It has been nearly 17 years since Lord of the Rings hit theaters and fervor for the franchise has not diminished among fans from around the world. In the Hulu Theater at the historic Madison Square Garden, fellow Hobbits Billy Boyd and Sean Astin sat down to talk about their time in Middle Earth and the impact it has had on their lives and the lives of so many others.
First asked about the lasting impact of the film trilogy, Boyd spoke about the special feeling he has when meeting people whose lives were touched by the film. Astin remembered the premiere in New York, just months after the attacks on 9/11/01 and how the world needed an escape. As for impact on their own lives, Boyd’s childhood friends discovered The Hobbit and formed their own impromptu Scottish book club while reading it. One of the other lasting impacts was on their bodies as they famously recieved Fellowship tattoos. Each of the major cast members got a tattoo of the number “9” in Elvish towards the end of the filming. Boyd claimed that he went first and decided that because Hobbit feet were such a huge part of the movies that he should get an ankle tattoo. Astin followed suit. What they hadn’t counted on was the several weeks of filming they had left and the constant application of the dreaded Hobbit feet prosthetics every day.
When asked about other memories, Astin brought up a scene in the Fellowship which was filmed atop a secluded mountain on the South Island of New Zealand. They flew up on a helicopter, but only a limited number of people were allowed. All the actors were in costume and had a packed lunch for the day. The scene being filmed was the aftermath of Gandalf’s fight with the Balrog and the emotional reactions each character had. Astin said that the actors, unlike usual set procedure, had nowhere to go when not needed for filming so they sat and watched as each character had their moment on camera.
Boyd was asked about his musical talents and writing a song for the films. After karaoke one night, writer Philippa Boyens came to Boyd asking if he wanted to sing a song in the films. While composer Howard Shore was originally intended to write the piece, shooting schedule changes gave only three days for it to be done. Boyd sat down, wrote out several versions of songs that Pippen might have heard as a lad, and brought them to Peter Jackson. They both agreed on the same song and were shooting the next day. Due to losing his voice while recording dialogue for the accompanying video game, Boyd recalled that he was called in to record the vocals back in Britain in Abbey Road Studios.
After speaking about Boyd’s role in the show Outlander and Astin’s roles in The Goonies and Rudy, Astin was asked about taking roles where his character is a helper or leader. He recalled his parents being activists in the Screen Actors Guild and other labor organizations and that celebrity was a vehicle for bringing attention to worthwhile causes. He believes that no actor’s voice is more or less important than anyone else’s and that everyone should take pride in whatever they are passionate about. When someone online asked him about why he bothered with all the negative things happening today, the former (and always) Samwise Gamgee replied, “There’s good left in this world and it is worth saving.”
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