Here is the third roundtable discussion in our series of interviews with the cast and crew of The Return of the King. Listen in as the boys talk about my iPod (recording the discussion), to how they managed to get through the films, to everything else!
Please pardon the quality of the file as well–the range on my iPod’s microphone is a lot less than what I was hoping for… And thanks to “Agnescottie” for taking the time to transcribe this whole thing!
[Dominic gets asked if he wants a drink]
Dominic: Maybe not just yet. It’s a bit early for that. Oh that’s snazzy… very snazzy.
Jonathan: Every loves them.
Dominic: Yeah… it’s cute. I’ve got one like that but its longer and silver. It’s cool man. So has it been fun, who’s been your favorite up until now? Are you recording with an iPod?
Interviewers: You’re my favorite.
Dominic: Oh thank you, and I’ve only just begun!
Interviewers: That’s right. You came to our movie guide awards.
Dominic: Oh yeah… was that last night?
Interviewers: No… it was a couple years ago.
Dominic: Oh a couple years ago? I went to a DVD awards show last night. That was kind of interesting. Hi William
Billy: Hi Dominic.
Dominic: Look at this. This guy’s recording with an iPod. That’s cool huh.
Billy: That’s cool yes.
Dominic: How do you press record? What’s the record button?
Jonathan: Umm.. it just has a pause and stop feature and you just plug it in and it recognizes it. And then you start.
Dominic: And you press play and it starts recording
Billy: What’s that?
Jonathan: Battery pack
Dominic: You know you can turn then 20 Gig into an 80 Gig now?
Dominic: Yeah. No one knows it.
Billy: I know a guy who’s done it.
Interviewers: Before we get too much into technology she has a question for you.
[Billy says something… hard to hear.]
Dominic: Do you still believe in Santa Claus?
Billy: Well yeah.
Q: You too?
Billy: Of course
Question: Well, what I want to know is if you believe in the Shire? You know, all the Hobbits want to get back to the Shire, and I interpreted that as a place or a moment in time where you are safe or are you’re happiest. Where is your Shire? What is your Shire?
Billy: [ A lot ] of beautiful women.
Dominic: Yeah. I haven’t necessarily found it yet in terms of my home. I think when I have a family and kids and I settle down and hopefully living in New Zealand, then that will probably my Shire. At the moment, living in LA and traveling around so much I don’t necessarily associate the house where I live with the ultimate comfort of my life. But, you know, being with my friends and surfing and stuff always feels pretty comfortable to me.
Question: What is your Shire?
Billy: I don’t think there is a Shire. I think that maybe that’s the point that Tolkien was making. In real life, no one is ever as happy as a Hobbit is. I mean, you can be happy, but you know, there’s ups and downs to life. I love Scotland, I love being in Scotland, I still live there. So I suppose that’s the closest that I would get. But I think there is no such place as the Shire.
Question: Is there a particular pub in Scotland that comes close to your Shire as possible?
Billy: As close to the Green Dragon?
Billy: Um… No. I’m not going to say `cause then [crackles] everybody will go there (?) And then it will be Mordor.
Question: How has this transformed your career?
Billy: Yeah. It definitely has you know. Mainly in good ways and positive ways. You get scripts from people who have seen your work. So you’re not going out in a sort of “Oh… here’s a British actor who’s done some theater” You know… you go in with a sort of back foot (?). You go in now as an actor from LOTR, and people have seen your work. It makes getting the next job a bit easier. And you get to work with people like Peter Weir [Director of Master and Commander], and stuff like that, which you never thought was going to happen when you were at drama school. But the bad side of that is that people now look at your career so it is harder to do something on a whim, that you just wanted to do. Like work in a new play that is going to open for two days, just because you wanted to help the writer. Now it’s like, maybe in a small way, but it will be in the press that I’m doing that play, and people say “Well, why is he doing this? What’s that doing for his career?” Whereas you don’t wonder, it’s just something that you want to do. You know, so there is some bad. The good outweighs the bad, but there are bad points to it as well.
Question: Making all three movies had to be an endurance test. How did you keep up your energy levels? Was it the camaraderie, did you feed off of each other? Or did you try to exercise while you were there?
Dominic: There was a lot of camaraderie, we were all kind of a support system for each other and we went surfing and we ate well went to gym, but I think more than anything else, it was probably just a huge amount of drugs. [laughter] I mean, we got tired. You chaps have a problem with irony sometimes. (?) We got tired, and we got exhausted. We enjoyed ourselves and even in our down-time. We partied quite hard, and we were up early in the morning on our days off surfing and going out at night. I think more than anything the fact that we just loved the project so much just kept our energy levels up. You know, we always liked being on the set, we always liked hanging out with each other, and we made each other laugh and giggle and stuff. So we got through it.
Question: What (…) do you share knowing that this is the last part of the trilogy?
Billy: It’s kind of sad that we’re not going to be working together as this team, because it was great fun. It was exhausting, but it was amazing fun and some of the most rewarding work that I have ever done. But there’s also something really nice that it was those three books; the three films, then the film stopped. There’s not a writer somewhere who’s trying to write the fourth one, and it’s not going to be as good and it will start to dilute the story. It’s great that this is a trilogy that’s just going to stand there for all time now and that’s it. There’s a good feeling about that. But obviously it’s sad that I’m not going to be working in the near future with these guys.
Question: What do you all think Peter brought to it?
Dominic: Well, he was the filmmaker, so he’s the head honcho. It all kind of came down from him. It’s Pete Jackson’s interpretation of the book. It’s not an official, Tolkien-stamped LOTR. It’s Pete Jackson’s version of LOTR.
Question: What do you think he did right?
Dominic: I just think he gave the right amount of gravity and respect to a classical piece of English Literature, which has been voted the greatest book of the 20th century. He was just a fan of the book, a fan of the work. He reached a point in his career where he thought he was able to attempt something with the special effects and with the weight of the story, and I think he just gave it the tremendous amount of respect that it deserved.
Question: What sort of demeanor does he bring to the set? What I’m trying to get at now is, he seems like a really, really nice guy. How do you know when he’s mad?
Billy: I think one of the things that Pete… one of the main reasons that it got made. Is that he can make decisions, he’s sure enough about himself, and he’s a very confident person, even though he’s this guy with no shoes, you know. Don’t let that fool you, he’s an incredibly confident man, who was making his film, and that’s one of the main reasons it got made. Because if every decision had to go to a committee, it would never have gotten made. So Pete was making decision after decision after decision all day, every day. People would come with five drawings of the Palantir: “Make that one”. People would come with the designs for the elephants: “Make that one, that’s what’s going to happen”. When he was casting, he cast it. It wasn’t a studio casting. And that’s one of the main reasons that this film was able to get made. Every day there would be a queue of people waiting to see Pete. And he would make the decisions.
Question: Did Peter party with you?
Billy: At his house, yeah. We would go to his house and have dinner and all that.
Dominic: He’s incredibly famous in New Zealand. It would be kind of impossible for Pete to come out to bars with us and be drinking and having fun because I would say he’s probably one of the most famous people in New Zealand. He’s sort of distinctive looking you know? We had a couple parties at his house. Was it a Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes party?
Dominic: … with fireworks, and his kids were there and we were outside in the garden setting off fireworks and having fun. So he invited us into his private life
a lot, but he has a hard time going out.
Question: So he was accessible?
Dominic: Most definitely. We all had his number, and if we had a problem we could call him up and he would invite us over and we’dtalk about stuff. No… he’s not one of those directors that keep you at an arm’s length. He’s completely approachable.
Question: Billy and then Dominic. Did you realize when you took on this role when you’re grandfathers sitting with your grandkids that you will sit back and tell them “Yeah, I was part of this amazing thing”. Like, some movies are so enduring. There are movies that were made in the 30’s and 40’s, that we see nowadays, and when you meet the actors, they are so proud of that piece of work. Do you think you’ll be looking back when you are 70, 80 years old, and be looking at this and saying. “Damn, we did a good job”?
Billy: Yeah, I think we will. I feel very proud of these films and I can definitely see myself sitting with my grandkids and laughing and telling stories about it. We’re also in the time of DVD which, although it’s fun, I don’t always totally agree with. Sometimes I think it’s nice to watch a movie and not know how it was made and just have the movie. But as someone who’s in the movie, it’s great because it’s sort of a family film, you know? So it’s like, when I sit with my grandkids, I’ll also be able to put on the extended DVD’s and watch me and Dom going around showing people Wellington, or the “Making Of”. So I’ve got an added thing as well. So I’m proud of it, but I’m also proud of the time, and proud of the friends that I made, you know?
Question: And you can embellish the stories.
Billy: Yeah. I can embellish. [laughter]
Question: Dom. How do you feel?
Dominic: I have no real way of computing that in my mind. I just don’t have any concept of… I’m aware of the fact that Harrison Ford is able to sit down with his kids and talk about playing Indy and playing Han Solo, but I just don’t have any… there isn’t a part of my mind that is able to get my head around the fact that you feel like that, you know? I guess when it happens, it happens, but I just don’t know that it’s in any way valuable to me to put that huge amount of weight and pressure on something that I did. I mean, I’m only a young man. I’m only 26, and thinking about me when I’m 70 with my grandchildren scares the bajeezus out of me. I just want to keep working, and when it happens, it happens.
Question: Is there anything that you learned about yourself while playing these Hobbits? Is there a quality that they have that you would like to say “Oh yeah, I’ve got a bit more courage, I’ve got a bit more patience”?
Dominic: I like the default setting that Hobbits are usually at which is kind of the way that I felt, but I just tuned into it a bit more. Of just an innate kind of positive attitude, and an innate kind of happy-go-lucky approach to life. The ability to let things go that were traumatic, and maybe not important to hold on to. Just a carefree approach to life. I think spending time in New Zealand and spending time in nature and the environment and being in the ocean so much because we were surfing every weekend, just woke something up inside me of more of a spiritual kind of side of my nature. I don’t mean God and Jesus, I mean more the land, the sky.
Dominic: Yeah. [laughter] How we as animals effect our environment.
Question: Billy, what woke up inside of you?
Billy: Yeah, I suppose the way Hobbit’s friendships are so important to them. And, you know, they’ll spend a lot of time making sure that that’s real, and helping the friends. I think sometimes you get so caught up in your own life, it’s easy to say “Oh… I’ll phone `em next week” or you get an email from someone: “I’ll leave that for awhile”. And a big part of your life is the people that you spend it with. So I probably got that.
Dominic: Are you going to call me tomorrow?
Billy: No. [laughter]
Question: So you lived here in LA. Is that a new move?
Dominic: No. I’ve been here for about two years.
Question: Is that primarily because of industry?
Dominic: Yeah. Wanting to be an actor came from watching Harrison Ford play Han Solo. So I thought, I want to work in that medium. I love theater, and will always do theater, and intend to go back this year to England and do a play, but movies are what made me want to become an actor. So being in a town where most of the movies are made is just a good choice for me at the moment.
Question: Do you find yourself getting more work because of the movie? Billy talked about that earlier. Do you find yourself getting more work?
Dominic: I find myself being able to open more doors, meet more people, have more opportunities. But as Billy said, you have to become a little bit more choosy and picky about your work which is shame, but as you go further, higher up the ladder, there are just less options for you to choose from.
Question: Tell us something about Elijah and Sean that would embarrass them… maybe just slightly?
[pause and “um’s”]
Billy: Hard.. this one.
Dominic: Yeah… hard because you have to be careful not to be cruel.
Billy: The really embarrassing stuff?
Question: Yeah… the embarrassing stuff.
Billy: But they’re our friends, and we don’t know you.
[laughter] But we’re just a bunch of reporters.
Billy: They never did anything embarrassing.
[laughter and thanks all around]