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  • Joan Marie Verba
    Oct 5, 2000

      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."


      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
      MNSCREENW lists