Ralph Fiennes, Master of Monsters (Image courtesy of Warner Brothers)
In honor of the upcoming release of the eagerly awaited The Hobbit, I’d like to offer up a little commentary on the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
For those unfamiliar with the source, Tolkien created a trilogy of novels—The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion—which together constitute what is considered to be the world’s greatest literature and the basis for modern fantasy in general. The trilogy was written in the decades following the First World War and deals much of the time with the conflict between Middle-earth’s protagonists, The Hobbits, who represent what Tolkien saw as an underclass, and The Others.
When I say the source material is great literature, I’m not saying Tolkien had some sort of magic wands that allowed him to turn a few words and phrases into a three-volume epic; I’m just using that as an excuse to discuss the film adaptation of the source material.
So to begin, let’s begin with the big bad itself, Gandalf the White. Gandalf is played by Peter Jackson, whose very first words upon arriving in Middle-earth were “I’m going to be a wizard.” But before Jackson became an actor, he said he planned to be a chemist, a lawyer, a vet, and—ahem—an aspiring professional actor. He eventually decided to become an actor, and began by auditioning for a small-scale play, but was turned down by the show’s director because he was too young.
He spent two hours trying to audition in the freezing cold; later he realized that he didn’t care about the audition; and finally, in desperation, he walked out of the theater. To his shock, he was asked to re-audition and was accepted. He was offered a contract with a minimum salary of 5 pounds 50.5 pounds a year. This was, at its time, the highest minimum salary for a man