“Tolkien knows that every few hundred years or so there comes a challenge to a generation where you can lose it all—your way of life, your civilization,” said Rhys-Davies. “And if you do not have unity, courage and a willingness to sacrifice yourself, you can lose it all.”
Stories of actor Viggo Mortensen’s appearance on “The Charlie Rose Show” wafted through the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue in New York City on Dec. 4.
Mortensen had been in town with other cast and crew members of “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” for a press junket. The night before, Mortensen, who plays Aragorn, Elijah Wood, who plays Frodo Baggins, and director Peter Jackson and had appeared on Rose’s show.
Mortensen had sported a shirt that read, “No more blood for oil,” and spent several minutes criticizing U.S. foreign policy.
Mortensen had to leave the junket, but those who remained to face a roundtable of religion writers were willing to talk about their own views of war and peace, good and evil.
With those themes resonating throughout the work of J.R.R. Tolkien—Lord of the Rings author and veteran of the Battle of the Somme—everyone had an opinion.
“In a curious way, there is such a resonance between what Tolkien is talking about and where we are today,” said John Rhys-Davies, the 58-year-old Englishman who plays Gimli, the dwarf.
“Tolkien knows that every few hundred years or so there comes a challenge to a generation where you can lose it all—your way of life, your civilization,” he said. “And if you do not have unity, courage and a willingness to sacrifice yourself, you can lose it all.”
“I think all of Tolkien’s themes are important,” said director Peter Jackson, 41, from New Zealand. “I think they’re very timeless. It’s depressing, in reality. It’s depressing that 50 years after he wrote this book—he wrote it during World War II—the world really hasn’t moved on. And I suspect 50 years from now it won’t be much different. It makes them timeless, but it also is all a little bit depressing, really.”
Rhys-Davies talked freely and at length about a potential war with Iraq, which he thought was inevitable.
“Tolkien is aware of the presence of evil,” Rhys-Davies said. “And evil is a very unfashionable thing to talk about in our time. It makes everyone squirm.”
Dominic Monaghan, 26, from Manchester, England, plays the hobbit Merry. He told the roundtable that he and other members of the cast had given the issue a lot of thought.
“The term ‘good versus evil’ is a confusing thing for me because I don’t know if the lines can be drawn that easily,” he said. “They’re kind of blurred. I’m sure there are different countries around the world that have considered both Billy and myself’s country evil.”
Monaghan was referring to Billy Boyd, his 34-year-old co-star from Glasgow, Scotland, who plays Merry’s friend and fellow hobbit, Pippin.
“It’s just an upsetting kind of world to live in,” Monaghan said. “I’ve never really experienced this kind of conflict before. I’ve always lived in a peaceful kind of time. It is confusing and it is upsetting. But I don’t really know if the term ‘good versus evil’ is appropriate. It’s just two different cultures clashing together.”
When one reporter asked Rhys-Davies if he believed in God, he said, in his youth, he had doubted the existence of a personal God, but that recent events (like having an accident on a film set in Croatia) had led him to believe that God was trying to get his attention.
However, Rhys-Davies said, “life experience has asserted the existence of a devil. Wherever men get together and lose sight of their humanity, they will create a devil beyond belief.”
Billy Boyd was quiet and pensive as he talked about good and evil, war and peace. “I think war is always awful, and I don’t know what the other options are,” he said. “If you feel as though something awful is happening somewhere, what do you do? Because war always seems to be the wrong thing, but I don’t know what the other thing to do is.”
Rhys-Davies pointed a way forward: “In a way we need the spirituality of the elf. We need the earthy, indestructible quality of the dwarf,” he said. “Above all, we need the great and good, simple heart of the hobbit, and we must aspire to be the king that has yet to come into his place.”
Monaghan, on the other hand, was much more straightforward.
“Trying to get everybody to just calm down would be a great way forward,” he said.
Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director for EthicsDaily.com.
Visit the movie’s official Web site at http://www.lordoftherings.net.