*Some spoilers for The Desolation of Smaug below*
HobbitCon took place in Bonn, Germany from March 30th to April 1st 2013, and it was a first in many ways: It was the first HobbitCon ever, it was the first convention for many of the actors, and it was also the first convention the author of this article has attended.
I decided to save my money for the important things on this convention and didn’t book the Maritim Hotel in which the con took place. It didn’t make a difference though as I spent most of my time there anyway. We arrived on Friday and decided to check out the hotel that evening. We saw the convention area already built up but still fairly empty at that time, which was quite interesting to get into the feeling. We decided to have our dinner in the hotel bar that evening, and didn’t really think too much about the actors, when after a while one actor after the other walked in and had their dinner as well. There was John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Stephen Hunter, and later on Jed Brophy, Graham McTavish, Sylvester McCoy and Dean O’Gorman, who all had no problem whatsoever having their meal among the arriving fans. Quite late in the evening Adam Brown arrived, and then something very sweet happened: All the actors hugged each other; it felt as if they hadn’t seen each other for a long time and this was a big coming together again. We already knew from production videos that these guys were one big family, but it was wonderful to see this for real as well!
The actual convention started on Saturday. We were new to this whole thing, rather excited, and wanted to meet a few actors, so we decided to start with the least intimidating of them as a warm up, and had our photo taken with Adam Brown, who is such an adorable and sweet man!
Later on we also had photos taken with Graham McTavish and Dean O’Gorman (to be honest, I grew more nervous with each of them!). At this point I have to say how extremely well organized the photo sessions were. Of course, a lot of people wanted their photo, which meant there was only enough time to say one sentence to the actors, but at least everybody got their photo.
It even happened that they sent me back to Dean O’Gorman a second time (I was hardly sad about that!) because I obviously had my eyes closed on the photo. It is really nice they pay attention to these things as well.
Then there was the signing session, also very well organized, and although lots of people wanted to get an autograph there was hardly any waiting time, not even on popular actors such as O’Gorman. In fact we even had a bit more time there to talk to them than in the photo sessions. Since they cost 20 Euro each I only went to get those of Graham McTavish and Dean O’Gorman.
The area was not overwhelmingly large: There was the huge hall for all the panels, a smaller one for the signing sessions, and several smaller rooms for workshops, lectures and so on. There were a few merchandise stands where the dedicated Tolkien fan could leave LOTS of money. Luckily I already own most of the official merchandise (not sure what is so lucky about that actually…), so all I bought for myself was the letter opener version of Thorin’s dwarven sword and an official con photograph of all the actors (sadly without Peter Hambleton) printed on a slate.
Before I continue with the really interesting info given in the panels, let me have one slight fangirling paragraph, you may skip this one if you don’t want to read that kind of stuff. The thing is, what is Richard Armitage to DJ is Dean O’Gorman to me, so I also had a lot of “omg!”-moments on this weekend. I remember the first time I saw him, walking into that restaurant I had dinner in, my jaw dropped. He is a LOT more gorgeous for real than he is in pictures! Also he is so laid back and down to earth, which just makes him adorable. On Saturday night I managed to talk to him at the aftershow party in the bar, and when he asked me for my name he actually introduced himself with: “I’m Dean.” (Yes, as if I didn’t know.) I have a tattoo concerning the three Heirs of Durin and was dying to show him. He was actually very impressed by it. And then in the end I hugged him. Let me assure you, yes, he does feel very good.
And now back to important information again!
There were a lot of interesting panels with a lot of interesting information, all led by the incredible Mark Ferguson. I recorded the panels of Dean O’Gorman, Graham McTavish, Adam Brown + Jed Brophy and Graham McTavish + Mark Hadlow in full length, and the first half of Adam Brown’s as audio files and will provide them here.
On the others I attended I took notes and will try to summarize the important information:
Mark Hadlow and Stephen Hunter:
This was my first panel and it was here the constant mention of Jed Brophy’s hyperactivity started and never ceased throughout the whole con. Further they made a cryptic statement about an elf-dwarf relationship but in the wording it wasn’t clear whether it was denying or confirming one. Somebody asked them which character in the Tolkien universe they’d like to be, so Stephen said Galadriel, and Mark said Jed Brophy, then they acted a short scene in which both were their dream character. Yes, it was as odd as it sounds!
They also said there might be a second food fight in the Special Extended Edition.
He has four daughters and two sons, and when they heard he got the role they were just interested in who attends which premiere.
After Oin’s hearing aid is destroyed his hearing ability will be even worse for the rest of the trilogy. Luckily Gloin is going to help him there.
80% of the ideas of either design or character development never make it into the film! Still the first edit of the film was 5 hours long.
Oin hardly knows anything about Bilbo and therefore trusts in Gandalf’s decision.
When asked which Tolkien character he’d like to be he answered Galadriel’s lover, but not if Galadriel was played by Stephen Hunter (see above panel).
He finds the role of Thorin very appealing.
He is not a royalist, but found it interesting to meet Prince William who was obviously quite nice to him and liked his red shoes.
He was very excited to meet Ian McKellen and said he’s a “naughty boy”.
He doesn’t miss his role, only the film crew.
He said Oin will survive the Battle of the Five Armies. (Now if THAT isn’t a spoiler!)
When he saw the film for the first time (two days before the Wellington premiere) all he saw was scale doubles and stunt doubles and wondered if he was in the film at all. That got better on further viewings though.
Sadly I missed his first panel, thinking I wasn’t as interested in this guy. But he turned out to be the funniest panel guest ever. He actually took the microphone, went down to the audience and just walked through us, picking up the questions himself. What a lovely guy! When reading my summary, keep in mind that he was hardly ever completely serious! But here it is:
He loves the outfit, especially the bird poo which was Peter Jackson’s idea.
He was asked if an Istar has a belly button and he says he believes Radagast does, but he’ll check next time he’s playing him.
With a rabbit sleigh he’d ride through his neighbourhood though he’d be afraid of the dogs then.
The stick insect was pure CGI and Sebastian was the name of Peter Jackson’s assistant. However he says he hates Sebastian and hopes he is dead by now.
The bird whistling was his idea as he was always doing that to his sons when they were little.
There might actually be some more pick-up shooting next year.
He wouldn’t want Radagast’s life for himself especially not for longer than a couple of weeks.
When recording the scene with wargs following his sleigh he wasn’t actually aware he was going in circles. There is in fact no logic behind his choice of directions. They even shot a scene in which he turns around, looks for the dwarves and notices he lost them. It never made it into the film though. When recording this scene he fell off once and just before his head hit the concrete floor a stuntman caught him. He says he felt his own brain moving though.
Dwarves never bathe.
Radagast and Tom Bombadil would be drinking buddies and have a mushroom omelette together.
Insects were all over Radagast and especially in his clothes.
John Callen + Peter Hambleton
This panel was mostly notable for two really interesting pieces of information! When asked if Oin and Gloin approve of Gimli’s friendship with an elf, they said of course they don’t like that, but added that in their own company there is a dwarf who thinks elves aren’t that dangerous after all.
Also, just a few days ago an interview with John Rhys-Davies popped up in which he said young Gimli will make a short appearance in the second film and he only took up the role again because he doesn’t wear that many prosthetics as young Gimli. While this sounded like an April Fool joke I decided to just ask Peter Hambleton if this was true. He was really surprised about this question, struggled for an answer and finally said: “Yes, you’ll see him, but I can’t say more.” That was more than enough for me!
And also, let’s not forget my favourite quote of the whole weekend which came from John Callen in this panel: “Oin and Gloin from the loins of Groin”
There was also a special panel by Stefan Servos, which was called “The story continues” which I sadly missed. It contained information about the second film! But I was told by somebody who did attend that Azog will die in Desolation of Smaug, and Bolg will then seek revenge. Also Gandalf will visit Thrain in Dol Guldur. And Tauriel has a crush on Thranduil, is turned down by him and therefore decides to help the dwarves escape the dungeons.
By far the funniest panel of the whole convention (my facial muscles and my belly still hurt from laughing) was the Gameshow, in which Mark Ferguson again was the moderator and four dwarf actors played against each other in a game called “Toss the Dwarf”. Mark Hadlow and Dean O’Gorman were the team “Hot dwarf and friend” and Jed Brophy and Stephen Hunter were team “Bombur Nori”. The two teams then competed in several rounds. First was a Tolkien trivia quiz in which Jed turned out to be a Tolkien expert and Dean to have a really lousy Tolkien knowledge. He didn’t even know which river his company crossed or what animal Beorn could shift into. Also note that Stephen answered “What is the Goblin King’s name?” with pure confidence: “Thranduil!” As a dwarf fan I really liked that answer actually!
After that they played a round of “truth or lie” in which every actor had to tell a story of his life and the other team had to decide whether it was true or false. The stories were:
Dean – got stuck in a letterbox when he was 19 and had to be rescued by the fire brigade – true.
Jed – kissed the prime minister of Australia – false.
Mark – vomited on his first date – false.
Stephen – ran naked through his house and was caught by complete strangers – false.
They also had a few scenes to play. One was a funeral and every time somebody did or said something that made the audience laugh he failed. In another scene they cleaned a toilet and were only allowed to use sentences with the amount of words Mark Ferguson would give them. And in another scene Ferguson was a dwarf on a quest for women, and the two teams then had to move his body. This was possibly the most hilarious part of the whole Gameshow!
In the end there was a tie and they had to name things in a certain category really fast. When naming “countries starting with C” Dean didn’t really make himself a lot of friends when saying Czechoslovakia (since that country doesn’t exist since 1993!) And the only other country he could come up with was Cameroon (I suppose China or Canada are too exotic to name :) ).
But then the most interesting round started! “Name a Tolkien character that dies.” Jed immediately said “Gil-Galad” to upset Mark Ferguson. Further on while Jed gave ridiculous answers like Eldarion, the only names Dean could come up with were Fili, Kili and Thorin. After that he knew no more and the audience actually had to help him with Boromir. As I said – lousy Tolkien knowledge! While the whole audience gasped when he said “Fili”, he just added: “It’s in the book.” That’s a clever remark meaning technically he hasn’t given any film spoilers.
I don’t actually remember who won the Gameshow, but it was great fun to watch!
On the first day there was an opening ceremony, on the last day a closing ceremony. While in the opening ceremony all the guests were introduced and the rules were announced, there was also a dance with some hobbit girls (and Azog was also dancing with them). In the closing ceremony the girls danced again, but eventually Azog was killed during this ceremony. A foreshadowing for Desoluation of Smaug it seems! Then all the guests came in again, and the con was closed with the most remarkable scene: All attending dwarf actors sang the Misty Mountains song live. It was definitely a goosebump moment!
These are the impressions the guests made on me during their stay at HobbitCon:
Dean O’Gorman was quite obviously the favourite of the mostly female audience. His panel was the only one in which not everybody got to ask their question. He was also the most popular during photo sessions. What adds to that is that even Mark Ferguson and his cast colleagues constantly reminded everybody of his status as “hot dwarf”. He never took that status for granted though, which was quite delightful.
Adam Brown started very shy but eventually evolved into the audience favourite during the weekend! In the end the line for his signature even turned out to be the longest. I can definitely understand this; he is such a polite and warm person, there is no way anybody could NOT love him. The one thing that will always stay in my mind is his desperate attempt at saying: “I can be fucking angry too!” which somehow nobody believed.
Graham McTavish at first seemed a bit calm, but turned out to be a person with an enormous stage presence. He’s a fine gentleman with a rough outside but a soft spot inside – very much how I would picture Dwalin as well.
Stephen Hunter remained shy throughout the whole weekend and for a long time I was afraid he wasn’t enjoying himself. But when he said he did at the closing ceremony it was definitely believable. I suppose he just is a rather timid person. At one of the evening parties I told him he is the sexiest of the dwarves and he seemed to be flattered.
John Callen turned out to be a lot funnier than I’d ever expected from the oldest of the dwarf actors! He has a lot of interesting things to tell, even though his character might not be the most notable (yet?). Also I could listen to his voice forever, it is just so warm and fills the room!
Peter Hambleton sadly remained unnoticed most of the time. I do not know why, but nobody seemed to focus on him, which was notable in his panel and also when he was walking through the audience. I wish we could have seen more of him, especially because his character is definitely important to the whole story. I wish he’d know he also has lots of fans! He did call me “darling” though when I said something nice about Gloin in his panel, I found that very charming. Thank you, Peter!
Mark Hadlow turned out to be a guarantee for lots of good laughs. The faces he made during the Gameshow are memorable! He always had a funny story to tell, interacted so well with his dwarf brothers, and was known for watching almost all the panels! He didn’t even deny the female side of Dori, and had no problem playing along with it.
Jed Brophy – What more do I really have to say about that man? He is a legend in Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth and proved so even more here. Whenever Jed Brophy came along, you could be sure to laugh, no matter by what he told, danced, acted, showed or simply by running across the stage. He definitely enjoys these things and he is the one I want to see on a future con the most!
Sylvester McCoy I couldn’t quite estimate before going there. I thought I wouldn’t be interested in him, but luckily I was proved totally wrong. His panels were the best; he is so funny and active despite his age. I hope he never loses that energy. He even showed that during the evening parties when he actually started to dance with the young women there!
There were roughly 1000 people at the convention and I heard it was a rather small one by size of audience. For me it was a very comfortable number to start with. There was never a lot of waiting or people fighting for the best places. Also – although there were a lot of new visitors, everybody was behaving surprisingly civilized and no doubtful questions were asked in the panels. Due to the low number of people the actors could run around through the convention area without being disturbed by fans all the time. They could have their meals or their drinks at the bar, and just be normal people among all the geeks.
There was also a lot of cosplay in the audience. While it is nice that the three Heirs are so popular it WAS a bit sad to see there were a lot of Filis, Kilis and Thorins running around, but besides that only one Nori and no other dwarf.
What possibly made this convention special was the fact it only covered one particular movie. While on other cons you’ll have some people from Game of Thrones and some from Star Trek, on this one you could be sure that everybody of the guests knew each other. That made some panels really remarkable, as actors watched the panels of their colleagues, often interrupted them when appropriate or even asked questions themselves. Also it made running gags come up that were mentioned over and over again, such as Graham McTavish’s lousy riding skills, Adam Brown and Glamdring, and the fact that Stephen Hunter is the perfect Galadriel.
Basically it was just wonderful to see that the cast really had such a tight bond as seen in the production videos. They are like a little family.
For me it was an amazing first convention experience, and I am eager to go to another HobbitCon if there should be one next year. And I think the actors enjoyed it as well. Hopefully they can convince missing actors such as Richard Armitage, Aidan Turner or Martin Freeman to come to the next one.
See you next year in Bonn!