From Sheffield to Isengard, Tolkien goes on tour! Comedian and blogger John Cooper chats with Charlie Ross, currently touring with his One Man Lord Of The Rings
John Cooper: When did you get the idea for One Man Lord Of The Rings ?
Charlie Ross: “The idea came off the back of my last show, One Man Star Wars . I got the inspiration for that from seeing a friend's solo show based on Star Trek , where he played Captain Kirk. Originally I wrote the Star Wars show as a 25-minute sketch for three people, as I didn’t believe a full show for something as big as Star Wars would work with just one person, but when I performed it myself, as a way of showing the other guys how it would work, the penny dropped that it could be done by one person. So I tried it and it worked.”
I remember seeing your poster in Edinburgh some years ago. Your Star Wars show got quite big following when it started didn’t it?
“Yes, after a year and a half of touring it just got bigger and bigger. I was doing a radio interview and the DJ asked, ‘What does George Lucas think?’, and that was the first time it occurred to me I hadn’t thought to ask.”
Did they send Boba Fett after you?
“Well, shortly after the interview I got an email which simply said ‘We know about you’ – this was in 2004 – and I thought I was going to get my ass sued, but as it happened they invited me to come and do an ‘audition’ and the next thing you know I’m at the San Diego Comic-Con performing to 4,000 people.”
So was LOTR a logical progression?
“At the time LOTR was really popular, so it made sense to do it. I took it to the Vancouver fringe and during the run one night was told there was a special guest in the audience, which turned out to be Sir Ian McKellan.”
What was he like?
“He was very sweet and complimentary and we talked for an hour after the show, and I figured I was in the clear with this show. Then almost the next day I got a ‘cease and desist’ type letter from the powers that be in Middle-earth telling me not to perform the show, but it read more like an invitation ‘not to be sued’ with no explanation. As it happened, Sir Ian was making a movie in Vancouver and invited me to lunch, so I told him my story and he was very supportive, and suggested writing to them. So I became like Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption , wrote a few hundred letters asking for permission to do the show, and eventually – five years later – they said okay. I was, of course, over the moon, and they invited me to Berkeley, California to perform it. The reasons for permission was far bigger stuff – to do with the studios – not my show, and the door was now open.”
You have a few dates left of this tour in England and Ireland, do you have any plans to tour again next year?
“Yes, I’ll be back in the UK next April /May with the One Man Star Wars , then in all likelihood some time after that with One Man Lord of The Rings again, hopefully around the time the new Hobbit movie opens.”
Charlie, thanks for your time and for sharing the interiors of several Premier Inns (other hotels are available).
“Thanks John. You snore, and your feet smell.”
I can't help that. You’re a bad influence, you made us smuggle cider into the cinema to see The Expendables .
“And you nearly reversed the tour car into a child in Wales.”
Er, OK enough now. Thanks again.
John Cooper is currently on tour with the One Man Lord Of The Rings show, and hasn’t had time to too finish reading SFX issue 200, never mind 201. If you want to catch the show find out more at www.onemanlotr.com .