The LOTR Movie Site
September 6, 1999
Guy Lepper Interview
Guy Lepper sells rare Tolkien figurines sculpted by Mike
Makras to customers around the world through his Tolkien's Middle-Earth @ Makras online
store. Recently, Jeremiah Lewis got a chance to ask him a few questions about the products
he sells and what his take is on the upcoming LOTR films.
Jeremiah: Let's get started. First, how do
your figures reflect the wonder and ingenuity of Tolkien's amazing universe? Are each of
the figures different from any other, in other words, are they hand crafted with careful
Guy: I believe the Makras sculptures capture a small
part of the overall wonder that Tolkien created with his Middle-Earth masterpieces. Many
long time Makras fans have described their favorite pieces as having an Old World charm or
even having a magical air about them. Thats precisely how I feel about the Makras
works thats what has kept me collecting for the past 21 years. As I have told many
new fans, you actually have to hold one of these fine sculptures to appreciate the
incredible hand made detail.
And yes each and every piece is all hand made from start to finish.
No molds or presses are used to create these incredibly detailed works of art. As each
piece is hand sculpted and hand colored you can sometimes see some minor differences in
form and color from piece to piece.
I purchased my first piece in 1978, a large Bilbo
sculpture, and I can honestly say that after 21 years I still find myself drawn to that
particular sculpture. I still pause to admire the emotion expressed in that piece. This is
perhaps Mr. Makras greatest talent, the ability to express emotions in his figure
using very animated facial expressions.
Jeremiah: How will your business be affected by the movies by Peter
Jackson. Do you expect a huge revenue increase, or has the need and desire for figurines
been cheapened by plastic merchandising?
Guy: I really dont believe that there will be a
large increase in the sale of the Makras sculptures due to the upcoming LOTR movies.
Ive given a lot of thought to this subject and I believe that the movies will create
a whole new type of fan. I think that these new fans will actually be fans of the movie
first and then the whole Tolkien mythos second. The older, hard core, long time Tolkien
fan will see the movies as a new addition to ,or a new rendition of, the much loved
Tolkien epic. All of these existing fans have cracked the books and immersed themselves in
Middle Earth many times. Their first interpretations of the images that Tolkien stirs with
his words started with their own imaginations and have since been exposed to countless
portrayals of Middle Earth images created by many talented artists. These fans have gladly
accepted the many different visual interpretations of Middle-Earth.
For the new fans, their first exposure to Frodo,
Gandalf and Bilbo will be the images presented by Mr. Jackson. To these fans Gandalf will
be the image portrayed by Sir Ian McKellen , Frodo will be the image portrayed by Elijah
Wood, and Bilbo will always then be the image portrayed by Ian Holm. I think that after
the movies are released you will find that these fans will not really be interested in
LOTR art and images that they cannot relate directly to the movie. I could imagine showing
to a movie fan the Hildebrant Brothers interpretation of Gandalf. That fan might then
respond by saying "No sir you are incorrect, that is simply not Gandalf , and believe
me I should know
..Ive seen the movie five times". So I think the licensed
merchandise bearing the images portrayed in the movie will do a brisk business. Though I
do not believe products or art bearing a different likeness than that of the movie images
will be strongly affected. These works will still be collected by the existing fans that
will, as I said earlier, only see the movies as yet another expression of the great
Also I dont believe that the desire for the type of art that
Mr. Makras creates has been affected by the increased volume of plastic figures offered by
companies such as Toy Vault. The Toy Vault pieces are a very high quality and amazingly
detailed product. But there is little comparison between a molded plastic figure, with a
run of 10,000, and a hand sculpted work of art with only 80 previous renditions in a 20
Jeremiah: Are you
going to be producing items specifically for the movies? If so, how soon will you begin
production of new figures for the movies? How does licensing play into this scenario?
Guy: Mr. Makras will not be creating
any pieces related to the upcoming movies. Im sure that New Line Cinema has many
incredibly talented people prepared to produce original sculptures to be used as
prototypes as soon as the appearance of each character is determined. Obviously the
merchandising end of this is big business.
Jeremiah: In terms of collectibility, do you expect the value of
your statues to increase in the months following the first film's release? For example,
would it be wise for a collector to invest in a statue now? Is there likely to be a high
Guy: In terms of collectability I honestly dont
think the Makras figures can be beat. Over the last 2 decades Mr. Makras has concentrated
his talents on his extremely popular hand carved chess sets. These sets feature the
smaller MiddleEarth chess pieces. He actually has not been offering these larger table
sculptures for almost 20 years. But due to fan requests he is now once again producing the
larger sculptures. All of his MiddleEarth pieces are part of a limited edition series. If
any piece reaches the 1,000th rendition of that design then that design will be
retired. In most cases there have been just over 100 previous renditions of any single
design. I believe that the fact that there have been so few of these larger sculpture made
makes each and every one more valuable.
For an example, last year I posted a piece from my personal
collection on eBay. It was a 20 year old Bilbo sculpture. At that time I was not aware
that Mr. Makras was still was still creating his Middle-Earth figures and I stated that in
the ad. So many bidders must have assumed that there would be no new Makras pieces made
available. With that apparent thought in mind the bidding was heavy.The final bid reached
over $325.00 and yet I declined to sell, believing that these pieces will even have a much
greater value in the future.
Jeremiah: Thanks for
answering our questions today. Your insight into these subjects is greatly appreciated.
Any last words?
Guy: In closing I would like to thank the LOTR Movie
Site for the opportunity to answer their questions and also all of the Makras fans that
have purchased sculptures at the Makras
online store. Your enthusiastic response has been greatly appreciated.