Whenever I am interviewed about The Complete List of Film Changes, I take great pains to point out that I am a Revisionist who is looking forward to the films. However, after reading the completed articles, I’ve found that most journalists writing about Tolkien fandom prefer to portray us all as geeky, extremists who hate the films.
I was interviewed for Kathy Mark’s recent article about Tolkien fandom’s reaction to the films — apparently on the assumption that I must be a Purist. I guess the writer didn’t like my Revisionist answers, because none of them appeared in the article. My good friend Kelannar’s views must make for more exciting reading in the eyes of journalists.
Here is a transcript of my interview with Kathy Marks… to show you the kind of answers that often don’t find their way into articles about Tolkien fandom.
Why have you taken the enormous time and trouble to compile that exhaustive list of film changes?
I’ve been a Tolkien fan since a classmate recommended Lord of the Rings to me when I was twelve years old. I read all three volumes in a single weekend, and since then it has been my favorite work of fiction.
My interest in the books intensified in college when I joined the local chapter of “Tolkien Fellowships of America,” and met with fellow Tolkien fans once a month for about a year to discuss Tolkien’s works.
My interest did wane afterwards, but it was rekindled when I first read about the films two years ago in Ain’t It Cool News. I became obsessed with learning everything I could about the films and participated in messageboards on various Tolkien and film websites, sharing what I knew about the films.
Occasionally, I would come across a message board discussion debating some rumor about the film — such as Arwen being a member of the Fellowship — that I knew not to be true, and I would attempt to debunk the rumor by citing news reports I had read that contradicted the rumor.
Eventually I decided to compile a list of all the documented differences between the books and the films, with links to my sources of information. I originally posted that list on various messageboards throughout the Internet, but the list become some long that maintaining different versions became difficult. I decided to give the “Complete List of Film Changes” a permament home, and I asked Tolkien Online to host it, for that website seemed like the perfect home for such a fan resources, since its message boards were known for having the most intelligent, informed, and heated discussions about the films.
Since then, I expanded the List to include arguments for and against each “change,” and film stills.
Assuming that you are a “purist”, which changes particularly trouble you, and why?
Unfortunately, many people assume that because I am chronicling all the differences between the books and the films, I’m opposed to the changes. However, that’s not true — I think that most of the changes I’ve read about will work well in the films. No, what really drives me in creating the List is that I am fascinated by the creative dilemmas and decisions involved in adapting the books to films.
It is difficult for me to say which of the changes I’ve read about so far actually bothers me, since I would need to see them in context of the entire, completed film to judge whether they work for the film. I supposed that the change that gives me the most pause is having the orcs being born from cocoons. That imagry doesn’t fit in with my own imaginings of Middle-earth.
Why has there been so much dialogue among fans on this subject on the various websites?
Fans, by definition, are fanatical about their interests, and Tolkien fans have an intense interest in these films. Whether or not they like what they’ve learned about the films, Tolkien fans are all very excited about them. And during their years of waiting for these films, they vent their anticipation by discussing the films.
Another reason for so much discussion is that Tolkien created a very dense and realistic alternate world that invites lots of discussion. And, thanks to the Internet allowing so much information about the films’ development to leak, there is a lot to compare between the films and the books.
Do you believe that that dialogue has influenced New Line’s treatment of the book? If so, in what ways?
I hope not. I don’t have respect for filmmakers who based their creative decisions upon what their audience says they want to see (or thinks they want to see). Neither art nor entertainment should be based upon focus group results, in my opinion.
Imagine if the Internet had existed seventy years ago, when “The Wizard of Oz” was being filmed. What an uproar there would be if the fans of the book had discovered that the filmmakers were removing Dorothy’s journey from Oz to Glinda’s castle while adding Kansas scenes of their own invention; that teenager Judy Garland was cast as the little girl Dorothy, that the book’s “silver slippers” were unnecessarily changed to the film’s “ruby slippers;” that, unlike the book, the film’s story would be all a dream; or that a beloved children’s classic was being turned into a gaudy Hollywood music.
If purist Oz fans had protested these changes and filmmakers had listend to them and made the film script more faithful to the original story, our society would have been robbed of one of the most cherished films of all time.
Do you have any reservations about the cast?
I am very pleased with much of the casting decisions. I can’t think of a better Galadriel than Cate Blanchett, who was so good portraying Queen Elizabeth. And I think John Rhys-Davies makes a perfect Gimli the dwarf. I’ve been impressed with Ian McKellen‘s thoughtful writings about portraying Gandalf, and I like what I’ve seen of Elijah Wood as Frodo in the trailers.
If I have any reservations, it’s that there are so many cast members whose work I’ve not seen before, as well as some who have very little film experience.
How do fans feel about the imminent release of the film? Uneasy? Excited? Nervous?
The fans feel both excited and nervous about the films. The Lord of the Rings is a cherished book to so many people, and many of those have been waiting years or decades for a live-action version. Will Peter Jackson’s vision be in accord with their own expectations and imaginings?
Also, this is going to be a big media event, and millions of people who have never read the books will form their initial impressions based upon Peter Jackson’s script and imagry. Some fans fear that it will givemovie-goers a false impression of what the books are about or why the fans like the books.
What is it about LOTR that inspires such devotion?
Like the universes of Star Wars and Star Trek, Tolkien’s Middle-earth is a world so well-described and detailed that it almost seems like it really did exist. Also, its a world that is fun to visit, and with each visit, you learn something new about it.
It’s a world that promotes virtues such as friendship, courage, and sacrifice, and so one feels good about visiting it.
Also, the story features a rich variety of characters, from the impossibly heroic to the most down-to-earth, and every reader can find a character to whom they can relate.
What are the characteristics of LOTR fans?
LOTR fans are all book-lovers, of course. Most of the fans I’ve met are intelligent and creative people. Beyond that, they come in all shapes and sizes.