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It isn’t every day you get to talk to a hobbit.
Billy Boyd — the diminutive performer known for his turn as the halfling Pippin in the Lord of the Rings movies — is on the phone from his home in Santa Monica, Calif.
Boyd is talking about his upcoming appearance at Forest City Comicon on Sept. 23, but first he wants to share his idea for a new professional basketball league in which Peregrin Took himself would have a chance to come off the bench: players have to be under six-feet tall. No giants allowed.
Calling the current National Basketball Association “size-ist,” Boyd says all I have to do is send him a check for $50,000 to get in on the ground floor of this new venture. Pressed, he admits the idea may have been hatched in a pub. Late at night.
“I think there probably was a pint involved,” he said.
“It’d be a whole other league,” he added, one in which the likes of Canada’s own retired shorty Steve Nash would be excluded as too tall. “I don’t think there’s enough of those guys,” Boyd said of small but feisty professional athletes.
It was, after all, a bunch of hobbits who were entrusted by Gandalf with the job of throwing the One Ring into Mount Doom in order to save Middle-earth.
And when it comes to fan conventions like Forest City Comicon, the word Boyd uses the most is “joy.” He has advice for those who have never attended a con like the one-day event on Sept. 23 before: Give it a whirl.
“I find them really kind of special weekends,” he said.
Since the first Lord of the Rings trilogy, which hit movie screens from 2001 to 2003, Boyd believes they have opened up a lot — in terms of drawing more fans and a more diverse group of fans.
“There’s so many things now. They’re much bigger. They’re much more joyful,” he said.
“I really do find them very joyful and a very fun day out,” he said.
“(Boyd)’s a good fit for us . . .because of the popularity of the Lord of the Rings series,” said Johnathan Houghton, a Forest City Comicon board member. He points out Boyd has a reputation on the con circuit for being personable and professional.
“We always consult around with different organizers,” Houghton said of the booking process. “We keep an eye on the fans to see what they respond to.”
It also helps that two years ago, another Lord of the Rings actor, John Noble, did a really good job for the con.
“Fans responded really, really well to him,” Houghton said.
Asked about his most vivid memory from his 18 months filming the adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic, Boyd says it was moments like when the cast was filming on New Zealand’s Mount Cook.
Since access in the area was restricted, only a skeleton crew was allowed to be present: the nine actors who portrayed the Fellowship of the Ring, director Peter Jackson and two or three crew members. They had just shot Gandalf’s death at the hands of the Balrog, the monster who yields a whip of fire.
“So, it was just the fellowship that were up there,” he said. Boyd sat down to eat his packed lunch in between scenes. “It just felt so beautiful and real” looking down at the New Zealand countryside, he noted. “It felt like we were the fellowship.”
“One of the great things was, New Zealand is such a beautiful country,” he recalled. Where else could you shoot scenes on the side of a mountain one day, then in a totally different locale the next?
Jackson turned The Hobbit, a single book, into three movies as well — a prequel trilogy to The Lord of the Rings movies.
Boyd is proud of his work and says he doesn’t mind being known for appearing in the blockbuster films, the third of which — The Return of the King — won the best-picture Academy Award.
“There’s no one in that who’s not proud of what we did,” he said.
“I’ve been lucky enough to meet some great actors who are remembered for something they don’t want to be remembered for,” Boyd added, saying he doesn’t mind when children dressed as hobbits come up to him to talk and ask for autographs and photos, as many assuredly will in the Forest City next month.
Boyd has also appeared with Russell Crowe in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and in the Moby Dick television miniseries.
And while he resides in the Golden State, not the Shire, the Glasgow native says there hasn’t been a year that’s gone by when he hasn’t spent some time in Scotland. Anyone with a film project to pitch or produce has to live in California by necessity, he says.
His 11-year-old son, who he describes as “soccer crazy,” loves being on the West Coast.
“It makes soccer slightly easier,” to be in the sun in California, rather than the pouring rain in Scotland, he says.
And he confirms the rumour the actors who made up the fellowship did all get tattoos to commemorate their roles in the Lord of the Rings. “We went to a famous a tattoo parlour in Wellington,” Boyd said.
All of them except Sean Bean, whose character, the warrior Boromir, had been killed off early in the story: “As Sean Bean always is,” Boyd laughed.
If you go
What: Forest City Comicon featuring Project Play, a fun fan gathering for the nerd in all of us.
When: Sept. 23, doors open 10 a.m.
Where: London Convention Centre, 300 York St.
Celebrity guests include: Comic artist/illustrator and Southwestern Ontario’s own Jeff Lemire, Boba Fett stunt man Dickey Beer, voice artist Amber Nash from television’s Archer, plus others.
Other highlights include: Cosplay competition, panels on topics ranging from improv comedy to why kids love gaming so much, plus presentations on fan fiction, hypnotwist featuring Kenny V. Spenny, science-fiction writing and more.
Tickets: $30, 12 and younger free with an adult; advance tickets are $25 and get you in the door at 9:30 a.m., 30 minutes earlier than everyone else. Individual guests have their own price structure for autographs and photo opportunities.
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