Hey folks, Harry here... getting ready for my own secret mission to parts... UNKNOWN... muhahahahhaa... That's right, soon I'll be leaving central Texas and heading into the ether, I will be incommunicado and then I will return, it'll be like something out of a crazed fairy tale I'm sure, but that might just be the ether talking. When Quint told me that Christopher Lee was getting ready to show up on set and he had a couple of nights to prepare before having to face him, he asked me, "What Christopher Lee movie should I see that you think I haven't seen?" I instantly responded with THE WICKER MAN. THE WICKER MAN is pure genius, perhaps one of the greatest mind fucks in film history and if I live to be a hundred and thirty thousand years, I won't understand why it isn't better known. ANYWAY, I see Moriarty got to updating last night, well... As is typical, I can one up him with a far better QUINT report than the one he posted. HA! Take that you scurvy dog! Here's more seaman to choke on!
"SO, YOU HAVE COME FOR INFORMATION... WELL, I HAVE SOME..."
Ahoy, squirts... Quint here newly returned from The Tug Boat, my favorite place to eat in Wellington (for you residents it's on Oriental Parade next to the Freyberg Pool). Today on the set was unbelievable and the only way to follow that up was to go eat at my favorite digs. If any of you happy wanderers end up in Wellington and are looking for a great bowl of fettuccine head to The Tug Boat for lunch, find the manager named Clayton and ask for "The Yankee Special" (French Fries with garlic mayo... a taste worthy of the Gods... a huge plate of fettuccine and a Coke) and you'll more than likely get a 10% discount.
Anyhow, I arrived onset today at 2pm. I'm not sure what they were doing earlier in the morning, but I was told Christopher Lee was to start shooting around 2pm. At the security gate the very super awesome security guard Stu told Kraken, Mrs. Kraken and myself to head to Stage A, the biggest of the sound stages at Stone Street Studios, mecca of everything LORD OF THE RINGS for the last, what? 6 years?
The large side door is closed so we enter through a small back-door... um... maybe I should reword that... We entered through a door which resides on the far wall into the sound stage.
A Stage has one end covered in blue screen on rails that can be pulled to cover the walls of about a quarter of the whole stage in a sea of bright blue. The first thing that I saw when I entered the building were the two flat panel moniters that I've been staring at for over a month now. They're not very big, only about 12 inch screens, but I've seen some beautiful images on these beauties...
On one moniter shows us A Camera, the other shows us B camera. Peter always shoots at least two cameras covering two different angles for each take. It was a technique Kurosawa used in most of his films that seems to allow the maximum amount of coverage in the least amount of time.
On these moniters was Christopher Lee in total Saruman mode. Long flowing white hair, long white beard with the dark stripe around the mustache and below the chin, elegant and deadly looking staff in his hand. My heart jumped.
We take our places behind the moniters and were quickly greeted by Skot Thomas, 2nd AD and a very friendly guy. He brought us out the white folding chairs that we've gotten very used to as the hard working crew was in the final stages of setting up the next shot.
I took a seat but not before I realized that sitting in front of me was Grima Wormtongue... Not Brad Dourif, but a double for a scene that had already been shot or was coming up. His robes are fantastic up close. Grimy, dirty, but you can tell that at one time they were regal. It's little details like that that make these movies so rich, so multi-layered. The clothes make the man and Wormtongue's clothes are no exception.
We had been sitting down for all of 3 or 4 minutes when up shuffles the one and only Peter Jackson... Now I have to bring something up here... Bear with me a moment...
We were supposed to leave Wellington on the 29th of June. It was a month-long stay and we had a blast. About halfway into the trip we heard Christopher Lee wasn't going to be in until near the end, which meant we lost our chance to see the man work. The Kraken couple and I were very upset, but content that we had an amazing month and got to see so many amazing things that it'd be ridiculous to focus on the one that got away.
Cut to what was supposed to be our last day, last Friday. It was some Shelob's Lair stuff with Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis (patience... all in due time)... When that wrapped I went up to say thanks to Peter for being kind enough to let us visit. He said, "What? You're leaving this weekend?"
"Yeah, our flight leaves on Sunday."
Peter says, "You know Christopher Lee is shooting next week."
I say, "Yeah, I heard that, but I don't want to impose. I really don't want to overstay my welcome."
Pete gets a very serious look on his face. "You'd be stupid to go. Christopher Lee isn't going to be around for a long time. This is probably your only chance to see him work."
Now I'm not one to argue with Peter Jackson. He twisted my arm, what can I say? After a quick visit to STA Travel all our flights were changed and we got to stay.
Since then Peter has made a big effort to introduce us to Christopher Lee, keeping us informed of his movements... "He's in town, but resting after that awful flight," (from London to New Zealand is almost 30 hours I'm told).
So back to the set... Peter comes shuffling up in his trademark black LOTR vest, red shirt and shorts. "Hey guys... Let's give Chris a couple takes to warm up, then I'll bring him over." I don't know about the Krakens, but my at once my heart lept into my throat and my stomach constricted. I got deadly nervous.
The first scene I saw was Saruman surrounded by blue screen (will be the top of Orthanc). The off screen reader (Cameron Rhodes, a great guy that most would probably know as Farmer Maggot from FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING) calls out, "Come down! We want to speak with you." I'm not sure who he's reading. I'd bet it's Gandalf, but not completely sure.
Saruman steps forward and growls, "What do you want?!?" That's the first set up... Pete takes a nice amount of takes (another Peter Jackson characteristic... one that he shares with the likes of Kubrick). The wind machine is blowing Christopher Lee's long, white hair all over the place. The timing has to be played just right with the added factor of wind not blowing Saruman's hair over his face.
They next move on to the continuation of the scene. My heart leapt again as I saw Christopher Lee holding up a shiny, black orb during rehearsal for the next shot. I ran over to the sound guy, the consummate gentleman Hammond Peeks, and requested a pair of "Contacts," which is set speak for a wireless receiver and headphones that allows you to hear whatever the boom or actor's Mic picks up.
Kraken, Mrs. Kraken and myself took turns sharing these "ears." I had it on the first take, Kraken on the second, etc. Soon Christopher Lee's commanding voice boomed through the headset towards my ear drums. "So... you have come for information. Well, I have some. You're all going to die," then he smirks. His delivery is superb. It's line deliveries like that that won him this role and makes him the only person I will every see as Saruman for the rest of my life. When I re-read the books, Christopher Lee's voice will be in my head for each and every bit of dialogue he has.
"I know much. Much that can help you..." Lee does quite a few takes of this, swinging up his long arm revealing the Palantir clutched in his claw-like hand at the end and taunting the good guys down below. Peter runs up between takes and gives Lee a bit of direction. "That was good. That take was a bit too much Christopher... Now let's try for a little bit more Saruman. Make it more sarcastic."
Like the pro he is, Lee adjusts his performance and everything seems to click. Pete actually directs Christopher Lee more differently than I've seen him direct most of the other actors. He gives Lee lots of continuous takes. He keeps rolling after a take, throwing out a 5 second bit of direction... like, "Let your eyes go to the Palantir when you say 'But the Great Eye has seen it'... OK... Action."
Something that was a lot of fun was seeing the wind machines wreck havoc on Saruman's hair. There were a few times where it got caught and tangled on his staff, loads of times where it blew in front of his face so he was literally talking behind a sheet of white hair... and the best one for me... There was one point where the back of his hair flew up and over his shoulders and hung there for a second... It was like Drew Barrymore in FIRESTARTER!
Saruman's speech goes on for a quite a bit more, but what'd be the fun in me spoiling the whole thing? Needless to say, he finally finishes up and is lead back to his seat next to Peter behind the super special director's moniters.
Skot, super 2nd AD to the stars, appears before us and like a butler bows and says something akin to, "Gentlemen and Lady... Please follow me. It is time to meet Christopher Lee."
I don't know what was in that Tuna Sandwich I made myself for lunch, but there must have been some larvae of some sort because at that moment my stomach just about burst with butterflies.
I'm not someone who is easily star struck or nervous around celebrities... but then again Christopher Lee is hardly just a celebrity. He's a living God among men. The 20 foot walk up to the resting Saruman seemed to be in slow motion. I was ushered right in front of him and introduced. He greeted me warmly, extending his hand, fingers tipped in razor-sharp pointed finger nails.
I told him how big a fan of his films I was and what an honor it was to see him work. I could hear Peter giggling next to me, totally enjoying my geek out I guess... Ha! Like you're not an even bigger geek, Peter! I brought up THE WICKER MAN, a film I hadn't seen until last night. It's one of those movies I had always meant to see, but never got around to it.
I told Christopher Lee how much that movie rocked and he immediately went into great detail about a project called MAY DAY. MAY DAY is script written by Robin Hardy, the director of THE WICKER MAN... If I understood Mr. Lee correctly, it's more of a continuation than a sequel or remake of the original WICKER MAN. It's about a young American couple who travel to Scotland and come across these particular people. Sean Astin is apparently very eager to play the lead in the film. Christopher Lee is definitely set to play a very similar character to his Lord Summerisle and even Ewan McGregor wants a whack at a loony character part in the script.
Unfortunately every single studio has turned them down. Lee says it's one of the best scripts he's read and everyone who reads it agrees it'd make a great movie... Just no one willing to put up the money... The asking price is $11 million. It disgusts me that not one studio has stepped forward on this one. Artisan buys up retarded bullshit like HOUSE OF THE DEAD (which I guarantee you cost more than $11 million as they spent over $12 million on the making of the film... not that'd you know it by watching it...), but won't finance a Christopher Lee follow-up to THE WICKER MAN with Sean Astin and Ewan McGregor interested in parts?
If anybody reading this has this script, drop me an email. I'd very much like to read it and see just how retarded the studios are being this time.
I also asked Lee about THE BAKER STREET IRREGULARS, a film where he's signed to play the Moriarty against Malcolm McDowell's Sherlock Holmes. He said he is indeed signed, but has no idea when they plan to shoot the film.
Kraken asked about the live-action re-make of THE LAST UNICORN, a film I confess to have no knowledge of, but one that Kraken has loved since he was a child. Once again Lee said he's signed on to do it, to reprise his role as King Hagrid, it's just a matter of the money falling into place, although he did seem more optimistic about that one actually moving forward than he did on any of the other projects we discussed.
Peter then called over Pierre Vinet, the set photographer and super awesome French Canadian dude. "Why don't you snap a few pictures of these guys with Chris?" Pierre begins telling us where to stand and then starts speaking French at Christopher who shoots it back just as fluently. There's a discussion of variations on French cursing... the difference between French and French Canadian curse words... then the photos are snapped.
So somewhere in this universe exists film of me standing next to Christopher Lee decked out in complete Saruman robes... I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around that fact. I'm so utterly not worthy it's crazy.
Christopher Lee soon thereafter left the building. I was wrong in the previous report. He's spending 2 days doing pick-ups and I've been invited back for Monday's shooting. You better believe I'll be there with bells on.
That about wraps it up from me on this one. In the very near future I will start backtracking and hitting on what I've seen in the last month... Not to mention the next week I have ahead of me, which includes more Christopher Lee and even some dwarf action. I will also be assaulting you guys with my Comic-Con coverage come July 18th or so. 'Til that day, this is Quint bidding you all a fond farewell and adieu.