The prettiest corpse of Helm’s Deep
The prettiest corpse of Helm’s Deep
“O God, I look like a transvestite” – An Interview with Craig Parker as Haldir
Note: This interview was translated from German.
Craig Parker, born 17th of June (it is actually November 12th) 1970 in Suva on the Fiji islands, likes listening to REM and David Bowie. He is a born comedian (and also works as such) and radiates boyish charme in conversation. He is already known to the German audience by his appearences in Xena and the movie adaption of Stephen King’s Tommyknockers (1993). Parker on fantasy dwarves: “For nasty, smelly, ugly people who live in caves I think they’re great.”
In The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers Parker embodies Haldir, a wood elf from Lórien, who later leads a large army of elves to Helm’s Deep to support the Riders of Rohan.
Mr Parker, in contrast to the novel you also appear in the second part of the movie adaption.
Guten Morgen. Unfortunately that’s all the German I know. (laughs) Yes, that’s a change to Tolkien’s story. Peter [Jackson] wanted the elves to be there at Helm’s Deep. This way it is shown that the time of the elves is coming to an end. Not only their passing to the Grey Havens, but also them dying in the battle of Helm’s Deep. And of course you can also show their elegance, their mastership of their weapons in battle. They are very calm, almost passionless, but deadly for their enemies. When humans fight, blood flows, and everything is full of dirt and sweat. In the scenes with the elves, that is different.
And of course I was lucky with Haldir, I was very glücklich. Excuse me, that is one of my favourite words – glücklich! [German for happy] In the first movie, us three elves spend much more time with the Fellowship. All of that has been cut, which was a bit of a disappointment for me. But it was just too long. So of course I understand why they had to cut it. (grins)
What was your first impression when you saw the movie?
It is great, downright bombastic! That was my first impression. When you work this long on a movie, always only in a few scenes, then you are surprised to see which enourmous work you have been part of later in the cinema.
And did you like yourself in the movie?
(bursts out laughing) I don’t know if there is any actor who finds themselves great on the screen. But when I saw myself there for the first time, with those ears and that wig, I thought, “O God, I look like a transvestite after a night of binge drinking”.
When did you read the Lord of the Rings for the first time?
I tried as a teenager, but I gave up somewhere in the first book and put it aside. There were so many confusing details in it. Especially the first book is full of details, and that was just too much for me back then. The basis for the later rapidly unfolding plot is being laid out there. Back then, there was not enough action for me in the first book, not like Star Wars. So I grasped the chance later to get to know Tolkien through the movies. (smiles) Tolkien has created a mythology for the western world. Good fights against Evil to protect the innocents. This story is the basis for The Lord of the Rings as well as Star Wars, und everybody growing up in the western world knows it. When I auditioned, I of course had read the books for preparation. But the first book was still hard work (laughs loudly).
Did you have a favourite character?
I was part of the Animatic, a pre-form of the movie as a radio play with cartoons. There I spoke Frodo, which I thought was great. But of course he is far too old for me (grins). Frodo is very, very peaceful, a very friendly character – and Elijah Wood plays him perfectly: with inner strength. The hero is afraid, but finally he overcomes his fear. Elijah Wood is great as a panicked, frightened hobbit who still stands up to fight against the largest force of Evil in his world. By the way, there were only supposed to be two movies at first. That they ended up making three was only decided few weeks after shooting had begun.
What was your greatest challenge in the role of Haldir?
(after thinking for a long time) The elves are strange to us humans. And it is really hard to be a thousand years old. To play this knowledge, this peacefulness and to radiate this perfect inner calmness and still stay human in a way. And into this mood I had to keep getting myself. It is really a lot easier to do this on stage, where you play constantly, than in a movie: There, the scenes will be shot out of order and pieced back together later. Sometimes there were two full months between my shooting days. In comparison, the nine companions almost had it easier, because they at least saw each other every day and were in front of the camera daily. But on the other hand they were separated from their families for a year or longer.
Helm’s Deep was also quite hard for me: The last time I was in a fight was when I was a little boy, and then it is a challenge to have to fight against 16 Uruk-Hai and win. But it was fun, I love sword fights. Our choreographer for the sword fights of the elves had worked with Erroll Flynn, he is a real artist: everything is elegant, with smooth movements. That was great.
And then there was walking (giggles). You weren’t allowed to look at the ground, had to float around extremely gracefully – and fell over constantly on the uneven ground. And that as an elf, who constantly has to be clean and radiant! How often we had to keep changing costumes and starting the scenes over because somebody tripped over their robe again – I stopped counting at some point.
The elves also had a hard time on set. There were signs in the casting office saying “We hate elves” or “No Elves here” or “Elf-free area” (grins). They had to cast a heap of 20-year-old beaus, I guess they didn’t enjoy that as much.
The hobbit actors described a special mood in Hobbiton among the cast. Did you experience something similar with the Elves?
No, it was a little different. For the hobbits, it was surely necessary! With this movie, Peter Jackson knew he would lead many people away from their homes into a strange country for two years, and let them work day after day. And under these conditions there has to be a special atmosphere for such a giant project to work out. Therefore it was very important to Peter that there was a familiar atmosphere and a pleasant working climate. I never witnessed him lose his calm. I am sure he was pulling his hair several times. But on set he was always calm, friendly and attentive. I always had the feeling he enjoyed being there and was glad to make the movie. And the conditions under which people had to work were sometimes so hard that it was the only way to finish this movie. And it paid off: Not a single actor ran away in the middle of things and acted like a primadonna, with terrible migraines and the likes!
Do you appreciate fantasy personally?
I have read more science fiction: The novels around the Culture by Ian Banks, also State of the Art. Ian Banks is probably my favourite author, both in science fiction as in mainstream literature. When I was young, I also read a lot of Robert Heinlein – when I was very, very young (laughs).
Did you also spend days on set where you weren’t in front of the camera?
There were many days when I was on set and we didn’t shoot. Very many! Sometimes I think an actor is paid for sitting around and waiting, and the acting he does for free. And there is a certain irony in it: Get up at five am so you can get your costume and make-up done in time, and then you sit around the whole day long and drink coffee. I smoked incredibly much during that time, for days on end. Don’t ever do that! (laughs) But it was still great: As if you are shooting a family movie with 600 actors and a 600 Million dollar budget (grins).
Apart from Haldir, you can also be heard in the movie…
Yes, I helped with making the Ringwraith’s screams, this frightening, high-pitched wailing, like this: (screams). No, that was pathetic, I used to be better at this (laughs).
What will you do after the Lord of the Rings?
Soon I will play in a stage version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in New Zealand. My current trip [to Ringcon] is already planned into this. As soon as I get back, I will get right back on stage. From February 2003 on I will then be shooting a TV production called Mercy Peak, a New Zealand hospital drama, until September.
Maybe then you will come back to Germany for Ringcon 2004?
Yes, gladly. I have never before been to a convention like this. It is really great to see how important Tolkien’s story and the movie are to the visitors. Besides, there are women in “Haldir for President” t-shirts everywhere. I love those t-shirts! Seriously: it is also a bit embarrassing. And I wonder: where were all these wonderful women when I was 14? (grins)
Thank you very much for this interview.