“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
I still remember that day clearly, as though it were yesterday, yet it is still almost merely a dream-like memory. I was in the fourth grade, and I loved to read. We had a program at our school called Accelerated Reader, which awarded you for reading lots and lots of books. To participate in this activity or game I would like to call it, you had to take a test on the computer after reading the book to see if you actually read it or not; how well your comprehension was. On the test, it also told you what level of reading the book was. The more books you read, the higher the score, of course, and then you could also get a prize! Two ladies who would often dress up as characters from books would wheel a cart down the hallways and come into our classroom on Fridays and with such enthusiasm that kids adored, announced the winners and hand out prizes for the student’s high scores. This was certainly a huge incentive to me, but even without this bribery, I would have been no stranger to the walls of my school’s library. This place fed my love for stories; of fairy tales and adventures, of romance and tragedy, of animals and nature. My imagination could run wild because of this place and when reading a book that was well written, I was there; it became not words on paper, but reality; I was there running alongside the characters and facing the monsters and bad guys they fought, and falling in love with the brave knight who came to my rescue.
One day, a young girl in the fourth grade I was, I walked into the library and scoured the shelves in search of a good book and new adventure. I do judge books by the cover. At least I did then, and pretty sure now, too, as I have found myself putting back a book or two at Barnes & Noble in disgust if I don’t like the picture on the front, shame on me, I know! I was browsing that day when I saw a BIG—and I mean especially big for the little fourth grade girl I was—book that was tall and thick and yellow golden in color. I pulled the heavy thing off the shelf and I know my eyes just lit up and got wide with wonder and excitement. A painted illustration of a great big, scary and formidable dragon with fire breathing out of its angry mouth, guarding its bed of brightly colorful red rubies, and green emeralds and golden treasure. In big letters, a simple, yet intriguing and captivating title, it read, (you can read the title out loud, and be very dramatic when you say it, for emphasis and to imagine how I felt in that moment) . . . “The Hobbit”. Woah! You don’t have to tell me twice; I was sold! What in the world is a hobbit? I thought. Oooh, I couldn’t wait to go home and read it and find out. What thrilled me to the core was looking in the back and seeing what the teachers had decided what the grade level of reading this book was… “9th Grade”!!! I felt so proud of myself, I was about to try reading a book that the big kids read in their English classes…what a High Schooler reads! I went home and read that book, and have had a love for hobbits ever since. Call me a nerd if you want, but I even wished that they were real and I probably might have imagined they were J I took the Accelerated Reading test later, and passed with flying colors. Yay! That book captured my attention wholeheartedly and fueled my adventure-hungry mind and inspired me all the more to create my own stories; in my head and on paper. You see, Bilbo, the main character, or, the hobbit . . . he and I have a lot in common. At first, he thought he had no need for adventures in his life; for, after all:
“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” (Gandalf the Wizard)
“I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!” (Bilbo)
And yet, there was a fire, a longing that grew stronger each day in his heart, to leave his comfortable hobbit hole and set out on an adventure. And what an adventure he had, and he discovered something along the way that set the stage for an even greater tale and the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, by the same author J.R.R. Tolkien. A funny thing about that . . . after I read The Hobbit, I was slightly confused because of how it ended. I was kind of like, that’s it? Like there should have been more since it thrust me into this great tale with all these characters and Bilbo finding a ring, and a great war, but then it just ends with really no resolution, just like it’s hanging there. I always thought that a little strange and I found myself a bit disappointed, yet I still loved the book.
Imagine my surprise and understanding when three years later, I was in the library and saw another book, three in fact, to make up a trilogy called The Lord of the Rings. After reading the back of the books, it was like a light bulb went off and I had to slap myself in the face for being so dumb, I felt like an idiot! Of course The Hobbit left you hanging, because that wasn’t the end; that was just the beginning, the prequel to the biggest story of all time! As you can see, I am quite a fan, and highly recommend all to read J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece. In junior high, two of my best friends, Jade and Kiri, were also fans and were currently reading the trilogy. I checked the books out, but I never got very far in the first, The Fellowship of the Ring. I kept re-checking it out, but it was such a hard read; a lot more advanced than The Hobbit. It was kind of frustrating. I still hadn’t forgotten about the trilogy, and was encouraged all the more to pick it up again and read the whole thing when Peter Jackson began filming and brought The Fellowship into theatres my sophomore year of high school. That same year, I finally read through the whole trilogy; I wanted to finish it before all three of the movies came out. Tolkien’s story has impacted my life tremendously and I am so glad that the story was brought to the big screen. Throughout high school, I continued to be best friends with Jade and Kiri, and we were OBSESSED with the movies and the book. It was a big part of my life and every year we had a special bond together as we made it a tradition to go to the theatres and watch each film together for the first time. It was perfectly set up since the first one came out our sophomore year, “The Two Towers” our junior year, and the final film at the end of our high school days; senior year brought us “The Return of the King”. It came out around Christmas time each year, so it was our reward and treat, after our finals were over, to go eat at Olive Garden and then watch our favorite stories played out for us with the characters we envisioned in our minds when reading now real characters that we could really put a face to. The final film is gut wrenching to the fans, and to anyone with a heart. That’s what I love about the story; all the themes that we as people can easily relate to. Themes of hope and friendship and loyalty, and Good vs. Evil. It’s awesome! The story was also about saying goodbye to friends, and the tears flowed like a river from me and Kiri’s eyes as we watched the film; knowing that this was the end of our tradition and nearing the time when we were all three going to have to part ways to our different colleges and say goodbye.
My love for this literary masterpiece carried with me on to college as well, and I spent my whole senior year in the library engrossed in books and research writing my senior thesis on “Christian symbolism in ‘The Lord of the Rings’”. I would sit in the library many days listening to all three of the movies soundtracks on my I-Pod to stay motivated, haha. You can laugh at me, I know, that is kind of embarrassing. But I am so grateful for this story, and it honestly even helped me in my Christian walk, especially writing my thesis, using a story I love and being able to relate it to God.
Well, as you can guess, if you know any thing about those movies, you probably know that it was filmed in, none other than where I am right now. New Zealand. And thus, back in high school, my love for this land that was Middle-Earth began. I have to go there! I told myself. I dreamed of going on my honeymoon with my husband. I did think it would even be cool to possibly live there one day if I were brave enough. Funny how life works out.
And, like Bilbo, I am on an adventure now. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings also inspired me to have my own adventures. I guess life itself is an adventure too, when you really think about it, and like the wise and insightful Helen Keller observed, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” At times, and before coming to New Zealand, in fear I thought about staying in my little hobbit hole, comfortable, warm, and safe, surrounded by all things familiar. And yet, the same fire and longing in my heart to be part of a grand adventure calls me to look out the window at the mountains in the distance and at new roads I must tread, pick up my walking stick, and carry my little (but not hairy) feet down the dusty road, thinking, “Still round the corner there may wait, A new road or a secret gate.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.
Currently, while we are residing in New Zealand, Peter Jackson is filming “The Hobbit” here, again in the land that became known as Middle Earth to many people. I keep hoping we will come across them filming one day as they shoot throughout the North and South island.
Well, the day came that I heard some news and learned something even better than coming across them filming . . . I could actually BE in the movie!!! I could be a hobbit! Thanks to Antony who saw the ad on TradeMe and told me about it, they were having an extras casting call in Wellington! With this long intro of my history with The Hobbit and LOTR, you can only imagine my reaction. This was like the most exciting, best news in my life! Haha. So, that is what I mentioned in the previous blog, that Josh and I did on Saturday morning, January 28th, the day after moving into our flat.
I knew I didn’t quite fit the requirements listed on the ad, but I didn’t care and knew it was worth a shot and to be able to say I at least went to the casting call to be in “The Hobbit”, in New Zealand! It don’t get much better than that! I never thought I would be able to say that. The ad said they were looking for extras to play hobbits, being shorter than 5’ 1. They were also looking for tall, slender people to play elves, being at least 5” 5’ if you were female. If you didn’t fit that, they said they were also looking for people with character faces . . . which I think that means you look kind of ugly, haha. Oh, great! I don’t think I have a character face to be an Orc or a woman of the wild. And, I am too tall to be a hobbit, and too short to be an elf . . . I’m right in the middle, being 5” 3, I think. I was always pretty short in school and I guess about average now, but I actually didn’t prefer to be a hobbit (though I would still take it!) but was so excited to think maybe they would choose me to be an elf. And then I could star opposite Orlando Bloom! I wore a green and blue and white dress that I had worn for me and Josh’s engagement pictures, and put part of my hair back to make my ears stick out more and I straightened my blonde hair. I would be the perfect elf! I was going to wear my high heels but Josh was smart and told me to just wear my flats because they would most likely make us take our shoes off anyways. We woke up early that morning and I got all ready. I was so nervous I almost felt sick! Haha. I was like, what if I really get it? Oh, I would be so nervous! And what if they make me try out by doing a speaking part, reading from a script? We were like, nah, they wouldn’t do that to be an extra.
The casting call was at a school hall in Lower Hutt, an outlying suburb of Wellington, at 1:00 p.m. I knew there would be a huge line, so we left early though I was afraid we might not be early enough. We left our flat at about 11:00 and arrived between 11:30 and 11:45. There was a long line all right! Driving over there and arriving and seeing the long line of people, nerds like me, hopeful of being chosen, I just couldn’t believe I was doing this. Josh was excited for me and kind of making fun of me too, haha. But hey, he was alongside me and said he of course was going to try out too! I was like, “you’re gonna get picked and be an Elf, and I’m not gonna be in it! I will be SO mad at you!” We had to park pretty far away next to a river, and then walked down the road to get to the end of the line. I was still pretty nervous. So, we waited in the hot sun for quite a while, but then the line started moving before 1:00 which was good, so we really only stood out there for almost an hour. Some guys came around while we waited handing out information sheets that we had to fill out with our measurements, talents, where we live, and availability. When Josh read that you had to be available on 9 hours notice pretty much any day of the week, for the filming that would occur between February and June, he knew he was going to have to pass. I already knew he probably wouldn’t be able to with his full-time job, but that just confirmed it. I’m sure he would have gotten chosen if he did try out, because he really would be the perfect elf, which would have been pretty dang cool to say my husband was an elf in one of my favorite books turned into a movie!
With each step that got closer to the front door, the more anxious I felt and my stomach was filled with not butterflies, but birds, angry birds. What if I really did have to act out a part? Or what if The Peter Jackson was in there, along with Frodo and Bilbo? I was hoping Gandalf was in there with his white staff, so he could make me grow just a few inches taller and I could fulfill my dream of being an elf. At last, Josh stepped out of the line, and I was on my own and alone to walk in the doors of that little school hall. The guy at the front, who was kind of big compared to me and intimidating, separated us into two lines. He told me to go left. I wonder what that means? I thought to myself. As predicted by my husband, I had to take off my shoes. I had noticed a lot of girls wearing stilettos and clomper heels, so I’m glad I didn’t look like an idiot doing that after all. I didn’t see Peter Jackson in there, which I was a little disappointed, just normal people. Lucky them, though, they get to work on this film. I felt like I was shaking as it was finally my turn to hand the girl my piece of paper and stand against the wall as she measured my height. She yelled it out to the other lady sitting at the front table, I’m not sure what it was though I don’t remember plus I think she was using the metric system. The lady handed me my paper back after she had written a note, “blonde hair, green dress” I guess for when the reviewing panel would look at the pictures later. I wished I had a pen to scribble another note saying, “Pick this girl!” I was motioned to another line where we stood against another wall and a lady took a picture of each of us. I was watching all the other people in front of me, and even asked the couple in front of me, “Are we not supposed to smile, or do you know?” because they were all straight-faced and almost frowning. I want to smile! I thought. They said just be serious, I guess. Hopefully that was the right thing to do, because that’s what I did. It felt weird and awkward as all the people in line were just staring and the girl took two or three pictures, full length and up close, and I stood there trying not to smile. And then, that was it! I walked out of there and instantly felt my nerves calm again and relieved that that was over. I don’t know if I could handle being a movie star, with all those flashing lights.
I walked out and found my husband, who I was very glad to see again. We were astounded by the long line of people…it was outrageous! We had gotten there in the nick of time. It was stretching far down into a park and almost all the way out to the busy highway. Which, by the way, when we had been waiting in line outside, it was right by the super busy motorway and the traffic was jamming up as everyone was in the turning lane to get into the parking lot. We drew a lot of attention to passerby’s as they honked and waved and just stared at us weirdos. It was a tight squeeze in our car and we almost got scraped by trying to get out of there, but eventually, we made it out.
Well, I had done it! I had tried out to be in “The Hobbit”! Who gets to say that? Haha. Never thought I would.
We later learned that I was quite lucky, because the turn out was so phenomenal and exceeded expectations and became dangerous due to the highway, that they had to shut down the casting call early. They were only expecting 1,000 people to show up, but over 3,000 are estimated to have shown up. Only 800 people, myself included, got to make it in the doors and have a chance. In fact, it made international news! You can read a couple of those articles here:
It was an amazing day and experience to say I got to be a part of; whether I get to be an extra in the movie or not. Who knows if I would get a call, as the selection process is still underway; I have a long time to find out or not whether I would make it. Either way, I cannot wait until the first part comes out (they are making The Hobbit into two films) and the world premier is set for Wellington in November. I’m not sure the date yet, but we are staying until it premiers. I want tickets and I want to go to the event that they supposedly bring the red carpet out for in the streets of this city I now live in. Boy, I’d go bonkers, and I will be that screaming fan that nearly passes out that they show on TV. And I will meet Peter Jackson, and Elijah Wood, and Orlando Bloom. I might even have a cup of tea and eat lembas bread with them, too. It’s on my bucket list anyway.
I shall leave you with the trailer for “The Hobbit”. When I first watched this online a couple months ago, I was by myself, I wish Josh had seen me, but I literally screamed and really squealed with delight when I watched it and clapped my hands. I was so excited! I couldn’t believe I was living where they are currently filming it and I have already seen some of the landscape! The music, the dwarves singing their song; I can tell it’s already an amazing soundtrack and just seeing the background, it was all almost just too much for me. Somebody might need to sedate me before I go see that film in theatres. And I want to watch it here. How cool would that be? Man, this trailer gives me goose bumps watching it, too. I’m a big fan, can you tell?