Digital Spy sat down with Royd to get the Tolkien family perspective on Jackson's adaptations, and discuss the time he spent in New Zealand bonding with the Lord of the Rings cast and crew.
[above - Royd Tolkien in The Return of the King (2003)]
When did you first get wind of Lord of the Rings being adapted as a live-action film? It was a very long development process…
"It was years before they filmed. I'd known Peter Jackson because I'd been a fan of his from Bad Taste and Braindead, from when I was younger. But I really had no involvement in the films at that stage - my first connection with them was at the first premiere in London, for The Fellowship [of the Ring]. That's where I met Peter and other people from New Line."
There was some surprise when Peter was announced as director, because he was known for a very particular type of genre film. What do you think it is that makes him such a good fit for the material?
"I think it's not just about Peter, I think it's the whole situation that's evolved with where Peter is in New Zealand, and the New Zealanders as people, their can-do attitude. You know, Richard Taylor for example, and how his company Weta has evolved over the years, and grown with the industry.
"Peter's there at the front leading the charge, the captain of the ship, and all these people are working, and they all have that same passion that Peter has, and I think it would have probably been an entirely different film if it was a film in Hollywood. And actually New Zealand as a country has become a character within the film as well, and things like that you can't get from anywhere else."
What sense did you get of the chemistry between the cast?
"There was one occasion where I got a really good vibe from who they were as characters. It was Elijah, Dominic, Billy and Orlando, they were at an after party, and they were just having a bloody good time. You could kind of tell from them that there was this… they'd spent a lot of time in New Zealand, and become a real close-knit group of friends. And when I went over to New Zealand years later, and met a few other people on set, what comes across very strongly is that Peter surrounds himself with that close-knit group. So it's a very nice atmosphere."
What's your memory of the small part you filmed in Return of the King?
"It was one of the best experiences ever. I'd met people through the different premieres, but I didn't ask to go to New Zealand because even though I'm related to Tolkien, I don't expect any special treatment. But then I kept seeing reports that filming was coming to an end and I just thought, 'If I don't ask, I'll never know.' So I sent an e-mail, and within a couple of weeks I was in New Zealand, and again, I just thought I might get five minutes on set because it's so busy.
"But I literally turned up there, and Christopher Lee wanted to have a cup of tea with me on the first night, before he left to film Star Wars in Australia. He'd met Tolkien years before. So I went from not expecting anything at all to drinking tea with Christopher Lee, literally within hours of arriving in New Zealand. It was bizarre. And the next morning I got down to the set to film my part, and the place was just full of people dressed as orcs, and Gondorian rangers and knights, and there were horses everywhere. Incredible."
Were you, or anyone else in the family, worried about how much was going to be cut from the books, and how much would be changed for the screen?
"It is difficult, because of course things need to be adapted to fit that style. Everyone has their own view and opinions on the book, and it's very difficult, because you've got to change certain things to make it filmic, and make it flow properly, and make it land with an audience.
"I always try and keep myself completely separated from the books and the film. I'm watching the films for what they are, and what Peter Jackson and Weta and all the cast and crew have done with them. Then again with The Hobbit, I don't know what changes there are going to be to make it 3D. But for me it's just another reason to go to the cinema another three times, and be completely taken away and lost within the world."
The rumour is that the writers are going to use material from the Lord of the Rings appendices to expand The Hobbit…
"I believe that's the case, yes, they're expanding the book from the appendices. But they're going to be brilliant no matter what – they will be fantastic. I know from what I saw briefly over in New Zealand just how dedicated and enthusiastic everybody is, and how seriously they take their craft. It's bound to be a good thing."
If you had to choose the best moment from the Lord of the Rings films - maybe one that really captured the spirit of the books - which would you pick?
"My bit. None of the rest, it was all about me! Oh gosh, it's difficult because there was a magic to me for The Fellowship of the Ring, because it was the first film, and I avoided reading anything about it in advance because I wanted to go into that cinema with fresh eyes and see if it captured me, and it did.
"But then, Return of the King was equally magical for me because I'm in it, and I'd had the experience of knowing these people over the years. But yes, if I had to pinpoint something, I'd say the best bit in all three films is my bit. I think the way I hand spears out is just… nobody else could have done such a brilliant job. I could give talks on that in drama schools."
How did you become involved in the Air New Zealand safety video?
"I'd contacted Air New Zealand through mutual friends, just because I was wanting to go over there to catch the last bits of filming. I knew that I'd missed the main bulk of filming because I was away doing other things. But I contacted Air New Zealand, and I think purely by me contacting them at the same time they were considering the safety video, they just thought it would be a neat idea to get me in there as a cameo."
Watch the new Air New Zealand safety video featuring Royd Tolkien below: