Just over 20 years ago, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy captured the pop culture zeitgeist and became a cultural phenomena only a few franchises have been able to match. It was a filmmaking experience like no other, especially for its cast and crew. At the Fan Expo convention in Toronto, a reunion was held between the four main Hobbits of the series, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, where they reminisced about their time starring in the trilogy and the close bond that has lasted to this day.
Lord of the Rings followed Wood’s Frodo Baggins as he comes into possession of his uncle Bilbo’s magic ring which turns out to be the One Ring, a powerful object created by the Dark Lord Sauron who is preparing to invade Middle-earth once again and is searching for the Ring. Together with his friends Sam (Astin), Merry (Monaghan), Pippin (Boyd) and several others, Frodo must travel to Mordor and toss the Ring into Mount Doom, the place where Sauron forged the Ring and the only place it can be destroyed.
Toronto’s Fan Expo was the final stop on a tour the four Hobbits have been doing since April, travelling around North America’s various conventions to greet fans and share their stories. “We have been on this tour and have not been sharing the space in this way in maybe 10 years,” Wood said, teeing up another momentous moment for Lord of the Rings fans. “As we humbly end this event here in Toronto, it’s sort of a special event for us because we realized we are on the eve of a new journey into Middle-earth that starts on Friday [Amazon’s series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, premiering September 2nd]. We just wanted to acknowledge there’s a whole host of people, casts, creative teams and folks who have poured their hearts out for an exploration into Tolkien’s world that will continue and we’re all so excited to see it. We just wanted to tip our hats to them on the even of that new journey.”
The film series wasn’t just a bonding experience for the four actors, but the crew as well after spending years together filming around ?New Zealand. “Today we were talking a lot about different crew that had gotten married,” Astin said, “Were they still together, did they have children, where were they living now. We were cycling through old friends. There’s something about it, like it’s real. We really did this, we were really there, we really had this experience. There’s something I think happens in the fan space where it becomes mythologized and can we isolate those moments that are so funny and so transcendent. We were just a bunch of people who lived and travelled and worked.”
Over the course of the panel they shared tons of memories from filming, like how the beautiful weather in Toronto suddenly reminded Boyd of a very sunny day in Wellington where he took all the stuff in his trailer – sofas, chairs, tables even a TV – outside to spend the day in the sun, or how Sean Bean caught Wood and Astin playing GoldenEye 007 on the N64 with Bean’s likeness as the villainous Trevelyn getting killed over and over again by Wood. Monaghan, Boyd and Orlando Bloom even played a prank on Bean where they were taking a helicopter ride up to a mountain and Bean, who is very afraid of helicopters, hung on for dear life as the trio egged their pilot on to bank up and down and make hard turns and tried convincing him to even loop upside down. This made Bean choose to just walk up the mountains rather than take another helicopter with any of the cast again.
“I don’t think he’s ever really forgiven us for that helicopter ride he was on,” Monaghan joked. “I did a film with him probably 15 years after Lord of the Rings in Ukraine and I had broken foot in a cast. I showed up and Sean Bean for the next six weeks kept trying to push me over. ‘Fucken’ helicopters’ he would say. He’s not one to hold a grudge, but jeez!”
When it came to the films or Tolkien’s books, they recalled several of their favourite moments and for Wood, his is Sam’s speech towards the end of The Two Towers. “Your speech in the films, it sort of feels like it becomes the central thesis to the movies. It’s so profound and applicable to any time.” Astin agreed, saying “Even with Covid, darkness must pass and a new day will come.”
For Monaghan, one of his favourite lines is the short monologue Ian McKellen’s Gandalf gives to Pippin as they brace for the forces of Mordor to break through the gates. “It’s a beautiful moment between two characters where he’s just like ‘maybe we will die, but it will be an amazing thing we do next.”
Something that really sticks out for the four of them is choosing many of the accessories their characters had, such as their swords, broaches and others. Since Hobbits love pipeweed, one thing they always carried with them were pipes. “Do you remember the moment they brought the pipes and we got to choose them?” Boyd asked the others. “It was like getting to choose your lightsaber or something, Hobbit-style. They brought all these pipes and said ‘Okay, do you want to choose the pipe that will be yours.’ We were all feeling them in our hands, ‘It’s got a good weight, it fits in my pocket.'”
Throughout the trilogy the Hobbits go through some drastic character development, shifting from their quiet and quaint lifestyle to harrowing danger and epic battles. Monaghan stated his favourite arc of the Hobbits is Pippin’s growth. “You can make a strong argument to say at the start of Rings with the relationship between Merry and Pippin that certainly Merry thinks he’s taking care of Pippin. They’re obviously peers and friends, but Merry kind of thinks ‘In case Pippin does something wrong or if he gets lost or makes another mistake, I’ll be here to take care of him.’ That’s certainly what Merry thinks and happens more often than not. By the end of the third film Merry’s on the battlefield and probably going to die if Pippin doesn’t show up and save him. It’s an amazing moment between the two characters because they’ve switched roles. Pippin’s like ‘I’ve come to take care of you’ and Merry’s all over the place, in a real mess, and they go away in that one scene. A great thing Pete did, he was able to say these characters start like this and they’ve completely shifted roles. I think that’s a really simple way to show that journey for the two of them.”
Boyd touched on Pippin’s growth as well, saying “When Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard, Pippin says ‘We’ve got the Shire’ and Merry says ‘Well, we might not. The Shire might be gone’. He thinks, like Sam, we can always go back home, but I think that’s when he realizes ‘Oh, there might not be a home. There might not be a Green Dragon. There might not be ale!'”
For Wood, the relationship between Frodo and Gollum still sits with him. “His ability to see Gollum as human and recognizing Smeagol in him, now granted that was also because he himself was an addict in a way. He was succumbing to the Ring and understood this creature too succumbed to the Ring and degraded this creature to what he became. Of course it became an incredibly co-dependent, complicated, fucked up relationship, and of course Gollum was always duplicitous, but that’s a beautiful thing and marks a really specific part of Frodo’s path. The ultimate crux of that relationship is if Gollum can come back, meaning if Smeagol can be pulled out of that, there’s hope for me at the end of all this.”
What are some of your favourite moments from the Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Who was your favourite Hobbit? Let us know on our social channels at @flickeringmyth…
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.