STILLWATER — He showed elves, orcs and goblins how to fight — and now fight-styles director Tony Wolf will present a lecture on physical theater and film at Oklahoma State University.
Wolf worked on the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy with director Peter Jackson, creating distinct fighting techniques for the various races present in those films, based on the fantasy books by J.R.R. Tolkien.
“I’d worked with Peter as a stuntman and stunt coordinator on several of his early movies, and I’d heard that he was going to be doing ‘Lord of the Rings,’” Wolf said. “And at that stage, I had no concept of the scale of what the trilogy was going to turn into. But I suggested that it might be interesting if all of the different species and cultures of creatures and also humans featured in the movies had their own unique ways of moving and fighting.”
Wolf said each species’ fighting style took into account the visuals of the characters, the style of the species and what would be physically possible and reasonable.
“The basic process, obviously, we read Tolkien’s books, but he often doesn’t go into the kind of detail I’d need to develop the fighting style. He describes the broad sweep of the battle. … So a lot of my inspiration came from what the other production departments were doing,” Wolf said.
Wolf looked at the costume designs and creature designs from various other design departments. Wolf then created a set of aesthetic principles to define each particular culture in the fantasy world. He translated that set of principles into how the characters would move and use weapons.
“Because, obviously, if you have a creature like an orc, which is a very grotesque, twisted, almost animalistic character, it would be ridiculous if they suddenly turned into samurai warriors on the battlefield,” Wolf said. “Their fighting style must reflect the way they look and what we understand about their culture and their society. And that same logic was applied to all the different character types that I worked with.”
Wolf, a native New Zealander, is a visiting lecturer at OSU and is the creator of Complicite, a system of movement used in acting.
Wolf’s direction and design have been featured in more than 180 feature films and in television, theater, opera and ballet productions. He has toured Japan, Australia, Canada and Europe. He serves as an adviser for several international martial arts and stage combat organizations.
Wolf’s lecture will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Seretean Center of the Performing Arts on the OSU campus. For more information, call the OSU Theatre Department at (405) 744-6094.
Wolf will lecture Wednesday at Stillwater High School and at 7 p.m. Jan. 25 at Oklahoma City University. Wolf will give a workshop at 9 a.m. Jan 26 to Oklahoma City University students.
– Matt Price