Atlanta, Georgia - Today we had the pleasure of listening to Brad Dourif speak about his experiences with Peter Jackson and the filming of The Lord of the Rings. We were not allowed to record the meeting and we were not allowed to take any pictures due to his agreements with New Line Cinema. Jonathan and I did take copious notes and so I will go over what was covered in his talk and what he revealed.
The original person that New Line Cinema had cast to play Grima Wormtongue turned down the role, so Brad was asked to audition for the role. He auditioned for the role in January, and was called back 4 more times before he ultimately got the role (which he said he basically originally took because he needed a job). Brad mentioned that he had never read the books, but started reading The Hobbit to his girlfriend’s 10-year-old daughter. Then he devoured the other 3 books of the trilogy before filming began. He said that he LOVED the books.
When he found out that he got the part, he traveled to New Zealand and took a tour of the facilities that are being used to create everything. He made the consistent point that everyone who is involved is treating the subject with such care and detail. He saw models, armor, and costumes. He also saw the work that was being done with forced perspective.
He said that everything is being done tastefully, realistically, and with respect, mentioning that before filming each day the cast goes over the part of the book that they are filming for that day. Brad mentioned that is it great to have the books around because they are like the Bible for this production; one day he spent over 45 minutes working with Ian McKellen on a small exchange and how they should portray just those few seconds in the movie!
In describing Peter Jackson he said that he is a director who will not walk away from anything that is good. He listens to others. He says that Jackson is directing the moment to moment type of work, while Fran, his wife is the “We need to Talk” director of the movie.
Brad mentioned that they are shooting for a character driven story, as opposed to an event or plot driven story. Upon arriving Brad read over his part and asked for a rewrite so we the audience could understand Grima’s motivation. Is he selfish? What causes him to be such a ‘bad guy’? Why is he really doing this? Brad said he wants to play the part as a person who is “out there, but real.” He said that Grima’s driving force is something that is very indirec—what is that precisely? He of course wouldn’t let on.
He also mentioned that the story has been rewritten in parts to make it more acceptable to a movie going audience. He hopes they can pull it off beautifully in regards to the second book. In the second book the story of Sam, Frodo, and Gollum will be inter-cut with the story of the rest of the fellowship, instead of the half and half division we’re used to in The Two Towers. He said they have to be careful, because it is very important to show how The One Ring is killing Frodo slowly and if the cutting between the two stories is done too often, this will be lost.
Brad also mentioned that he is working hard on his accent. He will have a British accent. He gave us a demonstration of a generic British accent, and it sounded good. He also added that it was not Grima’s accent. He said that he has books in which he has to practice his vowels, then his consists, then his pacing. He hinted that people from different parts of Middle-earth would be given different British accents (no American accents!) but he said no more than that.
Brad mentioned that they have filmed the second half of his appearance in the movie, and that he will be going back to New Zealand to film the first half later; he has filmed scenes with Christopher Lee and Ian McKellen. He mentioned several things about the scenes that he has been in. He said that he has been standing on a balcony as thousands pass below it. He also mentioned that he has the coolest costume of the bunch, but it is a pain to walk in it anywhere.
He went on to talk about Christopher Lee. Brad was obviously awed by Christopher’s knowledge of LOTR—Lee has read them once a year for many years and knows everything about the books, even down to pronouncing elvish correctly. Lee is indeed a great resource to have on the set.
Other interesting things that Brad said is that he has seen over 30 minutes of footage, though everything that he has seen is not final form and still needs the computer graphics done to it. He also mentioned that scenes are worked out beforehand using CGI and are shot to make sure everything is done right before lots of money is spent and wasted. This is probably similar to what Lucas did on The Phantom Menace. Along with that he also mentioned that currently they are filming with 4 crews across the country and that everyone is working hard but enthusiastically. Peter will travel between sets using a bicycle or he will have monitors set up, enabling him to completely direct everything that is going on.
This covers just about everything Brad was asked about regarding Middle-earth. On a side note, he also talked about his other past movies, including one I’m sure many of you are familiar with--Dune. He said he was disappointed in the movie, but would still love to be involved in the mini-series.