos were thrown together into groups of ten or so for “round table” question and answer sessions. We stayed put in a small, poorly venitlated hotel room, while the cast and crew came in for 10-15 minutes each, and we tried to get as much out of them as we could in that time.

Or at least, most of us did. I’ve never done much press conference work before – most interviews are generally one-on-one – and I’m not used to sharing the talent. You have to jostle a bit for question time. You have to predict when the interviewee is about to stop talking so you can be first in. Get it wrong, and you’ve just rudely interrupted Peter Jackson. Well done.

Because each journo has their own angle, the interview has absolutely no flow. The discussion can go from recalling favourite moments, to the poor state of the New Zealand screenwriting industry in one question. And then you get the Excellent Questions from Wacky Radio Jocks and Gossip Rags. “Who’s your favourite character?” asked at every…single…fucking…interview over a seven hour period by a young woman from New Weekly was inspired. What’s the best answer you can hope for? “Orlando Bloom in Gollum appreciation scandal”? And when you don’t get it – after ten goes – you think you might change tack?

“I’m off to have a one-on-one with Billy Boyd, what questions should I ask?” she asked.

I couldn’t help myself. “I don’t know, how about ‘who’s your favourite character’?”

“Oh don’t be meeeeeean” she replied, “I’m doing a box, you know?”

In which case I stand corrected. Be sure to buy the next issue of NW to find out who your favourite actor’s favourite character is…

AND Anyway, these are actors. Their favourite character is always themselves. Even for the also-rans. One gentleman, whose character shall remain nameless, but has a sum total of around five minutes in the entire trilogy answered “I like my character best. I think [%$@$] is actually the most complex and most difficult character to play in the whole film.” Yes, those five lines must have been a real bitch.

But enough cynicism. I’ve had a wonderful few days. Wellington’s amazing at the moment. It looks great, the weather is outstanding. The city is alive with tourists, Tolkein fans, star stalkers and the media. It’s difficult not to get caught up in all the hype, to try and remain objective, oh bugger it, who am I kidding? I love the Lord of the Rings.

Yesterday outside the Intercontinental Hotel was Something Else. Hundreds of screaming fans, predominately young girls with the odd elf here and there, waited for each actor to emerge. When none did for a while they started screaming at random stuff. “Oh, there’s a, a, A SPARROW OVER THERE AAAAAAHHHHHH!” My ears were quite literally sore afterwards.

A moment that should have been on Holmes, but wasn’t: As Sir Ian McKellen emerged to shake hands, kiss babies and the like, he approached a man with a toddler on his shoulders. “Does he know why he’s here?” Sir Ian inquired kindly of his father. Right on cue the wee lad smiles, claps his hands and shouts out “Gandalf!” Great stuff.

I can and will write a lot more on this when I’m back over the next few days. I’ve got interviews to transcribe up the wazzo, and many of these will also be played on bFM over the next week or two. Click the Gallery link below for a few pics snapped in Wellington.