Both Ryan Gage and Craig Parker are natural storytellers, which made the “Middle-earth Cinema Guests” panel at 11:30AM Saturday in the Marriot Imperial Ballroom go incredibly quickly, despite the caffeine and sleep deprivation everyone was feeling. Parker and Gage both had coffee delivered during the panel.
One of the best stories from the panel involved the casting of the elves. Parker said they must have gotten every beautiful male model in New Zealand over 6 feet to play the elves. However, Parker himself (who played Haldir in Lord of the Rings) is only 5-foot-5. He would have to climb onto a box for his scenes to put him on the same height as the extras. Gage (who played Alfrid) added that in The Hobbit movies it was very much the same with all of the “male models” in full elven battle uniforms standing out in the hot sun for hours. He added that he got a sort of private glee out of trying to predict which of them would faint next. It would inevitably happen and a clang would sound around set as they bounced off of the elves around them. Knowing that the extra would be well-taken care of by the excellent medical staff on set allowed him to have a little fun with the situation.
Both actors were involved in some epic battle scenes in their movies. Parker was part of the filming of the Battle of Helm’s Deep, which famously took over 3 months of night shooting in the cold. He told a story about how the stunt extras in the Uruk-hai prosthetics would actually be pretty comfortable because they were essentially wet suits. However, it worked against them when the shoots moved inside to the heated sets. “They would open the flaps on the costumes and just a liter of filthy sweat would just come pouring out,” Parker said, with more than a little glee.
During the downtime in New Zealand, it was common for The Hobbit cast to party at each other’s houses since many of them were living there during the over 3-year shoot. Gage noted that he spent most of his time on the film laughing harder than he’d ever laughed before because he spent a lot of time with Stephen Fry and Billy Connolly on set.
Overall, it was a fun, light panel full of the kinds of stories you’d want to hear about the process of making these films. Parker and Gage will be on two more panels this weekend, Sunday at 11:30AM in the Hyatt Regency VI–VII and Monday at 11:30AM in the Hilton Grand Ballroom East–West.