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The Making of the Weta "Book Cards":
Casting and Costuming

Earlier this year, we published an interview with Weta Workshop senior designer Daniel Falconer about the process of casting and costuming the characters for the photo shoot for the Weta "book cards" being created for The Lord of the Rings TCG. Decipher's Creative Director, Dan Burns, was also an integral part of that process. I recently asked him to describe his part in the photo shoot – and also obtained some of his exclusive behind-the-scenes photos to give you a close-up look at the making of the cards. In this second part of the "Making of..." series, we'll look at how casting and costuming worked.

The first step in the process was casting actors appropriate for the parts of these characters, well-known from Tolkien's books but who never appeared in the film version of the trilogy. Burns, Falconer, and production manager Emily-Jane Sturrock looked first within Weta Workshop and The Lord of the Rings crew, yielding casting decisions such as senior leather master Mike Grealish as Erkenbrand, prosthetics technician/digital compositor Norman Cates as Fredegar "Fatty" Bolger, and master swordsmith Peter Lyons as Grimbeorn. And Weta's John Harding, who had been cast for the part (never filmed) of Radagast in the film, still got a chance to play the part for the small moment in time depicted on the TCG card.

"After choosing the actor," said Burns, "we would select their wardrobe, choose weapons, and try to get the whole 'look' nailed down." A huge building full of thousands of costumes and props – essentially everything that was made for the film trilogy, right down to Elven underwear and even including test costumes that weren't used – provided most of the wardrobe and accessories for the shoot.

A tiny selection of Lord of the Rings costume pieces.

You won't readily recognize a "book card" costume as a reuse from the films, though, as individual pieces were recolored, used in new combinations, and otherwise disguised. "We mixed and matched outfits for the elves and Rohan characters," said Burns. "The costume for one of Elrond's twin sons used pieces from at least five film costumes." Furthermore, so little was seen of some costumes in the films that they could be reused with little or no changes. "Most of Théodred's part was cut in the film, so his armor was used for Erkenbrand." Tom Bombadil's outfit was a combination of a recycled Gandalf test costume (dyed blue) and a transformed Hobbit hat.

Mike Grealish as Erkenbrand.

Harry Wellerchew as Tom Bombadil (with hat).

This was far from a casual or hasty process, even though the images were destined for small cards instead of the big screen. According to Burns, "it was like putting together scenes for a movie, but for photos instead of live-action film." Decipher and Weta were both determined to have the "book cards" match the rich look of the films as closely as possible, so costumes and props received the same attention to detail as if for a full-scale epic, even to the Elven book held by one of Elrond's sons and a beer barrel toted by Fatty Bolger.

Elven book.

Costume details, Erkenbrand (left) and Grimbeorn (right).

Fatty's beer barrel.

And costumes and props weren't the only items to be reused – wigs were mixed and matched along with everything else, with Arwen's $12,000 wig recycled for Elrond's twin sons (both played by Rob Gillies).

Rob Gillies being made up as Elrohir... or is it Elladan?

(Left) Rob Gillies as Elladan. Or maybe Elrohir. (Right) Arwen's wig, recast.

With a part cast, costumed, and accesorized, a series of Polaroids and digital camera action shots were be taken to use for planning backgrounds and lighting later on. In the next part of this series, we'll take a look at a couple of preliminary image concepts (and the final cards that came from them) and the actual photo shoot.

Related links:
The Lord of the Rings TCG to Feature Original Images From Weta Workshop (News Release) 3-8-04
An Interview With Weta Workshop's Daniel Falconer 4-5-04
Where's Tom Bombadil's Hat? In the Weta Collection 7-21-04

Kathy McCracken
Web Writer

July 22, 2004

 

 

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