By PETER CALDER and LOUISA CLEAVE
The rumpled hobbit-like face of Ian Mune - which might have been designed by Tolkien - is a casting director's dream. But he only had a single night of shooting, playing a gatekeeper in Hobbiton on what he calls "the night of a malevolent visit".
He refuses to go further than that for fear of spoiling the fun, but hints darkly that the horsemen came from a place of great terror: "They were South Islanders."
He says he enjoyed the shoot hugely but found the large prosthetic hobbit feet a challenge.
"They are very well-made and look marvellous but, boy, it sweats in there," he chuckles. "I pitied those poor young actors who played Frodo and Sam because they had to wear them all the time for months on end."
The veteran actor and director (Came a Hot Friday, The End of the Golden Weather) had the highest praise for director Peter Jackson.
"We were shooting with the second unit and Peter dropped by, relaxed as can be, said gidday, had a yarn. Just before he left he said: 'You look so like hobbits you don't have to act like them'."
"He was meaning: 'Don't work too hard. Enjoy it.' It was a very good piece of direction, just lightly dropped in."
Mune later did a week of second-unit directing in Hobbiton near Matamata which he describes as the "most wonderful time, having more toys and a bigger crew and more money to spend in that week than I would normally have on a whole feature".
"The usual thing with these second unit situations is that a lot of your work ends up on the cutting room floor, but I saw the trailer and there's a couple of my shots in there." He predicts the film will be a huge hit because "the whole thing has been done to such perfection. The work that has gone into it has been of the highest order."
Craig Parker felt like a kid let loose in the world's biggest playground during filming of The Lord of the Rings.
The actor formerly known as Shortland Street's Guy Warner plays Elf captain Haldir in the first two movies of the trilogy.
Parker has nothing but fond memories of his two years flying up and down the country to be part of cinema history. He won't even mutter an expletive when recalling two weeks of working in the darkness and rain during a Wellington winter.
"It was fantastic fun, but probably the most physically taxing. You always know there are a lot of people around you working damn harder than you are, so you can't really whinge too much."
The only negative he can think of was realising he doesn't suit being a blonde. As Haldir, Parker adorned a long blonde wig, Elf ears made from gelatin and flowing robes. Some "slight lifts" to change the shape of his face completed his two-hour makeup ritual.
"Everything is so amazingly life-like. Once [the ears] were on and blended in you couldn't tell. And the gelatin heats up, so once your body heats up, well, it gets very confusing sometimes."
Like scratching the wrong ear? "Yeah," he laughs.
"I'd never experienced that attention to detail. Weta created things that you could look at in full close-up and they would be perfect. There wasn't a lot of pretending needed, really."
Parker says he has no complaints about the rigours of filming, especially as others endured longer hours in makeup and on the set.
"I think of that Michael Caine quote, that he is paid to sit around and acting he does for free."