Cape native soldiers on in 'Lord of the Rings'

Saturday, August 9, 2003

When the final installment of the movie trilogy "The Lord of the Rings" hits theaters in December, one of the early scenes will show King Theoden making a victory speech while surrounded by his soldiers and women and children. Unless he's brutally thrown onto the cutting room floor, one of those soldiers will be Cape Girardeau native Warren Williams.

Williams is not an aspiring actor. The University of Missouri-Columbia business major happened to be in the right place and have the right look last spring when director Peter Jackson was reshooting scenes for the last movie, titled "The Return of the King."

After shooting the scene as a soldier of Rohan, Williams was called back to play one of the mud people called orcs, his face hidden by a mask. He acknowledges that only Jackson knows whether the three or four scenes will make the final cut. But he's happy to have played any small role.

"Part of it is because I really enjoy the books. They fascinated me," he said.

Recognizing all the props and sets from the previous two movies also made an impression. "It felt like being part of something huge," Williams said. "It's like our generation's 'Star Wars,' an instant classic."

Williams, the son of Robin and Dr. Craig Williams of Cape Girardeau, went to New Zealand last February to take classes at Victoria University in Wellington. He let his strawberry blond beard grow out while visiting some of the southern islands during a two-week break in April. On his return, one of his fellow students told him the makers of "The Lord of the Rings" had put out a call for people with blond hair and beards. The casting call was only a 30-minute train ride away.

Though special effects are used liberally in the "Lord of the Rings" movies, Williams says Jackson is a stickler for realism. The tables in the speech scene were piled with real food, including a roast pig. The soldiers raised goblets containing real beer, albeit Mac's Light, a New Zealand beer with 1 percent alcohol.

Williams' orc is in a mask because he's in the background, but those closer to the camera wear prosthetic skin. "Everybody has different masks," he said. "It's not just a carbon copy."

Williams' movie career lasted two days, one 12 hours, the other 15. He was paid $160.

But it's not as if the extras were overworked, he said. "Sixty to seventy percent of the times was spent sitting around reading and talking to people, waiting for them to redo the scene. The orc scenes were the most difficult because the mask was hot."

Williams is a 2000 Central High School graduate. He ran cross country, was on the swimming team and helped run the sound and lights for the drama club. "It didn't interest me to be in the spotlight," he said.

Now that he has had a taste of working in the movies, he wouldn't mind trying more.

His sister, Katie, a student at Central High School, is involved in drama and is interested in directing.

"I think she's jealous," he said.

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