On a rainy Wednesday in November, members of the Tolkien Society gathered with other interested members of the public and a horde of schoolchildren in London's West End. Waterstone's Bookshop were hosting a day of events to promote the release of two new books, Brian Sibley's 'The Making of The Lord of the Rings', a detailed account of film trilogy's production and the 'Two Towers Visual Companion', by Jude Fisher (an alias, her real name being Jane Johnson).
The first event was aimed at the children, about 80 pupils brought in from three local schools. Brian and Jane ably fielded a barrage of difficult questions from the kids, before bringing out the 'surprise' guest, actor Andy Serkis, the man behind the voice of Gollum. Few of the children knew who he was, for he bears no visual resemblance to the character seen on screen. Eventually Brian managed to coax a performance of the voice from Andy. Everyone present seemed impressed, and perhaps a little surprised to hear the chilling, wretched tones of Gollum spoken by a perfectly normal and friendly man. The questions from the kids continued, the most memorable being 'Why did the film have to be so long'. Brian Sibley's reply echoed what most of the adult audience was thinking - 'Why did it have to be so short'.
The new books were not the only Two Towers merchandise on display. At one end of the second floor, Games Workshop recreated the epic battle of Helm's Deep in miniature, showcasing their new range of models. Their artists were busy demonstrating how to paint the finely detailed figures, producing work worthy of any Oxonmoot art show. Upstairs a huge television was showing excerpts from the 'Two Towers' Playstation game, which seems to concentrate primarily on the more violent aspects of the story.
As evening drew on it was time for the main event, a more detailed talk from Brian, Jane and Andy. Those stalwarts who had lasted this long gathered outside the function room, most of the queue spilling out and winding around the main stairway. Soon it was time to take our seats, but the forces of mischief were busy, and we were assaulted by the wail of a fire alarm. The entire queue was led on an epic journey of our own, down the back stairs, out into the night air, back in through the main entrance and up the six floors to return to our original positions. Worn out but still in good cheer, we finally took our seats.
The trek around the store was worth it. Andy Serkis kicked off, giving a detailed account of how he created the voice of Gollum, describing how a few weeks of voice recording evolved into months of physical acting and work with the digital effects crew. We were treated to a repeat performance of the voice, still chilling even though we now knew what to expect. Then Brian and Jane answered questions from the audience, providing many amusing anecdotes from the film's production, and giving an insight into Peter Jackson's reasoning behind the extended DVD cut of the film. The day was rounded off with a final opportunity to chat with the authors and have our books signed. Finally it was time to head off into the night, and if the purpose of the day had been to build more anticipation for the next film's release, then it certainly worked on me.