Sandro Kopp is predominantly a Kiwi-based artist now firmly spreading his wings into the world of films. Born in Heidelberg, Germany, and of New Zealand and German descent, Sandro received his education at Friedrich Ebert Grundschule, Heidelberg, Rudolf Steiner School, Heidelberg and the Gymnasium Neckargemuend (grammar school). He graduated University in 1998, majoring in fine art and English. By 1995, Sandro had already enjoyed his first solo exhibition at the tender age of seventeen.
From 1998 onwards, Sandro has constantly travelled the globe exploring, and his expanding, his skills as an artist. In 2002 he began work on the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy where he played not only Elf-Lord Gildor, but more than 30 other roles including stints in the Army of the Dead, as various Orcs, a Rohirrim rider, a Haradrim, a Corsair, as Uruk-Hai and Helms Deep Elf. While working on the set, Sandro also created 120 drawings, most of which can be viewed at his Official Website www.sandrokopp.com While lots of other information is available at the Official Sandro Kopp Fanclub Site: www.sandrokoppofficialfanclub.com
Apart from Lord of the Rings, Sandro has also worked on the big budget epics, The Chronicles of Narnia and, more recently in New York for Peter Jackson’s, King Kong. Sandro also worked as the on-set sketch-artist for all these films. Sandro is close friends with Jarl and Jorn Benzon who also appeared in the LOTR Trilogy as Glorfindel and Rumil respectively. Like Sandro, Jarl Benzon is a noted artist and they worked together on Peter Jackson’s King Kong.
During the last two years Sandro has been constantly on the move with his art and his acting and splits his time between New York, Paris, Germany, Scotland and New Zealand. I caught up with Sandro during his time filming scenes in NY for King Kong. The morning after our first emails he managed to write-off his BMW hire car on his way to the set. He will still cool enough to answer my questions the following evening. It seems the first rule of acting Sandro ever learned was that the “show must always go on….”
David: G’day Sandro, it’s nice to catch up with you. Currently you are working on the set of King Kong with director Peter Jackson. However, your first claim to fame is as an artist having enjoyed your first solo art show as a seventeen-year-old. Can you tell us an unusual or funny story from these early days that tells us a little about yourself as a young man?
Sandro: Well, it must have been a bit controversial. That show was at my high-school in Germany and at the time I didn’t think much of it, but my art teacher, who organised the exhibition, must have taken a lot of flack from the faculty. There were a lot of Giger-inspired pictures with erect penises coming out of disembodied brains and so forth hanging right outside the teachers lounge. I was blissfully unaware of how supported I was. I had a pretty difficult childhood though as, after my parents split up when I was four, I was chronically ill a lot and I was clinically obese until I started getting into personal growth work in my late teens. Actually my first show was when I was about seven years old. My parents were always quite supportive of my artistic interest and my mother put on an exhibition for me at the institute she worked at and invited her friends.
David: You are very much the traveler and have enjoyed seeing a lot of the world. What has been your favourite destination thus far and why?
Sandro: New Zealand. Without a doubt. I came here from Germany as a traveler in 2000 and just got stuck. So now it’s my home as well as my favourite destination for travel. I usually spend at least a month every year just travelling here in my mobile home and the beauty and purity of this place never stops to amaze me. Plus, the fact that people are friendly and positive makes for a real quality of living. Whenever I go overseas, the first thing that strikes me is how paranoid people are… that’s got to be unhealthy! The fear-mongering that western mass media have perfected to scare the population of the world into submission has not taken as much effect in this corner of the planet yet… thank God!
David: You worked both as an artist and actor in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. How did the job of artist and then actor come about for you?
Sandro: People always ask that! I’m going to have to make up an interesting answer one of these days… maybe something involving sharks, an airplane disaster and Alien abduction… No; the reality was very unspectacular: Made some phone calls, sent in some pictures and voila! Two years later I was still working on the film!
David: Apart from a writing off BMWs, what has been your most dangerous experience in your many travels or working on a film set?
Sandro: I have been in lots of dangerous situations... from being pulled out by currents while diving, to having to deal with very dodgy, dark areas of the world at night, but honestly, I think the greatest danger lies within. I think giving in to your despair and fear will destroy your life faster than rock-climbing without ropes will. Pig-headed optimism has served me incredibly well in my life so far. I think if you look for the best in people and in situations, you bring it out in them.
David: Where and when did you sign your first autograph and how did you feel about the moment?
Sandro: That would have been on the street parade for the World-Premiere of Return of the King in Wellington. I was dressed as a Rivendell elf on the red carpet and people kept handing me stuff to sign. I was staying in character, so I signed them all with my name in Elven, Tengwar. It felt good, I guess.
David: While your time is now being divided between a burgeoning film career and as an established and successful artist, what other things bring joy to your life?
Sandro: Food, food, glorious food. I love cooking, eating and good wine. Next up, would probably be spending time in nature. I go a little bit mental if I don’t get into the bush AND down to the beach at least once a week. As far as hobbies go, I don’t really have time for anything (three full time jobs will do that to you: Painting, acting and self-management.)… I don’t watch TV, I only read when I’m travelling and I never play sports or computer games, but I do enjoy free-diving and spear-fishing, when the sea gets calm enough around here.
David: You have also recently worked on The Chronicles of Narnia and I wondered if you’ve had any strange or funny experiences working on a film set that you could tell us about?
Sandro: Hmmm… It’s always hard to think of something that isn’t in that “top-secret” bracket that every film set has. What I can say is that it was one of the most awesome times of my life EVER and that the landscape we shot it in is both stunningly beautiful and profoundly moving. (Near Christchurch, on the South Island of New Zealand) Just hanging out with such a nice bunch of people in one of the most lovely places on the planet, helping create something that is going to touch thousands and thousands of people around the world… you can imagine, it was pretty cool!
David: Have you signed photos with other actors from LOTR or attended any of the great conventions like Chiller or DragonCon? And do you collect autographs or movie memorabilia yourself?
Sandro: Oh yes, I’ve been to quite a few conventions and have signed next to the likes of Billy Boyd and John Noble. The Fellowship Festival in London was my first and is still my favourite, but they’ve all been great in their own way. I used to collect everything under the sun when I was a kid, from comic-books to crystals, but as I’ve grown up I’ve found that the only thing really worth collecting is experience… You don’t have to rent storage space to keep it in either…
David: Being a fine artist who appreciates both beauty and brilliance what particular artwork do you admire the most and why? And which artist moves you the most?
Sandro: My interests and preferences change over time, but, off the cuff, I’d say the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo… for pure undeniable brilliance and perseverance. I’m not a religious person, but looking at that painting, you can feel something divine. No-one has done anything like it since and, most likely, no-one ever will. I’m very moved by a lot of the more recent figurative artwork… Ron Mueck and Lucian Freud would be my two favourite contemporaries. In the past century I would have to name Francis Bacon, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Ferdinand Hodler.
However, at the end of the day, my own paintings are my favourites… I’m sure there are thousands of better artists out there, but nothing they create could be as relevant to me as my own work… I imagine it is the same when you have kids: There may be other children that are cuter, smarter or more successful than your own. But you love your own the best, because you helped them into existence and you are instinctively linked to them.
David: What movies and actors are your all time favourites?
Sandro: I love anything that’s different from the mainstream and entertaining at the same time … I get so sick of the same rehashed guns and glory bullshit! Films like “The Fisherking” continue to impress me as does “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and Sally Potter’s “Orlando”. More recently I liked “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Lost in Translation”. I have no number one favourite actor, but I adore the utter brilliance of Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis.
David: You are currently filming King Kong, but what are your plans beyond this epic project?
Sandro: I have been neglecting my painting for the past year, due to film-commitment and travel, so I intend to knuckle down and get my hands dirty for some months once we wrap.
David: I notice, in the way you describe yourself that part of your search/journey as an artist includes exploring the sublime interior of our humanity. Or at least your part in this bizarre community of minds! Do you find, more and more, that you’re always looking to take emotional risks with your art and/or your heart to broaden your horizons?
Sandro: That is a difficult question. On the one hand, I feel like I have become a bit disillusioned by the trials of life as far as emotional risks go. On the other hand, through experience you learn to discern the true voice of your intuition from the general chatter of voices in your head and therefore you have a better idea of when taking a risk is worth it and when it isn’t. I think I am still as romantic and daredevil-ish as I was at seventeen, but I think I apply those qualities to my life and my art less generally and more consciously -more specifically- than I did back then.
David: Do you have a particular story about yourself, which aptly sums up the type of person Sandro Kopp is, or who he strives to be?
Sandro: Not really… you would have to ask my family or my friends for that. I’m sure they would find something suitably poignant and embarrassing. But what I can say, is that I think I am one of the luckiest people in the world, that I am extremely grateful for where I am in life and that I’d pretty content if I died tomorrow... At the same time, I believe the good stuff is only just beginning and -in one way or another- there’s still a hell of a lot I have to share with the world.
David: Thank you, Sandro for your words and pictures and we look forward to seeing you on the silver screen and your artworks in the world’s finest galleries….
Please click on the photos below to visit Sandro's Fan Page and Homepage
Article copyright David Priol 2005
Photos copyrighted to their owners.