The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was a major breakthrough in filmmaking history, successfully adapting one of the most beloved works of fiction of all time, raking in billions of dollars and winning a total of 17 Academy Awards.
The monumental trilogy was also superbly documented, with extended editions of hours of bonus footage from the entire trilogy being released as part of the extended editions. The massive production pushed boundaries on visual effects and motion capture techniques, pulled absolutely no punches with its production design, and utilized many filmmaking techniques to bring Middle Earth to life. Along with the stunning scenery of New Zealand and Howard Shore's swelling score, filmmaker Peter Jackson and his extensive production crew crafted something remarkable.
Sean Bean Refused to "Fly You Fools!"
Sean Bean introduces us to Boromir. Once the Fellowship is established, the nine embark on a dangerous journey to Mount Doom, which soon culminates in a trip over the Misty Mountains. To Bean's displeasure, helicopters had to transport the cast and crew up an actual mountain.
Bean was so irritated that he refused to take the first flight up the mountain again. So, in order to get to the remote location, Bean took a ski lift and hiked the remaining miles, dressed in full Boromir outfit, to get to the filming location. While the rest of the giggling cast could see Bean hiking from their helicopter seats.
'The Parting of Frodo and Sam' was shot a year apart.
The 1999 Queenstown flood forced the film to shoot inside a local hotel squash court. Without any other movie options, Peter Jackson decided to turn to Return of the King and shoot a scene on the treacherous Stairs of Cirith Ungol. The steep, narrow stairs were so small that the production could construct the small set inside the squash court and keep the production moving.
Sam, who was manipulated by Gollum and before Serkis was even cast, tells Sam to go home. The following day, the weather cleared, and production returned to Fellowship. It would take approximately a year before they would be able to resume filming Frodo's coverage due to the co-production.
Did Ian McKellen Really Hit His Head?
Ian McKellen accidentally hit his head on the beam in Bag End, according to a long-standing myth. The popular trivia entry was inspired by the DVD interview in which Peter Jackson recalls the wonderful accident that made the final cut. McKellen later stated he made the suggestion the night before, and Jackson simply thought it was an accident.
The sharp bump on the head of the majestic wizard is a great opportunity early in the trilogy to depict the small world of the hobbits, including forced perspective, which allows McKellen to be closer to the camera than the hobbits, scaled props, and set sizes. In the instance of the legendary head bonk, McKellen is navigating a different version of the Bag End set that is 30% smaller than the one the hobbits were shot in.
When Aragorn knucks the orc helmet in Two Towers, Viggo Mortensen gives us an authentic response. In the Fellowship scene, when Sam chases Frodo across the river, Astin got a nasty bruise on his foot running to the Buckleberry Ferry; however, to Pippin actor Billy Boyd's dismay, it was just a small fragment.
Theodin, a Rohan stunt performer who took the ladder bolt at Helm's Deep, broke a leg. John Rhys-Davies, Gimli, lost the tip of his finger, although he used it to prank Peter Jackson.
Christopher Lee Actually Met J.R.R. Tolkien
Christopher Lee was the only cast member who saw him while drinking in an Oxford pub in the 1950s. Tolkien's first LOTR publication came in 1955, with Lee saying that he read the novels once a year for the rest of his life. This implies that he knew Tolkien's work throughout the film.
Lee was surprised when he discovered that The Lord of the Rings was being adapted into a film. Because of his age and the demanding physicality of the role, he became one of the first actors cast. Gandalf's voice and cadence was modeled after Tolkien's.
Fran Walsh's Nazgul Scream
The haunting scream of the Nazgul was provided by Fran Walsh, the co-screenwriter, co-producer, and partner of Peter Jackson. The sound department was having trouble finding a compelling sound for the Middle Earth villains assigned with searching for the One Ring. With a few minutes, the piercing scream had the sound team off and running.
For the Cave Troll, they used a lynx before incorporating the low walrus groan when the troll is mortally wounded. For Shelob the spider, they used steam and alligator hisses to give the beast a rock-like quality. Location served as a necessary tool, as did recording the vast echoes they would incorporate into the Mines of Moria.
Design Follows Function, LOTR By Numbers
The three extended versions of the film last 11 hours and 55 minutes, including credits. Over 2000 on-screen deaths were recorded and 2,827 visual effects were added to the soundtrack. The three films were in production for a record-breaking 274 days, matching Apocalypse Now (1979), but the miniature department spent over 1000 days in production.
Weta Workshop produced an estimated 48,000 individual props. This included 1,800 hobbit feet for just the main four hobbits, 19,000 costumes created by 40 seamsters, and thousands of prop swords and weapons. 40 different versions of the One Ring were created, including an extra large one, about the size of a mixing bowl, for close-ups.
Jane Abbott, a horse, was given to Viggo Mortensen as a gift.
The production used about 300 horses, and is appealing to all horse owners across New Zealand to join the cast as extras. For the hero horses, the production purchased prized horses and auctioned them off to members of the riding crew. Mortensen and Jane Abbott developed strong bonds with the horses they worked with and desired to take them home.
The most notable scene in Abbot's Fellowship is when Arwen (Liv Tyler) and her horse go through the plains to avoid the Black Riders. Abbott also served as the horses' caretaker throughout their breeding, further establishing that strong bond. At auction time, Abbott's price tag for the white stallion, Florian, was too great for him, but Mortensen jumped in and purchased the horse for her.
One of the Biggest Props Ever Made is the Mumakil Carcass.
The Mumakil, or Oliphaunts, are miniature elephants seen in The Return of the King, where Pippin is seen scouring the blood-soaked fields for Merry. The extra-large prop had to be transported in chunks and reassembled in an area where the production took a photo of the crew around and atop the gigantic prop.
The production team had to create other extra-large builds for the production team that required to depict the sheer scale of Middle Earth, including vast forests, miles of swamps, massive halls, great cities, and massive towers. "Bigatures" were created for the XL miniatures the production created to film for establishing shots of the various structures.
Gollum Juice, The Evolution of Motion Capture
Andy Serkis' performance as Gollum was initially all the production desired, and he was inspired by his cat's furball sounds for the famous Gollum's cough. He devised a hot honey, ginger, lemon, and water solution to soothe his throat, which he aptly named Gollum Juice.
The production quickly realized that Serkis' role was crucial to the realization of the CGI character. Early in production, Serkis wore white pajamas fitted with padding so that he could scurry over rocks on all fours. This VFX team had to film him a second time in a motion capture suit and completely replace his performance, and LOTR became the first production in history to film live-action actors and motion-capture actors simultaneously.