By Hilton Collins
On Saturday, actor Billy Boyd, who played Pippin in Peter Jackson’s popular The Lord of the Rings film series, charmed fans in a colorful Q & A session at the Wizard World Sacramento convention in the city’s downtown area.
Boyd, a veteran stage and screen performer as well as singer, has starred in multiple high-profile plays and movies, but that afternoon, he said he thought that The Flash TV show, based on the titular fast-moving DC Comics superhero, is possibly the best program on television. He’d be open to playing a villain on it—as long as that villain has the power to grow a giant hand.
“I’d like to be a guy whose hand could be any size he wanted. He’s always in total control. Hand Man,” Boyd said, to much audience laughter. “But my arm doesn’t stretch. It’s just a big giant hand, so if I wanted to slap the Flash, I’d have to get my hand giant and then just actually walk over there.”
But even though Boyd’s a fan, there’s one thing that bothered him about Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth 2: why the character’s helmet doesn’t fly off when he’s running at superspeed. An audience member in Garrick cosplay offered reasons why the headgear stayed on—first the speed force and then an invisible chin strap—but neither answer satisfied Boyd.
“That’s a cool hat but I don’t think it would stay on past 80 miles an hour,” Boyd said.
That was one of several interesting anecdotes throughout the panel, though many popped up during the first few introductory minutes. Boyd had a cold brew coffee from the restaurant Old Soul Co. that morning with his breakfast, and he joked that it was so strong that he started hallucinating. He took audience suggestions about where else to eat that weekend, but he turned down recommendations for Fox and Goose, a local British-themed pub, because that would be just like being back home.
“I’m from Britain. I don’t like going to British pubs,” Boyd said. “I want to go somewhere that’s completely Sacramento.”
That encapsulated the flavor of many jocular exchanges between Boyd and the audience, but he spent much of the panel sharing stories about his experiences filming The Lord of the Rings movies.
The first LOTR fun fact of the day? Boyd and his co-stars weren’t actually barefoot in their scenes as hobbits; they wore manufactured hobbit feet made out of “spongy material” that were glued onto their real feet. The crew spray painted the feet and glued hair onto the surfaces. It took an hour to apply the material each time, and the cast had to stand on boxes during the process. The sessions happened extremely early in the morning, which was great in the summer but horrible in the winter.
When Boyd read for the Pippin role in Britain, his audition tape was one of thousands sent to Peter Jackson in New Zealand. Jackson narrowed it down to four final actors from different areas of the world, and Boyd was eventually selected for the part. Oddly enough, Boyd hadn’t read the LOTR books before he got the role, even though he had easy access to the books in his younger days at an earlier job at a printing press.
“I worked in a printer’s, and I used to make Lord of the Rings,” Boyd said. “I used to make hundreds and thousands of them, and I still didn’t read it.” But Boyd joked that, when he finally read them years later, he thought that the books were primarily about Pippin.
But that wasn’t as funny as Boyd’s story about being kissed by co-star Viggo Mortenson, who played Aragorn.
In the scene when Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) and Rosie Cotton (Sarah McLeod) get married at the end of The Lord of Rings: Return of the King (2003), it was filmed in a small studio space, and there weren’t actually that many people present, so it was a lonely experience for the actors. Mortenson, who was in a playful mood, went to Boyd’s trailer, woke him up from sleeping, and told him to come to the set and liven things up.
Mortenson and Boyd watched the wedding scene from behind the cameras innocently enough, but then Mortenson suddenly grabbed Boyd and started kissing him on the mouth while filming was going on. Astin started laughing, and his mood showed up on camera. Boyd had no idea he was going to be kissed, and he was shocked.
You can see in Sean’s eyes that he’s like, laughing, so it was a really nice move of Viggo to get a performance out of Sean,” Boyd said, to the delight of the crowd. “But it cost me a lot of money, y’know, paying for a psychiatrist.”
But Boyd claimed he had a much better time kissing co-star Amanda Tapping in a comedy he filmed in 2012 called Space Milkshake. He, Tapping, and actress Kristen Kreuk of Smallville fame played astronauts, and Boyd enjoyed planting one on Tapping more than on Mortenson. Milkshake, overall, was one of the best times Boyd had doing a movie overall.
Boyd kept the energy of the panel lively throughout and brought multiple audience members on stage with him. He danced with Melissa, a science teacher, while she gave a live demonstration of the relationship between the north and south poles and the Earth’s weather. He also handed out free albums by his band, Beecake, to a few fans, one of whom, dressed as a mermaid, sang the LOTR tune “A Walking Song,” the same song Boyd sang as Pippin in Jackson’s films.