by Neil Cooper
Last time I saw Billy Boyd he was presenting the award for best film at the Empire magazine televised luvvie fest. This time next year he might just be back, but, rather than doling out such fleetingly glittering prizes, he might just be picking one up. Because, bizarre as it sounds, the same Billy Boyd you’ve seen in Christmas shows at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, and who you’re about to see in Stephen Greenhorn’s adaptation of Belgian playwright Arne Sierens rock ‘n’ roll love-fest, The Ballad Of Crazy Paola at The Traverse, has spent the bulk of the past two years in New Zealand filming the long-awaited big-screen adaptation of Tolkien’s hippy-dippy Dungeons and Dragons cult doorstopper, Lord of the Rings, trailers for which are currently playing at a multiplex near you.
Boyd is playing Pippin, one of the Hobbits, those pesky, slightly stunted little rogues at the heart of the story’s multi-layered sword-and-sorcery tomfoolery. Hence the unwarranted round of press interviews Boyd is currently being called upon to undertake by just about every hack in the land.
It’s a familiar scenario. Scotland’s latest great white showbiz hope is about to hit the big time for five minutes, sprawled across the cover of every no-imagination magazine around in strict, not to say heavy, rotation with Ewan, Bobby, Dougray, Daniela, and co. Just one more micro-celeb to help kid ourselves everything Scottish is good, ergo everything that is good must be Scottish. Except, none of this will be any of Billy’s fault. It’s just what happens in a culturally insecure country desperate for an heir apparent to Big Tam Connery, but consistently sold short with a production line of young pretenders.
And anyway, Boyd was offered the gig for goodness sake. What’s he supposed to do? Say nah, no thanks, Mister, I prefer to play in my own, admittedly minuscule back yard and be a big man? Not likely, matey, so-called Scottish film industry renaissance or no. This is blockbuster territory, and was quite rightly embraced with open arms. And, even if he did feel a bit daft at the Empire awards ‘cos no-one knew who he was, stuck at a table rubbing shoulders with the greats, as junkets go it was a rather tidy intro to the tinsel-town glitz he’s going to have to get used to pretty darn sharpish. As, indeed, he is too with the media circus that’s set to crawl all over him like the smarmiest of rashes. Because, while he’s affable enough, happy to chunter on in between rehearsals, he’s not quite got the hang of this interview malarkey yet, despite having banged on and on about Lord of the Rings to all the major film glossies ad infinitum already.
“It’s amazing the attention it’s getting already,” says Boyd, with an expression on his face that partly suggests he’s still blinking into the headlights, if not the soon-come, none-stop camera flash, but with an old lag’s assuredness borne of a couple of years being tended to in his new Zealand trailer. “The whole thing’s been very strange, but in a really exciting way.”
But enough already. You’ll be hearing more about Lord of the Rings than you can shake a magic wand at soon enough in this and plenty other organs. We’re here, after all, to talk about The Ballad Of Crazy Paola, in which he plays taciturn drum teacher Raymond, whose latest pupil turns out to be the son of his dead half-brother, Serge, a live-fast die- young drummer whose muse, Paola, is the boy’s mother. Think John and Yoko, Sid and Nancy, or Kurt and Courtney, and the intensity of Serge and Paola’s burnt-out, not fade away romance becomes instantly apparent.
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