Ring*Con in Bonn, Germany celebrated its 10th anniversary BIG this year, “Back to the roots”! It was originally created as a Lord of the Rings convention, and even though these last few years it has become more fantasy in general themed, it is still spirited by the original core fan base and a profound love of anything Tolkien related. When they announced at last year’s event it would be the 10th year, and that Ring*Con 2012 would take place the weekend of my birthday (5-8 October, of course add to that it is the year of The Hobbit release), I immediately signed up for a gold ticket. And I am so glad I did!
Billy Boyd was one of the first guests to be announced (his second visit to Ring*Con, the first time was in 2004), and I saw I wasn’t the only one who then asked the organization… GREAT, now what about Sean Astin?? They never replied to us, and the guest list soon got filled up (with great names… but no Sean). I stopped thinking about it. Then about a month before the event, suddenly a last minute surprise announcement, a new STAR guest! Sean’s name immediately went to the top of the list.. and when I read that I think I must have given my neighbors quite a scare... YES! Sean is coming!!
Friday 5th October, the first day (my birthday), was a very hectic day. There were lots of great panels and photo sessions, and no way to clone myself to do it all. But the first photo session that I did was with Sean! There were many people lined up, so it was all a bit rushed, and I couldn’t really say much to him besides a quick hello. Still, seeing him on my birthday really made my day! And I love how that photo turned out! Incidentally, I’m also wearing my Vox Populi wristband there!
Then it was time for the opening ceremony, and seeing Sean and Billy on stage together was a special moment for all of us present! Even some of the other actors on stage got a little emotional. Sean came bouncing out, full of energy, and he and Billy pounced on each other. Sean (after high 5ing Team Star kid) had also prepared a little speech in German, and Billy… tried to help? They started dancing when the last bit of music came on, and the crowd went wild! What a great convention this already promised to be! I had one of the best spots too thanks to my gold ticket, center second row!
Later that evening Sean had his first panel. It’s honestly one of the best panels I’ve ever attended. There are some things he said that really made me think and that will stay with me. Here are some of my personal highlights:
- Sean told us the funny story of how he got to be in the show 24.
- He explained to everyone that he is currently doing the voice of Raphael for Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and that the new popular phrase is Booyakashaaaaa (elongated A!)! He had the whole audience repeat and scream out the phrase, that was fun!
- He said that when you think about your legacy, what you leave behind, your mark on the world, that when he dies someday they will definitely show some Sam scenes on the news, and he can feel like he was a part of something special that really stands the test of time. Also talking about Sam a bit later on, he said that Sam delivers a small but vital contribution to the overall story. He has bravery, selflessness, a lot of heart. “And if you can see that in Sam, then it exists in you”.
- He said he feels like a better father because of his children and how they interact with him.
- “People are not pieces on a chess board. Every human interaction is sacred.” These are words his father told him. Now when he comes to conventions for example, he feels this big sense of responsibility to honor that emotional exchange. He takes that responsibility very seriously.
In the evening I scanned through my photos quickly and uploaded some online when I came across this special one, shame it’s a bit blurry, but still a winner! I posted it on twitter along with the others, went to the party to have a few drinks for my birthday, and went to bed one year older but with a smile on my face.
As I said bye (because I held up the line long enough already) he said he’d do his best to remember my face next time (Honestly, Sean, don’t worry about that, I know you see a lot of people at these conventions!) and “see you at New York Comic Con?” Ha, if I only I could! I just replied that he’d see me again tomorrow. He also asked me where I was from, and said wow! When I replied Belgium (which is a weird thing to hear for a Belgian, we’re more used to hearing “where’s that?” It’s just boring old Belgium!) I was so happy about that whole day that I fought through my exhaustion and went to the party again at night! (Normally I don’t go to any of the parties) Sean and Billy were smart enough to go to bed instead I think. But I had lots to celebrate and had a great time in the process!
That next morning I felt surprisingly good after a short night. I saw Sean was already busy tweeting. First thing on the agenda on Sunday was another autograph session, so I got in line for that again. First Billy (who said he would definitely love to come back and bring Dominic Monaghan with him), then Sean, who did recognize me this time. Again, he really took the time to chat with me, saying to the staff member sitting next to him that I was one of his Loyals. Two of my friends were close in the line with me, and I stayed to take photos for them. Annemarie had done the photo shoot with Sean in her hobbit outfit and I just love what he wrote on it: “Rosie with the ribbons in her hair, if ever I was to marry anyone, it would have been…” and an arrow pointing to her in her costume! My other friend April had given him a letter the day before and he commented on a few things to let her know he had honestly read it. I loved watching him interact with everyone, he definitely did his best to make every moment special for every person in front of him, just like he said in his panel on Friday. How is it he always knows the perfect thing to write?
The very last panel of the day was the most special one, of Sean and Billy together. Maybe it’s just me, but it felt like pure magic! Some highlights (well hey, every second of that panel was a highlight!):
- Sean explained the idea behind Run3rd, that first he runs for himself, secondly for his family, thirdly for you. Everyone can send in dedications, and there is now a whole team of captains that then carry those dedications with them, who have Run3rd on their hat, shirt, a sign. (Everyone awwed at that in the crowd). He then said that he would run3rd for Ring*Con and all its beautiful attendants. [Sean's Run3rd blog]
- Someone in the audience asked if they could do a scene, they said they didn’t have the lord of the rings books with them. But of course…. This is a convention full of Tolkien fans; it didn’t take long for someone to produce a (English!) book. Sean and Billy took turns asking questions while the other would try to find an appropriate passage to read. Billy finally settled on reading the lovely poem “The Road Goes Ever On and On”, while Sean read a beautiful passage from Frodo and Sam in Book XI, chapter 3 (Mount Doom) ending with: “I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam”. It brought tears to my eyes! [Video here]
- Since there were some Game of Thrones actors at the convention, part of the stage was the iron throne. Billy went and sat on it, declaring himself King. Sean said Pippin is taking over the world. When Sean was asked if he felt like Sam was the real hero of the story, Billy threatened him to think carefully. Sean then said “everybody knows Pippin is the real hero!”
- Billy was asked to sing Pippin’s song from Return of the King. By this time, Sean had joined him on the throne, and they were sitting there very comfortably together (and my heart melted I swear!) He replied that he gets asked that question every single time, and he always says no. He then turned to Sean and said, but because you’re here…. I’ll do it. He then treated us to a beautiful rendition, he remembered the words perfectly! It was like everyone held their breath in the audience, what a magical moment.
- Billy was asked what it was like kissing Viggo, and Billy said that Viggo is a FANTASTIC kisser. He grabbed his face and kissed him hard, he doesn’t remember much else just waking up in his bed like huh? What happened? Sean then says “but comparatively…….” Yes, comparatively, said Billy, Sean is a slightly better kisser! He has that nice soft upper lip going! “I was first, I kissed him before Viggo ever kissed him too!”
- As answer to the question which Beatle he would be, Sean said he would be…… ummm…. The primary Beatle… he blanked out a bit. Billy said he would be George. Then Sean said he wanted to be George. They argued a bit (“You can’t be George, I’m already George!”) I think Billy finally settled for being Ringo and Sean is then George (they share the same birthday).
- Someone asked what it felt like being Pippin and Sam. Sean: “Short and fat!” Billy: “And sore knees all the time!” But both then said how proud they were.
- If there was a sequel movie about Sam and Pippin specifically, how would it go? Billy impressed me here with his knowledge of Pippin’s story in the book, he retells it faithfully. About how Pippin would get married to Diamond, and their son would marry Sam’s daughter.
- Again TMNT was brought up and Sean did a few voice overs “Stop talking and start fighting!” Billy said that’s how he got his son to eat breakfast; he tells him that he personally knows Raphael.
- Sean said how much he loved seeing an old member of his family again (Billy) .
- If they had to pick a different character to play from Lord of the Rings, which one would they pick? Billy chose Legolas, while Sean then chose Pippin!
- When asked about working with directors, Sean said : “I love it when directors yell at you, you’re not doing it right!!!!” Billy: “I love it when they cast me.” But Peter Jackson had a gentle way about him, and he spoke so many different languages: he spoke actor, technical team, camera, stunt man, wardrobe, etc. All those divisions have their own set of words they use and Peter just knew it all.
- Last question was about the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. Billy started humming some of the music, while Sean then did a bit of the dialogue “here’s Gandalf… “ Unfortunately they had to stop there as time had obviously doubled up and flown by….
And then I’d like to end my long report (kudos if you got this far!) with a thank you to Sean and all the other guests who were there, they were all so exceptionally lovely, genuine, appreciative, patient, and nice to us fans throughout the weekend. It was also my first Ring*Con where I wasn’t alone, I had my friends there with me, both those attending and those reading my tweets/ facebook updates. That’s what takes these conventions to a whole different level, being able to share all those special moments with others. Thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday, who danced, laughed, cried, screamed with me! It was one of those perfect weekends that I’ll remember forever.