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Oscars: Photo From Los Angeles

Photos From Los Angeles

Photography by Deborah Hillman

It's just not on the red carpet that The Lord of the Rings has had an impact in Tinseltown...

In an Air New Zealand initiative, Kiwi actor Bruce Hopkins, who plays Gamling, trusted advisor to King Theoden of Rohan in the movie trilogy, joined J.R.R. Tolkien's great-grandson Royd Tolkien at a Los Angeles school on Friday (Saturday NZ time) together with fellow Kiwi Lord of the Rings actors Lawrence Makaore and Sala Baker.

Bruce Hopkins: front, black T shirt; Sala Baker: blue T shirt, white hat; Lawrence Makaore: leather jacket, sunglasses; Royd Tolkien: end, navy shirt, white long sleeves.

The theatrical Kiwi 'roadshow' visited three Los Angeles schools to celebrate the success of a literacy project that inspired 10 - 17 year olds in schools scattered across the city to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Straight off his Air New Zealand flight to Los Angeles, Bruce arrived at Tetzlaff Middle School with a suitcase packed with Lord of the Rings-themed Air New Zealand postcards and posters for the children to take home as a reminder of the day. He was joined by Lawrence, Sala and Royd and spent an hour with 125 of the keenest Rings fans, answering questions about the movies, the book and Middle-earth....on the eve of the Oscars.

Under the Operation Read project, if students agreed to read each book in the trilogy, which were donated to the scheme, and write an essay they won tickets to see the appropriate movie. In the first year this project engaged 1,000 children, rising to 4,000 in the second year and 12,000 for The Return of the King. A school party actually visited New Zealand (Middle-earth) in 2003 thanks to Air New Zealand and Newmans and met Prime Minister Helen Clark and Peter Jackson, with the assistance of the New Zealand Consulate in Los Angeles.

Bruce's interest in talking about his Lord of the Rings experience with schoolchildren stemmed from his Air New Zealand-organised visit to Wainui Beach School in Gisborne in December, with Captain Bruce Donnelly, the pilot of the airline's Frodo 747 who flew a low-level flypast of six North Island cities on world premiere day December 1. The children had choreographed themselves to form 'THANKS!' in the playground as the 747 swept overhead - prompting the pilot wanting to meet the children to express his thanks and take Bruce Hopkins along as a special surprise for the children.

Bruce persuaded his friends Lawrence Makaore (who played Lurtz and the Witch King in the Fellowship of the Ring and then the leader of the Uruk-Hai in the assault on Helm's Deep - as well as previous roles in Lee Tamahori's James Bond and Once Were Warriors) and Sala Baker (who played Sauron the dark lord in The Lord of the Rings together with lead Orc and Uruk-Hai roles) to join him in the schools venture.

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