Interview: Adrian Webster on playing Strider

Back in November we interviewed the director of a forthcoming fan film The Hunt For Gollum. Fan films are a sophisticated genre these days, with pro-level tools and equipment increasingly available to the fan in the street. We subsequently caught up with actor Adrian Webster, who's working on The Hunt For Gollum, stepping into the big shoes of Viggo Mortensen - that's right, he is Aragorn/Strider! He chatted with SFX about the experience of making an independent film in the Tolkien universe. Remember, if you are signed up to our newsletter , you would have had a sneak peek of this article last week...

SFX: Have you made many films before? Where might we have seen your work?
Adrian Webster:
"I've been active on the independent circuit for a while now making features and shorts. I've worked with the director [of Gollum] before on a zombie flick called Human Residue . It's really exciting to work with young film makers because they are the future of the British film industry. There's also a short film, produced as a test run for the cast and crew of Human Residue. A strange vision of the future called The Machine ."

"And I'm producing a feature film. An action movie about an ex-soldier running from his past in the military. It's produced with modern standards but I wanted to capture the feel of the action movies from the '80s and early '90s. I'm a big fan of Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Van Damme (the three Kings of action cinema for me). I'd love to make features in this genre."

SFX: What other productions are you most proud of?
Webster:
"I'd say I'm most proud of a film called The Cellar Project , which is my directorial debut as a film maker. It's a 20-minute short about two guys who are kidnapped. I wanted to focus on the drama, so it's mostly dialogue, based around events out of their control. These events bring a certain level of drama and tension to the situation. It's an improvised piece so I suppose, for film, it's experimental. It's almost ready for the festival circuit and just needs some audio mixing, but other than that it's good to go."

SFX: Gollum is an epic fantasy story - is that an unusual genre for you, or have you worked in this milieu before? Are you a Tolkien fan?
Webster:
"Fantasy films are certainly unusual for independent cinema; unfortunately with low budgets it's generally not possible. I'm glad to say that with good locations, costumes and CGI it's looking great so far. I don't want to spoil it for the fans but I'm very excited about the incredible action sequence in the movie, when Strider is confronted by a hoard of Orcs. It's great to do months of training, learning techniques with the sword and running through fight choreography in the studio. You can't do a LOTR fan film without some bone-crunching Orc action and I'm glad to say we have it!"

"I'm definitely a fan of the [Peter Jackson] films, one of the best trilogies ever made! I wasn't quite as knowledgeable about the actual books, my first introduction being from [directory] Mr Bouchard himself, who understands the material extremely well."

SFX: Despite it being ostensibly a "fan film" it looks very professional indeed - what was the experience like of working with so many volunteers?
Webster:
"Working with an independent crew is great. At the end of the day nobody's getting paid, so you know we're all there to make the best movie possible. It started with a small crew but as word got round we had plenty of people on location. It's definitely the biggest and most talented independent crew I've worked with."

SFX: What new opportunities do you think the internet brings to actors and audiences?

Webster: "For the fan film audience it's really cool because you get to revisit the world you loved so much from the original movie. If its done well it can almost be an extension of that universe. For actors it's great because the internet is a huge medium to show your work and it provides instant access. You see something you like and you can check it out immediately. Hopefully some of the bigger directors, who are into this kind of thing will check it out. Wait a minute... isn't Guillermo casting for a fantasy movie soon... ?!"

SFX: Who are your fellow actors, and have you worked with any of them before?
Webster:
"I've worked with Arin Alldridge on Human Residue. He's a really good actor with great delivery. Although he did fall off the horse during the shoot, it's cool though no lasting damage you'll be pleased to know. I think he got a kick out of it to be honest!"

"We've also got Gareth Brough leading the attack for Mordor. He's a big fan of creatures in movies so when you stick him in a mask it's like a transformation takes place... Goblok has arrived!"

SFX: What did you learn from observing the performance of Viggo Mortensen?
Webster:
"That he's a super cool actor and I shouldn't go anywhere near the role! That's the kind of reaction you have when you sit down and think about it for the first time. I didn't want to copy him, that would have been a huge mistake because you're not going to do it any better than he did."

"The director had certain physical things he wanted to introduce. The way he walks and the narrowing of my eyes. He's smart enough to know that if I resemble him that will help the movie along. I also needed to change the way I spoke because my Yorkshire accent wasn't going to sound good in this movie. So I balanced the accent out - leaning towards RP was the way to go."

SFX: So, you were able to bring elements of your own interpretation to it?
Webster:
"I think every actor brings their own presence to a role, which is the main thing I tried to do. I think this can transcend character for many of the mainstream actors. So as long as it's my performance of Strider, I'm happy with that. I did focus on understanding Strider's history and goals."

"In terms of characterisation I tried to create a super objective (apologies for the actors lingo here) that anchors the performance. I went with this goal 'I wish to be accepted in the world of Men and voice the name Aragorn son of Arathorn'. After discussion with the Director he suggested a more lofty objective 'I wish to fight for my race and the future of Middle Earth'. This blew me away because it put everything into perspective, I was able to intensify my performance based on this adjustment."

SFX: We see from the web that you're also a screen writer with your own production company - what are you aiming to work on next?
Webster:
"I'm directing my second short film very soon. We're just waiting on a location at the moment. A ten minute piece about a guy, who accepts a game of Russian Roulette for a huge sum of money. He's in a bad situation and he needs it big time. So from here the future's bright, I've got my show reel on spotlight . Pretty soon I'll have a Directors show reel available too and then I'll move onto another short. A story about the ramifications for our society and how a serial killer can become a celebrity!"

SFX: Thanks Adrian!

You can check out the trailer over at the site www.thehuntforgollum.com , and keep your eyes out for a another picture in SFX issue 178, on sale next week. Are you working on any exciting fan projects? Get in touch with SFX and let us know!