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An interview with Bret McKenzie, the man behind the Elf Figwit.


Bret McKenzie, Jemaine Clement: Flight of the Conchords.

  By Larry Pritchard
  The standout performance in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, although snubbed at the Oscars and virtually unnoticed by critics and the entire LOTR cast and crew, is the deeply moving portrayal of 'Figwit'. With a steely glare the character jumps out from the screen in the famous 'council' scene, making his appearance, some say, the most electrifying two seconds of the film. It begs the question: If Tolkien had seen the movie before writing the book, would he not have made Figwit an additional member of the fellowship. Offering not his bow, but his much touted good-looks to the collection of axes, swords and other less attractive weaponry.

So convincing was this enigmatic performance that many have been left wondering if the 'actor' was actually an elf? (Or at least some kind of half-breed.) Through numerous phonecalls with film companies and actors agents, I tracked down he who is known as "The Gorgeous One" or "Lord of the Personal Grooming". He lives in Wellington, New Zealand. His real name, Bret McKenzie, but I shall continue to call him Figwit as it was too hard to separate him from the character.

Larry P: So Figwit, some say you do not speak, some say you are incapable of speech; is this true?

Figwit: Ahh Bret, just Bret will do.

Larry P: O.k Figwit, Bret it is! (At this point I assume he does speak)

Figwit: No, that's not really true. I can speak. But when I read the script I found I did not have any lines. I thought about the lack of lines and made a character decision based on that not to speak in the council scene. I think the saying is true that actions speak louder then words.

Larry P: Did it cross your mind to add some lines, Figwit?

Figwit: I thought about saying "Legolas shouldn't go! I will go to Mordor! I know the shortcut!". But the opportunity never arose to raise the subject with the director, Peter Jackson. 

Larry P: So you decided to telegraph your character's emotional journey through facial statement alone?

Figwit: Um... yeah, and [the way] I hold my body.

Larry P: When in particular?

Figwit: Like the bit when I was sitting down.

Larry P: Ahh?

Figwit: On the chair.

Larry P: (nothing)

Figwit: And when I stand up... in the council scene.

Larry P: Is grooming important to you, Figwit?

Figwit: Well, I think it is important to Elves. Especially Figwit. Look at Cate Blanchet and Liv Tyler, they look amazing. So groomed. They are real professionals. I would love to work with them again.

Larry P: Is it true that during the argument...

Figwit: (INTERRUPTS) In the council scene?

Larry P: ...yeah, when you are standing up. Is it true you mime the words "F**k you!" Or another suggestion that has been speculated upon "Pluck you!"?

Figwit: I am not saying either of those things. I am speaking in Elvish but you don't really hear amongst all of the loud dwarves.

Larry P: What did you say?

Figwit: I said the Elvish equivalent of 'Pluck you! Pluck you all!'. I was so angry with the way the dwarves and men were behaving. Gimli was being so obnoxious. It was the one bit of input I did have.

Larry P: Does Figwit return in the next film?

Figwit: I'm not allowed to talk about it.

Larry P: Have you had many offers after your performance in The Fellowship of the Ring?

Figwit: At the moment I'm concentrating more on my band, we actually do a song which we tried to get into the Lord of the Rings; The Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack. It's called Frodo, Don't Wear The Ring, I do a rap in it.

Larry P: In Elvish?

Figwit: In English but in an sort of Elvish/New Zealand accent.

Larry P: What do you think of the Figwit Lives website? Were you expecting such a big response to such a small part?

Figwit: Not expecting it. But I was quietly hoping someone would recognise my work, Peter Jackson didn't really notice me. He was too busy directing. I'm hoping Peter sees the website and it will spur him on to developing LOTR IV; Figwit's Journey. Or at least make a figurine.

Larry P: Good luck.

Figwit: Thank you.