When it comes to books, film and television shows, I've always had a strict No Pointy Ears policy. NPE was the umbrella term for all things remotely sci-fi or fantastical; including Star Trek, Buffy, Harry Potter or any thick novel with embossed lettering and a dragon on the cover.
To me, the word 'fantasy' meant a bathtub full of mangoes, or Dr Ross, Dr Greene and myself on ER circa 1997 ("Take this woman to Curtain 3! STAT!")…
"She's got a fever."
… I thought fantasy as a genre was the realm of strange souls who collected action figures or dreamed of riding a unicorn to work.
But recently I noticed that most of my friends were into the very stuff that I so relentlessly mocked. At the pub I could only sulk into my G&T as they discussed some book or film I hadn't seen. Was I missing out on something worthwhile? Now I don't pick no stupid friends, so surely there was some merit to it all? I had to investigate.
I went straight to the granddaddy of all fantasy, Lord of the Rings. Too lazy to read the book, I took a crash course in the films. Laughing in the face of deep vein thrombosis, the aim was to watch the extended version DVDs of both Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers in one sitting, armed only with comfortable pants and a lovely slave boy to refill my teacup at regular intervals.
It was all trundling along nicely – hobbits, rings and so forth. I wasn't entirely enthralled yet and wondered at what point in the 7.2 hours would my arse turn completely numb. But then there was a magical moment when the hobbits were drinking up at The Prancing Pony. A shadowy figure in the corner stole my attention. The camera swooped in and lo! A vision of manliness! It was Strider of the chiselled cheekbones, artful facial hair and piercing gaze!
"Oh YEAH baby!" I squawked. "Now I'm in!"
Viggo Mortensen. Viggo viggo viggo. The more you say it the foxier it gets. Viggggo. My knowledge of Danish was non-existent but it sounded so v-v-v-very good! Vital! Virile! Like a brand new box of shiny blue Viagra! Not that he'd ever need that stuff…
Seduced by an epic story, wonderful characters and an abundance of lust objects, I was hooked by the end of the first disc. I wanted to call my friends and apologise for years of dismissing their "pointy-eared weirdo shit". When the credits finally rolled for The Two Towers I sprang up from the couch and demanded we go to the cinema NOW to see Return of the King. After 430 minutes in Middle Earth my brain was begging for a break but I wanted to take it to the EXTREME!
Sadly it was 11PM and the cinema was closed, so I had to settle for the DVD extras. Therein lay a mighty disappointment – an interview with Viggo. How could this scruffy blonde dude in the polo shirt be the same guy who waved his mighty sword with such grace? I waited for the twinge of longing but felt nothing. The same thing happened when I saw him in a preview for his shite new movie Hidalgo (aka Look Out, Behind You, It's A Sand Dune!). Evidently his appeal for me was bound up in the character.
The sad thing about fantasy is that's just what it is – fantasy. Like when I fell for the bulging biceps of Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire – oh the cruel reality of him abandoning the Kowalski buffness for the mutant blancmange look. And so, Mr Mortensen without his Aragorn costume just looks like some retiring Nordic tennis player about to move into the commentary box. Sigh.