22 July, 2014

Mike Leigh's Lord of the Rings

On set report, East Hobbiton
No film is shrouded in so much secrecy and anticipation as a new work from Mike Leigh.  After a much publicized slip of the tongue from a now disgraced Jim Broadbent, it was revealed that the quintessential English director would be rounding up one of the twentieth century's most popular and thoroughly English author's most beloved work.  Mike Leigh is preparing his film of JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

"Some see Tolkien's achievement as a stunning work of imagination, but that is only the foreground of a complex subtext of middle class manners and working class aspirations." Leigh avers, although he is otherwise somewhat taciturn in discussing the direction of his film, preferring to focus on the process he uses with his actors.  "This has been one of the toughest films to develop, we spent nearly four months wandering around in circles in a mire in Norfolk, just to come up with twenty pages for the shooting script."

Timothy Spall, who spends nearly thirty minutes in make-up to achieve the look for Frodo, tells me that he wants people to know the real Frodo, "he's essentially repressed, he's wanted adventure, but been stuck, literally a square peg in a round hole by society.  When he has his chance, he's terrified of the responsibility."

"Galadriel, could easily just come off as one of those housewives who becomes a do-gooder out of boredom." says Imelda Staunton, "but she feels everyone else's plights deeply, leaving no time for herself.  She frets over Arwen (played in the film by Sally Hawkins) because of the relationship with Aragorn (David Thewlis), who is of a different character class."

Eddie Marsan (The Balrog) "the Balrog is mistaken for a terrible fire breathing monster, I see him as someone isolated, downtrodden, forgotten, left deep in the mines after Thatcher shut them.  He just wants someone to hear his pain.  He's just that bloke that complains too loudly in the pub and everyone ignores out of embarrassment."

Leigh discusses casting one of the key roles "I worked with Andy on Topsy-Turvy and Career Girls, and thought he just has such a rubbery face and physicality, he'd be able to do Gollum without us resorting to loads of make-up, or those special effects that no one understands and always looks a bit uncanny."  Serkis chimes in, "I wanted to give the truth of Gollum," but, sidestepping actorly pretention, he adds with a twinkle, "it don't half hurt my throat."

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