Eric Alt (writer),
Chapman Baehler (photographer)
Remember your first tattoo? Maybe you took a few tentative trips to the local shop before you committed. Or maybe you woke up in a tub of ice with no memory of who or what it is that you now have scrawled across your chest. Regardless of your story, odds are Dominic Monaghan has you beat. You see, his involves booze, elves, wizards, and stunt doubles.
Monaghan got his big break in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which he played Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck, the fun-loving Hobbit who liked to chat up trees and smoke dope. While filming in New Zealand, Monaghan and the rest of the "Fellowship," which included actors Viggo Mortensen, Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, and Orlando Bloom, decided to commemorate the grueling shoot with some ink. They all got the word "nine" spelled out in Elvish, a language created by author J.R.R. Tolkien. With a first tattoo story like that, it's no wonder Monaghan didn't stop there.
Neither did his career. On the heels of Rings, Monaghan took the leap into the perpetual mind-fuck that is the ABC series Lost, playing the island's requisite heroin-addicted, possibly-alive-possibly-dead rock star, Charlie. As if those two things weren't already enough to make him the king of Comic-Con, Monaghan will next be seen opposite Hugh Jackman in the X-Men spin-off movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In other words, if he got a tattoo to commemorate every big role, he'd be working on sleeves by now.
INKED: How many tattoos do you have now?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: I have four or, arguably, five. I'll say four.
Well, the fourth one is split into two things, but essentially it's the same thing. That kind of makes it more four than five. It's on my foot, and it's a collection of stars, which is one piece, but it could be misconstrued as being two.
You, along with your Lord of the Rings costars, got matching tattoos as a bonding ritual. Was that really your very first ink?
Yeah, it was the number nine written in the language of High Elvish, which is a Tolkien language out of the Lord of the Rings book. By that time I had spent about two or three months in New Zealand, which is such a tattoo culture-or, I should say, moko culture, because in New Zealand they call it the moko rather than the tattoo. It feels like maybe three out of every four people that you meet in a bar has some sort of ink on their body. It's just very much a part of their culture. So myself and Orlando Bloom were the most intrigued and interested in getting a tattoo. And I'm quite an obsessive person, so with Orlando and me leading the charge, we started to throw around ideas. We had the idea of a ring, or we were like, "What if we spelled out the words 'One ring to bind them all,' or what if we write the word 'fellowship' or something like that?" Then we started researching the languages in the books and what looked the most beautiful. At first we wanted to do something in Hobbitish or the dwarves' language, but those don't draw very well. So we decided on Elvish, which is really quite beautiful. So then on one day when we all had the day off, we said, "Let's meet at this place on Cuba Street in Wellington called Roger's Tattooart." So the whole nine of us went in there with booze and cameras and just documented the whole affair. It was just a really beautiful experience for me. I think that was a great introduction into the world of tattoos. It appealed to all the things that I get off on-a feeling of connection and a feeling of permanence and something authentic and something real.
Was it a totally unanimous decision, or did some of the nine have to be dragged in kicking and screaming?
Some were less passionate than others. Sean Astin wasn't crazy interested at first. John Rhys-Davies wasn't interested, so we actually had John Rhys-Davies's stunt double come in and get the tattoo on John's behalf. Myself, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, and Elijah were all very gung-ho.