Lord of the Rings: A Conversation with Bruck Hopkins by Dianne Lynn Gardner
Bruce Hopkins is a first a family man, with a host of talent for the theatrical. He’s starred in many films, the most notable being Lord of the Rings directed by Peter Jackson. I met Bruce at a Ring Con in Seattle, WA and had the honor of painting his portrait. Bruce met with my husband and I after the conference and we had a wonderful conversation about acting, New Zealand, careers, and whether the price one pays to be in the limelight is worth it. Both my husband and I found it a joy to talk with Bruce. Just recently I sent him some interview questions for an article I was writing and though he had just had shoulder surgery, he was more than happy to accommodate. I’m going to include a little bit of that conversation, as I think what Bruce has to say about the film world, about making fantasy a reality, is pretty meaningful for all of us. I’ve just recently taken a step in film production myself, and realize the intensity of opening the portal into ‘another world’ be it Middle earth, Narnia, Never Neverland or Oz. The hardest part has got to be coming back!
Bruce played the part of Gamling, the man who steps into Hama’s position after he is killed and who becomes King Theodin’s right-hand man.
“I had read The Hobbit many moons ago, but did not get hooked on Tolkien from that. I bought a second hand copy of LOTR when I arrived in Wellington to begin shooting, as I only had a weeks notice that they had created a new character and were offering it to me! The hard back copy I bought was actually bound upside down and with the front cover at the back. If it was stamp it would be worth millions! I had to have it rebound as the spine had torn apart during the time I read it. So I got them to rebind it the way I found it, upside down and back to front!.I might add iIt’s got some pretty cool autgraphs in it!!!
When I bought the book …the first thing I did was go to the appendices and search the name…ohhh he (Gamling) only had a couple of pages he appears in. Turns out he is a retired cammander of an area of Rohan. In the film making process the impression I got was that John who was cast as Hama was not a sword fighting action type, and so they needed to create this other character to aid Kig Theoden at Helms Deep. After 3 nights of what was going to be a weeks shooting for Gamling, Phillipa Boyens visited one night to give some new dialogue to Brenard ( Theoden), she asked me to come with them to a caravan, where she infomed me they loved how I was coming across and they way I fitted in with King Theoden, so they were going to ook at putting me into more scenes! Fro the next 9 months, I would get random calls from my agent saying they wanted me tomorrow, or they wanted me next week etc etc. Would have been nice to be paid a holding fee, because I didn’t want to take other work in case they called, but I had 3 kids to feed and shelter1 However despite that with 2-3 days of pick up shots in 2001 and 2002 as Peter edited each film in sequence, I had the most wonderful experience over 3 years. Every second os set was like bliss to me.
. . . my role grew from what was to be one week to about 50 days throughout 9 months in 1999. I then did 2-3 days in 2001 & 2002 for pick ups on TTT & ROTK. I had long periods, someytimes weeks of wondering if I would get called for more work, and not being paid to be on standby made it a bit puzzling. However I did pick up some work shooting a couple of telefeatures with the wonderful Kevin Smith ( Aries from Xena etc ), we were mates anyway so working with him was brilliant. That was the most amazing year of my career and I have never come close to tha much work since! It feels a bit bizarre, on both.”
The most memoriable time in creating Lord of the Rings?
“For TTT it had to be shooting the Edoras scenes way in the middle of the most astounding mountain ranges. We shot for 8 days total, and on one of those it had snowed over night so the whole hillside and set were covered in fresh snow, The crew got generators, water pumps and fire hoses and melted the snow off an entire mini mountain so we could shoot and maintain continuity! Also every morning I would arrive at 6am and the 2nd AD Mark Ashton would have a fire burning in a 44 gallon drum. He would ask me if I wanted a coffee I would satnd chatting with him in the darkness, then head to get my wardrobe and makeup done. Thos moments around the fire with Mark were like being in a film itself! I was in heaven.”
Was this fun?
“Getting to spend time with Bernard, Viggo, Elijah, Dom, Billie, John Leigh, Orlando, et al, going to Ian McKellens for lunch one Sunday with about 30 others, chating with various members of the crew I already knew from previous jobs, a couple of parties at Barrie Osbournes house which had a firemans pole in it, every millisecond of being on set, watching Peter and wondering how the hell he knew what he was doing, putting on my armour and feeling…yeah I think I know this guy.”
What training was involved for the role?
“Because of the way my character evolved… I was not meant to be doing anything other than Helms Deep. Evetually I had some brushing up on sword work. Having been a professional dancer for 8 yrs before starting acting, I loved physical work and had done a bit of stuff in Xena, Hercules & Youmng Hercules. But as my character grew in LOTR I then had to take horse riding lessons as they decided I would be riding into battle, and I was not a horse rider, in fact I would say I’m still not a horse rider but I loved the riding I did!They really liked my work so expanded my roles, and then I have never really had a decent role since.”
In respects to Middle Earth’s affect on New Zealand?
“It (The movie making) has had a huge impact on our tourism industry. There have also been major impacts on certain parts of the screen production industry, however this has not necessarily impacted the local film scene. Weta & Wingnut obviously are now global players, but you need to move to Wellington to be part of that scene, the rest of the country still fights for limited funding etc, the usual creative industries dilemmas! But the exposure gained from the LOTR films in particular has been significant for NZ as a country and our film industry.”
What is Next for you?
“Just did a couple day son a nice short film, I got paid $200 petrol vouchers!
My focus is my company ActionActors, a temp employment agency to find non acting work for actors between acting jobs…how I have made my living and raised my 3 kids. We have over 300 actors on our books, it does not pay me a wage yet, but we have paid out over $200,000 to actors between acting jobs to date1 So if you need some peole for your brand activation/promotion, some hospitality staff, a gardener yadayaddayadda, you know who to call…ActionActors.”
Dianne Lynn Gardner-Xylon Productions, LLC
Dianne Gardner is a published author, an award-winning illustrator, and the owner of an Indie film production company. Her adventure fantasy series The Ian’s Realm Saga provides the backdrop for her most recent film project, Cassandra’s Castle . Dianne lives in the Pacific Northwest, is the mother to 7 and grandmother to 16, who she claims are the inspiration for her novels.