Billy Boyd: “people will always see me as that Hobbit Pippin”The Red Bulletin goes on a trip down memory lane with Billy Boyd to talk about the bittersweet curse of Lord of the Rings and what life after Middle-Earth is like
Scottish actor and singer Billy Boyd became famous by playing everybody’s favourite little man, Pippin the Hobbit, in the Lord Of The Rings franchise. We caught up with Boyd as he reflects on the good and bad things that came with the job of a lifetime.
THE RED BULLETIN: What makes you truly happy as a person?
BILLY BOYD: My family makes me very happy. My son and my wife, when the’re happy, I feel happy.
Is it easy to keep up a family life while working in showbiz?
The hardest thing is that the job that I have chosen takes me away from home. There’s good and bad in it. There will be times I’m home for months at a time. When I can wake up and have breakfast with my family, pick my son up from school and play football with him. But then I might be gone for a couple of weeks in a row and I sometimes wonder if my son only remembers the times when I’m away more than the times that I’m there. But I wouldn’t change it. I suppose a lot of fathers never see breakfast, because they’re already at work, or they don’t get home until seven at night, and they only have maybe an hour before the kids go to sleep. So in some ways I’m really lucky.
You started out as a bookbinder before you took to acting.
That’s correct. I sort of did that as a job rather than a passion – so much so that I actually had no idea what the job entailed. I got there on the first day with no idea what I was doing, I didn’t know whether I was supposed to wear a shirt and tie or turn up in jeans. I did it for seven years. I loved working with leather and making beautiful books – I really enjoyed that. But I wasn’t a fan of the general day-to-day business.
Is there anything else that you enjoy as much as acting or singing?
I really like photography. But there are a couple of things that make me a bad photographer.
I am really lazy. I can’t be bothered taking all the stuff with me, and I don’t like to impose on people. I want to be a street photographer, but I don’t want to take a picture of someone without them knowing, so I feel like I have to ask them if it’s OK. But if you ask them, you don’t get the natural expression. I like photography, but I don’t think I will ever be any good at it.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned in life so far?
I started meditating about ten years ago.
Why did you start?
I have been doing hatha yoga for about 25 years. I always thought I needed to learn how to meditate, but to me it was a mysterious thing that you had to put a lot of time in to and meet someone that was enlightened to tell you about it. One day I was walking past a building near where I lived. They had a giant poster that said, ‘Learn to meditate’ on it and it just hit me that this was what I wanted to do.
So this was the universe telling you?
Right? (Laughs.) There was a group of people who followed a guru called Paramahansa Yogananda and were teaching his form of meditation. I took the class and I found out how simple it really is. One of the teachers said he saw it as part of his daily routine now. He said he couldn’t imagine a day without meditation. The more you do it, the more it becomes natural.
You don’t have to sit down with candles. We could be meditating right now as we sit here. It’s about losing yourself. It’s about realising that you’re not really important. You’re just a very small part of this huge universe and a lot of people are scared of that. Just let it go. I think that’s the most important lesson I’ve learned.
How long do you meditate?
I have done a few long meditations, two-hour meditations, but normally I feel like half an hour is a good one. But you can sit on the bus and do it for a couple of minutes or during a flight as well. You kind of zone out a little bit.
If you look back at the whole Lord Of The Rings experience, was it a blessing or a curse? Or both?
(Laughs.) Both. But I’d say it’s more of a blessing. It’s given me my lifestyle. On the other hand, a lot of people will always see me as that Hobbit Pippin. I had quite a successful stage career before I got that role, and I sometimes wonder where that would have taken me. But all in all, if they asked me to do it all again tomorrow, then I’d leap at the chance.
Because the team was so great?
I think that played a very important role. And also – as an actor – the chances that you’ll be remembered for anything that you have done is so small. Being remembered for something that’s still good is great. I recall being on stage at the Oscars and Steven Spielberg came up to us – it was me and Dom [Dominic Monaghan], Elijah [Wood] and Sean Astin – and he said: ‘That’s you guys! You’re in cinema history now!’ And the only thing I could think of was: ‘Wow! That’s Spielberg!’ You know, it is a real blessing, actually.