In the News: Psst! Got any hobbit gossip? - Evening Post
Psst! Got any hobbit gossip?
by Tom Cardy
Evening Post - December 9, 1999
Hide the hobbits and disguise the orcs. One of the super-snoops who spies on The Lord Of The Rings film trilogy is heading to Queenstown to lurk around the sets.
Erica Challis, from Auckland, was in Wellington yesterday, on her way to Queenstown and the Southern Lakes to spy on the filming of Peter Jackson's $360 million film trilogy.
Ms Challis, who uses the code name Tehanu, and a Canadian code-named Xoanon founded the popular web site The OneRing Net. The site, set up earlier this year, features daily updates on the films and information on J R R Tolkien's classic work. The site is independent of the official website and is funded through advertising.
A "spy reports" section includes rumours, clandestine photographs of sets and reports from spies in the field who have tried to get close to filming in Wellington and Matamata. The site's scoops have included actor Stuart Townsend being dumped for Viggo Mortensen.
About 5000 people, including film company staff, visit the site each day for news, gossip and rumours.
Ms Challis, a musician with Auckland Philharmonia, said that other than e-mail she had rarely used the Internet until founding the site. She and the Canadian -- whom she has never met -- met by e-mail and found they were both interested in The Lord Of The Rings project. A small site was set up, and has since grown in size and popularity after website designers offered to help. She spends about two hours a day sorting through e-mail, including reports from spies, and detailing her own adventures snooping around sets.
She said she could understand why the film was hush-hush. "I'm happy if they decide to keep secrets from us, but I enjoy finding out. If I could walk in and take photos and there was no work on my part it would be dull," she said.
"It's a game to which I don't know the rules, but I try to play it ethically if I can."
She said her spy reports had a warning on them for fans who didn't want to know too many details about the films. About 30 percent of visitors to the site didn't look at revealing photos and reports, she said.
Asked if she'd introduce herself to Jackson if she sees him, Ms Challis was uncertain. "I'm not sure if I'd get a smack in the chops or not," she joked.