Ian McKellen at New York Barnes and Noble for “Lord of the Rings Day.”
Lord of the Rings Day in New York
The New York Lord of the Rings day at Barnes & Nobles at Union Square went exceptionally well. About 200 chairs were set up in front of a huge projection screen in a large room on the 4th floor, and by 1:00 the place was full. My friends and I got there a little bit early and so we sat in the reserved section up front, knowing that no one would notice. Just after 1pm a lady introduced the 20 minute behind the scenes video which we were priveleged enough to watch.
The video covered almost everything, from the original publication of the books in the 1950’s to New Line’s upcoming December 19th release of the Fellowship of the Ring. A series of interviews and behind the scenes footage included the beginning stages of scripting the film with Peter Jackson, then visualizing Middle-earth with artists Alan Lee and John Howe, and even location scouting with them so that they could conceptualize places like Hobbiton and Rivendell.
Then the Weta workshop in New Zealand was explored, revealing all of the tasks that these artists were faced with, yet as huge Tolkien fans, they were all behind the project 100% from day 1. And we also got a taste of the training that actors like Elijah Wood experienced, such as learining how to sword fight. The video also included a touching interview with a Tolkien colleague from Oxford, Reiner Unwin (sp.?) who sadly passed away shortly after the taping of the piece.
After the video presentation we were all prepared for a special treat as Sir Ian McKellan took the stage and was more than delightful. I never realized what a sense of humor the man has; he’s really quite an interesting chap. He started off with about a 10 minute address to the audience about the films, discussing the sets, the illustrators, and the digital imagery versus the realism, saying that the film is far more realsitic than the former because it feels as if the camera was really there in middle earth, recording a piece of history.
He then opened the floor to a variety of insightful questions, ranging from his theater experience to specific questions about the film. He talked about the sadness of cutting “poor, old Tom Bombadil,” the differences in playing Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White, the respect he has for Bakshi’s animated version, and he even revealed to us that the elven scripture of “Finin” (sp.?) is tattooed on his right forearm, then he cracked a joke that upside down it spells “Gucci.” And after over an entire year he even got back into character for us at one point when discussing the filming of the Balrog sequence by shouting out, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” It was halarious.
I even got to ask Gandalf the Grey a question, saying, “Being somebody who has read the books numerous times, how would YOU say that the changes made for the film adaption effect the entire movie?” and after the usual runaround about some changes being necessary and so forth he basically said what I was looking
for, which was that “Peter Jackson pulls it off.”
While he wanted to stick around for more questioning he was told to leave, but not before he took some pictures with the press, including a few with his life-size Gandalf carboard cut-out. He was very enthusiastic about everything and we Tolkien fans thank him, New Line, and Barnes & Noble very much.
If you have not been to your local Barnes & Noble lately they now have a variety of Lord of the Rings memorabilia, including a handful of great books. I picked one up called the Official Movie Guide and when Sir Ian arrived at his Limosuine outside he was nice enough to sign a full page photo of Gandalf for me…I was so excited…I met Gandalf!