Stephen Fry cast as The Master of Laketown

Sir Peter Jackson has cast English actor and comedian Stephen Fry as The Master of Laketown in his Hobbit movies:

Some more HOBBIT casting news today. As we near the end of our first shooting block (we have a break in less than three weeks to get some editing and visual effects work done, plus prepare for very big scenes coming up), we are looking at characters featuring in sequences that take place a little later in the story.

We are thrilled to confirm that Stephen Fry will be playing The Master of Laketown. I’ve known Stephen for several years, and we’re developing a DAMBUSTERS movie together. In addition to his writing skills, he’s a terrific actor and will create a very memorable Master for us.

The Master’s conniving civil servant, Alfrid will be played by Ryan Gage. Ryan is a great young actor who we originally cast in a small role, but we liked him so much, we promoted him to the much larger Alfrid part.

ource: Peter Jackson

World’s First Hobbit Movie Cover

Empire, the first magazine in the world to put The Hobbit on its cover.

Over ten years ago, catching a whiff something really big was going down in New Zealand, Empire decided to feature the next film from promising Kiwi director Peter Jackson on its cover. After all, he just happened to be making The Lord Of The Rings. Listen closely to his commentary on Return Of The King and Jackson actually recalls the day that issue of Empire arrived on set — he couldn’t quite get his head around the fact they were still shooting! To paraphrase someone in a black and white movie, it was the start of a beautiful friendship.

So in honour of Jackson’s long-awaited return to Middle-earth for two dragon-and-dwarf-laden prequels — as a “good luck charm” according the director — Empire takes its symbolic and rightful place as the first magazine in the world to put The Hobbit on its cover. A resplendent ‘younger’ Gandalf the Grey (look closely for subtle differences in costume from his 60-year older Rings self) taking centre stage alongside the first look at Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins (keep your eyes peeled for a hint or two of dwarf in the issue).

Personally invited onto the set barely a month into production, Empire delightedly watched a film — two films — already in full swing. Thirteen cantankerous dwarves, one barely tolerant wizard, and a befuddled hobbit are seen arriving at the gates of Rivendell and sneered at by local elves. Jackson assures us he is once again reaching for the mighty spectacle of Lord Of The Rings, but also bringing a certain ‘Hobbity-ness’ all its own. “The tone is actually the part of it I’m enjoying the most,” he laughs, casting a fond eye upon his rabble of exotic dwarves, clattering about set like they own the place. “They have a healthy disregard for the icons of Middle-earth.”

For the full story see the August issue of Empire out on June 30.

Source: Empire Magazine

First Look at Balin and Dwalin in The Hobbit

Dwarf Lords in their own right, Balin and Dwalin are close relatives of Thorin. Beyond this, these brothers are two of his most loyal and trusted friends.

An old warrior, Balin has lived through hard times and fought many battles, yet he harbors doubts about the wisdom of the Quest to retake the Lonely Mountain.

Dwalin has no such forebodings – his belief in Thorin’s leadership is unshakeable. A powerful and bruising fighter, with a natural tendency to distrust anyone who is not a Dwarf, particularly anyone who might be an Elf, Dwalin is not someone to cross lightly

Orlando Bloom thrills Wellington shoppers

Hollywood star Orlando Bloom has been seen out and about in Wellington, joining a growing number of Hobbit actors arriving in the city as production resumes after a three-month hiatus. Wellingtonians Miranda Webster, Aggie Galloway, Kayla Carruthers, Sam Walton and Hannah Robson met Bloom yesterday when they saw him shopping in the central city. Ms […]

The Alamo Drafthouse Harry Potter Feast


Butter Beer

The Alamo Drafthouse Harry Potter Feast   

Hungry for Harry Potter? The Alamo Drafthouse presents a special feast of mouth-watering, magical entrées for moviegoers heading to their cinemas to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Even if you don’t live near a Drafthouse theater, you can still feast your eyes on what Executive Chef John Bullington has concocted in this exclusive gallery. Here, Bullington provides his inspirations for each dish, keeping the theme of objects important to the film.

The Elder Wand

The Elder Wand

We start with one of the Deathly Hallows, the Elder Wand. It is an English Ale-battered asparagus spear wrapped in smoked salmon and elderberry garlic jam.




Forbidden Forrest Pasty

Forbidden Forrest Pasty

For the second entrée, a pasty is offered which is traditionally a pie crust filled with savory ingredients and baked like a dumpling or empanada. Rather than put potatoes, found in most pasties, inside the filling we made the pastry for it out of potato. The filling evokes the woods, consisting of roasted fresh local hens, wild mushrooms and herbs. It is served with a green tomato, cherry chutney.




The third dish is Amortentia (not pictured) which is the most intense love potion wizards know. It is a simple cool puree of English Cucumber with crispy bacon and fresh herbs.





Many of the meals prepared in Harry Potter are over the top, fantastical events with heaps of food. This is inspired by the cloak of invisibility from the film as things aren’t quite what they seem as the ingredients are hidden from sight by a pastry and only revealed once you remove it. The entrée is a slight twist on Beef Wellington with seared N.Y. strip topped with Stilton and shaved shallot wrapped in pastry and roasted to a nice golden crust.

The Sorcerer’s Scone

The Sorcerer's Scone

Dessert for the film is a simple goofy pun, which we tend to love. It is a sweet blackberry/buttermilk scone with lime marmalade and clotted cream. The scones are baked quickly and to order while traditional clotted cream is slowly reduced overnight resulting in a thick caramel like cream.


Summer Pudding

Summer Pudding

This entrée is only available on the Harry Potter Marathon Menu, a special offering of a la carte dishes exclusive to the eight film marathon screenings. The Potter Marathon Specials are all old favorites brought back from our past Potter menus. The summer pudding is a classic dessert, perfect for the summer as buttery bread is stuffed with the summer’s finest berries and transformed into a sweet stuffed cake.

Mrs. Weasley’s Onion Soup

Mrs. Weasley's Onion Soup

Also part of the Harry Potter Marathon Menu, we represent the most prolific cook of the series, Mrs. Weasley, with a soup full of onions, topped with garlic chives, and toasted bread topped with a chive-laced English Cheddar.



Seared Trout Salad

Seared Trout Salad

The Harry Potter Specials Menu features a la carte dishes for the run of the film, including a seared trout salad. My ancestors came from England and when visiting there many years ago I stumbled upon Bullington Manor in the small town of Bullington. Through the estate ran a gold medal trout stream, so trout is often something I think of when creating British recipes. It is served with a spicy Colman’s Mustard thyme dressing, teardrop tomatoes, rashers of bacon and blackberries. It has simple yet distinct flavors which come together quite nicely.

John Bullington

Introducing…John Bullington, the Alamo Drafthouse’s Executive Chef. His Harry Potter themed menu keeps the British essence of the films and offers all sorts of ingredients and cooking styles found in Great Britain.

Autistic impressions

Adam – a new film that portrays autism
By Laura Schocker

BBC News Magazine

Hollywood movies rarely deal with disability – except for autism, when characters are typically shown as having special intelligence. Why do we like to think everyone with autism is especially gifted?

In one evening, he memorised every name and number from A to G in the phone book. While waiting for a meal in a restaurant, he committed the entire tableside jukebox to memory.

A dropped box of toothpicks? One glance and he is certain that 246 have spilt on the floor.

His mind was like a computer and, for years, Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man character has often been the first reference point for autism.


Dustin Hoffman’s Raymond Babbitt – setting the mould for autistic savant characters

Other films since this 1988 release have depicted similar areas of brilliance that are sometimes associated with autism, known as savant qualities.

In 1998, for instance, Mercury Rising told the story of a nine-year-old autistic boy who used his savant abilities to crack a $2bn encryption code.

And in Mozart and the Whale, a 2006 film about two savants with Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning type of autism, Josh Hartnett’s character could glance at his watch and then calculate exactly how long he has had his job as a taxi driver.

The link between autism and savant skills in cinemas is clear, but does art really imitate life? Do people with autism always have an amazing intellectual skill?

“The simple answer is no,” says Dr Stuart Murray professor of contemporary literature and film at the University of Leeds and author of the book Representing Autism. “By far, the majority of people with autism do not have any kind of savant ability.”

‘Autism celebrities’

In fact, the current estimate is that one or two in 200 people with an autism spectrum disorder have a savant talent, according to the National Autistic Society, although the exact numbers are still unknown in the UK.


A developmental disability that influences how a person communicates and relates to others

Often referred to as a spectrum disorder – because it affects people differently

Asperger syndrome is a type of autism at the less severe end of that spectrum

More than half a million people in the UK have an autism spectrum disorder

Source: National Autistic Society

Well known savants – including Kim Peek, who partially inspired Rain Man, Steven Wiltshire, a London artist who can recall entire cityscapes after brief observation, and Daniel Tammet, author of Born on a Blue Day, about living as an autistic savant – are the exception to the autism rule, Dr Murray says.

“These people are almost like autism celebrities,” he says. “It’s not something that crops up very much in the day to day life of living with autism.”

So if autistic savants are the exception and not the norm, why are they are they so over-represented in films?

“It’s a very sexy way of looking at autism,” says Jonathan Kaufman, president of Disability Works in the US and technical consultant for Adam, a new Hollywood film featuring a leading character with autism.

While his work with Adam, which went on general release in the UK at the weekend, was about capturing the day-to-day nuances of a person with Asperger’s – something he wishes would happen more often – he understands why many films have seized on savants.

“It focuses on the almost superhuman nature of the disability itself,” he says. “Somebody who is gifted has always had a place in society.”

They tend to be the stories audiences want, says Dr Murray. Films about disabilities typically focus on two types of story lines, he says. Either:

the disability provides some kind of incredible skill or quality that “makes up” for the negative, or

the person finds a way to “rise above” adversity

“It doesn’t seem to be as bad to be severely autistic if you’re also skilled at maths or music,” he says. “If it seems to be that with your disability comes an extraordinary ability, it takes away the worst aspects of being disabled.”

_46183463_wiltshire_226Artistic licence

This can be a comfort to audiences.

Stephen Wiltshire in a BBC documentary called Fragments of Genius

“Everybody who is not disabled is fundamentally very scared by the possibility of becoming disabled,” says Dr Murray.

But what about people who do have autism? While mainstream movies with autistic characters may increase awareness about the disability, how does it affect what the public expect of the condition?

“I have spoken to many families who say that they feel really depressed and devastated when they get this portrayal,” says Uta Frith, emeritus professor of cognitive development at the University College London.

While she understands films have artistic license to create compelling stories, the aftermath can be difficult for parents of children with autism.

“It seems almost like their fault that their child isn’t like that.”

And it can go beyond childhood. Robyn Steward, a 22-year-old in London with Asperger’s syndrome says some people still think she’s the Rain Man.

“People expect you, as an autistic person, to be really good at maths, or a walking calculator,” she says. In reality, she doesn’t care much for numbers. “Everyone is an individual and has their own interests and not everybody is a savant. So maybe people see it in Rain Man. But that’s not the full story.”


Many of recent films about autism have focused on characters with Asperger syndrome, says Dr Murray

People with Aspergers tend to have average or above average intelligence, but struggle to read social signals or understand jokes, metaphor or sarcasm

In Adam, for instance, Rose Byrne, who plays Adam’s love interest, asks him, “Could you give me a hug?” He says yes and stands there until she makes things a bit clearer – “Adam, I’d like you to give me a hug.”

Asperger’s syndrome

What type of story would Steward like to see on the big screen? Something a bit closer to her own experience, maybe with a character diagnosed later in life, she says.

Dr Murray agrees. As a father of two children on the autistic spectrum, he says he relates more to something like The Black Balloon, an Australian film released last year. The story focuses on a family living with an autistic son and depicts scenes with the boy running down the street naked or throwing himself down on the supermarket floor.

It may not be as romantic as the story of a maths genius, but it’s the reality, says Dr Murray.

“We’ve all had the supermarket thing happen. This rings true to us in a way that somebody doing the square root of a million and nine doesn’t,” he says.

The film was not a box office hit in the UK. It went straight to DVD.

Here is a selection of your comments.

My brother is severely autistic but we have recently found he does have a special ability – he can tell you what day of the week any day in history was. Ok, it’ll never make a Hollywood blockbuster, but hopefully we can entertain some people in the queue at Sainsbury’s rather than lying on the floor like he has done for the past 16 years!

Dave Howarth, Leatherhead, Surrey

My cousin is autistic and has an amazing ability to do jigsaws; she might start in the top left corner and completes the jigsaw row by row until she reaches the bottom right corner. She just seems to instinctively know exactly where each piece fits in the overall, 1000 piece plus, picture. So, it appears she has outstanding visual and spatial abilities but we cannot fully understand them, or her, as she cannot speak to us. I think this lack of verbal communication makes it difficult for people to identify with her, perhaps not making her, or other children with severe autism, ideal heroes for films.

Josie, Bristol

I don’t think there is anything wrong with portraying autistic people as being gifted. It may not be factually correct but offsets a lot of the otherwise negative information around about autism. It is possible for people with autism to live full and happy (if different) lives. When parents of children with autism find out that their child is autistic they are bombarded with scare stories about how difficult the rest of their lives are going to be. It is good to have messages of hope out there and important to always keep a positive perspective when dealing with autism.

Charlie Browne, Ireland

My son, aged six has Asperger’s Syndrome. He is of above average intelligence and does not have super human powers! However, like many on the autistic spectrum he has a “special” interest, in my son’s case in cars. From a young age he could identify most makes and models of vehicle, and I am channelling that interest to help him with areas of academic life that he struggles with, such as maths. People don’t see him as “autistic” they see this obsession as part of his personality. His school report described him as having a “charming personality” and “popular”. All I want is for my son to have a happy, fulfilling life, and romanticising conditions such as Asperger’s and autistic spectrum disorders does nothing to help this!

Rachel, Bristol, England

I am the father of a mildly autistic son who is now six years old, not Asperger’s but Classic Kanners. I am always searching for something that reflects the type of autism my boy has. The Black Balloon was a great film but shows severe autism. I would like to heartily recommend the Dutch film “Ben X” (with English subtitles) which portrays a socially functioning but autistic teenager. Please can we have more like films like this one with it’s realistic portrayal rather than Hollywood Glamour stories.
Paul Bruff, London

I have taught children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder for four years and while it’s true that some are quite intelligent (though hard to measure) very, very few possess amazing super-skills. It is an unfair expectation and one that actually hinders society’s willingness to grapple with the issue. The truly gifted have a chance of obtaining public support; the average get lost in the morass of official apathy and ignorance.

Keith Giunta, Camden, USA

Your article asks ‘if autistic savants are the exception and not the norm, why are they are they so over-represented in films?’ – that would be because if films represented real life then most of us wouldn’t bother to watch. You don’t walk down the street and see car chases, serial killers, and spies on every corner, but the day to day reality most of us live is simply not movie material. I suspect that the day to day reality of autism would be much the same.

Shiz, Cheshire, UK

Hollywood tends to avoid stories about physical disability too – except blindness. In “Scent of a Woman” Al Pacino plays a blind veteran whose sense of smell is greatly enhanced so that he can tell what perfume any woman is wearing. “Daredevil” has Ben Affleck’s blind superhero able to use his advanced sense of hearing almost as sonar that gives him the ability to “see” his surroundings.

There are exceptions of course, but with blindness too cinema tries to give people pleasing stories: “don’t worry, they may be blind, but by extension they get superpowers!”

Shane, Mayo, Ireland

I wish I had amazing skills with my autistic spectrum disorders! Sadly I just get problems with communicating, confusion with numbers and the added bonus of having walking outside be akin to an extreme sport.

Still, I’ve got lots of supportive friends and family, and a great job, so what more do I need. 

Sharon, London, UK

My son who suffers from the autistic condition Asperger’s Syndrome does not have super human powers. He struggled at school and at 29 still cannot add up or tell the time. Yet he can tell you everything you need to know (director/producer/date/music score etc) about a film he is interested in, and there are many. 

Sue Birch, Mont de Marsan France

I have Asperger’s and went to a special needs school for it. Most of the other people there had at least one thing that they were brilliant at, not at savant levels but certainly well above average. In addition to maths, science there was also experts in music, art, computing and stereo equipment to name but a few.

By the way, I’m 25 with a full time job (as an engineer) and a reasonably successful social life. Nowadays I just look upon my Asperger’s as just another part of my personality. 

Alan Munro, Inverness

There is another film that gives a more accurate portrayal of autism in adults and is also a fantastic film – Snow Cake starring Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver, which again never made it to cinemas in this country but is available on DVD.

Maggie , Wokingham UK

Asperger’s on the big screen

By Marc Settle

BBC News, Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme

The challenges faced by people who have Asperger’s syndrome have been in the news recently, highlighted by the case of the computer hacker Gary McKinnon.

He is facing extradition to the United States, but campaigners say his condition, a form of autism, means he should not be sent there.


Adam – the new film portrays a man with Asperger’s syndrome

Now there is a new Hollywood film featuring a leading character with Asperger’s. 

Adam tells the tale of a young man who meets and falls in love with the woman in the flat upstairs.

Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme asked Robyn Steward to review the film for the show. Robyn has Asperger’s syndrome herself. She has also had personal relationships with other people who have the condition – and with those who do not.

I work as a self-employed trainer, teaching professionals about Asperger’s syndrome and mentoring young people with the condition in the hope that they won’t have to go through some of the same difficulties that I have experienced.

This week I saw a film called Adam.

In particular one incident in the film conveyed really well the emotional complexities of living with the condition.

Thinking it will be less stressful for him, Adam’s girlfriend Beth arranges to meet her parents and pretends to Adam they have accidentally bumped into them on a night out.

When he learns the truth he shouts she’s a liar and he hates her and starts pulling things off a cabinet. At the time Adam probably did hate her and she did lie.

An accurate reflection

People with autism often struggle to understand other people’s thoughts, feelings and motivations and in Adam’s black and white world, Beth has broken the rules. Everyone with Asperger’s is different but the condition often affects the way information moves around your brain, which impacts on sensory processing, social skills, and our ability to communicate with others. It can also cause you to be not so emotionally aware.

It is great that the film has avoided the stereotypical Hollywood ending

Robyn Steward

Throughout society whether it be teachers, police, employers or families there is a lack of knowledge of autism.

People react in all sorts of ways and I think Adam accurately reflects this through a series of incidents which demonstrate the daily challenges, misunderstandings and confusion that can arise from living with this complex condition.

Most notable of these is when Adam is waiting outside a school for Beth, who is a teacher, to come out of work. A policeman asks him what he’s doing and Adam responds in a literal Asperger’s way that he’s “watching the children”.

I was also struck by Adam’s panic attack and inability to move when he is told he has to leave the house he has lived in all his life due to his father’s death.

Many adults with autism rely on their family, due to a lack of support and when their parents die they can get a bit lost.

Clay Marzo Changing Views On Aspergers

Clay Marzo Changing Views On Aspergers
By The Editors August 30th, 2008.
MarzoAs the star of Quiksilver’s new film Just Add Water, Clay Marzo is bringing more attention to a form of autism called Aspergers. It’s also opening eyes to just what is possible for others with the condition.
More than a movie about a rising young star, however, it details Clay’s aptitude and unique personality, and his life with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that can make school and social situations challenging but also allows him to hyperfocus and exhibit exceptional talent in a specific arena.
Clay’s mother Jill Marzo wasn’t sure the movie at first:
“I was really nervous,” she admits. “I didn’t want to expose it. I worried that people would treat him differently or that he would be embarrassed by it.” Instead, the film and an extensive article in Surfer Magazine yielded e-mails from others inspired by Clay’s unique pursuit of his passion. That, she says, made the journey worthwhile.
[Link: Honolulu Star-Bulletin]
Read more:

By The Editors August 30th, 2008.

08098_clay_france_premierClay Marzo As the star of Quiksilver’s new film Just Add Water, Clay Marzo is bringing more attention to a form of autism called Aspergers. It’s also opening eyes to just what is possible for others with the condition.

More than a movie about a rising young star, however, it details Clay’s aptitude and unique personality, and his life with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that can make school and social situations challenging but also allows him to hyperfocus and exhibit exceptional talent in a specific arena.

Clay’s mother Jill Marzo wasn’t sure the movie at first:

“I was really nervous,” she admits. “I didn’t want to expose it. I worried that people would treat him differently or that he would be embarrassed by it.” Instead, the film and an extensive article in Surfer Magazine yielded e-mails from others inspired by Clay’s unique pursuit of his passion. That, she says, made the journey worthwhile.

[Link: Honolulu Star-Bulletin]

Read more: