26 August 2011

Patrick Spadaccino: I Wanna Be in the Hobbit Movies

There are many joys of being a member of the Tolkien community: having countless opportunities to discuss and celebrate the writings of Professor J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as the directorial talents of Peter Jackson, who brought some of his work to light on the big screen; taking part in Tolkien-themed events and gatherings; even living in Tolkien’s Middle-earth virtually via the Lord of the Rings Online. But the biggest joy lies in the people met and the friendships made along the way. 

One such friend of mine is Patrick Spadaccino, a graphic designer from Connecticut who has also written two novels, one of which, The Faraway Hearts Club, has been published. From an early age, Patrick was interested in the more creative aspects of life – “In fact,” he says, “I used to lug around at least one shopping bag full of art supplies wherever I went. I was always being yelled at for that because I was such a high-maintenance traveler, but I couldn’t stand the thought of being somewhere and not having the tools to create something beautiful.” 

In addition to creating art, Patrick also grew up with a love of acting. “I directed my first play at age 5. I was in kindergarten and one of the toys they gave us to play with was a collection of large cardboard bricks. I stacked and fashioned them into a stage and dragged my teacher into the production. I loved spooky stuff, so I gave her the role of the skeleton in the closet (I didn’t understand that expression; she was literally a skeleton in a closet!). I’ve since performed in many stage productions, and even did a small amount of TV during my radio days.”

 Several years later, Patrick discovered the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, of which he says he instantly became a fan. 

 “I was about 10 or 11 when I first read The Hobbit. The memory is still crystal clear. I was staying at my grandparent’s house that week, and I always enjoyed those visits. My uncle happened to be living there at the time, and one day he came downstairs holding a beat-up paperback. He looked at me with a very serious expression, handed me the book and said, “You have to read this.”  

“One of the best memories about that first time reading the book was the way my uncle shared in the experience as I read. He’d ask what part of the book I was reading, and then nod knowingly when I told him…it was all he could do not to give away the plot. So as I read it, we discussed it. We laughed at the funny parts, we were somber at the sad parts…we had a great time experiencing the book together.”

So it only seems natural for Patrick to want to combine his two passions. After hearing that The Hobbit films were, at long last, going to be made, he knew he had to do something. So he set out on a campaign to be in The Hobbit films – appropriately titled “I Wanna Be in the Hobbit Movies.”

When I first heard about Patrick’s campaign back in July, I knew I wanted to help him out in whatever ways I could. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing him about his campaign and his love for the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.

* What is it about the book that drew you in…?

Where do I begin, and how much space do you have? There were so many aspects of the book that appealed to me. Here are some highlights:

·        The way Tolkien introduces the book, adds appendices and tells the story in the second person all help convey the impression that you’re reading a historical account, rather than a work of fiction. Those techniques helped me “suspend my disbelief” and really become immersed in the tale.
·        I love the dry, charming humor.
·        I love the interesting (and often humorous) ways Tolkien depicts some well-known fantasy creatures. For example: trolls that wear clothing (including pickable pockets) and who speak in Cockney accents, and dragons who take pride in their hoards but never enjoy the smallest part of their stolen treasure.
·        Gollum absolutely fascinates me, from his strange obsession with his Precious, to his odd, creepy way of speaking. The Riddles in the Dark chapter conveyed such a terrifying sense of danger (I mean, a game where you get eaten if you lose?!), and yet was hilarious at the same time ("Is it nice, my preciousss? Is it juicy? Is it scrumptiously crunchable?").
·        I loved learning about the cultures of Dwarves and Elves—where they were similar, where they diverged.
·        Most of all, I loved the way Gandalf pushed Bilbo into the adventure. The wizard saw something in Bilbo that Bilbo himself could not yet see: a courage, a deep-seated strength. Gandalf believed in Bilbo and gave him a chance to show his quality, and Bilbo lived up to and exceeded all expectations. But for all that, he was not a typical hero. He was small, he had no skill in battle, he had no experience with adventures.

Along the way, he made mistakes—but he kept trying—bolstered, in part, by everyone’s faith in him. And that resonated strongly with me. My parents divorced when I was seven, and I spent most of my childhood alone and bullied and afraid. It was inspiring to see a hero who started out humbly, but grew to extraordinary greatness.

Throughout my life, there have been special people who saw potential in me and gave me the opportunity to shine—even when others had written me off. I’m hoping that Sir Peter Jackson will give me a chance just as Gandalf gave Bilbo a chance!

…and sparked a desire to be in these films?

As a Tolkien fan, it would be a crowning experience to play even a small role in telling such an entertaining, inspiring, timeless story. I’m also extremely nostalgic, and it’s my dream to be part of The Hobbit movies because I can trace my love for the story all the way back to the day when a kind uncle handed his lonely nephew a very special book. Helping to make that story special to a completely new audience would be an amazing culmination of my 35-year appreciation of Tolkien’s work.

Lastly, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is a cinematic masterpiece. That trilogy is as timeless as the works that inspired it; every time I watch it (and I’ve watched it many, many times), I am amazed that it’s still as fresh, still as powerful as the first time I watched it. So, I know The Hobbit is in the very best hands from a production standpoint; I know it will be treated with the proper respect for the source material, and will also have all those unique and wonderful touches that made LOTR so masterful.

* What was your favourite moment in the book, and what are you most looking forward to seeing on the big screen?

Again, this opens up a huge door, but out of consideration for your audience, I’ll be brief this time: I can’t wait for the Riddles in the Dark segment, where Bilbo finds the Ring and meets Gollum.

* What other Tolkien books have you read?

I have read The Lord of the Rings many times, including the appendices. I just started The Silmarillion, and I recently bought (but haven’t yet started to read) Unfinished Tales.

* Who is your favourite Tolkien character, or one that you feel you are most like?

Part of the reason I love Tolkien’s work is that I see aspects of others and myself in all the characters, both good and evil. He achieved a wonderful depth in his characterizations. If I say I love Aragorn best, I think of Arwen. If I say I love Legolas best, I think of Gimli. If I say that Sam is my favorite, how can I not think of Frodo, Pippin, and Merry? If I say I admire Galadriel, what about Elrond? The characters are intertwined into one amazing whole.

But for the sake of picking one, I will say that Sam is an incredible depiction of an ideal friend. Courageous, protective, generous, fiercely loyal, utterly dependable…that’s the kind of friend I aspire to be.

* When did you begin your “I Wanna Be in the Hobbit Movies” campaign, and what made you decide to do so?

I’d been following Hobbit news for years, waiting for the film version, hoping Peter Jackson would be involved. I was overjoyed when filming began in March 2011, but I was also sad. I was excited about the movie, but so much so that I wanted to be part of it.

On April 7, 2011, I saw a post on a Hobbit movie blog that offered to feature one fan per month. That fan would receive his/her own page, and would receive special promotion in view of getting an audition to be in the Hobbit films! That was just what I was waiting for. I’d had a vague idea of doing a video audition, but I had no clear direction.

After I posted on that blog and placed myself in the running, I got to work. After all, if I was chosen as the featured fan, I wanted to offer something a lot more substantial than my desire to be in the films. I knew I needed to bring all my various experience to bear: web design, graphic design, stage acting and makeup, voiceovers, music composition, standup comedy, writing, etc. I also learned how to use some of the more popular social media tools in an effort to widen the reach of my campaign.

* In your audition/screen test videos on your website, you don Orc and Goblin-inspired make-up – which is very impressive, by the way. How much effort went into transforming yourself into an Orc and a goblin? What were some of the techniques you used to create the appropriate makeup?

Thank you! The makeup centered around three latex appliances: a full-face piece and two ears. The face piece was fashioned to look like Gorbag, an Orc who appeared in The Return of the King.

I also used standard grease makeup, liquid latex, theatrical hair, face wax, and of course, spirit gum (the sticky resin used to attach the latex appliances). I’ve loved doing horror-style makeup since I was young, and my experience in the theatre also helped. And whatever I didn’t know, I was able to learn on YouTube!

Although I wanted to depict different types of Orcs and Goblins, the makeup (and all the other supplies I bought to support my campaign) was expensive, so I settled on one basic template, and added details like a White Hand emblem, a ponytail, a wig (which I ended up not using because it made me look like a Samurai).

Once I settled on a basic look, I began the process:

·        I started by sealing the latex pieces with castor oil, then applying an initial coat of makeup.

·        I then applied makeup to the parts of my head, neck and face that wouldn’t be covered by latex.

·        I applied the latex ears by essentially gluing them to my own ears with spirit gum. I then blended the makeup already on the ears with the surrounding skin.

·        I applied the face piece in the same manner, and applied makeup to blend the seams against my face. This was challenging, because in order to have the kind of expressional mobility I needed, that piece had to stick to my face completely and in all the correct places (nose, mouth, cheeks, eyes, forehead).

I also bought special contact lenses, but was very disappointed that I couldn’t get them into my eyes, no matter how hard I tried! I’m not squeamish about things like that, but they kept falling out and I eventually had to give up. Thankfully, my eyes are dark, so the videos weren’t negatively impacted. But I would have liked to have used the contacts.

* How long did it take to apply and remove?

The first time I applied the makeup, it took about 2 hours from start to finish, primarily because I had to prepare the latex pieces first. Subsequent applications (I did three sessions) took less time—about an hour.

Removal was much quicker, taking from 20-30 minutes. The trickiest part was making sure I got all the spirit gum out of my goatee…it’s very sticky!

* In your videos, you portray Orcs and goblins. What would your ideal ‘Hobbit’ role be?

I chose Orcs and goblins because the roles I enjoy playing most are villains and comedic characters. Orcs are great villains, and I knew I could do the makeup well enough for the purposes of the audition videos, so I chose them. (And I was also able to inject some humor via the gag reels!)

I would be truly grateful for any role I received in The Hobbit, though of course I would love to be visible (and at least partially recognizable) on screen.

I’d love to play the role of the Necromancer—to play the being that later becomes Sauron, the ultimate villain of this genre. (No, I don’t have an evil bent…it’s just that when villains are portrayed effectively, it makes their ultimate defeat that much more satisfying.)

But on a slightly more realistic note, I’d also love to be a goblin that gets killed by one of the heroes, or a Dwarf in the final battle, or an Elf who nods wisely as Elrond examines Thror’s map, or an inhabitant of Laketown who faces down the dragon…in short, anyone or anything, but preferably someone funny or wicked, because I think that’s where my skills lie.

* So far, your campaign has been covered by Fox CT News, The Middletown Press, and Examiner.com. Have you reached out to any other media stations, or are you planning on doing so?

I am continually sending out my mini press releases to as many media outlets as I can. I’ve contacted talk shows, TV news stations, newspapers, and magazines. I am targeting primarily the United States, the UK and New Zealand.

These efforts recently bore fruit: I was contacted this week by the editor of Capital Times, a weekly newspaper in Wellington, New Zealand…he want to interview me for an upcoming issue, which is phenomenal timing, considering that Hobbit filming has recently resumed.

I’m going to keep promoting this campaign until I hear from Peter Jackson, or filming wraps!

* If you had the opportunity to speak with director Peter Jackson right now, what would you like to say to him?

I actually wrote an open letter to Sir Peter and posted it on his Facebook page and mine. You can view it here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/note.php?note_id=128735513877374.

But to give you the highlights, I’d say:

“Sir Peter, I have the deepest admiration for the way you portrayed Tolkien’s world in The Lord of the Rings. I’ve loved The Hobbit since I was a boy, and I know that your treatment of that tale will be just as amazing. As a fan of both your work and Tolkien’s writing, I’d love to play even the smallest role in telling this story. Though you are surrounded by the best of the best, I’m asking you to take a leap of faith and give me the chance to contribute my talents, humor, work ethic, and passion to the telling of this tale. Just like Bilbo, as he slowly grew to be the hero Gandalf knew he could be, I’m committed to exceeding your wildest expectations.”

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you or your campaign?

Thanks so much for your interest in my quest! One of the many joys I’ve experienced over the last five months is the wonderful warmth, kindness and generosity of the Tolkien community—most especially your very own TolkienBritta! I found friends as near as my own town, and as far away as New Zealand. I’d just like to thank all of them, and you, for supporting my efforts with many expressions of support and encouragement.

For more information on Patrick’s campaign (and to see his audition videos and outtakes), check out his website @ iwannabeinthehobbitmovies.com

You can also follow him on Twitter
‘Like’ him on Facebook
And view his Youtube videos

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