Hennah at home in Orinoco

20:25, Mar 24 2011
Dan Hennah
RETURN OF THE KING: Oscar winner Dan Hennah and his wife, Chris, on their victorious return to Nelson from Hollywood in 2004.

With the nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards announced last week, movie fans across the world are speculating just who will be going home with Oscars when the winners are announced on February 27.

Will 2011 be Colin Firth's year? Will The Social Network be too strong for The Fighter? And will Natalie Portman dance off with best actress for her performance in Black Swan?

Someone who plays an actual role in deciding who wins what is Orinoco's own Oscar-winning art director Dan Hennah. Dan, who won an Academy Award in 2004 for his work on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 2005. He was also nominated in 2006 for his work on King Kong, in 2003 for Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and in 2002 for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Dan votes on who gets to be nominated in his specialist category of art direction and then votes for the winners across all categories.

Currently working as the production designer for The Hobbit in Wellington, Dan took time out this week to talk to The Leader.

What does your job on The Hobbit involve?
I am responsible for the design of sets and props, to try to help bring the director's vision to the screen.

What are the best and worst things about working in the movie industry?
The best is the complete immersion in another world. To do justice to any project you really have to live it for the duration and you learn about the culture and customs of that world, the aspirations of the characters and the challenges they face. The worst is spending a lot of time away from home. Wouldn't be so bad if I lived somewhere I didn't like so much.

Do you have any other projects in the pipeline and if so what can you tell us about them?
I tend to live on a project-by-project basis. For 30 years I have gone home at the end of each job and waited for the phone to ring. Luckily it has from time to time.

What's it like voting for the Academy Awards and what films have particularly impressed you so far?

It truly is an amazing privilege to vote for the Academy Awards and I look forward to it each year. This year I like True Grit for its honesty, The Fighter for its raw quirky guts, The Way Back for its visual integrity and Inception for its innovation. That is just the beginning. I really don't know what I will vote for yet as I am still reviewing the tapes.

When work takes you away from home what do you miss most about Orinoco?
My family and friends, followed closely by the tranquility and the sound of bellbirds in the morning.

What advice would you give anyone hoping to have a career in the film industry?
Be prepared to commit yourself. It's a life sentence.

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What is one thing not a lot of people know about you?
I got the strap on my first day at school.

What is your earliest memory?
I was in some sort of string hammock on the veranda and my mother was painting a landscape that had cattle on a hillside.

If you were an animal what would you be and why?
Probably a lion. I don't mind raw meat and the lionesses are very attractive.

What's your favourite pudding?
Christmas plum pudding with icecream, custard and fresh cream.