Lord Of The Rings Rewind: 38 Things You Didn't Know About The Fellowship Of The Ring
By the time the first movie in Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings hit screens, JRR Tolkien's classic fantasy series was already over 40 years old. The influence of Tolkien's books on fantasy storytelling in the second half of the 20th century is incalculable, from movies, TV shows, and novels to comic books, video games, and role-playing. Fantasy literature existed before the publication of the Lord of the Rings of course, but many of the tropes and conventions that have become part of the genre were drawn directly from Tolkien's stories. Nevertheless, the impact of Jackson's adaptations was such that, nearly 20 years later, they are the first thing that many fans think of when The Lord of the Rings is mentioned.
The movies had a long journey to screen. Jackson and his wife and filmmaking partner Fran Walsh first started developing them in 1995, with the project moving between several studios, and questions over whether it would be one, two, or three films. The series finally found a home at New Line Cinema, which agreed to let Jackson make the three movies he wanted, shot back-to-back in his native New Zealand.
While Jackson was a favorite among certain movie fans, for both his early horror comedies and acclaimed dramas like Heavenly Creatures, he had never tackled a project of The Lord of the Rings' scale. And shooting all three films at once was also a risk for the studio--if the first movie flopped, New Line and parent company Warner Bros would still be committed to releasing the next two parts.
But the risk paid off. The Fellowship of the RIng hit theaters in December 2001 and was a critical and commercial smash, with both fans and critics quickly recognising that Jackson and his team had set a new standard for fantasy filmmaking. The next two movies were just as successful, and in total, the series grossed more than $2.9 billion at the global box office.
The appeal of the series has never dipped either, and the movies continue to influence and inspire to this day. The story of their making is just as fascinating, the way the films took shape as they continued to be shot, and the decisions that Jackson, Walsh, and co-writer Philippa Boyens made when adapting Tolkien's work for the screen.
We've been back through the epic filmmaker and cast commentaries that were first released with the extended DVD version of The Fellowship of the Ring in 2002 to find some fascinating behind-the-scenes facts, references, and Easter Eggs. Let's delve greedily... and deeply.
1. The movie's prologue was assembled quickly at the end of post-production
While Jackson had shot the footage in the prologue, he had decided to abandon it as "redundant" during editing and just start the movie with the scenes in the Shire. However, including the prologue was one of the few mandatory demands from New Line, and it had to be quickly put together while the film was being scored.
2. The biggest fight Jackson had was over the length of the prologue
Having demanded the prologue was included, the studio then wanted it to run no longer than two minutes. Jackson insisted it needed to be much longer--seven minutes in the end--and he won the battle.
3. Several actors were tested as narrator of the prologue
Both Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood were recorded, but in the end the filmmakers decided on Cate Blanchett to narrate the prologue because of her "strong and powerful voice."
4. It took a long time build Hobbiton
The Hobbiton set was constructed near Matamata, a town on New Zealand's North Island. It was more than a mile-and-a-half square and took more than a year to build.
5. There was love among the hobbit extras
The hobbit extras were all locals from the Matamata farming community. Two of the extras actually met on set and got married afterward.
6. McKellen's first day
The scene in which Gandalf bangs on Bilbo's door was McKellen's very first scene, on his first day on set. He had literally just finished shooting the first X-Men movie and flew straight to New Zealand to start shooting Fellowship.
7. Gandalf's accidental head bump
The moment when Gandalf bangs his head on Bilbo's ceiling was an accident, but Jackson kept it in.
8. There were two Bag End sets
One set was normal size for the hobbit actors, while the other was identical in every way except it was a third smaller, to give the impression that Gandalf is much bigger than Bilbo and struggled to fit in the house. The filmmakers then cut between the two sets.
9. Billy Boyd didn't need a hobbit wig
Billy Boyd was the only hobbit actor who didn't have to wear a wig. Jackson said he had "the perfect Hobbit hair."
10. The Black Rider has a familiar voice
The scary voice for the Black Rider as he searches for Frodo in the Shire was provided by Gollum actor Andy Serkis.
11. This key scene was filmed three times
Jackson struggled with the scene where Gandalf tells Frodo about the history of the Ring and its power in terms of the tone and delivering all the necessary information. It was shot three times with different dialogue and line delivery between Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen, once during production, and then in two separate sets of reshoots. The final version is cut together from the three shoots.
12. The one more step scene was written at the last minute
The memorable scene where Sam says that one more step will be the furthest he has ever gone from the Shire was written the night before it was shot and squeezed into the schedule the next day.
13. There were multiple crews working at once
The sheer size of The Lord of the Rings shoot meant that there were multiple crews filming simultaneously. Sam actor Sean Astin revealed that there were up to six crews at any one time, using more than 20 cameras. Jackson would then direct these second unit crews via monitors which were satellite transmitted to the set he was on that day.
14. Saruman and Gandalf's scene was filmed twice
Saruman's first scene with Gandalf was filmed early on in production, but by the time editing was complete, Jackson decided he needed "new information" to be delivered in their conversation. So both McKellen and Christopher Lee were flown back to New Zealand to reshoot virtually the entire sequence.
15. Peter Jackson hates wizards
It might seem odd given he's made some of the greatest fantasy movies of all time, but Jackson doesn't like wizards and magic in movies. "I don't like old guys firing blue lightning out of their fingertips and doing all the usual wizardy-type stuff," he said. This is the reason the fight between Saruman and Gandalf is "two old guys beating the hell out of each other."
16. The first day of shooting ended in injury
The scene in which the hobbits tumble down the hill was shot on the very first day of production, and resulted in one of the film's biggest injuries. A stuntman dislocated his shoulder and was taken to the hospital.
17. This scene was shot in the middle of a city
While it looks like the hobbits are in a remote wood, this scene was in fact filmed in a park right in the middle of the city of Wellington, surrounded by skyscrapers.
18. Stilts were used to make actors taller than hobbits
Some of the background extras in the bar were small people on stilts, to make them appear much taller than the hobbits.
19. The Ringwraith screeches were performed by writer Fran Walsh
Walsh was demonstrating what she thought the ringwraiths should sound like, but because she had a throat infection, the resulting screams were so impressive and strange sounding that she was asked to record several more.
20. Viggo Mortenson was cast on very short notice
This fight scene was on Viggo Mortenson's first day on set. Viggo was cast as Aragorn very late on in the process, replacing Stuart Townsend after production had already begun. Mortenson was hesitant to take on the commitment of the role, but his Tolkien-loving son convinced him to.
21. The scary Uruk-hai leader Lurtz was invented for the movies
Lurtz was not in Tolkien's books, and was invented for the film. Jackson stated it was because the villains of the book, Sauron and Saruman, have "limitations" (being a giant eye and a wizard who doesn't go anywhere), and he wanted villains with whom the heroes could have a proper showdown at the end.
22. It was Ian Mckellen's suggestion that Sam should hold Frodo's hand
McKellen showed Astin the scene in Tolkien's book where Sam holds Frodo's hand while he is recovering in Rivendell shortly before they shot it, and suggested that it also happens in the film. "Anyone who knew the book would care about the deep friendship often of an innocently physical nature," McKellen said.
23. Gimli the dwarf was played by the tallest actor
At 186 cm tall, John Rhys-Davies was the tallest actor in the Fellowship, even though he was cast as diminutive Gimli.
24. Filming the Council of Elrond caused logistical problems
Jackson described the Council of Elrond as an "absolute nightmare" to shoot, in terms of avoiding "crossing the line." This is where a character needs to look in certain directions when talking to each other in a scene, or else it gets very confusing for the viewer. But in a scene where everyone is sitting in a circle, it becomes very hard to orchestrate.
25. Bilbo's terrifying Ring-face was a puppet
Bilbo's scary face when he talks about the Ring was in fact a rubber puppet that was morphed into Ian Holm's face for a few frames.
26. Sean Bean says he never filmed this scene
Sean Bean claims that he was already back home in the UK when they shot the scene where the Fellowship leave Rivendell. "I don't know how I got in that scene," he said. "You see these sort of digitally formed Boromirs running around."
27. Bill the Pony's happy ending was forced on the filmmakers
The moment Aragorn tells Sam that Bill the pony will find his way home was the filmmakers' concession to the studio. Fran Walsh calls the dialogue "lame" and Jackson says he actually wanted the tentacled monster known as the Watcher to eat Bill after the fellowship enters Moria.
28. Viggo Mortensen had to be shot from the side to hide an injury
Mortensen suffered a black eye and swollen face after a weekend surfing accident, when he hit himself in the face with a surfboard. When filming resumed that Monday, Jackson had to shoot the actor from the left to hide his injuries, resulting in what the director described as "awkward shots."
29. The Balrog was a ping pong ball on a stick
Ian McKellen had no idea what the Balrog would eventually look like when these iconic scenes were filmed, so the actor simply had to deliver those immortal lines ("you shall not pass!") to a ping pong ball on a stick to get the correct eyeline. The same was the case for the cave troll battle a few minutes earlier, when the actors had to look up at ping pong balls as they were waving their swords around.
30. The actors had to react to Gandalf's death before they'd seen the character
The reaction to Gandalf's death was shot long before the Moria scenes were filmed, and several weeks before McKellen had even arrived on set. The actors had to express their grief for a character they had not yet seen, played by an actor they hadn't met yet.
31. Cate Blanchett wore disco shoes
Cate Blanchett wore what Fran Walsh describes as "6-inch disco heels" for her scenes as Galadriel, to give her the height and stature of an imposing Elf Queen.
32. The theatrical version was criticized for Galadriel's dark vibes
The extended version of the film allows us to see the lighter, more friendly Galadriel. Jackson stated that he was criticised for only showing the darker side of the character in the theatrical version.
33. The writers made an important dialogue change
While the line "I would've gone with him into the very fires of Mordor" is in the book, Aragorn doesn't say it to Frodo. Walsh thought that was a "waste" and ensured that Aragorn says it directly to the person he is talking about. She also stated that a lot of Tolkien scholars approved of this change.
34. This fantastic shot was filmed with a very long cable
The moving overhead shot of the Uruk-hai charging down the hill was achieved by mounting a remote controlled camera on wires between two trees almost half a mile apart, which was then rolled down the wire via pulleys.
35. Peter Jackson didn't direct Aragorn’s fight with Lurtz
Lurtz's final fight with Aragron was shot by second unit director Barrie Osborne, while Jackson was filming Boromir's last stand just a few meters away. The shot of Lurtz licking the dagger wasn't in the script and was Osbornes idea.
36. No blood spurts allowed!
Although Lurtz loses his arm, the studio told the filmmakers that no spurting blood was allowed--which is a shame if you've seen Jackson's early gore movies.
37. Boromir's face changes color when he dies
Jackson asked for a subtle digital color change on Boromir's face as he dies, making it go slightly paler.
38. Dead Boromir was a dummy
Sean Bean had already left New Zealand by the time his funeral scene was shot, so a life-size model of the actor was used for the shots of his corpse in the boat.