boys clash swords in the biggest box office duel for years; Billy swotted to
be Laird of the Rings
It is the biggest movie battle that anyone
Two films, each tipped by their supporters to be the most successful ever
made, going head to head at the box office.
In the red corner Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, in the blue
corner The Lord of the Rings. And each film features career- making
performances from two young Glasgow actors.
Andy Dougan spoke to the boys who are poised on the brink of stardom.
THE ROAD TO FAME Sean Biggerstaff
Age: 18 Television debut:The Crow Road Film debut: The Winter Guest Stage
experience: Countless shows with Scottish Youth Theatre Next film: Harry
Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Billy Boyd Age: 33 Television debut:
Taggart Film debut: An Urban Ghost Story Stage experience: Billy has
worked extensively on stage including roles in productions of Much Ado About
Nothing, Trainspotting, The Slab Boys and The Merchant of Venice Next film:
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Billy Boyd has spent most of this week
treading the boards at the Tron Theatre in The Ballad of Crazy Paola.
But, within the next month his life is likely to become just as crazy as the
titular Paola as he throws himself into a publicity frenzy for one of the
most eagerly-anticipated films in years. The 33- year-old Glasgow actor has
a key role in The Lord of the Rings and, if everything goes as it should,
his life is about to change beyond recognition.
The adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy is so spectacular that it
will take three films to tell the whole tale. It is the most ambitious and
expensive project ever undertaken by Hollywood.
The first of the films is released this Christmas with the other two
following in Christmas 2002 and 2003.
For Billy, who plays Pippin the Hobbit in all three films, it is quite
simply the chance of a lifetime.
"Pippin is one of the four Hobbits who go on this adventure,"
Billy explains, "and they are the least likely people to have charge
over the ring. They are very naive and innocent, which actually makes them
the ideal people to have the ring because it can corrupt anyone who uses
According to Billy, Pippin, the youngest of the Hobbits, is the one most
likely to get into trouble. He's also the one with the most growing up to
"Pippin features in all three films and the great thing is that he has
a tremendous character arc through the movies as he matures and grows,"
says Billy enthusiastically.
"To do that in one performance is an actor's dream. The story takes
place over a span of thirteen months so it was almost real time as far as I
"One day you'd go in and there might be a broad comic scene and the
next day you might be in a battle scene on top of a mountain. It's a real
Boy's Own story."
THE man behind the project is young New Zealand director Peter Jackson who
insisted on filming the trilogy in his own country.
"I spent a year and a half in New Zealand," says Billy, but there
wasn't much chance of getting either homesick or stir crazy.
"We did have to work a lot," he explains. "Even when you
weren't filming you would do things for special effects shots and different
costume and make-up tests. There was always something to do.
"It was very seldom that you would have two weeks off unless it was
scheduled for the whole crew."
Billy landed the part virtually from his first audition.
"You would expect several auditions for a movie of this size. I just
met the casting director," he says.
"Two months later I went to meet Pete and he had someone film it. He
gave me some direction, we talked about the character and his importance to
the story and that was it. A month later the part was mine.
"New Line Cinema gave Pete an awful lot of freedom which meant he could
get the people he wanted and they trusted his decisions."
IN what little down time he had in New Zealand Billy learned to surf and is
eager to get to some of Scotland's better surfing beaches whenever the
chance presents itself.
He also picked up another skill. He reckons if Mastermind was still on TV he
could go on with Tolkien as his specialist subject.
"I read The Hobbit when I was a lot younger," he recalls.
"But I don't think then I even knew about Lord of the Rings, that there
was any more to the story than The Hobbit.
"Once I got the part I was doing a play in Edinburgh so I read Lord of
the Rings on the train.
"Then of course in New Zealand I probably read it about ten times. I'm
a bit of an expert now," he says proudly.
Like Harry Potter, there will be thousands of Tolkien fans waiting to pounce
on every perceived inaccuracy in Lord of the Rings. Billy acknowledges the
weight of expectation but he thinks the nit-pickers might be disappointed.
"The good thing is that we used a lot of feedback from Tolkein fans and
we even used Tolkein illustrators in our concept designs," he explains.
"When you see some of our scenes it will look exactly like you imagined
it from the books.
"Anyway," he concludes, "it's not a definitive version of
Lord of the Rings, it's a version of Lord of the Rings. Pete Jackson's
version, but hopefully people can enjoy and relate to it."
lLord of the Rings opens in Glasgow on December 19.
Potter call that left Sean
Sean Biggerstaff is very fortunate to have spent a large part of his life
imagining things that weren't there.
It's an acquired skill but it helped the 18-year-old from Milngavie cope
with his dream role in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Sean plays Oliver Wood, captain of the Hogwarts School quidditch team. As
such he is something of a hero to young Harry.
"I don't know about hero so much," Sean demurs, "but he is a
sporting coach and mentor."
The thing about quidditch is that although, according to Sean, it doesn't
take long to master the hard part is learning to fly. Quidditch is played on
broomsticks which meant long sequences of special effects which promise to
be among the highlights in a film.
Like everyone else connected with the film Sean is sworn to secrecy about
these scenes and how they were done. He will allow that they took a long
time to shoot and he was grateful for the time he spent learning his craft
at the Scottish Youth Theatre.
"It's not that hard to work with things that aren't really there,"
he explains. "When you're performing you're pretty much using your
"I come from years of doing theatre with no sets or props at SYT. You
would always end up having to do a piece you had just made up involving
swords and a tank, neither of which you had," he laughs. "So you
get into the way of it."
Sean joined SYT when he was 11 after four years at a local drama group in
It was through SYT that he got his big break as one of the two leads in
actor Alan Rickman's directorial debut The Winter Guest.
That was four years ago. Now he's finished his education, is a full-time
actor, and shares the same agent as Rickman at the giant ICM agency in
HIS introduction to the big time could not have been more sudden.
"I had only joined ICM a week before they got the call about Harry
Potter," he says, amazed at his luck.
Although casting for Harry and the other two children involved a worldwide
search, casting Oliver was a more traditional process.
"For me it was one on one," he remembers. "There might have
been a lot of competition but I wasn't aware of it.
"I met the casting director for a short interview and then met director
Christopher Columbus a few days later and that was it."
Sean was convinced that he'd missed out on the part and was prepared to
chalk it all up to experience when he got the call that would change his
"When it's that quick you think they don't like you then two days later
you get a call asking if you want to do two movies," he laughs, still
amazed at what he describes as a million to one shot.
By good luck he had started to read the Harry Potter books. After he got the
part he ploughed through them.
"It wasn't so much that I felt a sense of responsibility," he
insists, "it's just that they were so good, and once you start one you
have to read them all."
Being a Potter fan himself, Sean is ideally placed to reassure those who are
concerned about how close the film will be to the book.
"They have been pretty faithful," he says. "There is always
going to be a certain amount of that with any book but I don't think the
fans should have any problem."
Now that the first film is on the point of release, Sean is keenly awaiting
the screenplay for the second one. But, once again, he is sworn to secrecy.
As for how a part in what may be the most successful film ever made will
affect his life, he'll just have to wait and see.
"In career terms there've been a lot of possibilities," says Sean.
"I've gone for films which weren't right and a few which just didn't
"I have no idea what affect it is going to have in other areas.
"If you're playing Harry Potter I would imagine it would be ridiculous
but for someone like me, as a supporting role, it's hard to judge just how
crazy it's going to get."
In the meantime, Sean is as keen to see the finished film as everyone else.
"I went to see a film in Glasgow just the other week and saw the Harry
Potter trailer," he says. "I thought 'That's amazing. I can't wait
to see that'. Then I remembered it was the film I was in," he laughs.
"So that's a good sign."
lHarry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone opens in Glasgow on November 16.