Craig Lets His Hair Down

Craig Lets His Hair Down

February 10, 2003, source: NZ Women’s Weekly

Craig Lets His Hair Down

From Mercy Peak to Helm’s Deep sounds like an epic journey but Kiwi actor Craig Parker made it through with the help of a pair of fake pointy ears! The ears are one of Craig’s favourite memories of his experience playing an elf in Peter Jackson’s second Lord of the Rings film, The Two Towers. “They’re made of gelatin like Turkish delight”; explains 32-year-old Aucklander Craig. “They blend on to your own ear and warm up from your skin. Even up close they’re beautiful. They’re so good that you can’t see where you end and they begin.”

Now returning to the small screen in the familiar role of Dr. Alistair Kingsley in the fourth series of Mercy Peak on 14th of February {TV One, 8:30pm}, Craig says being a part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was the opportunity of a life-time. “I would have done anything on it,” he confesses.

Playing the role of Haldir meant sitting in the make-up chair for up to three hours every day plus learning to speak Elvish and taking sword-fighting lessons for the huge battle scene at Helm’s Deep. “I spent quite a lot of time learning how to fight,” says Craig. “Filming was physically demanding but so exciting. You got knocked around a bit but hardly anyone complained. The cast and crew just got on with the job.” To match his pointy ears, Craig had a long blond wig to cover his short, dark hair.

“The wigs were made from real human hair and so expensive,” he reveals. “In the battle scene we all got them sweaty and dirty and covered in oil. My wig cost about $15,000 and the great worry was that I was going to ruin it.” Lord of the Rings fans have already set up unofficial websites dedicated to Craig, which he admits he’s slightly nervous about checking out.

“I’ve sorted avoided looking because although you could find something nice about yourself, you could also find something horrible. It’s best not to know too much about what people say behind your back.”

What has been nice though is the fan mail that has poured in from places as diverse as Germany the US and Japan.

“Most of the people that write seem remarkably sane,” says Craig. “There is an element that is very flattering. It’s nice that someone has made the effort to write. I’ve written back to some of them and I fully intend to write back to the rest.”

Unable to attend the glamorous Wellington premier in December, Craig and a friend joined the queues at the ticket counter at an Auckland movie theatre to see The Two Towers for the very first time on the big screen. “We crept in early and sat right down the front. I felt like a bit of a loser,” chuckles Craig. “I hate watching myself on the screen so it was strange sitting there with all the other people who’d come to see the film. I know those around me were probably thinking, ‘What’s he doing here?’ I tried to look inconspicuous and didn’t leave until every single one of the credits had rolled and everyone had left.”

Right now Craig is working at the Wellington Opera House playing the narrator in the raunchy musical The Rocky Horror Show. Like many of the cast, he was familiar with the storyline and songs, having seen the film version as a teenager.

“I would have been about 12 or 13 when I first saw it,” he remembers. “It was so wild and naughty and grubby – all the things your parents wouldn’t like.”

A hit with Auckland audiences, the production also showcases the talents of Ainslie Allen, Mikey Havoc and Joel Tobeck.

Donning a Men In Black-type suit as well as fishnet tights, this is the first time Craig has appeared in a musical and he’s loving it.

“I’m a terrible singer by myself but I can sing in a chorus,” he says. “We’ve got a very supportive cast but whenever I sing something wrong in rehearsal, Joel screams out, ‘No!'”

So after the battle at Helm’s Deep and the wild naughtiness of Rocky Horror, doesn’t playing small-town doctor Alistair Kingsley in Mercy Peak seem a trifle staid?

“Not at all,” says Craig, he loves the show and believes its unashamedly Kiwi flavour is part of the reason it’s so successful.

“The great thing about it is that it’s not trying to be an Australian, American or English programme,” he says. “And none of the characters are black or white. You don’t play a goodie or a baddie.”

Given that his CV includes a range of work in everything from TV to theatre to voice-overs, you have to wonder why Craig doesn’t particularly feel the need to spread his wings and venture abroad.

“I don’t really like Los Angeles. But every year I think I should go over to Australia, meet some people and do some auditions,” he admits. “A large part of why I don’t is laziness and another part is that I really like it here. I work mostly in acting and have a great time doing it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

“Martin Henderson has done spectacularly well overseas. But for the most of the three years that he’s been in LA, he’d just do audition after audition after audition. I think I’m a bit too old for that. My soul would crumble.” Happy to stay in New Zealand for now, Craig says the public, by and large, are very nice to him.

“Most people are really polite,” he smiles. “But there’s always that thing where if you’re on TV, they think you’ve gone deaf. When you’re just two inches away, they go, ‘Oh look! It’s so-and-so. He looks terrible! Are you sure it’s him? He wouldn’t be dressed like that.'”