So one of the things I was supposed to do while in Wellington was deliver some bags. A good friend of mine back home named Severn Lang designs custom leather purses, murses and so on. You can check out his site here. The guy does absolutely fantastic work – in fact he’s been helping me design leather for my upcoming series, Quest. I could not be happier with it – the guy is a pro, and his attention to detail is incredible. He’s the kind of guy who will watch a movie like Immortals and go, “Yeah, the armor looks cool, but the leather parts are made with bison. I mean, what the hell? It’s ancient Greece, they would have used goat or cow.” Maybe you’re the type of person who finds that pedantic, but I find it awesome, and it’s definitely what you want in someone who’s designing props for your film project.
Severn’s been designing bags for Gwen McTavish, the wife of Graham McTavish, for years. Apparently Graham used to wear one of Severn’s bags on set all the time, and pretty soon other actors and some of the film’s higher-ups started getting bags from him as well. I brought three of them with me to New Zealand to deliver to Gwen, for three of the Dwarf actors. So on Tuesday morning, our third day here, I called Gwen and found out where the bags were to be delivered.
I won’t share the name of the hotel. No one made me sign an NDA or anything, they only asked very nicely that I didn’t let anyone know where everyone was staying – which is infinitely more effective, if you’re an honest person. But Ryan and I made our way there (stopping for a pint at Molly’s [like you do]) and pretty much walked straight into the lobby.
Gwen had told us to say the bags were for Adam Brown, so that’s what we told the front desk. We were immediately greeted by a very polite lady who looked to be organizing the chaos created by the arrival of all the actors. The lobby was absolutely buzzing. The polite lady organizer disappeared, only to be replaced by another, who asked if we were just supposed to hand the bags off, or was there anything else? Severn and Gwen had agreed to get pictures of the actors holding the bags (for Severn’s marketing purposes) and I let her know. She nodded, and disappeared. Another polite lady organizer swooped in a couple of minutes later (there must have been an army of them stowed some place, being sent after us one by one). She asked if the bags had already been checked by security. They hadn’t, so she sent us upstairs.
So much had happened in just a few minutes that my head was now buzzing more than the lobby had been. We took the elevator up to the fourth floor, where a jolly (and massive) Maori man greeted us and had us lay down and open the bags for him.
Before he started checking them he looked up and said, “Now, before I go through this, are there any hidden compartments for drugs in these bags?”
I laughed out loud (maybe not the best response) and said, “If there are, nobody told me, and I’ve had them sitting in the back of my car for weeks.”
That’s actually a thing they have to worry about, isn’t it? It was just so bizarre to me. “Make sure the actors’ rooms are all ready, make sure Bob’s organizing the ballroom for the after party, and oh yeah – if any packages come in, make sure they’re not carrying drugs.
Ah, show business.
So we were sent back down to sit in the lobby again. At that point, Adam Brown actually entered the hotel with Aidan Turner. I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate to just jump up and hand him the bags, seeing as he was surrounded by an entourage, so we just sat there, waiting. I saw him look over at us and eye the bags, but he didn’t say anything. Soon he was swept off by (yet another) polite lady organizer.
Soon, one of the polite lady organizers we’d already met (either the second or the third one, I honestly can’t remember which – they all had the same hair) came to see us. The actors were ready for us.
We got up, and Adam Brown emerged from somewhere in the hotel, out into the lobby. We greeted him, shook his hand and handed him the bags. Aidan Turner was still with him, and he got one.
At that point, Martin Freeman came out into the lobby (OH MY GOD!) He greeted the others warmly, and then the following conversation took place right in front of us:
Aidan Turner: “We’re about to see the film.”
Martin Freeman: “Oh, enjoy.”
Aidan Turner: “Have you seen it?”
MF: “Yeah, saw it Sunday.”
AT: “Is it good?”
MF: “It’s very good. Very, very good.”
AT: “Did you make the cut?”
MF: “No, I’m not in it. But Richard [Armitage] is, so that’s something.”
And that was it. The actors were immediately swept off by a flock of polite lady organizers. We left the lobby. My hopes of having a private chat with Gwen and begging for some premiere tickets were dashed.
But I’ve still got those photos.
Afterwards, we went back over to the park where the Return of the King was being screened on the final day before the premiere. There still some time yet before the film started, so we tooled around the Hobbit Artisan Market festival that had been being held there for the week of the premiere.
There were a bunch of great shops at the market, and tons of nerds dressed up in character. Ryan works at the Renaissance Festival back home, so he was in seventh heaven. We poked around, and found one of the tents where two craftsmen were plying their trade. One of them made all of the bladed weapons for The Hobbit movies – the showpieces, the actual, real weapons that the actors carried on sets for scenes involving only dialogue. The other, Anneke, whom I spoke with, was a sculptor who made all of the other actor-used props in the film. All of them. Anything that wasn’t a weapon had been sculpted by her capable hands before being molded and cast in urethane to be used in the movies.
I ended up chatting with her for nearly an hour while Ryan inspected the blades. She had a number of sculptures on the table in front of her, and paintings hung on the rear wall of the tent. She was an obviously, incredibly, superlatively talented sculptor. Her style ranged from exquisitely detailed to rough, but the expressive poses of her sculptures were what really stood out. She was occupied with the female form, and her sculptures were a perfect combination of beautiful and life-like.
Ryan ended up buying a knife from the weaponsmith. It wasn’t a knife from the movie, just a really good, incredibly well-crafted knife. The guy even etched his name on it.
Now the film had started, so we found some friends we’d met at the party last night and sat down. Because of the nature of the showing, in a big, open-air park and attended by hundreds of not thousands of people, for the first time in my life I felt like commenting on the film while it was playing. Normally if someone starts making snarky comments about the movie while I’m watching it, I pause it and tell them to shut the fuck up. But this was cool. It was such a casual atmosphere – more like we were all there for a picnic in the park at which the movie just happened to be playing in the background.
I still cried at the ending, though.