Shire comes to Cleveland! Hobbits of “The Lord of the Rings” arrive at Cleveland Fan Expo

would’ve thought the four hobbits from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy would make it to Cleveland from the Shire? Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Dominic Monaghan (Meriadoc Brandybuck), Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee), and Billy Boyd (Peregrin ‘Pippin’ Took) reunited for a special event at Fan Expo Cleveland 2024 – ‘The Four Hobbits: An Unexpected Reunion.’ 

The “Shire Folk” give fans a peek into their 25-year-old fellowship and a group chat to rule them all

With every passing minute, the easygoing camaraderie between the four actors became more evident – jokes flying left, right, and center. But at the base of it all was their strong friendship of 25 years. 

Talking about how they’ve been pals since the days of the first movie’s shoot, Monaghan pointed out, “When we met Elijah, he was 18. So, we have known you longer (speaking to Elijah) than the age you were at when we met you the first time.”

Like every friend group, the Hobbits have a group chat as well. Named “Shire Folk” (by Monaghan), the GC is all about logistics. From breakfast updates to keeping track of everyone’s locations at conventions to regular yet ultra-competitive New York Times puzzles, the group is always active with shenanigans (some of which were deemed undiscussable on a public forum).

When discussing the lasting effects of a long-time friendship, Monaghan said they’ve found people who will “accept all parts of you” – a sentiment the others echoed – and Astin revealed they always check in on each other.

From experiencing “Hobbiton” to “Gandalf vs Balrog,” the cast talks about ‘LOTR’ moments that stayed with them 

If you look at the LOTR movies, the worldbuilding stands out almost instantly – the sets are stunning and foreboding at the same time. For Wood, the favorite part of the whole ‘spectacle’ was entering Hobbiton for the first time, “They had planted the greenery and the flowers and vegetation for a year before we went to film, so it looked like it had always been there.” 

In contrast, Boyd’s answer came from a more audience POV, “I think the start of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers… as a cinematic moment. When Gandalf is fighting the Balrog as they’re both falling, I remember thinking I’ve never seen anything like this in cinema, especially when it panned back, and they’re just tiny little things (on the screen).”

Hobbits on Star Trek or Star Wars? How about both?

Star Trek emerged as the cast’s top choice when asked about what popular franchise should feature all four of them together. If Boyd were on the writers’ team, there would have been a Hobbit planet or “a planet of people just smoking pipe weed.” 

Additionally, Wood chimed in with a Star Wars idea, recommending that the hobbits be featured in Palpatine’s Galactic senate. Monaghan, who played Beaumont Kin in The Rise of Skywalker, approved of his co-star’s galaxy dreams.

Forget Merry and Pippin; the production crew of ‘Lord of the Rings’ were actually the best pranksters

The ‘wedding game’ segment of the panel revealed more stories from shoot days. The audience found out that Sean Astin forgot his lines the most. Dom and Billy were the pranksters of the group, but even the production team on the sets gave them stiff competition. After a brief anecdote about a long-running prank where Dom and Viggo Mortensen just ruined each other’s trailers, Boyd shared a hilarious incident from sets, which was easily one of the highlights of the panel. 

Talking about how the production crew would sometimes rewrite scenes to prank them, Boyd recalled a ‘fake scene’ in the sequence where the characters meet Treebeard for the first time, “I say, ‘Oh, the tree is talking,’ and they had written that we fall off the tree, hit the branches on the way down and all our clothes fall off. And the way the script had all the watermarks, it was all legit. And when we get to the ground, Merry says to me, ‘It’s cold, isn’t it?’”

Elijah Wood would love to see ‘Scouring of the Shire’ brought to life on screen 

Answering a question about scenes from the books that didn’t make it to the movies but the actors would like to see, Wood evoked the crowd favorite— Scouring of the Shire, the penultimate chapter of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He expressed that the best way to portray the scene on screen would be in an animated film since any live-action attempt would be incomplete without Christopher Lee’s Saruman: “It would be a very beautiful and interesting way to imagine that part of the story.”

The gang recalls memorable fan encounters, reveals ‘second breakfast’ choices, and impersonates singers for an epic lip sync battle

The Lord of the Rings fanbase is massive, and the franchise has its share of ardent fans. The actors spoke about how often fans come up to them and talk about how the story helped them. Monaghan narrated a particularly touching story, “This lady said to me, ‘I had a really tough time in school, and my dad said, ‘You should read Lord Of The Rings because you’ll have all the friends you’ll ever need in that book.’ And she said, ‘You four hobbits especially got me through my entire high school period, which was a difficult time for me.’”

The gang then slipped into a discussion about the coveted ‘second breakfast.’ Even with great options ranging from Boyd’s famous overnight oats to biscuits and gravy, nothing beats Astin’s reply: “It’s a good start.”

The panel ended on an outstanding note, with all four impersonating musicians for a lip-sync battle. There couldn’t have been a better note to sign off on than seeing Astin as Bruce Springsteen, Wood as Cher, Monaghan as Michael Jackson, and Boyd as Neil Diamond.

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