MCKELLEN ON HORSEBACK
Ian McKellen has updated his Grey Book section of his website, this time
devoting it to the horseback riding element of the Lord of the Rings
production. McKellen is definitely nervous about riding horses, as noted in
his previous postings. Here's what he reports on his interaction with a
horse called Shadowfax:
"My trouble is in riding him, as Shadowfax spurns bridle, bit, reins and
even a saddle. This might all be safe enough with stable lads and lasses at
the ready but often enough I am carrying a hobbit in front and clinging to
three foot six hobbit isn't safe. I am very happy for Basil Clapham (my
riding double) to do the galloping in my stead. Indeed the first authentic
image of Gandalf that has been broadcast across the Internet (although not
from this site) was not me at all but Basil urging Shadowfax toward Helm's
Deep - actually not Shadowfax either but his fast galloping double 12 year
old gelding called Blanco. When I mount Domero he is generally required to
be stationary. Even so the shift of haunches whenever he pulls his weight
om one back leg to another can feel seismic aloft and once Fon (doubling
Pippin) and I slowly and safely slid to the soft grit of the lava field
surrounding the volcano of Ruapehu.
"Since then we have trotted through an artificial lake to confront Saruman
at Orthanc - Saruman (in the person of Christopher Lee) was starring in
Wars: Episode II across the Tasman Sea in the Olympiad city. So we yelled
a yellow tennis ball representing the mad maia. Domero is controlled
offscreen like a circus horse with the visual aid of two whips in the hands
of Don Reynolds standing to one side of the camera. Sometimes the signal is
reinforced with his name but Domero can walk, stop and stand on his mark, a
square meter of plank on which he bangs his hooves. To one side is Blanco
who, it seems, is needed to focus Shadowfax's attention, horses being
sociable. I can't think why an understudy watching him perform should be
considered a comfort. But then Domero -- for all he can recognise "Action"
and pre-empt his cue to walk, stop or bang his plank -- has no idea he is
acting nor, more to the point, that the heavy weight and hobbit squirming
his spine are trying to act. We manage because Don is persistent and Domero
has learnt well over their six months training together. Don Reynolds has
worked with many horses in movies but I can't think he admired any of them
more than he seems to respect Domero.
"I've ridden often enough in movies - D. H. Lawrence loved a canter (Priest
of Love film 1979) and as his namesake T. E. I was on the obligatory camel
(Ross - TV). Just for five minutes. I was no sooner introduced to the
unconcerned handsome beast than I was sat in his comfy saddle and told to
drive him like a car. I was just looking for the ignition when the director
Cedric Messina shouted for me to gallop toward the camera 100 metres away
and "Stop on this mark", a black rock amidst the sand. I kicked and away we
went and I didn't fall off, indeed almost stopped where was wanted. Didn't
even knock the tripod over. But that was good luck. Horses are dangerous
I don't take them for granted. Roy Kinnear died after falling from one on
his film The Four Musketeers."
MCKELLEN DEFENDS 'LORDS OF THE RINGS'
At times, Sir Ian McKellen has become the defacto defender of the Lord of
the Rings production, courtesy of his interaction with fans on his website.
In his latest posting, McKellen responds to a writer who wonders why movies
based on the book should even be attempted given Hollywood's penchant for
cutting to the chase. McKellen responds:
"Lord of the Rings is perhaps the most faithful screenplay ever adapted
a long novel. This is not just because our writing quartet is devoted to
original and would share other fans' resentment if it were "mistreated".
Tolkien has an advantage over Dickens, Tolstoy and other epic writers. His
storylines have a clear sweep and are less concerned with the byways and
subplots which characterise 19th century novels. Consequently the major
milestones of the Fellowship's journey are intact. Inevitably, even in a
three-film version, there will be some omissions of characters and elisions
of events but as the story unfolds onscreen and as the landscapes are seen
for the first time, little will be missed.
"The enthusiasts who have read the novels over and over may notice every
change but in doing so they will miss the point. Peter Jackson's movie does
not challenge the novel's supremacy any more than the distinguished book
illustrations by Howe, Lee et al were meant to replace Tolkien's
words. Paintings, drawings, animations and at last the feature films all
augment our appreciation of Lord of the Rings. And just watch the book
rise as New Line's publicity for the film gears up.
"Another point on this, the question that dominates my email: the
of masterpieces from one medium to another is as old as literature. Most of
Shakespeare's plays are re-workings of stories, poems or written history.
When I moved Richard III from stage to screen, I was determined to make a
good film in honour of a great play. Had I left every scene and line of the
text intact in the movie, it would not have been a good one. Kurosawa's
Throne of Blood, my favourite version of the Macbeth saga, distorts
Shakespeare to spectacular effect. The play which inspired it remains
Joan Marie Verba verba001@...
Mythopoeic Press Secretary, Mythopoeic Society
List Administrator for DocEx, Mythsoc, MNSCBWI and