They said it couldn't be done. They said we would be fools to try to wrangle the four actors who played the main hobbits in Peter Jackson's epic Lord Of The Rings trilogy into one room. But we travelled for thousands of miles, endured orcs, wraiths, lava and more to make it happen. All right, so we just gathered the lads – Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd – in a photo studio. But it was the first time they’d been together in who knows how long (not them, apparently). We had them talk bonding, bruises, and baths. And yes, they also complained about their feet…
This interview first appeared in issue 270 of Empire magazine. Click here to subscribe today.
When was the last time all four of you were together?
Sean Astin: Shouldn't we say something like, 'there was a natural disaster and we all flew in, and Billy was doing the sand bags...'
Dominic Monaghan: Katrina. Um...
Billy Boyd: When was the last time we were all together?
Dominic Monaghan: You probably know, Billy, 'cos you're the missing link. The three of us (indicates Wood and Austin) have seen each other in America.
Sean Astin: I honestly can't remember.
Billy Boyd: I can't think of us all being together since after 2003.
Dominic Monaghan: No!
Billy Boyd: Even for a dinner, or something?
Dominic Monaghan: No, because I feel like we all had dinner...
Elijah Wood: I'm going to say it was in 2003 for Return of the King.
Sean Astin: No, I think it was after that.
Dominic Monaghan: A convention?
Sean Astin: If I had a gun to my head, I'd say it wasn't after 2006. Probably '05.
Dominic Monaghan: I think the simple answer is we don't know!
Elijah Wood: We're always together in our hearts.
(All, mockingly): Awwww....
Sean Astin: It's my heart, I need some space, bro.
Dominic: We fit into our dynamics easily enough, which makes you feel as if no time has passed. We fit into those slots really easily.
Sean: When people die, sometimes I just wait for them to walk into the room again and it's like that. We exist in each other's minds so indelibly that when we walk in the room it's easy.
Dominic: There's shorthand we have which is always there. And also, so much stuff happens separate from each other... I'll be in my office or something and I'll go to a bookshelf and pull out something and there'll be a picture of all of us. I'm always around that energy.
Elijah: And there is that thing too when we do see each other... I haven't seen Billy in months, but we reconnect instantly.
Sean: Whenever you experience something that's intense and life defining as we did together, it never goes away. You see it with people who were at war. Nobody has to say more than a syllable on the telephone and you know who it is. Just the tiniest sound of someone's voice.
Dominic: There's not even a need to speak about it.
Sean: No one can ever understand! But you're welcome to try.
Elijah: Our rapport was kind of instant. I will say there's something about the fact that we all knew it was unique what we were about to start. We had left our lives and were going to be together for more than a year. And there was that sense of being in it together. I remember the first time I met Dom, I was getting a wardrobe fitting and he came in. I hugged him immediately. I'd never met him before! So that was kind of a linking force for all of us really quickly. We knew it would be something we'd never experienced.
Dominic: It was intense, wasn't it? My personal thing... I met Billy and Elijah at the same time and I met Sean in the hotel foyer with the girls. No, just with (his daughter) Ally, in a stroller. I think I was a little bit intimidated by meeting Sean, because including everyone in the cast, Sean was the person I knew the most in terms of his work. The Goonies was a huge thing for me when I was a kid, and obviously I'd seen Rudy, so I was all nervous - "Sean Astin!" So I think I semi-avoided that interaction and tried to get to know his wife and daughter. How weird was that? I met Elijah and Billy in that costume fitting and it was, like, "Hey!” hug. So it's going to be like this. Then Elijah had to do something else and Billy and I ended up going into Wellington for a coffee and sat and asked each other for their story and what we'd been up to.
Elijah: It's where we did all of our training.
Sean: Right. So the first day we did our training, remember the minivans which became the magical mystery minivans. They were always there whenever we needed to go, and Tall Paul was driving and we get there and I remember walking down this hallway into this big empty, open room and Bob Anderson was in there, the legendary English sword master who taught Errol Flynn and all those guys...
Elijah: Darth Vader...
Sean: Exactly. And there are our swords lying out and I remember it was awkward because while it was like Elijah said and we all hugged each other, and felt so lucky to be part of it, but this space we were in felt like, 'okay, now we're at work.' We needed to figure out who we were to each other and who owns their own space and then you got to pick your own sword.
Dominic: (To Elijah) You and I just slotted into being each other's sword partners and we'd never really talked about it. We just picked up swords. And Sean and Billy just partnered up.
Billy: I think it all had to do with upper body strength. (Elijah howls with laughter). Me and Sean thought if we fucking hit you guys with a sword, we'd put you through the fucking wall...
Dominic: Whereas we were the more sprightly ones.
Elijah: I think one of the first times that we would've all been in the same room after we initially met would've been an organised dinner. With Peter and, I think (Ian) McKellen.
Billy: This is my memory of that time...
Dominic: This'll be wrong...
Billy: There were three witches... No, wait a minute! That's wrong. No, my memory of it was there were dinners every night with someone else arriving. They were wanting to show us that Wellington had cool restaurants and all that, but they were sort of running out of them, because every night someone new would arrive. It felt like we were having dinners every night.
Elijah: That first couple of weeks was just all arrival dinners.
Sean: I remember Brian Bansgrove (chief lighting technician), when Elijah was sitting in the crook of a tree, going, "Let's get some light on the little bloke!" That's the first time I think we really met the crew. We'd been in this hermetically sealed preparation zone for six weeks and we show up like the trained bear in the circus. And suddenly we realise there's a good 200 people we're going to see every day.
Dominic: I think there was a feeling with the crew that there'd been so much preparation that we'd not been involved in, to finally see it come to fruition with the four main, iconic characters on set, that the crew were, like, "All right, this is it. This is what we've been working towards."
Any particularly memorable crew members among them?
Dominic: There was a guy whose responsibility it was to clean out our toilets. And I felt like he must have felt sometimes like it was the best job ever. "Just sluiced out Ian McKellen's toilet, next I'm going to do John Rhys Davies'. Wonder if he's had a big breakfast? Never going to get to these dizzy heights again..." And he dumped the contents of Billy's toilet all over his body.
Billy: Yeah, someone told me that if it had been John Rhys Davies' toilet, it would have killed him.
Dominic: That's a true story actually.
Sean: He didn't do it intentionally, I add.
Dominic: It wasn't a sexual thing.
Sean: "At least I saw what Billy ate yesterday..."
Dominic: It was a shame because Billy had spinach quiche.
Billy: The good thing is, I could never use a toilet in a trailer.
Dominic: Because of that?
Billy: No, never even before that. I just don't like it. I don't like the idea of having a poo in a trailer. I'll go somewhere else.
Dominic: Like my trailer.
Sean: I saw him in the Empire pictures and he looked great.
Billy: Elijah said the feet are different now. Not that it's all about the feet. But they're easier to put on?
Elijah: They are. I don't know how much I'm at liberty to say...
Billy: All right! They're not different!
Elijah: Apparently they are new. They've changed the technology, which you would all be pissed off to learn!
Billy: Especially Sean.
Sean: I kept count of how many times we had the feet on, when they weren't on screen. It was at least 50 times.
Billy: My pinkie toe now lives beneath the other toes.
Elijah: Are you kidding?
Dominic: I think that's a Boyd hereditary thing.
Dominic: Because I've examined your son's feet.
Billy: And does his do it?
Sean: That's because he was born after shooting!
Elijah: And his feet are really hairy too...
Billy: They'll probably find that his feet are evolving. He can fun faster, swim better.
Elijah: That's not saying much...
Billy: No, human kind, not us! We can't run!
Dominic: Elijah and I have planned, because we try to get together around New Year's and one of the things we threw out this year was New Zealand. But with Elijah going back there in... a few days?
Elijah: A couple of weeks...
Dominic: And a few other factors, but Billy and I, and hopefully Elijah might go out to New Zealand next year. I want to go back to find a Weta (the cricket, not the FX house) and visit some of the places we filmed.
Billy: When were you back, Sean?
Sean: I did a movie, a miniseries called Hercules in 2004...
Billy: I haven't been back since the premiere of Return of the King.
Dominic: You would be welcomed with open arms. And what they do now is, it's weird, but any Hobbit walking down the streets of New Zealand, they throw Oleander lilies on the floor. You just get used to it. They did it at the premiere and they continued it on...
Sean: I'm excited to see how they do it. I haven't read the script, but I remember Peter distinctly saying when we were doing Rings that the reason he chose that as opposed to The Hobbit is because there's so much more, so I'm just curious to see how they'll get two films out of it, what they're going to pull from Tolkien's literary canon. It's going to be weird. It's weird to think of the crew being back together. What's going to happen is, there's going to be a lot of nostalgia for Lord of the Rings.
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