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When Aragorn is finally crowned, he’s a totally just and compassionate King. It’s too bad somebody like Aragorn couldn’t be President of America…
Yeah, that would be cool, wouldn’t it? I don’t think Aragorn is going to allow any companies to drill for oil in Fangorn forest. One of the problems with our present government is everything is either black or white. There seems to be no place for discussing or thinking about the best way to solve situations like Iraq.
Did you have any favourite scenes in Return of the King?
It’s hard to pick anything, because I don’t know what’s going to be in it. I know it will be interesting and I think Peter will round out all the different characters that we’ve followed for the last two years. But I hesitate to talk about it too much, because I’ve done that in the past and then those scenes weren’t in the movie! I know the book, obviously, and I know what I was a party to in making it, and watching other people when I could, but I don’t make any assumptions about what Peter will or won’t put into the film. I wouldn’t even venture to guess. I know the Paths of the Dead will have to be in there, where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli have to confront a particularly daunting challenge. The battle of Pelennor Fields, and the ride of the Rohirrim will both be quite spectacular. Saruman’s death, which comes early in the movie, should be interesting [Except it’s now been cut from the film – Ed] and the new monsters, like Shelob the giant spider will be exciting. Beyond that, I’m not sure what will make it into the final movie. Gollum will play an important part this time, just as he did last time. As with any good story, in Return of the King Tolkien and Peter Jackson have upped the stakes. The odds of us getting through and succeeding and surviving are greater than ever. It should be a very satisfying story, because at the end we will pull all the story threads together. But I don’t know what exact route Peter’s going to take to get there.
You seem to get very deeply into playing the part of Aragorn. Did you ever find that you had to fake a scene?
I’m not sure what you mean… Depending on your point of view, the whole thing can be seen as a fake.
I mean how an actor — especially a method actor — may not be able to find the true emotions or the spine of a scene. There’s a famous story of how Ingrid Bergman told Alfred Hitchcock she couldn’t play a scene in Notorious, because she wasn’t feeling it. Hitchcock looked at her and said, “just fake it”.
Well, you’re being paid to do the scene, so you have to do it, one way or another. You can do it better on some days than on others, I grant you that, but it’s up to the individual actor, if you want to fake it or not. But it’s not just about you. There’s other people in the scene, there’s the director, and a lot of elements that go into the making the scene work. If you just remember that you have help there at all times, if you want to be open to it, then you won’t be preoccupied by whether it seems like you’re faking the scene or not. If you’re involved with the other people there, and you’re honest with yourself, you’ll be comfortable with the scene. The biggest enemy for an actor is not feeling comfortable with the scene. So the degree to which he or she can relax is important. If a scene isn’t working, there’s a good chance that you’re tense.
It sounds like Peter Jackson is a helpful director for an actor.
Yes and, as much as anything, Peter leads by example. He was very well informed and enthusiastic about every aspect of the film. In his way, he put his mind into the shoes of each of the characters and tried in whatever way he could, to be helpful to the actors who were playing the characters.
Tools of the Kingship
I understand you never went anywhere without your sword?
Yeah, it was a pretty important tool to Aragorn, and it felt to me like something that anchored the character. It had to be like second nature for him. To walk with it and handle it. If necessary, to sharpen it and clean it. All of those things, because that was Aragorn’s most important tool — well, his second most important tool. I’d say his most important tool was his compassion, born from the experiences he has gleaned from travelling across Middle Earth. He also has a strong connection with nature. He is a man that has lived in the wild, so he understands not only the languages of the different peoples of Middle Earth, but also the language of the animals, the birds and the trees.
Viggo on Vambraces
After Boromir dies, you take his leather vambraces and put them on. But conceptual artist John Howe, who is an expert on armour, was telling me how leather vambraces are in no way an authentic piece of armour.
Well, I do wear metal plated vambraces later in the story, but I think the leather vambraces are not necessarily wrong. It’s better to have leather than having nothing on at all. I would say, like in most wars, people use what they have at hand. If you don’t have metal, you put leather on. If you don’t have leather, you run like a bastard. But I love the fact that John Howe, like everyone else in the art department, took things personally. I think it’s great, and it helps give the movie that authentic feeling, because people cared about those details. When it came down to quibbling about the details, it was about getting it as right as it could be. I know I found myself wanting to be as authentic and as true to Tolkien as I could possibly be, and I think most people felt that way.
It probably helped that it was shot in New Zealand, with a New Zealand crew, because sometimes Hollywood crews can get a very blasé attitude.
That’s a generalization, but I think it did make a difference. It’s true that for most New Zealanders — especially when you get a group of them working together — it seems to come quite naturally for them to put the group before the individual. It certainly mirrors what the story is about. The group effort, or the group sacrifice, for the good of Humanity and the survival of Middle Earth.