Lo­cal fans en­dure real walk to Mor­dor


Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 DAILY - D ROOSTER TEETH PRO­DUC­TIONS Con­tact Matthew Odam at 912-5986. Twit­ter: @odam

The state­ment about the dark fic­tional land home to Mount Doom, Frodo and his pals’ fi­nal des­ti­na­tion in their quest to de­stroy the ring, sparked a pop­u­lar In­ter­net meme.

It also gave Shawcross and De­marais an idea and a chal­lenge: “Maybe you can sim­ply walk into Mor­dor.”

In a cel­e­bra­tion of their love of “The Lord of the Rings,” the two writer­pro­ducer-direc­tors from on­line pro­duc­tion com­pany Roost­er­Teeth.com packed up and headed to the other side of the world to prove Boromir wrong.

The two twenty-some­things doc­u­mented their ad­ven­ture in “A Sim­ple Walk Into Mor­dor,” a Web se­ries that de­buted this week to cor­re­spond with the re­lease of Jack­son’s adap­ta­tion of Tolkien’s “The Hob­bit.” Episodes two hits Roost­er­Teeth.com and Blip. com on Fri­day, with the re­main­ing episodes drop­ping next week.

The ti­tle plays off Boromir’s ad­mo­ni­tion and is also a of bit tonguein-cheek hu­mor from its cre­ators. As it turns out, the walk ac­tu­ally isn’t that sim­ple.

Shawcross and De­marais headed to New Zealand, where they met up with fel­low “LOTR” fa­natic and New Zealand na­tive Nick New­ton, who served as their guide. Us­ing a map of shoot­ing lo­ca­tions from the film, the trio de­cided they would head south from “The Shire” to “Mount Doom” (Mount Ngau­ruhoe).

The jour­ney would ex­tend across 130 miles and take them six days. Six bru­tal days.

The first episode features the boys full of en­ergy and crack­ing wise, as De­marais chases sheep and cows across the sub­limely beau­ti­ful New Zealand coun­try­side. But the lev­ity doesn’t last too long.

The trio of Tolkienlovers av­er­aged 20 to 25 miles a day, walking 12 to 16 hours. Their feet turned to a col­lec­tion of gnarly blis­ters, their loins chafed and the des­ti­na­tion seemed to get far­ther away with ev­ery step.

“It was the hard­est thing I’ve ever done in my life,” De­marais said. “By the end of day two, we were al­ready dead.”

“It was one of those things, too, where you feel ter­ri­ble and think, ‘OK, this is the worst I’m go­ing to feel the whole trip,’ but it just keeps get­ting worse,” Shawcross said. “It never hit a plateau of ter­ri­ble­ness, it just kept get­ting worse.”

Shawcross still doesn’t have feel­ing in parts of some of his toes.

“Peo­ple will joke that Frodo and Sam just walk ... it’s not that hard,” De­marais said. “It’s the hard­est thing in the world. And we weren’t even fight­ing. There were no Orcs.”

Their epic quest took the guys through mead­ows and over hills, along river trails and into dark­ened woods. They dug holes as makeshift la­trines and camped in tents, a first for both of the na­tive Tex­ans. A sup­port team as­sem­bled by New­ton would meet the guys at pre­de­ter­mined spots to re­plen­ish their food and sup­plies.

On the rare oc­ca­sion the guys — dressed in cos­tumes from the film — would come across farm­ers or hik­ers in the coun­try­side, they would be met with puz­zled looks. The New Zealan­ders weren’t the only ones who thought Shawcross and De­marais were a bit crazy.

“I’m pretty sure there was a pool at the of­fice to see if we were go­ing to die,” Shawcross said.

The guys won’t re­veal how their jour­ney ended — you’ll have to tune into the we­bisodes for that — but they ad­mit to be­ing over­whelmed at the con­clu­sion of their quest.

“We knew it was go­ing to be hard,” De­marais said. “I don’t think we had any idea how hard it was go­ing to be.”

Shawcross and De­marais are hope­ful that the videos make their way to Jack­son and that the film­maker thinks it’s as cool as they do.

As for whether they would be will­ing to en­dure the phys­i­cal and men­tal an­guish again ...

“I would do it again,” De­marais said. “I don’t know if I’d do it again right away. ... It was one of the best ex­pe­ri­ences of my life and one of the worst ex­pe­ri­ences of my life at the same time.”

“Best and stu­pid­est,” Shawcross said.


Kerry Shawcross (left) and Chris De­marais in­side a Hob­bit house be­fore leav­ing The Shire to be­gin the jour­ney they doc­u­ment in “A Sim­ple Walk Into Mor­dor.”

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