If you were driving past the Best Buy in West Los Angeles yesterday, you might have seen a few sights you don't see every day, even in L.A. The gigantic store on Sawtelle Blvd. was transformed into Middle Earth to celebrate the midnight release of The Lord of The Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition Blu-ray release, which hits shelves June 28. I was invited to take part in the festivities, and even chat with a few cast members from the trilogy last night. It was quite a sight to see.
Part of the festivities was a costume contest, which saw numerous die-hard fans dressed up as their favorite characters such as Gandalf, Saruman, and many others. They were all vying for several LOTR-related prizes, including the whopper of a grand prize: a one-week trip to New Zealand to visit several trilogy-related locales, including the WETA special effects house. Two of WETA's own, Richard Taylor and Daniel Falconer, even took time out of their busy schedules working on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, to judge the finalists via Skype. The winner, Nicole Roberts, impressed the judges with her unique "showgirl" rendition of a Balrog to take home the grand prize. Nearly all of the finalists made the costumes by hand, showing their true loyalty to this epic franchise.
Also on hand to help celebrate this Blu-ray were cast members John Noble, who played Denethor in The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King, and Sala Baker, who played Sauron, Man Flesh Uruk, and several Orcs throughout the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. John Noble first talked about celebrating this franchise, nearly 10 years after The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring first hit theaters.
"It was such a phenomenon at the time it was released, and the interesting thing was it was a phenomenon before it was even made into the films. There's no surprise that we have a new audience to pick it up, as either a book or a film. It's a truly great story."
John Noble's Denethor was featured in The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King, but the actor actually made his Middle Earth debut in The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers. Although the scenes were ultimately cut from the theatrical version, fans can enjoy his work as Denethor in this Extended Edition Blu-ray trilogy.
"In the cinema versions, there were a lot of deleted scenes, but there were a few scenes which I liked very much of mine that didn't get in. It's lovely to see them back in. The extended versions do give you a better viewing because they tell more of the story. I always find them easier to watch."
While John Noble is now quite well known as Walter Bishop on the Fox TV series Fringe (CLICK HERE to read what he had to say about Season 4), he still does consider his time on The Lord of The Rings as an unparalleled experience.
"It is the high point of my career, without a question. I was a working actor and director in Australia, but to work on something like that was just unbelievable, not just for me, but for everyone. What it did for me also, aside from giving me a wonderful role to act, was open me up to a world stage. The reason I'm standing here tonight in Los Angeles is because of The Lord of The Rings."
"Very much so. When I was in Paris recently, doing a convention there, it was equal. They love Fringe there, but they also love The Lord of The Rings"
New Zealand-born actor-stuntman Sala Baker made his feature film debut as both an actor and stuntman in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring as Sauron. He also performed in various other acting and stuntman capacities on The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King, which is quite an undertaking for a first feature.
"It's weird because it was so big. I didn't do any short films or anything like that. My first film was The Lord of the Rings as the dark lord Sauron, the embodiment of all evil. It's kind of a big deal. It brought me to America, and it showed me about life. It was a journey, just like the film is."
Sala Baker didn't have to think long when asked for the biggest highlight for him while working on the trilogy.
"Helms Deep, dude! Helms Deep was crazy. We had two and a half months of night shoots. I was fighting Aragorn as the Uruk hai and then as a Berserker with the little helmets. It was amazing."
"I'm going to try. I'm trying to go back home soon, so we'll see."
After the interviews were done and all of the prizes were handed out, they put on a fantastic fireworks display for the fans, just before the clock struck midnight, which was a fantastic way to cap off this special event. Besides, how many times do I get to say I saw a big pyrotechnic display in a Best Buy parking lot?
That about wraps up my night at The Lord of The Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition Blu-ray release, which is available on high-def shelves everywhere right now.