A Most Remarkable Hour: Heroes of Middle-earth

Photo by Curtis Barton
Photo by Curtis Barton

Kristen Cairns welcomed the fans to the Marriott Imperial Ballroom to spend an hour with the “Heroes of Middle-earth.” John Noble, Craig Parker, Dean O’Gorman and Graham McTavish settled into their seats to, once again, enthrall a Dragon Con crowd. All are veterans of Dragon Con and Craig Parker declared it the “craziest” gathering of people. To him, Dragon Con is: “wall to wall bizarre…I love it!” John Noble appeared for the first time in 2005 and likes it a lot more now than then. The venues have grown and the costumes are even more incredible! Experience lends itself to comfort, and this panel of actors was very comfortable with their moderator, each other, and the audience. They had the ability to take any question and turn it into an improv session, riffing off one another like a jazz quartet. Cairns merely got the word “heroes” out of her mouth when “Denethor” was taken to task.

When asked about Game of Thrones, McTavish admitted that he’d been a part for the program for about ten seconds. A few years ago McTavish was in attendance at San Diego Comic Con as part of the Preacher cast. ET Weekly had organized a promotional photo shoot. While waiting around he was summoned into a room filled with Game of Thrones cast members, many of whom had beards. As he’s standing there he realized that because he too had a beard he had been drawn in. Since the rest of the cast were all British, they were too polite to say “he’s not in the show.” Craig Parker also had a Game of Thrones experience having auditioned for a role that eventually went to a “big bruising type” man. He couldn’t help but wonder “what were they thinking?”

In one of the more serious moments, a fan asked the panel what they disliked about their character in their respective films. McTavish joked about the weight of the prosthetics but very quickly turned reflective. For him he would never complain at all. He considered it a great privilege. Certainly there were tough days but it was a great honor and experience. Parker pointed out that there is no glamor in making a film. It involves a lot of hard work, but there were always others working harder. Noble chimed in, pointing out that while Denethor was a tough role emotionally, one that took a lot out of him, he nevertheless feels a tremendous sense of pride. It was, he stated, “the experience of a lifetime.”

When queried about another fandom to be apart of, Noble declared without hesitation The Walking Dead. Parker would love to be in the Star Trek world. He’s a big science fiction “geek” and loved the original series. He also loved Star Trek: Discovery, especially during the Fuller period, and pointed out that Roddenberry’s ideas were gorgeous, timely, and much needed today. McTavish also embraced the original series. In particular, he was captivated by the Gorn commander in the season 1 episode Arena. As a child he was terrified by it, but now imagines being the guy in the suit who can’t see, is covered with sweat, and clearly not being paid enough! For O’Gorman, it’s all about the X-wings and Star Wars.

On more than one occasion the subject of prosthetics came up, especially among The Hobbit cast mates. One of the tools used to manage that was the use of cooling suits in which a machine pumped cold water through tubes around the actor’s torso. The shock was such that it made the actors feel as if they’d “wet” themselves. More than one chose not to use it.

On the issue of preparing for their roles by reading Tolkien’s books, Noble offered an interesting insight: His dialog was always very close to the text. If he had an idea that he would take to the writers, they always checked it by the text. Such was not the case with The Hobbit.

When reflecting upon inspiration for his Dwalin and Dougal Mackenzie (Outlander) characters, McTavish actually based them loosely on his father. “There are many people like these characters in Scotland,” he said. “They have a characteristic that is quintessentially ‘Scottish;’ they don’t suffer fools gladly.”

McTavish and O’Gorman will be headed back to New Zealand, not to reprise roles in Middle Earth but to produce an independent film titled This Guest of Summer. They are, in fact, running an Indiegogo campaign to help with funding for the film.

On the issue of collecting “souvenirs” yes, coins from Smaug’s hoard, mushrooms from Mirkwood, chisels from Lake Town, even fake nails “found” their way home with them. McTavish acknowledged that they were given their weapons but indeed a great deal of souvenir collecting occurred.

The actors had a lot of trouble answering a question about another character they’d want to be in the films. They agreed they wouldn’t want to be Goblins. Noble, however, quickly pointed to how much he admired Viggo Mortensen. He admired and respected Mortensen’s preparation and leadership, recounting the now famous stories of his dedication to the role.

When Cairns called the hour there was an audible groan from the crowd. A great hour of free-form Q&A had just occurred. The actors clearly fed off the appreciative crowd’s energy. The panel was so in tune with what was going on that when a fan was delayed in asking her question Noble picked up on it and kept the crowd going by telling another story, thereby giving the person the time she needed. It was a remarkable moment in a remarkable hour. All in attendance were most thoroughly entertained.

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