Glasgow Evening Times Oct. 26, 2001
Glasgow boys clash swords in the biggest box office duel for years; Billy swotted to be Laird of the Rings

By Andy Dougan

It is the biggest movie battle that anyone can remember.
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 it."
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 do.
"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 was concerned.
"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 spellbound...
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 imagination anyway.
"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 Maryhill.
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 London.
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 life.
"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 happen.
"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.