About the Artist

Paul Cato PortraitFor Paul Cato an interest in painting began as a youngster. Keen interest soon became a passion after viewing an exhibition of John Constable originals (1776-1837, English). "It was the first exhibition of any of the old masters I'd ever seen, and my first visit to a civic art gallery. I remember wandering around the works in awe and imagining myself standing in front of the easel with a wet brush in hand. I was absolutely inspired!"

While still a schoolboy, and after saving up cash from his newspaper delivery route Paul built his own easel and bought oil paints, brushes and canvas panels and began in earnest. He received encouragement from some very successful painters who critiqued his early pieces. By Paul's mid-teens he was already producing some fine work and undertook an occasional commission.

Paul eventually applied his creative gifts in the commercial art fields of graphic design and lithography and later ran a very successful sign and display company for several years. Then throughout most of the nineties Paul and his family had a complete change and worked with an international Christian mission, spending five years on New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea, where Paul painted in his 'spare time'. It was during this period Paul made a transition from a 'broad-brush' technique to a more detailed approach - and with greater use of color.

This change was provoked by two independent catalysts, the first being some challenging art projects which required attention to detail. The second was a rediscovering of the great American painters: Thomas Moran, Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole and others of the "luminist" style and the "Hudson River Group" of America's North-East. The influence of these was, at the time, more inspirational than specific, however Paul continues to strive for mastery in portraying light and atmosphere in his work.

Now based in Queenstown, New Zealand, Paul Cato finds the spectacular and world-renowned scenery provides continual inspiration. Tranquil waters, sparkling reflections, snowy peaks and cascading falls are all local elements that repeatedly occur in Paul Cato's landscapes. Virtually just over the hill from Paul's studio is the edge of the World Heritage Area, "South West New Zealand" (or Te Wahipounamu in the Maori language). This includes the National Parks of Fiordland and Mt. Aspiring. Paul loves to paint these vistas and their unique light effects and he prefers to paint areas where there is little, if any, evidence of human interference. He masterfully captures the remoteness and apparent serenity as well as the tumult of the elements in his work.

This magnificent mountain region is bursting full of inspiration for a dedicated artist, however to find the perfect painting material still requires a search, and it usually involves scrambling just around one more bend of the river, over just one more hill or through another stand of trees. "Ask my wife or daughters!" laughs Paul, "They get fed up with all the extra delays when we go anywhere and stop for 'a photo or two'."

Paul's paintings are sought after by galleries in New Zealand and overseas and sales continue to keep him very busy. A significant number of purchasers identify themselves as investors, and his works are displayed in the private and corporate collections of discerning buyers in numerous countries around the world. "Realistic impressionism" is how Paul generally describes his work, "and sometimes with a touch of the romantic".

More about Paul Cato

The LOTR Story

People are often very intrigued to learn that Paul was involved in the first two of Peter Jackson's famous "Lord of The Rings" movies. Because of Paul's 6' 8 1/2" height he was approached in 1999 about a role in the movies as a 'large scale double'. A busy painting schedule prevented him from joining up for the full twelve-month filming schedule however a deal was struck for a few weeks in three locations: 12-Mile Delta on Lake Wakatipu, Poolburn in Central Otago, and also at the main studios in Wellington.

Paul tells the story:
In "The Fellowship of the Ring" I appeared as Aragorn in several places. Early on in this first movie Aragorn (played by Viggo Mortensen) grabs Frodo (Elijah Wood) by the scruff of the neck when he takes the ring off (under the table) in the inn. The scene has the 'real' actor getting up and crossing the room, but then it is my big hand that shoots in from the top left of the screen and grabs Frodo.

I also appeared briefly in a number of other scenes as Aragorn, including when he was paddling the boat down the river Anduin with Frodo and Sam (Sean Astin).

My size fifteen feet did some of Aragorn's footwork when I had to pretend to fight some imaginary foes, with an imaginary sword, in front of at least 30 crew. Many thanks to the Director of Photography, Andrew Lesnie, who came to my aid and waved an imaginary sword back at me to give me something to react to without feeling like a total moron!

In the same movie I also acted for Sean Bean as the large scale Boromir in a number of scenes, working alongside Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Frodo and Sam. In every case I was fully kitted out with large-scale everything. I had swords, shields, bows and arrows, brooch or ring — and full head-to-foot clothing for each character.

I was even Princess Arwen's large-scale double — complete with sewn-in rice bags to fill out the appropriate bumps. Liv Tyler looked at me and asked, "Are you me?" as we stood in line for lunch. I don't think anyone else would have got us confused.

I was Arwen in the scene where the princess rescued the injured Frodo, pulling him up onto her horse and carrying him to safety. Except that actually Liv was sitting astride an empty oil drum with a horse-skin on it and the hobbit was played by Fon, a very tiny woman from Thailand. Meanwhile, in the next studio Elijah and I had to ride our horse through the forest — except that we had no horse! It was all blue-screen filming and while I held Elijah from falling off the imaginary horse with my left hand, I gripped imaginary reins with the right. The two of us just had to bob up and down ridiculously whilst trying desperately not to fall over — or burst out laughing. The camera, lights, fan and about six crew were all within touching distance and at least forty others were there to witness our weird dancing for about an hour!

I was also Faromir in the scene where the Gondor Rangers grabbed Sam and Frodo. That was filmed at the 12 Mile Delta just west of Queenstown. And I spent two days wandering around the hills of Poolburn, Central Otago, practicing the elf-walk and dressed as a Legolas big-scale double, my long, blonde hair with fancy elven braids blowing in the warm breeze. I was once fitted out with the full outfit of Gandalf the Grey but wasn't required for any scenes in that costume.

Because of my former sign-painting experience I was even called on to write prompt cards for — well maybe I shouldn't tell tales about who, but he was a very experienced actor. He had just had his finger slammed in a car door a day or two before and was in a great deal of pain so he had to be forgiven for not remembering every word in his lines.

So I got to eat lunch with 250 gruesome Orcs one day, with a fully made-up Gimli another day and a few times with key crew members and actors. I really had some great experiences with so many talented people in a raft of fields, including Paul Randall — the full-time big-scale double. Peter Jackson called him 'BP', short for Big Paul and so I became known as BP2.

In Wellington my usual spot in the make-up room was next to Elijah, and either Sean Astin or Christopher Lee were likely to be getting made up on the other side. And I must say that I did enjoy the pampering from the hair and make-up women at the end of the day when they'd take my wig off and wash my hair and ask things like, "Do you moisturize? You really should get your wife to get you some moisturizer!" And maybe I should actually do that someday.

My biggest regret? As there was a total ban on unauthorized cameras I did not get to get any pictures of me — but at the very end someone said that I should have got the wardrobe people to take Polaroids and keep them for me until the movie was released and the ban over. Why didn't I think of that before?