22 January 2013

Interview with Graham McTavish

It’s not every day one gets to interview their favourite Dwarf. Graham McTavish, the Scottish actor who plays Dwalin in Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” films, was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions via Twitter. 

BS: First, the frequently asked question: How familiar were you with Tolkien and Middle-earth prior to auditioning for The Hobbit?

GM: I had read and seen The Lord of the Rings but somehow I had missed out on The Hobbit. So I knew the world but not the specific tale.

BS: How did you come to audition for the role of Dwalin? Was it a result of your interest in LotR, or was it set up by your agent?

GM: It was arranged through my agents in Los Angeles.

BS: Prior to being cast, were you aware of the almost cult-like following Tolkien’s works and Jackson’s films have achieved? How does it feel to now be a part of that?

GM: I know Billy Boyd from Scottish theatre days, so I knew about Rings. It feels humbling to be a part of that legacy.

BS: How did you prepare for your role as Dwalin?

GM: 3 months gym with my trainer in LA then another 3 in NZ with stunts, horse riding, dialect, dwarf movement, as well as related reading.

BS: Did you read The Hobbit to get a better feel for Dwalin’s personality? What were your initial thoughts regarding the character?

GM: I did read the book more than once, not just for Dwalin. The fact that he arrives first gave me a good pointer towards his character.

BS: Did you notice any similarities between yourself and Dwalin?

GM: I know people like Dwalin. I play him, so my character inevitably informs my portrayal of his, but we have key differences too!

BS: What would you say is the biggest difference between you and Dwalin? 

GM: He has tattoos on his head.

BS: Dwalin does give off a “badass” vibe, and you’ve played some other tough guy characters. Are you just as badass in real life?

GM: I've played many kinds of people; some of them could be seen as tough. I'm no more like that than any of the other types I portray.

BS: All of the Dwarves got commemorative rings, just as members of the Fellowship got tattoos after filming The Lord of the Rings. Did you take home any other souvenirs from the film?

GM: They very kindly presented me with Grasper and Keeper. Other than that....just many, many wonderful memories with more, I hope, to come!


Graham McTavish is a Scottish TV, film, and voice actor. Most recently, he starred in The Wicker Tree (the second film in Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man trilogy). In addition to appearing on such TV series as 24, NCIS, CSI: Miami, and Red Dwarf, he has also done voice work for many popular video games, including Uncharted 2 and 3, Infamous 2, Metro 2033 and several games in the Call of Duty franchise.

Be sure to visit Graham’s website at http://grahammctavish.com and follow him on Twitter @grahammctavish. He’s a fantastic guy who really makes an effort to connect with each and every one of his fans.

14 January 2013

Tolkien Conference to be Held at Valparaiso University

Brad Eden, dean of library services at Valparaiso University in Indiana and author/editor of Middle Earth Minstrel: Essays on Music in Tolkien, is organising a scholarly conference on "Tolkien and His Works," to be held March 1-3.

The conference will include presentations, exhibits and musical performances, as well as a dinner featuring dishes from the Tolkien books (among them "mushrooms ala Gandalf," "Mrs. Maggot's cottage pie," and "Mirkwood cookies").

"With so many significant Tolkien milestones, this is the most opportune time to bring together some of the most esteemed Tolkien scholars from across the world," Eden said.

Other sessions will include "Same sex rescues in Middle Earth," ''Bilbo's French Connection," ''The Hobbit and Father Christmas" and "Beorn and Tom Bombadil: Mythology, Narrative and The Most (Non)Essential Characters in Middle Earth."  Also speaking at the conference is Douglas Anderson, author of The Annotated Hobbit

For those interested in attending, the deadline to register is February 26. The three-day event costs $200 per person; you can also attend just the Hobbit-themed dinner for $35.

For more information, or to register, visit the conference website at http://conference.valpo.edu/tolkien/registration.

13 January 2013

Comments Made by Christopher Tolkien Resurface

Last summer, Christopher Tolkien broke his silence and gave his first ever press interview, wherein he expressed his disdain for Peter Jackson's adaptations of his father's work. Now that "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" has hit theatres, his comments have resurfaced. (You can read the English translation of the interview here.*)

"I grew up in the world he created. For me, the cities of The Silmarillion are more real than Babylon."

Long absent from the public spotlight (keeping himself out of the media for over 40 years), Christopher Tolkien explained in the interview that there is an enormous gap – "almost an abyss" – between his father's work and Jackson's films. The Tolkien family disliked the films so much that they even turned down an offer to meet the director. 

"They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25."

"Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time," he laments. "The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away."

While Peter Jackson only has the rights to the material contained in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, fans and even screenwriter Philippa Boyens have expressed a desire to see more of Tolkien's work – in particular, The Silmarillion – adapted for the big screen. Christopher Tolkien, however, remains unwavering in his refusal to give up the rights to any more of his father's work.

Would you like to see more of Tolkien's work adapted for the big screen (or a TV miniseries), or do you think the Tolkien Estate should continue to protect JRR Tolkien's legacy? Share your thoughts in the comments below or send me a Tweet @TolkienBritta!

* You can view the Le Monde interview in its original French here.

12 January 2013

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" Victim of Piracy

Acknowledged as being the most expensive movie ever produced (costing roughly $663 million to make), Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" has already fallen victim to pirates.

A website, which has not been disclosed, has been offering 230 versions of Jackson's film for download. One user on the site uploaded two versions of the film, which amassed more than 180,000 downloads.

Tony Eaton, executive director of New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft (NZFACT), commented on the piracy, saying, "We are prepared to take all steps necessary to identify the thieves and pursue our available remedies under civil and criminal law."

According to the Motion Picture Association, piracy cost New Zealand's film industry an estimated $70.8 million in 2005.

Three Oscar Nominations for "An Unexpected Journey"

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" has received three Oscar nominations this year – best production design, best visual effects, and best make-up and hairstyling.

"I wish it was a year where we could celebrate Ian McKellen as supporting actor, or Martin Freeman - or Andy Serkis, for that matter - as a supporting actor," director Peter Jackson recently told Entertainment Weekly. "The acting awards seem to elude us, at least for these types of films. I don't know why."

Jackson's "The Return of the King" won all 11 Oscars for which it was nominated in 2003 – including Best Picture and Best Director.

What do you think of the nominations for this year's Oscars? Share your thoughts in the comments below or Tweet me @TolkienBritta!