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

25 August 2011

Jackson: Freeman “Bilbo-esque”

‘Hobbit’ director Peter Jackson recently praised British actor Martin Freeman, who will be portraying the story’s main character, Bilbo Baggins, in The LA Times, stating that Freeman “is fantastic and there is simply nobody else for the job. We couldn’t find anyone who was better than him. He’s simply fantastic.”

Jackson also explained the reason behind the month long production break was to allow Freeman, who had already signed on to another Sherlock Holmes series, to fulfill his previous commitment to the BBC. Jackson, well aware of Freeman’s prior commitment, cast him as The Hobbit’s lead anyway. 

“I can’t imagine anyone else doing Bilbo, which is one of the reasons, really, we signed him up even with having the Sherlock break – normally on a movie you wouldn’t want to do that with the schedule, but we literally couldn’t figure out any other actor we auditioned, you know. There is no other actor.” 

So what did Jackson see in Freeman that stood out from all the other ‘Hobbit’ hopefuls?

“He’s Bilbo-esque,” Jackson said. “You might not always want to say that about you, right? But seriously he has the essential features of this little English gent, this country gent who is slightly old-fashioned and has to go around in the world and try to cope with it. That’s not exactly who Martin is as a person, but as an actor he does that so well. The fish out of water with a sense of courage but also a wonderful sense of humor. The things that happen to him and the way he reacts to them — things he’s never seen in his life before as a stuffy little Hobbit — his response to it all is part of the charm. And he does have a great openness in his face.”

Fans can see Martin Freeman’s portrayal of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first installment of the two-part adaptation, which opens on December 14, 2012. The second part, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, is scheduled for release on December 13, 2013.

22 August 2011

Evangeline Lilly Spotted in Wellington

Three months after the birth of her baby boy, 'Lost' star Evangeline Lilly is the latest 'Hobbit' celebrity to have been spotted in New Zealand's capital of Wellington, following reports of Orlando Bloom, Stephen Fry, James Nesbitt, and Martin Freeman already being in the area. This past Sunday (August 21), she was seen going for a walk with her newborn child and boyfriend, Norman Kali.

Lilly, well-known for her role as Kate Austen on the ABC drama Lost, went on a self-imposed hiatus back in 2009.

"People are excited to try on the next chapter of their lives," she told New York Magazine. "This show is all-encompassing. We have had very little experience outside of the show during the last six years because it's just so demanding. It requires so much of us. So, it's exciting to have your freedom back, essentially."

Lilly is now in New Zealand to begin filming for Peter Jackson's highly anticipated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, in which she will be portraying the Elf maiden Tauriel. 

“Her name means ‘daughter of Mirkwood’ and, beyond that, we must leave you guessing!" said director Peter Jackson back in June. "What is not a secret is how talented and compelling an actress Evangeline is. We are thrilled and excited she will be the one to bring our first true Sylvan Elf to life.”

A spokesman for Jackson stated that filming had resumed last week and will continue until December.

19 August 2011

My Tolkien Collection: My Tolkien Library

If you've ever been curious as to where I get a majority of my information for my "365 Days of Middle-earth" from, or how many/what Tolkien-related books I own, here's a (somewhat blurry) snapshot for you:

Since you obviously cannot see all the titles, I'll list them for anyone interested:

16 August 2011

John Rhys-Davies Discusses the Possibility of ‘Hobbit’ Involvement

Recently, David Sztypuljak of HeyUGuys spoke with actor John Rhys-Davies, whose newest film, War of Resistance, comes out next week. John, famous for his roles in such films as Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Lord of the Rings, plays a priest known as Eusi, who is hiding from the Nazis during World War II. And fortunately for us ‘Hobbit’ fans, Sztypuljak couldn’t resist asking a few questions about whether or not John might return to Middle-earth.  
“I would love to!” John responded when asked about the possibility of a cameo appearance. “I’ve had a great sort of 180 degree turn. After I did The Lord of the Rings, I didn’t want to get near prosthetic masks ever again, I still don’t really, and I didn’t want to play a dwarf to be honest with you. Why be one of thirteen when you can be one of one. As time comes between you and the horrors of that make-up, slowly you begin to see things through rather rosy spectacles. I did go down and see him (Jackson) and I did come as close to grovelling as you can get (Laughs!). I’m sure that Peter knows that I grovelled!”

He adds that Peter Jackson “has everything that a Director needs. His organizational ability alone is completely remarkable. I think it will change the way films are made. I think he’s upping the game for every other film-maker in the world. Projecting in 48 frames alone is going to give a level of clarity that we’ve never had in film before, and I think he’s housebreaking 3d. He is such a grounded level man with all the characteristics that a great Director must have. Added to which, he built a film industry from scratch to an international level. Marvellous intelligence and a marvellous modest nature, Peter has got it all!”

Although he is off to New Zealand, he admits that, “It’s for marital purposes as I have a wife and child there!”

You can read the full interview here.

Ales and Tales 2nd Anniversary

Last night was the two year anniversary of Ales and Tales - though I could not attend the entire celebration, I hung around for about an hour, managing to snap a few shots (click to enlarge):

For more information on Ales and Tales, click here - or check them out on Twitter

15 August 2011

'Hobbit' to Feature Scalpay Linen

Photo Source: ScalpayLinen
Peter Jackson’s upcoming ‘Hobbit’ films will feature cloth made on the Western Isles of Scotland; about 100m (328ft) of linen have been supplied by Scalpay weaver Sheila Roderick for use in the two-part film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s well-known story.

14 August 2011

Montana Man Builds 'Hobbit' Themed Guest House

Photo Source: Monolithic

Montana resident Steve Michaels has created a 1,000 square foot Hobbit-themed guest house for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien. Michaels, 63, and his wife, Christine, have spent around $410,000 building the property, which they rent out for $245 a night (costumes included).

"If you are into Hobbits, then the Hobbit House of Montana is a place for you to visit," Michaels said. "At the time, I had no idea that there are Hobbit clubs and loyal followers like Trekies from Star Trek, who live and breathe Hobbit and know these stories inside and out."

The House consists of one king bedroom and a small, hobbit-sized guest room. It features granite kitchen counters, elaborate lighting, and a Harmony audiovisual system. The rustic wooden furniture is custom-made, and the headboards embedded with the Hobbit House logo (a hobbit door with a red light, which on the headboards is a real light). It is also equipped with XM radio, a flat screen HD-TV and Blu-Ray CD player. And the famous One Ring can be seen hanging from one of the rafters.

For more information and photos, check out their website here.

12 August 2011

New Interactive 'War in the North' Trailer

A new (interactive) trailer has been released for Snowblind Studios' upcoming Lord of the Rings: War in the North.

On their Facebook page, the team writes: "This one-of-a-kind interactive trailer experience allows you to dive deeper into the War in the North by selecting either a Human Ranger, Elf, or Dwarf as your guide. Every choice offers up new details about combat and lore, so take your time and interact with each character to enjoy the full Middle-earth experience."

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is scheduled for release on November 1, 2011.  For more information on pre-ordering the game, visit their website here.

This Week's Spotlight (Follow Friday)

I had been brainstorming for some time now on what else to include on my blog beyond 'Hobbit' news and '365 Days of Middle-earth,' and having just finished all of my FF ('Follow Friday' for any non-Twitterers reading this) shout outs on Twitter, I decided: Why not do the same on here too? Each week, I will post a little blurb on some Tolkien-related person, group, or resource to help get the word out about some awesome up-and-coming groups or preexisting ones. I'll begin this week, and continue every Friday hereafter.

So the first person/group to receive a shout out on here will be Patrick Spadaccino.

I know I've already posted several entries on him and his campaign, but with the incoming news of a casting call for Elves, it seems perfect timing to remind you all of his dream to be in the 'Hobbit' films in whatever way possible.

Patrick is a graphic designer from Connecticut who created a website filled with audition videos and photos depicting him as an Orc and reciting well-known lines from the Lord of the Rings films. Patrick, a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, would love the opportunity to be in the 'Hobbit,' no matter how great or small the role.

You may also notice that my blog has been looking exceptionally spiffy lately - much better than the purple and black theme I started out with. This is all thanks to Patrick, who so generously helped me redesign my blog and even gave me several amazing new graphics to play around with.

For more information on Patrick and his quest, visit:


Want to Play an Elf in ‘The Hobbit’?

The ‘Hobbit’ films’ production company, 3 Foot 7 LTD, is currently looking for people to play Elves in the upcoming films, for which filming will resume in Wellington in September.

“We are currently looking for slim men 17-30 years and between 165cm – 178 cm or 5’5” -5’8” AND slim women 17-30 years between 165cm – 173cm or 5’5” to 5’8” to play ELF extras,” the job posting states.
If you are interested in applying, the company asks you to send a head and shoulders and full body photograph to extras@3foot7.co.nz. For more information, you can view the job posting here.

08 August 2011

CSTM's 2nd Anniversary Celebration

So last night on the Landroval server, A Casual Stroll To Mordor hosted a celebration to commemorate their second anniversary. I managed to snap a few shots of the celebration; though unfortunately, I didn't think to do so from the very beginning, so I didn't get a whole lot of shots.