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EE Commentary Transcripts

FotR Disc 1

Note: I have tried to transcribe the commentaries as accurately as possible, and for the most part, it is verbatim: I have tried to include most occurences of "you know", "like", "I mean" and "sort of", as well as the odd occurence of incorrect grammar. There are, however, one or two places in the commentaries where I cannot make out what is being said (usually due to whispering, laughing or speaking on top of each other) and in these cases, I have given my best guess at what is being said in [square brackets]. Also, you'll notice that the word (beat) used quite frequently throughout the transcripts. This simply means that there is a gap in time between one thing being said and another; however, in these transcriptions, I have used beats primarily when there is a change of subject, rather than a gap in time. Also, it is not marked when there is a gap in time between two different people speaking.

Peter: Hi, I’m Peter Jackson, the director and co-writer and producer of ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

Fran: Hi, I’m Fran. I have a writing credit in the film and a producing credit.

Philippa: Hi, I’m Philippa Boyens, and I only have a writing credit on the film.

Peter: And we’re up here in our office in Miramar, New Zealand, having a look at this movie: a little bit of a different version to what you’re used to seeing in the theatres. This is the Extended Cut version. We’ve got a few new scenes that none of you have seen before, so it’ll be fun to talk about those. (beat) I think the beginning of the movie was probably the hardest thing, both in terms of conceiving it and writing it, and when we edited the film, it was really difficult, and everything else seemed simple in comparison.

Philippa: [to Peter] Very early on, though, you knew you wanted something quite lyrical as the very, very opening thing, and you knew very early on that you wanted to open in black.

Fran: When we did early drafts of the script we attempted to write the prologue, and it became so over-stuffed with information, and so, sort of, overburdened with its own enormity, that we eventually decided we didn’t need one.

Peter: And we shot, obviously, everything for the prologue when we were doing the original photography, but then I remember that as we got into post-production and cutting, we felt that the prologue was possibly redundant, and we developed an entirely different opening, which was more revolving around Hobbits and what Hobbits are.

Fran: And so we left the prologue behind, and we thought: whatever information we haven’t got can come out in Bag End with Gandalf and Frodo, and he can speak to that. We wrote several different kitchen scenes in Bag End with Gandalf throwing light on the events of the past.

Peter: And I remember the decision to go back and revisit the idea of the prologue, and to put the prologue back in happened when we were about to leave New Zealand to fly to London to do the scoring.

Fran: What happened was, we screened the movie for New Line, and one of their key and mandatory notes was, “You must have a prologue!” which was, for us, sort of like, “Oh, God, we’re back there again!”: it had become a sort of hell for us, and so we found ourselves in England, recording the score with an AVID machine jammed into one of the rooms in the house; our editor John Gilbert came over with a bunch of footage and it was up to us, at that point, to construct the prologue, and this had to happen, sort of, during the time that we were also doing the score. It was a big strain! It was quite a hard thing!

Peter: And, basically, the exact cut that’s in the movie now is what got done in London during that period of time. (beat) [Last Alliance] I always had the idea of doing a big battle in the prologue: it was really one of the attractions, and I looked at it in the sense of, you know, opening a James Bond film, where, you know, they always have there prologue with some real balls-to-the-wall kind of action scene, and I’ve always loved that as a concept in film because, as a device, it plucks you out of the world that you’ve been in that day: you’re now in a cinema in the hands of the filmmakers, and suddenly you’re being put into this incredible action sequence; you are given no time to think: you’ve only just sat down to watch the film, and there’s all this stuff going on, and then by the time a prologue like that finishes, you’re sort of totally in the hands of the filmmaker, and I wanted to do something similar. Obviously, we’re telling the story of the Ring, but I thought that a battle would be a great way to start, and the story obviously gives us the battle with the Last Alliance, where Sauron is destroyed.

Fran: Here was the place, the one place, that we were going to demonstrate the depth of his power, and if we failed to do that, then he really wasn’t going to be very credible for three whole movies, so we knew it was very important that we sell him as this terrible and omnipotent, all-powerful force.

Philippa: [to Peter] A lot of these images, you had in your mind right from the treatment; I remember from the ninety page treatment: nothing changed, not over the five years.

Peter: Isildur is played by Harry Sinclair, who is a long-term friend of ours: we’ve known Harry for about ten or twelve years. Harry himself is a director: he has directed three feature films.

Philippa: I think, if I remember rightly, you and Fran were trying to find the most corrupt and venal person you knew, wasn’t it? [Peter laughs] And you thought about Harry!

Peter: Well, yes [Philippa laughs], [?go there in a second]

Fran: The other thing that was really hard about the prologue was: from what point of view do you tell the story? And I think that in past attempts we told it through the point of view of Isildur solely, or we’d try to tell it from a kind of ‘God’s Eye’ point of view; we tried all of these different points of view, but in the end, it wasn’t until we came to understand that the Ring is, in fact, a protagonist in the story, and in many ways it’s an antagonist, and that what we should do is tell the prologue from the Ring’s point of view. It’s: Who makes it; for what purpose; how they lose it; who it comes to; and who it then passes to. That’s the story of the prologue, and when that became clear to us, it was much easier to do.

Peter: [Isildur jumps in the River with the Ring] The footage we’ve added here does show the process of how the Ring ultimately caused Isildur’s death much clearer than what was in the theatrical version. (beat) The length of the prologue was always a little bit of a debate. Once we got to the point when we knew a prologue was going to be in the film, it was the very last stages of post-production, and New Line started to impose rules on us – which they’d never done before – they started to say, “Well, you can have a prologue, but it’s got to be no longer than two minutes”, and our prologue is actually seven and a half minutes, and it was really –. In a way, it was one of our biggest fights we ever had with the studio, and it was strange, because it was the very last thing that happened before the film was finished: we’d been making this movie for three or four years, with a very good relationship, and needless to say, we won the battle, because we just felt, you know, you can’t make a prologue like this with all of this information in a two minute length of time.

Philippa: And, what we did find in the process of writing the prologue, which was really valuable, is: you can overload, of course, and one of those things that went into overload in the earlier drafts was the prologue was the excessive use of proper names, straight from Tolkien, and such as naming Narsil, such as naming the lance of Gil-galad… in fact, even naming Gil-galad himself – it just was too much information, and it wasn’t really until Pete got in there in post that you could feel the weight of, just, excessive information. (beat) [The Ring crashes against the rocks in the Misty Mountains] Ngila Dixon our costume designer worked very hard where, even if there were descriptions of clothing made by Professor Tolkien in any of his works, they were followed almost to the letter. [Bilbo finds the Ring] If you look closely, you’ll see that Bilbo’s vest does indeed have brass buttons: these are the brass buttons that famously pop off when he tries to escape as is told in ‘The Hobbit’.

Peter: Oh, yes! The read waistcoat with brass buttons! (beat) To make Ian Holm look younger, we attached –. We glued some tabs to the side of his cheeks, and pulled his skin back underneath his wig to pull the wrinkles out, because, obviously, Bilbo Baggins as seen in the prologue is sixty years younger than as we see him later on in Bag End.

Fran: Initially we recorded the prologue – an early version – with Elijah, who was reading it as Frodo at the end of the journey, but when we heard it back, we really felt that it didn’t seem to be part of Frodo’s story: it was reflecting on things that he could not have known about; and then we thought that, possibly, Gandalf would be a good person, and I think we actually did a recording with him; but we came to Cate in the end because of the agelessness of Elves, and the fact that Elrond appears in the prologue; he also speaks to it later in the film, and it felt appropriate to us that she would almost bookmark this trilogy by opening it and closing it, as she does at the end of Part Three. We also liked the idea of using a female voice: she’s got such a great voice, a strong and powerful voice, and we knew that she would use the language well.

Peter: [Bilbo writes the title of his book] One of the most significant changes from the theatrical version into this extended cut is the way that we introduce the Hobbits, and particularly Bilbo Baggins. At the time that we thought –. We didn’t think we were going to have a prologue, and we were going to open the movie with the writing of Bilbo’s book and hearing his voice describing Hobbits, but once we decided to go back to the concept of including the prologue, and the prologue became seven minutes long, then this sequence started to feel like there was just too much narration, and to some degree, that’s probably true, but it is such a delightful sequence that I just felt that it deserved to be seen, and so, you know, for good or bad, here it is on this extended cut. Obviously it establishes the book that Bilbo’s writing, which we now see later in Rivendell, and it makes some sense of dialogue between Gandalf and Bilbo that happens later in the kitchen when Bilbo says, “I want to find somewhere quiet to finish my book” because we will have obviously seen him writing his book here. (beat) The Hobbit extras were a bunch of people from near Matamata in the North Island of New Zealand. We chose them for their looks, for their faces, for their, sort of, ‘hobbity’ qualities; but obviously here, we get to see a little bit more of the Hobbiton set that we built. [Sam appears on screen] Here’s Sean Astin’s introduction which we just… It’s really the only time that we ever see him gardening, which is kind of strange, because obviously Sam Gamgee is a gardener and one of the things that I guess we missed a little bit is the concept of the fact, you know, that he’s a gardener, but we did have that shot originally in this early version of the opening. I like the way in which the Hobbits and the society of Hobbiton and the essence of Hobbits is set up, and we, sort of, were able to take the time to do that, whereas in the theatrical version of the film, we had to, sort of, jump straight ahead. (beat) [Shot of Frodo reading under a tree] This is a shot we did when we were doing pick-ups; we felt that we hadn’t really go the ideal introduction for Frodo, and we found this really pretty forest about an hour’s drive north of where we were based and we thought that just this moment of Frodo reading a book under a tree would be a really great way to introduce his character.

Philippa: It was funny seeing him standing there after four months or so, and he was standing there with his feet on, and the costume, with the hair on, just laughing and laughing that was back in Frodo again.

Peter: [Gandalf: “A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins”] This was a very important scene because it’s the first time we see the size of Hobbits compared to a human, or, in this case, a wizard, Gandalf; and we used really simple tricks for this scene: there’s no computer special effects at all, we simply used a big Gandalf – an eight-foot tall person called Paul – and a very small Frodo – a four foot high person called Kieran. That’s Paul catching –. That’s Kieran being cuddled by Ian; that’s Paul cuddling Elijah; and just between, cutting between the big and the small stand-ins if you like – big and small doubles – we were sort of able to create the illusion without any complicated tricks at all. (beat) In this version of the opening, the dialogue in the cart between Gandalf and Frodo is a little different; we just used different pieces of dialogue, and we were able to establish the mystery of the Ring a little bit more – the fact that… Not so much the Ring, because we don’t know it’s the Ring yet, but the fact that Bilbo Baggins has been acting kind of strange, that was something that we wanted to get a sense of: the fact that he’s got an unusual behaviour going on that we ultimately later find is the Ring, but at this moment it’s concerning Frodo. (beat) [Bilbo’s frenzy over the Ring] I know one of the concerns that Fran had when we were contemplating this version for the theatrical release of the film was that she was worried that it would establish Bilbo as a slightly darker character that –. Bilbo is obviously a very loveable, cute Hobbit, but the fact that we would first see him introduced in this way being a little bit weird and, sort of, you know, acting in a slightly compulsive, unusual way… I know Fran was concerned that it would just… it would not really… you know, it would lead to expectations of who Bilbo was that is not really true, that obviously he’s just having a little… a strange little episode here because of the way that this Ring is affecting him, but he is, basically, obviously his usual, loveable self. It’s possibly not the best way to introduce the character by seeing him in this manner first. (beat) [Frodo: “He’s up to something…”] The shots here of Gandalf and Frodo talking were done after the original Hobbiton scenes were shot. One of the difficult things with the beginning of the film was the fact that we have to talk about Bilbo – a character who we don’t really know – we have to talk about the fact that he’s leaving, and there’s something strange going on, and just the concept of setting all of that stuff up was a little bit tricky.

Philippa: We didn’t want to be too dark and too ominous too early, because there’s so much of that in the film; we wanted to show Frodo, especially this –. Part of what we’re trying to do here is show this young boy who has a very carefree life: we worked quite hard to do that.

Peter: Hobbiton is a location in Matamata, in the North Island of New Zealand, and we spent at least a year before we were due to shoot, in building Hobbiton: the bridge was completely fabricated – it was built by the New Zealand Army out of polystyrene; the Green Dragon pub was just constructed on the side of a small lake. (beat) The fireworks on the back of the cart are done by a computer; we just had the little smoke-bombs going off, and they were computer fizzy-effects. (beat) All of our Hobbit extras were gathered from the local farming community at Matamata; we just looked for the best hobbit-faces we could, because we knew, kind of, what Hobbits should look like: they had to be sort of short and squat, and have large eyes and round faces.

Philippa: A couple of those extras got married, did you know that?

Peter: No.

Philippa: They met on set and got married.

Peter: Right, okay. (beat) [wide shot of Hobbiton with Gandalf’s cart, screen cap] This shot shows the size of the location – it was literally a huge area of land, probably at least a mile – a mile and a half square – that we landscaped; all of the roads were built, the Hobbit-holes were built, the trees… often the trees were planted, the gardens were planted – none of this existed. There’s a lot of work to go on for what’s a relatively short amount of screen time, really, that we see the exterior of Hobbiton, but we felt that you just had to sell it: it couldn’t look artificial or fake in any way possible. [Gandalf knocks on Bag End door] This shot here of Ian banging on the door was Ian’s very first shot in the film – this is his… this is Day One! He’d just come of X-Men, flown to New Zealand, January 2000, and this was the very first scene that we shot. He really hadn’t quite figured out Gandalf, but he was doing a pretty good job for his first day. The Ian Holm shots were actually done inside a studio; from the location of Matamata, that’s Ian McKellen, and when you cut to Ian Holm, we’re inside a studio. Andrew Lesnie, our cinematographer, did a brilliant job of matching the indoors and the outdoors. (beat) [Bilbo and Gandalf walk into Bag End] Now, some of the scale tricks in the film were done with very complicated methods, and I wanted to really spend a lot of time on the shot here where Ian McKellen and Ian Holm are together in the hallway, and we shot them separately: Ian McKellen was against blue-screen, and the hat-handover with the stick was the most tricky part of the shot, which was basically involving different sized hats, different sized sticks and blending the two together with a computer. It was just in a situation where if we did a few of these complicated shots – these time consuming, difficult shots – I thought it would sell the concept of scale for the rest of the film. (beat) Now, when Gandalf bangs his head here, that was actually a mistake: Ian didn’t intend to do that – it wasn’t in our script, and it was something that he did accidentally, and we decided to keep it in the film. Fortunately, he kept acting – he didn’t stop – he sold it really well.

Philippa: He never stops! [laughs] He always keeps going! [Gandalf picks up map] And here, of course, is Thorin Oakenshield’s map from ‘The Hobbit’ – the map used by Bilbo and the company of Dwarves and Gandalf to find the secret door into the Lonely Mountain. There was a little bit of confusion as to what happened to Thorin’s map: we had it written in there, and we had a note to check, factually, what happened to Thorin’s map, and the person we set onto that was Henry Mortensen, Viggo Mortensen’s son, was our researcher on that, and he went in there and double-checked what happened to Thorin’s map, and said, “Yes: no, it survived”.

Peter: Thank heavens for Henry!

Philippa: [laughing] Thank heavens for Henry! (beat) One of the things I remember was – before this project even got green-lit – you had a wish-list, and your wish-list for Bilbo Baggins was Sir Ian Holm [Peter agrees] and I don’t think we ever saw anybody else as Bilbo, so it was just a dream come true watching him bring Bilbo to life.

Peter: [Bilbo pours tea for Gandalf] This shot is actually not a computer shot: it looks like one, because you’ve got the two actors in the same shot, but it’s done with forced perspective. Now, the table that Ian Holm is pouring on is a different sized table to what Ian McKellen’s sitting on, and there’s actually five or six feet… This table’s split in half, chopped down in the middle; the join is hidden by all of the different objects that are on the table, but there’s actually a five or six foot gap between the two halves of the table in that wide shot, and the two actors are in the same room together, but they’re a lot more separated by distance than what appears on film; and what you actually see is the appearance that one character is very small and that one’s very big, and that’s simply because the small person’s further away: it’s called forced perspective.

Philippa: I think I’m right in saying: this was the first time Ian Holm and Ian McKellen have acted together in a film.

Peter: Yeah, they’d never worked together – they knew each other slightly, but they’d never been in anything together, and I think they had a lot of fun.

Philippa: They did.

Peter: They were great days, these days, because they were both… In a way, they were both, you know, really determined to make their scenes as special as they possibly could. They only had two or three scenes together, and they wanted to make the most of them.

Philippa: I think one of the… If I remember rightly, Ian Holm did make the enquiry – I don’t think Gandalf had been cast when we approached him – and he did ask… One of his first questions was, “Who’s playing Gandalf?”

Peter: The smoking scene is one that I thought I would have to fight for: I was sure at some stage, because it’s Hollywood, somebody would come to me and say, “You can’t show smoking in a film, it’s not politically correct,” and yet it’s my favourite scene, this smoke-ship. [Philippa laughs] I always wanted to have the smoke-ship, and I was really gearing myself up for a hell of a fight when the day came that I was told to get rid of the smoking scene, but it never did.

Philippa: No.

Peter: Nobody ever breathed a word about it.

Philippa: In earlier drafts, we actually had a running gag that Gandalf had given-up smoking.

Peter: A big scene like the Hobbit party, is one of those scenes when you get all of your friends and family to come along to be extras. It’s a lot of fun: they get to wear funny clothes and wigs, and there’s quite a few of our family involved in this scene. I know that there’s a shot of Fran’s uncle, Tom – [Hobbit-man holding a mug walks towards a hobbit-woman] there he is there, that’s Fran’s uncle – and my cousin Jill pops up at some stage around here. That’s Fran’s Uncle Tom again, shaking Ian Holm’s hand, and I remember this was a lot of fun to shoot on this day; we shot this over about two or three days, and we needed three cameras, so I got to operate one of the cameras, so a few of the shots of the dancing and the partying is actually me filming it, which was a lot of fun: I’ve always loved operating cameras, and I don’t do it quite as often as what I’d like.

Philippa: If you look very closely at the band who –. There’s several shots you’ll see that Billy Boyd is actually playing bass guitar [laughs].

Peter: [Cute Hobbit Kids] And there’s another little family cameo: the two hobbit-children that you see there are actually Fran and my two children.

Philippa: This scene was –.

Peter: The cutest Hobbits [Philippa laughs] in Hobbiton.

Philippa: It actually originally was five minutes longer than that, of course!

Peter: Oh, yes! [Philippa laughs]

Philippa: Actually, there’s an interesting bit of trivia in here: in all three films, every single actor was wigged, except for one character, and that was Billy Jackson, who had the perfect Hobbit hair, and never had to be wigged, but everybody else you see is wearing a wig.

Peter: There are supposed to be a hundred and forty-four Hobbits at Bilbo’s party, and I think due to budgetary constraints [Philippa laughs] that we had about a hundred.

Philippa: It’s one gross.

Peter: Don’t count them too closely, because you might find that there’s a few missing [Philippa laughs].

Philippa: It was one gross of Hobbits.

Peter: Oh, right.

Philippa: As Tolkien put it.

Peter: [Bilbo hears Lobelia] This is a little piece that got trimmed out of the theatrical version: it’s the return of the Sackville-Bagginses back into our story; after Bilbo says hi to Mrs. Bracegirdle, he just gets wind that his feared relatives are on the prowl, trying to look for him. You know, this sense of Bilbo’s paranoia at the fact that his relations are trying to get the house from under him is something that’s very humorous in the book, so we wanted to have a sense of it in the movie, but what this also gives us – which we didn’t have in the theatrical version – is this little scene between Elijah and Ian Holm, that in actual fact, in the movie that got screened in the theatres, the only time that Frodo and Bilbo actually connect is in the Rivendell scene much later; that we managed to really, you know, to cut the movie for the theatres in a way that Bilbo and Frodo never actually shared a scene together at the beginning of the film, but one was shot, and here it is. It plays into the concept that Bilbo knows that he’s going to be leaving; he want to go to away to finish his book, and he just hasn’t had the courage to break the news to Frodo: it’s one of those typically English things where you, sort of, skirt around the issue and never really confront it, and he just doesn’t know how to tell Frodo that he’s going to be leaving. (beat) [Firework dragon sweeps over Hobbits]. The gag with the firework-dragon is one of those situations where there was a mention of it in the book – I can’t remember quite what the book says – but it wasn’t used in the same way that we do it in this film; I don’t think Merry and Pippin were involved [Philippa: No, they don’t.], but it did say something about a dragon, [Philippa: It’s the first –.] a firework dragon that, sort of, goes out of control or something?

Philippa: It’s the first scene I wrote for you.

Peter: Yeah, and so it was fun to take these moments from the book, and, kind of, develop them into something that has a little bit more significance.

Philippa: And with doing more than one thing.

Peter: Yeah, introducing Merry and Pippin is what it was, which is great; and it’s also magic: you know, I didn’t want to have too much magic in the movie, because I don’t like magic in films – in fantasy films – I think it’s… But, you know, having a dragon like this – a firework dragon – is a pretty cool thing. (beat) [Bilbo steps up to make his speech]. My first introduction to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was when I saw the Ralph Bakshi cartoon film in 1978, and even though our movie, obviously, is stylistically very different, and the design is different, there is one shot which I regard as my homage to the cartoon – because it did inspire me to want to read the book, and that’s the shot [Odo Proudfoot with his feet up] of Proudfoot shouting “Proudfeet!” where I deliberately copied the angle that Ralph Bakshi used, which I thought was brilliant. (beat) If you look very closely in the wide shots, you’ll actually see that the cake is on fire; the candles, sort of, set fire to the polystyrene, and even though the cameras kept rolling, the cake was slowly starting to burn like an inferno, but Ian Holm was doing such a great job, we just wanted to keep the shots going, and it actually started to burn the entire cake down!

Philippa: [laughing] That’s what a hundred an eleven candles will do for you! (beat) [Bilbo begins to finger the Ring] It was interesting, when we came to do some ADR on this, that Sir Ian Holm was absolutely brilliant at ADR, and usually only requires one or two takes – ADR is Additional Dialogue Recording – and this particular scene, where he played it slightly tipsy on the day, he could not ADR these lines, and he just turned and said to us in the ADR session, “Can you clean this up? I can’t redo it!”

Peter: We added a little bit of psychological intensity that’s not really in the book – in the book, the disappearance of Bilbo is like a total lark: a real trick he plays, and we just wanted to show that the Ring is having a little bit more of a potent effect on Bilbo, and it’s starting to make him look a little odd.

Philippa: And, of course, we made the decision early on that Frodo is suspicious of Bilbo leaving, but has no idea that he is, in fact, going to do it, as opposed to the story in the book, where Frodo is fully in on Bilbo’s plans, and enjoys the joke.

Peter: We also had to drop the idea that it was Frodo’s birthday as well as Bilbo’s, because often those things are just too complicated and confusing for what value you get from them.

Philippa: One of my favourite things in the book is that Hobbits give presents on their birthdays instead of receiving them, and so it’s one of those things that you’d love to do, but just stops the film dead if you attempt to do them. [Bilbo’s confrontation with Gandalf] And on the wall, if you look, closely and see two portraits, which is Bilbo’s parents, and if you look even closer, you’ll see they bear a striking resemblance to Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh.

Peter: [screen cap] This was a difficult shot because it’s so long: if you just look at it, it just keeps going and going and going without cutting, and I wanted to do that deliberately, again, I wanted to spend a lot of time… This single shot took us an entire day to shoot, because I really wanted to sell the idea again of Ian Holm and Ian McKellen being together and being different sizes. And I thought it was worth it, because the shot’s over a minute long, which means you’re not spending the entire day doing eight or nine second-long difficult shots; you’re doing a minute-long difficult shot, so it makes the time worthwhile. (beat) [Bilbo: ‘Why shouldn’t I keep it?’] I think Ian Holm does this brilliantly: this is, probably, one of my favourite scenes in the entire film. I just think that you’ve just got to imagine how difficult it is to sell the idea, without making it look hammy or cheesy, and he’s just doing brilliant, brilliant work here.

Philippa: Sir Ian Holm played Frodo in the BBC radio adaptation of ‘The Lord of the Rings’; he was very, very familiar with the world.

Peter: When you look at the scenes in Bag End, just forgetting the trick-shots that have the two actors in the scenes at the same time, what you’re seeing is actually two completely different sets: we built Bag End at two different sizes, so every time that you’re seeing Ian Holm, you’re looking at a Bag End which is large, which makes him look like he’s the right size, and when you look at Ian McKellen, you’re seeing a much smaller Bag End, one in which we all had to bend over, and stoop as we went in the door, and we just simply –. They were exactly the same: the books on the shelves were built to different scales, the candles, the candlesticks; the furniture was all manufactured at two different sizes; they’re exact replicas of each other, except one of them is thirty-three percent smaller than the other. (beat) I loved this Bag End set so much; it felt so comfortable that when we finished shooting with it, it was due to be destroyed, as all of our sets are: they basically get broken up and junked when the filming’s finished, and I couldn’t bear that to happen to Bag End, so I approached New Line, and said, “If I can pay for my own storage, can I keep the Bag End set?” and they agreed, so I’ve got Bag End in storage, and one day I’m going to put it into the side of a hill. I’m going to actually… I’m going to make my own hobbit-hole, because it’s just so comfortable: it’s just an amazing experience to be in a house where everything’s round; it’s something like being in the womb – it’s, sort of, very, very peaceful and tranquil and something calming about it, so I’m looking forward to, one day, being able to spend weekends in Bag End.

Philippa: [Bilbo drops the Ring] I thought this was conceptually brilliant. I remember reading this – again, this was in your treatment, Peter – that the Ring doesn’t just fall, it almost adheres.

Peter: It almost sticks to the palm of his hand [Philippa: Sticks to his hand…], only reluctantly. And then when the Ring lands, we wanted to put this big, heavy sound effect on, so it goes thump like it weighs a hell of a lot more than what it really should.

Philippa: [Bilbo steps out of Bag End and speaks to Gandalf] This was so beautifully done, this scene, I believe, and it is one of those moments, as a Tolkien fan – for someone who’s read the book – where these two actors truly are Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, I believe. And you wouldn’t know that these two really didn’t know each other that well. The song is taken, of course, from the poem, and the music – the tune – was composed by Fran: she came up with it at the last second.

Peter: [Gandalf attempts to pick up the Ring] The book is very different in this whole area, and in a way it was tricky to figure out how to get Bilbo on the road, how to make the Ring stay behind with Frodo, what Gandalf’s attitude was. The book is, kind of, vaguely similar, but very, very different; and we grappled with this: we basically wanted to make the film a little bit more… tense, I guess, to keep the pressure on more so than in the book, and so we concentrated on making the Ring, and the threat of the Ring, foremost in the way that these scenes played themselves out.

Philippa: It was very difficult to give the audience a sense that Gandalf had, up until this moment, had no suspicions about this Ring, and that it was just a trinket that Bilbo had found – maybe a trinket that he had always been uneasy about, but nothing more than that – but, I think, if you remember back to the prologue, very soon Peter wanted a sense that something had been activated, and that’s what we tried to set up in the prologue: that the time was coming soon, and… that is actually what happens at the end of this scene. You get a sense that evil has awoken, and the Ring – almost like a machine – has been activated.

Peter: [Gandalf hastily walks through the hall of Bag End after giving Frodo the Ring] Here’s Ian McKellen, in his small, little set; and here’s Elijah in his big set.

Philippa: But in that shot they’re both in the same set? [screen cap] Do you have Ian up on a high…

Peter: Yeah, Ian was up on a box, and then we did all sorts of tricks. [Gandalf bands down to warn Frodo] I mean, that’s not Elijah there, that’s little Kieran, who was only four-foot tall. A lot of it’s pretty low tech, quite simple. (beat) [shot of Mount Doom and Barad-dűr] This is the big shot of Barad-dűr, where a miniature, I guess about fifteen-foot tall, was used. The lava’s just computer-generated and I wanted to do one big shot that just made you feel the size and expanse of this huge, big tower. It’s under construction, I mean, when you see this tower in the second film and the third movie, it’s actually finished: this is only, like, a third of the way as high as what it ultimately reaches. The idea here – it’s a little bit difficult to tell – but the idea here is that the orcs are still building it. (beat) [shot of Nazgűl riding out of Minas Morgul] People think that this is the Black Tower, but it’s actually Minas Morgul, it’s a different castle that we see again in part three. (beat) [Gandalf approaches Minas Tirith] Now, the city of Minas Tirith that we’re looking at here plays a big rôle in ‘The Return of the King’ – in the third of the movies – and you’ll be seeing a lot more of the City. About half the movie, I guess, probably takes place there.

Philippa: [Gandalf walks through the City] It was interesting for Sir Ian McKellen in this shot, when he’s walking through the streets of Gondor: he hadn’t put that costume on for probably about six months – he’d been Gandalf the White for a very long time.

Peter: Hopefully they’ve washed it!

Philippa: [laughing] Yes, possibly not, because he was very much into being as grungy a Gandalf the Grey as he could be. (beat) We discussed whether we should actually title this as Gondor, and in the end we decided just to let it flow.

Peter: Yeah, we thought a lot about [Philippa: Yeah] whether we should throw subtitles up on the screen, you know, to identify places – little captions, sort of, popping up – but we just thought at the end of the day that it could be a little bit cheesy, and we decided not to do it. I think that so long as people can follow the story, they don’t need to know that this is Minas Tirith, that this is the ancient, you know, the archives of the Citadel… I think the pictures at least tell you what’s going on. (beat) [flashback of Isildur holding the Ring] This is a very tiny little section of the book. It gets referenced in the Council of Elrond in the book, where Gandalf talks about going to Minas Tirith and how Denethor lets him spend some time studying in the archives to try to find out information about the Ring, and so we took it from this little mention in the Council and we actually put it up at the beginning of the film here, because we thought it would be quite an evocative scene. (beat) [Black Rider approaches Farmer Maggot] This was a scene that we shot after filming finished: it was a little pick-up that we did because we felt we wanted to just show the Riders – the Black Riders – on the borders of the Shire, just getting close, and just to start to up the tension.

Philippa: And a little bit of movie trivia here: I do believe that one of our actors voiced that Black Rider. I don’t know if you know who it is, but it’s actually Andy Serkis, who also voices Gollum.

Peter: We wanted to get a great voice. We were recording some Gollum dialogue, and we said to Andy, “Do you want to try a Black Rider voice for us?” and so Andy did it. (beat) [The Green Dragon] Now this is a scene that I really did regret cutting out of the theatrical version – and we did it only for momentum reasons – because I just love it – I love the song! Fran actually wrote the song for the boys to sing.

Fran: We did alter it a little, probably to the dismay of some of the fans. We played with it; we had a little bit of fun.

Peter: It’s a chance to see the hobbits in their true essence and their true environment before the adventure begins, and it’s also… it also uses these other hobbits, you know, with their typical, kind of, paranoid, suspicious rumour-mongering: it’s a Hobbit-trait that’s very, very dominant in the books, and another aspect of the books that we found difficult to incorporate into the film, but this is the scene that we shot that sort of gives us that feeling of hobbits all gossipy, and, you know, they love little stories, and they always are suspicious about the outside world, and all those kind of things that makes Hobbits very cute. And I love the way that Frodo reacts to those, sort of, the thought of adventures there.

Fran: But, in the end, why it didn’t survive in the theatrical cut was because there’s only so much time you can take establishing Hobbiton before you really move your plot ahead, and we felt we were lingering there too long, and it wasn’t furthering the story for us so it didn’t stay.

Peter: [Frodo walks into an empty Bag End] Bag End was obviously an exterior set on the location, the farm, and then this was the studio when Frodo comes in the door. This is actually a case where we changed the timeline in the book. I think, from memory, seventeen years goes past in the book from the time that Gandalf leaves to find out about the Ring to the time that he arrives back in Hobbiton to warn Frodo that this is Sauron’s Ring, and in our movie, we felt that seventeen years was just too long a time so we reduced it to seeming like a few months had gone by.

Fran: Well, for those who know the book, you all know that there are fairly leisurely timeframes in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, and this was not a luxury that we could indulge in the making of the film; we had to compress the timeframes in order to get the story underway.

Peter: I like the idea that Gandalf would have been sleeping in the… under ditches, and hedgerows, and had this, sort of, like this tramp-like existence, trying to get himself right across Middle-earth, a sort of six or seven week journey to rush back to Bag End, so that’s why we had Gandalf as so dishevelled. (beat) [Frodo holds up the Ring after it’s been thrown in the fire] The letters on the Ring are a CG effect. There was a lot of debate about whether they were on the outside of the Ring or on the inside of the Ring, and we carefully read the book and we found out that it’s actually both. We… Actually, we really struggled with figuring out a way that we could get the entire Poem into the movie, and as it is, we failed! [laughs] We don’t have the whole poem in there; we just have this version, which is the last verse of the poem, but we did actually film the entire thing at the Council of Elrond, where we had Hugo Weaving saying the entire poem, but we ultimately cut that out of the movie.

Fran: You know, in the book, you can enter into the, sort of, psychological horror of the Ring, and it doesn’t need any, you know, augmentation, but in a film, it’s less easy to sell that, and so we knew that it needed some kind of literal voice in the movie. It needed to interact to some degree with the characters, so we thought long and hard about what kind of voice it would have, and ultimately, it’s obviously Sauron’s voice, and we working with an actor – an English actor – Alan Howard, to develop a rather chilling rendition of Sauron’s voice.

Peter: [Bag End kitchen] This is one of those nightmare scenes that has to do such a lot in a little space of time: basically, set up the entire back-story, and we kept struggling with exactly what to say, and how to say it, and we ended up filming this scene three times, and the final scene that you’re watching now is like an amalgam of all three versions, so there’s some shots that were done while we were shooting the movie, and then there’s some shots that were done after the completion of the shoot – Ian and Elijah came back to New Zealand – and then they came back later, to do the scene yet one last time, [laughing] and we put some of that in, too, so the whole scene is in, sort of, a bit of a Frankenstein number of each of those three filming occasions.

Fran: Do you remember, Pete, when we didn’t have a prologue, and all of the prologue information was in this scene?

Peter: Yeah, it really was longer; it was about three times as long.

Fran: It was untenable It was…

Peter: Yeah. We had all the flashbacks to the Last Alliance, didn’t we?

Fran: Yeah.

Peter: All the flashbacks to Elrond and Isildur.

Fran: And Ian…

Philippa: [at same time as Fran] And the making of the Ring.

Fran: … he did about seven pages [Philippa laughs].

Peter: That’s right, without the prologue, this was the scene that was [Fran: A monologue.] going to give all of that information.

Fran: Yes.

Peter: Yeah.

Philippa: But I have to say, if you shot that three times, Pete, we wrote it about fifty different times!

Peter: Yeah.

Philippa: Fifty different versions!

Fran: Yes, we suffered!

Philippa: We did suffer!

Fran: When we actually put the prologue back into the film, it lightened this scene, and it enabled us to strip it down, and keep it relatively manageable in terms of its information and content. It became for us a scene that wasn’t so much overburdened with information, as one where we could play more of the power of the Ring and the presence of Sauron.

Peter: There’s great stuff in the book that we just couldn’t put into the movie, and I’ve always loved the concept that when Gandalf leaves Bag End, he goes and joins up with Aragorn, and the two of them hunt Gollum down, and so we’ve got this little remnant, which is Gollum being tortured, but we never could, obviously, do the bit where Aragorn and Gandalf actually track Gollum down, but that’s… it’s a neat idea – it would have been great to have been able to squeeze it into the film somehow. (beat) [Frodo offers the Ring to Gandalf] This is one of those situations where you’re trying to explain the most obvious thing to people, you know, well why doesn’t Frodo just give the Ring to Gandalf? Why can’t Gandalf just take it? You know, it’s those little bits of common sense that audiences always come up with, that you’ve got to cover yourself when you’re doing the movie [laughs]! And it’s in the book, of course, too, the fact that Gandalf would be, kind of, he’d be a horrific version of Sauron if he ever got hold of the Ring himself. It’s fun just to feel Gandalf’s temptation, though. (beat) [Frodo prepares to leave Bag End] The energy of this scene is like a deliberate contrast to the book as well, because the departure from Hobbiton is a very leisurely affair in the book, and we wanted to give the film a bit of heat, so that’s why we deliberately, kind of, cranked it up through here to really try to light a fire onto the story at this stage, because, you know, one of the problems with adapting the book was always the fact of how you get a bit of momentum and heat under this opening section.

Philippa: [Gandalf: “Hobbits really are amazing creatures”] This next piece here, where Ian is speaking, is actually something that Ian wanted, a piece that he’d found in the book, that we decided we couldn’t afford to go there, and this is something he really, really wanted to do, and it worked beautifully.

Peter: [Gandalf hears Sam at the window] You remember in a really early version of the script, we also introduced Merry and Pippin in this scene.

Philippa: Yes.

Peter: You remember that?

Fran: Yeah.

Peter: Where we, I think, we had all three hobbits… Sam wasn’t outside the window in that version, he was listening –. He was eavesdropping behind the door, and then when Gandalf hauls the door open, all three of them – Sam, and Merry and Pippin – all, kind of, fall onto the floor, tumble onto the floor, and that was how we were going to get Merry and Pippin into it at some point, and then we decided to, sort of, separate it, and have them a bit later.

Fran: Well, they were well-known, these big gaps of time, you know, that there was seventeen years between Gandalf’s two visits [laughs], and things like this, to Bag End; we knew this, and yet we felt that that was far too leisurely, you know, that we did feel –. And that Frodo takes his time: he is given his mission by Gandalf, and he takes another six months – or whatever it is – thinking about it [laughs], and just again… that tends to completely undermine any sense of dramatic urgency in the storytelling, so we couldn’t honour that part of the book at all: we had to really compress and accelerate the timeframes for the movie.

Philippa: So the main push here for us was really to get Frodo on the road as quickly as possible, and get them doing exactly what they’re doing: setting out right now.

Peter: Always the most difficult part of the movie, this, because the travel and the journey, and all its detail, is such an important part of the book: it’s so evocative, and yet in the movie, there’s only a certain amount of it you can have before audiences start to just, you know, feel, “Well let’s get on with it,” so we really limited ourselves to three shots of the walking: we obviously shot a whole lot more than three, and we chose our favourite three. (beat) [Field with the scarecrow] Now people apparently claimed to have seen a car driving along the hill in these wide shots; I’ve looked very, very hard, and I just can’t see it: I don’t know what people are talking about. (beat) There’s a line in the book where Sam says, “If I go one more step [Philippa agrees] it’ll be further than I’ve ever done before,” and I just thought it would be nice to build a scene around, so I asked Philippa and Fran to write something.

Philippa: I think that those pages actually literally went out at about eleven o’clock the night before the day you shot!

Peter: We squeezed it in: we weren’t supposed to film it, because nobody even knew about it, but we managed to find an hour at the end of the day, and we only shot a couple of takes.

Fran: Scenes like that don’t hit the schedule, do they?

Peter: They don’t, the schedule –.

Fran: Or the call sheet!

Peter: No, and the studio didn’t even know –. [Philippa laughs]

Fran: Nobody knows they’re there!

Peter: You’ve just got to bang them out the day before and go… try and squeeze them in somewhere!

Fran: The pages are distributed after lunch.

Peter: Yeah. (beat) [The Passing of the Elves] This was a sequence that we deleted from the theatrical version of the film, and it’s actually a sequence in which a couple of stills – a couple of photographic images – have appeared in lots of books and magazines, and I’m sure people that were paying attention wondered, when they saw the movie, just the fact that these shots were not actually seen; I know Frodo in the tree was… quite commonly appeared in magazines at the time of the film’s release, and another shot that I saw a lot of in magazines was this one here of Frodo and Sam peering over the log, so here you get to finally see where these shots came from. (beat) We liked the idea of this little episode from the… it’s sort of from the book, it’s –. Obviously in the book, they stop and they talk to these Elves that they encounter walking through the Shire, but in the movie, we never filmed the conversation, but we did want to at least get the feeling of the sadness of the Elves leaving Middle-earth; it’s something that we encounter again when we reach Rivendell, but we initially didn’t intend for Rivendell to be the first time that we encounter Elves. (beat) [Frodo and Sam trying to sleep] And I liked just this little moment: it’s very slight, but it just acknowledges the fact that Hobbits, which are very comfort-loving creatures, are now having to sleep rough; they’re not in their own bed: something that Frodo manages much better than Sam, who really is not used to this sort of lifestyle in the slightest. These were amongst the very first shots that we ever did. We… I think this particular shot of the boys by the campfire was shot on our third day of shooting.

Fran: [Gandalf rides towards Isengard] Where was that shot, Pete?

Peter: That was down in the South Island, past Glenorchy. (beat) [Aerial shot of Gandalf approaching Orthanc, screen cap] This is almost completely CG, this shot: everything’s digital in this one: the horse, the rider, the trees, everything. [Saruman walks down steps of Orthanc] And here we have Christopher Lee, his first entrance in the movie. It’s a… It was always a great thrill working with Christopher, because I’d always been a fan of the old Hammer Horror movies, and, you know, working with somebody like that, that you’ve admired for thirty years is really fun – a lot of fun. (beat) [Gandalf and Saruman in the gardens of Isengard] We ended up shooting a lot of this dialogue twice. This is a bit like the situation in Bag End, where it’s all plot explanatory stuff: it’s exposition and dialogue, and we shot the scenes with Gandalf and Saruman talking – both the exterior scene in the garden, and when they go into the chamber – we shot it early in our shoot, and by the time we’d put the film together, we wanted to have different information, and so, we basically had to get them back to New Zealand and re-shoot virtually the entire conversation, because what they were saying now was different: we just simply wanted them to convey different information to the audience.

Fran: Well part of it was identifying Sauron as a, sort of… giving him an identity separate to the character who appears in the prologue, and so we specifically had Chris Lee talk about him as the Eye and what… and how it’s dramatic – how it operated dramatically.

Peter: Yeah, they Eye is the bane of my life!

Fran: The Eye was such a horror to dramatise.

Peter: Having you central villain being nothing more than a flaming eyeball is a little bit of a problem. Of course, what we did is we elevated Saruman, in a sense, to the villainry rôle and kept the Eye relatively a minor player.

Fran: It’s just a hard thing to bring to cinema: it’s a wonderful notion, but it works very much, you know, far better in novel form than in… as a storytelling device for cinema.

Philippa: We had a lot of problems deciding what Saruman… Saruman’s agenda, and we played it in several different ways. We started off with the concept that Saruman was looking to Gandalf as an ally to go for the Ring and use it against Sauron; we also tried a more subtle version of that where you’re not quite sure, but eventually we decided to stay close to the books, I think, and to reveal Saruman attempting to take the Ring for himself, as he does in the books a little later on.

Peter: The sequence where the wizards fight was always a… it was a problem for me, because I really don’t like wizards in movies: I don’t like the idea of old guys firing blue lightning out of their fingertips and doing all the usual ‘wizardy’ type stuff, so I thought that the most interesting fight would be one where we strip away the magic to some – to a large degree, and we simply see two old guys beating the hell out of each other; I thought that that would be at least, kind of, humorous, and so that’s basically what we did. We kept the fight as physical as possible, and, you know, the idea was, you know, old bones and bodies, cracking onto the marble: you can almost feel the bruises starting to form. (beat) Of course, you know, one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to guess that not a lot of this was actually Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee. The great thing with doing stunt fights with guys with long hair and beards is that you can disguise the stuntmen relatively well!

Fran: But I think even the stuntmen sustained some injuries from that scene.

Peter: Yeah, one of them cracked their head badly on the side of a trampoline when they were going to land on a trampoline and they fell short, and they actually hit the metal part of the trampoline on the back of their head. (beat) [Sam in the cornfield] This cornfield was in a part of the country that has a lot of cornfields; we didn’t grow it specially for the film, although we did talk about growing a cornfield; but as it was, the art department went up there the day before and they chopped this path through the corn so that we could go and shoot this scene. But we shot the entire scene in a day: it was one of those really quick shooting days where we did a lot of work very, very fast. (beat) [Merry and Pippin jump out onto Frodo and Sam] It was just one of those situations of how you introduce Merry and Pippin, because how they’re introduced in the book just didn’t really have the sharpness and the momentum that we needed for the movie, so it was another one of those changes that we had to make.

Philippa: When this was first filmed, Samwise is saying, “Trust a Brandybuck and a Took” [pronounced ‘Tuk’] but further investigation revealed that it’s actually ‘Took’ [pronounced ‘Took’], which suited our purposes brilliantly, because when Billy first showed up, he was quite prepared to do a Gloucester accent, and he did it very well, but he tended to lose some of his natural, brilliant comic timing – a little bit – but it wasn’t even that. What we discovered… When we discovered that the proper pronunciation was ‘Took’ I did a little bit more reading, and realised, of course, that the Tooks… the head of the family is the Thain, and then one of their ancestors invented golf, I decided that I thought that Professor Tolkien was in fact telling us that he was Scottish! So that was brilliant.

Peter: [Four hobbits fall down the hill] Out of all the stunts that we did in the movies, we had very few injuries: we were very, very lucky, and obviously we planed things as well as we could, but one of the more serious injuries we had was this moment here, that when those guys fall, one of the stuntmen actually dislocated his shoulder on set, and he had to be carted away to hospital. It was like one of those very simple things that shouldn’t have gone wrong, and you would never have thought it would have led to an injury, but it was just a freaky accident.

Fran: [Hobbits crowd around mushrooms] This was the first day, wasn’t it?

Peter: The first day of shooting. Yeah. Yup, this was pretty much one of the first times that the boys were ever together saying dialogue together in the movie.

Fran: Did you always have in mind that tracking zoom shot for that moment? [screen cap]

Peter: Yeah, it’s an Alfred Hitchcock shot that he designed, and I think Spielberg’s used it a few times. It’s sort of… It’s become a little bit of a cliché, but I thought we could go away with it there: it’s the way that the road concertinas, it just, sort of, creates this… a sense of unease because you don’t quite know what you’re looking at. [Fran: Yeah.], but it defies the laws of Physics…

Fran: Yeah.

Peter: …in a way. It’s kind of a weird effect. (beat) [Hobbits hide under the tree] The tree that they hide under is not real… Well, it is a real tree, but it was on a farm many miles away and so the guys chain-sawed it up and brought it to Mount Victoria and they assembled it again, so it’s sort of a real tree, but it didn’t really belong there. And this looks like it’s in some remote, wooded area, but it’s actually right in the middle of the city: the middle of Wellington city is a park, called Mount Victoria Park, surrounded by skyscrapers, and you just have this little green belt.

Fran: This was an idea you had early, wasn’t it, about the disturbance of nature at the presence of the Rider?

Peter: Yeah, I don’t know how well it comes across in the movie; the idea was that as soon as this Black Rider appears, all the insects flee. [Fran: Yes.] They basically just run away, and I don’t quite know whether that comes across like that, but I guess it’s sort of interesting.

Fran: I think it does.

Peter: Yeah.

Philippa: I remember seeing audition tapes for worms and spiders and earwigs and –.

Peter: Oh, it was horrible! I hate them! [Philippa laughs]

Fran: Yeah!

Peter: I hate insects.

Philippa: But it as really funny, after seeing hours and hours of audition tapes of actors to have to audition for spiders and worms.

Peter: Oh yes.

Fran: But the weirdest thing was we had a… Was it a weta?

Peter: And that big centipede?

Fran: Yes! [Philippa: Mmm] We had a weta and a centipede – a weta is, you know, this New Zealand [?] – a frightening-looking New Zealand… It’s like a big, large cricket, really, looking thing; and the centipede murdered it on camera! I didn’t know they were so [Philippa: Oh!] dangerous!

Peter: No.

Fran: It was terrible –.

Philippa: [surprised] The centipede took out the weta?

Fran: Yes! Yes, it –.

Peter: [at same time as Fran] It wrapped itself around the weta and, kind of, killed it – it was horrible!

Fran: It just, sort of, crushed it to pieces!

Philippa: Oh no!

Peter: It was a bit of a tragic moment.

Fran: And we were horrified!

Philippa: [Merry: “That Black Rider was looking for something… or someone”] Mount Victoria again. [screen cap]

Peter: Yeah.

Philippa: Night time.

Peter: Yup.

Philippa: [Hobbits crouch down, hiding from the Nazgűl] And that is not Mount Victoria. [screen cap]

Fran: It’s Nelson.

Peter: That’s Nelson, yeah. Now these shots of the horse are on Mount Victoria at night, at, like, 2 o’clock in the morning [screen cap]; these shots of the Hobbits are at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. That was another scene we shot at Nelson while we were waiting for the weather to clear on the mountains. We took the guys into the trees and we shot all these close ups, and we, sort of, put a dark cover over the trees, made it as dark as we could, and we filmed them so they’d match. All this dialogue here is actually done in the middle of the day. [Hobbits run away from hiding place] But now we’re back to Mount Victoria, in the middle of the night [screen cap]. And this is… This stuff here was shot on my birthday: this was the first birthday I had.

Philippa: 1999

Peter: I had two of them, yeah, two of them while we were shooting, but this was the first one.

Philippa: That was your 29th birthday.

Peter: Oh, I don’t know, it was my 16th, wasn’t it? [Philippa laughs] It seems like such a long time ago!

Philippa: Child genius! [All three laugh]

Peter: [Hobbits run towards Bucklebury Ferry] Ah, this was funny, this day! This was one of those great nights, too, where you get a hell of a lot of stuff shot, and this Bucklebury Ferry was built, again, up in Otaki about twenty miles north of where we were based, and we shot this all through the night, and Elijah was just great, I mean, he ran –. And watch this jump, because this is the real jump – it’s not a stuntman, it’s actually Elijah, and he does this huge jump! Bang! It looks pretty –. It’s more dangerous that what it actually looks like, because the boat was really floating, and floating away, and he had to make that huge leap. And what was funny about this night too was that the Bucklebury Ferry started to sink! [Philippa laughs] And our producer, Barrie Osborne, who had some yachting experience, sort of stood on here at about 3 o’clock in the morning, trying to explain to the crew how bilge pumps work, and we had these hand-operated pumps that pumped the water out of the Bucklebury Ferry so that it wouldn’t sink.

Philippa: [Hobbits arrive at Bree] This is in a –. Actually, it’s sort of a suburban hillside, really.

Peter: Yeah, very close to Wellington. (beat) I love the idea of using rain in the film. I wanted to get this impression that Middle-earth is organic and gritty and real and wasn’t… you know, it doesn’t feel like a movie world, it feels real. I was determined to shoot in the rain.

Philippa: [screen cap] That shot of Merry looking backwards was actually… [laughs] I remember that night: that was Dominic on his knees, in the mud, with the scale doubles in front of him, wasn’t it?

Peter: Yeah. (beat) And then we’re tilting up to see a matte painting of Bree, and the set that we built for Bree, these streets, is actually an old army base, Fort Dorset, it was a military barracks from World War II, and we just nailed all these facades right onto the side of the army barracks.

Fran: [Mysterious carrot-eater appears on screen] That [particularly?] dodgy-looking extra there is actually Peter Jackson.

Philippa: Somebody actually thought we had a carrot gag going on.

Peter: Ah, okay.

Philippa: Because of the… you had the carrot in your hand!

Fran: Well, I did ask, “Why the carrot?” because I thought it was bordering on silly, [Philippa laughs] and possibly still is! And he said it was because he couldn’t get his pipe to light.

Peter: The truth was I had a couple of puffs on a pipe and felt sick.

Philippa: Oh!

Peter: I don’t want to discuss my relationship with carrots! [Philippa laughs]

Fran: No, it is one of the hidden themes!

Philippa: Oh, is it?

Peter: [jokingly] The hidden themes, yes, a big carrot theme.

Philippa: Root vegetables?

Fran: Yes.

Peter: [Butterbur speaks to Hobbits] I always liked this scene, and it was one of the very first scenes that we shot: we did this probably about four or five days after the start of the shoot, and we’d shot the scene of hiding under the log from the Black Riders on our first two or three days, and then we went straight onto this, and I think this really nailed, for the actors, what this movie was all about, because, you know, suddenly the Hobbits were there interacting with these big people, and I think that all four of them – all four of the actors – really started to ‘get’ what they were, where they were, what their rôle in this story was really about, you know: small people in a big world. We had to build this bar twice: we built one scale that was huge, so that Elijah and the other hobbits would look tiny, and then we built the bar normal size, so we could film the normal people. (beat) Some of these big people that are walking around in the background are actually people on stilts, like that guy there: [screen cap] see that guy walking past Merry? He’s actually a person on stilts. And that one behind there. [screen cap]

Philippa: It’s actually a five-foot tall gymnast, a female gymnast.

Peter: Yeah. A five-foot tall gymnast on three-foot high stilts that made them look like Big People. (beat) We had fun casting this scene, because we basically wanted to get extras that were the most unusual-, odd-, seedy-looking people that we could possibly find, because I thought Bree was a great moment to make the Hobbits feel very much like fish out of water, that they’re not in the Shire any more, they’re not in the safety of their own world and I wanted to try and make it feel quite ominous. (beat) [Image of Strider sitting alone in the corner] Straight out of the book. It’s wonderful to… wonderful to take those moments that are really evocative, and you remember them so well, like the description of Tolkien’s of Strider sitting in the corner of the room and it’s great to be able to just, like, nail them on screen! It was a lot of fun to recreate things exactly out of the book. Obviously we had to make little changes in some areas, but occasionally we were able to just do exactly what he described…

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: …which was a lot of fun.

Philippa: The beer gag with Pippin was –. Again, it was an on-set, last minute thought, and the art department had to run around and try and find a ginormous, really, really large mug that could look like a pint might to a Hobbit.

Fran: This is quite a big departure from the book, here, isn’t it, in terms of how Frodo… the Ring comes to be on Frodo’s finger?

Philippa: It is and it isn’t. I mean, we could never do the song [Fran: No.] because we didn’t have enough time, but Pippin really is responsible for it.

Peter: Also, I never liked the idea of the song because to have Frodo singing and doing a little dance and accidentally putting it on made Frodo look kind of silly.

Fran: It didn’t help the dramatic tension.

Peter: And so we really tried to make it not so much Frodo’s fault: it’s sort of Pippin’s fault that the thing begins, and then it’s the Ring’s fault that it goes on his finger [Fran: Yes.] and we tried to make it look as if it was fate guiding the Ring on there, because obviously, there’s the concept that the wraiths know where the Ring is; once you put it on your finger they can sense it and they can go after you, and we thought that the Ring was going to want to get on his finger as fast as it possibly can. (beat) [Frodo in the Wraith-world] This stuff was pretty tough to visualise, Wraith-world, you know, the twilight world of the Ring.

Fran: The first thought was that the real world is a positive image, then Wraith-world was the negative of it.

Peter: Yeah, we looked at what Tolkien described, and we actually tried to really just do what he described. He… It’s very evocative and not that focused, but it’s about, you know, light and shade and the world of shadows, and we tried to, somehow, evoke that, but I thought it was a neat idea to have Frodo to disappear and then to actually go into the world that he disappears into. But it was done ultimately with a computer effect, sort of streaking the edges of the image and doing some weird stuff with the colour. (beat) [Strider: “I can avoid being seen if I wish…”] The one thing that I knew from the book that I could never do in the movie, mainly because I could never imagine it working, is the rather iconic moment where Strider pulls out his sword and it’s the Broken Sword [Fran agrees], and I just thought, “Well, it’s great in a book, but in movie, people are going to laugh”. This heroic figure pulls out this sword, and he’s only got half [laughs, Fran agrees] a sword in his scabbard because the other… half of it is broken off! I just thought it was going to get a laugh, especially from people that don’t know the books.

Philippa: It also needs explanations: it slows the story down.

Peter: And I could never imagine a way to make it work: I just couldn’t, so we abandoned the whole idea of doing that.

Fran: Well, we’ve played the Sword story differently through all three films.

Peter: Yeah we have, yeah.

Fran: [Black Riders ride through Bree] There’s a shot coming up which I really like, and it’s this [Nazgűl enter through the door Prancing Pony]: the entry of the Riders into the pub. It has a, kind of, quality of a dark, gothic fairy tale, [Philippa agrees] which I really love.

Peter: We really played the gothic nature of the Ringwraiths, didn’t we?

Fran: Yeah.

Peter: They cry out for gothic.

Fran: Yes. Howard did that in the music, too…

Peter: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Fran: …which was lovely.

Peter: And I like this gag where we deliberately made people think that these hobbits were asleep, and it’s a cheap and cheesy one, but it’s always good value, doing this type of stuff. It’s what cinema can do so well. You can’t really do it in a book, but in movies you can, where you can juxtapose places and time, and make people think that they’re looking at something, and then immediately reveal they they’re actually –.

Philippa: [at same time as Peter, shot of the window of the Prancing Pony] That’s one of my favourite shots there.

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] – it was something completely different.

Philippa: [Strider stares through the window] This is one of my favourite shots, not just because Viggo looks so gorgeous, but because he looks so dangerous, and I think that helps sell the idea that you’re not sure which way Strider’s going to go. We played with that a little bit more in the script, where and when you would reveal that this guy was on their side, but in the end we decided – as was the process through most of this – to do it as quickly as possible. But just for that moment you’re not sure. (beat) The noise of the Ringwraiths was an interesting… exercise.

Peter: Well we’re actually… We’re here in the room with one of the Ringwraiths.

Philippa: One of the Ringwraiths.

Peter: We couldn’t get a good Ringwraith scream [Philippa laughs] so when you listen to their screams, you’re actually listening to Fran Walsh…

Philippa: Yes.

Peter: …screeching. Every single Ringwraith cry is actually her. [Philippa: Peter…] Is that right?

Fran: Yes, it was five years of ‘Lord of the Rings’. [Philippa laughs] It was all…

Philippa: Pete had just told her that he’d bought the rights to ‘The Silmarillion’ [Fran laughs] and she just didn’t stop screaming for two hours!

Fran: What really happened was that we didn’t really have a cry which had a huge amount of energy behind it, and I knew what was required, but I had a throat infection at the time, so I said, “Look, I’ll just show you what I think is needed” and they went away and recorded one, and because I had not very much voice and a lot of gravel in the back of my throat, it came out very weird, and it was, you know… They liked it, so I did a few more!

Peter: Yup.

Fran: And destroyed my throat!

Peter: Yeah. Well, as Bob Zemeckis used to say to me, “Pain is temporary, film is forever.” Your throat has provided screams that will live far beyond any of us.

Fran: You know it was cathartic, a cathartic moment for me. [Philippa laughs]

Peter: [Second breakfast scene] This snow on the ground was not supposed to be there. We started shooting this scene without snow, and then half way through the shooting of it, it began to snow. We carried on shooting as the snow fell; we got told to evacuate the location by the police, who said that the road was about to get washed out, and then we had to come back two or three days later to finish the scene, and of course, there wasn’t… There was snow there now, so we had to start the scene all over again and just shoot the whole thing again with snow on the ground. (beat) Now there’s rumours that there is a sticker on this apple that gets thrown, but I must admit I’ve never seen it. Let’s have a look. Look closely for a sticker.

Fran: Well you’d have to freeze-frame it.

Peter: Yeah… no, there’s no sticker on that apple: it’s very stupid. [Philippa laughs] One rumour put to bed. (beat) [Midgewater Marshes] We now have a major sequence that was deleted from the theatrical version, just for pacing reasons, that, you know, we had to move the film along. This was a real swamp; it wasn’t a studio set or anything. It was a genuine swamp. [Night at the Marshes] This is in the studio now. Viggo came to me very early on in the shoot and he had this image of Strider killing a deer with his bow and arrow so that he could feed the hobbits, and it was very much Viggo’s concept and idea; so we managed to obtain a deer from a venison company and Viggo shot the scene that the wanted to shoot. It is very evocative: it enhances Strider’s character as the sort of –.he’s looking after the hobbits and yet he’s enigmatic, and the scene with him singing, this scene, also adds to the enigma. I love this scene, and I really do regret that we had to lose this one, again just for pacing reasons, but I think it was a very nice way to slowly humanise this very enigmatic character. The song is referring to Beren and Lúthien, who in some ways mirror the Aragorn/Arwen story: the immortal Elf who has to give up her life in order to stay with a mortal Man, and as a part of Viggo’s character, the character of Aragorn, it’s something that plays heavily on his mind: the guilt of, you know, his love for an immortal Elf, and should he allow her to stay with him?, which is obviously what his heart wants to do, but he also just doesn’t want her to become a mortal, to die like he will ultimately die. (beat) [Saruman speaking to Sauron through the palantír] Now the palantír is a device that’s, obviously, in the books, and it was difficult to visualise, because it is, basically, a psychological instrument: that it allows your mind to connect with other places, but doing that sort of thing in a movie is always difficult, so we created the sense that the Eye of Sauron was, sort of, visible within the palantír to give some sense of whom Saruman is connecting with. (beat) That’s not a real tree being pulled down there, I have to say now. I’m sure Tolkien would have been absolutely appalled at the concept that a real tree was being destroyed, but that was an artificial tree that was buried in a hole in the ground in Harcourt Park in Upper Hut. [Shot of Gandalf waking up on top of Orthanc, pulling up to see the whole of Isengard] Shots like this are interesting in the sense that they combine CG with real photography: we filmed Ian on the stage walking across the top of the tower, and then he was combined in with a miniature and a CG tower. (beat) The trees being pulled down are pure Tolkien: I mean, one of the themes, obviously, of ‘The Lord of the Ring’s itself is the way that industry destroys nature.

Fran: Is that the same tree coming down from three different angles?

Peter: I think so. [Philippa laughs] I think so, I think it might be. I think we had two trees that got torn down.

Philippa: [Hobbits and Strider approach Weathertop] This is the approach to Weathertop.

Peter: This is a little bit of stuff that was directed by Barrie Osborne: I wasn’t here on this day that they went to this location. But it’s a pretty amazing place. [Hobbits settle down in the dell] But here we are now in the studio.

Philippa: It’s interesting that we never actually got the name Weathertop out in the script. It remained Amon Sűl.

Fran: Oh, did it?

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: Well there’s a lot of names that we never go out in the script.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: There was someone asked something the other day… Actually, you know that Galadriel is never mentioned by name?

Fran: She names herself, “I will remain Galadriel”

Peter: At the end, yeah, that’s right. At the end of the scene.

Fran: There’s only so many introductions you can squash –.

Philippa: Squash into it.

Fran: [Frodo: “What are you doing?!”] Oh, this is where a critic tore us to pieces in England for the tomato reference.

Peter: That’s right. Tomatoes came from the New World.

Fran: Yes.

Peter: As did potatoes, and Tolkien mentioned both tomatoes and potatoes. But apparently he…

Philippa: Yes, he does.

Peter: But apparently he later revised tomatoes.

Philippa: Yes he did, he revised tomatoes [Peter laughs], but left the tobacco from the New World, and the…

Peter: Right.

Philippa: …the potatoes.

Peter: I find it all a bit ludicrous to worry about that sort of thing, when you’re dealing with Middle-earth and Balrogs and cave trolls, what is the problem with a tomato?

Philippa: It was a deliberate mistake. It was a deliberate mistake: it was one of those ones where we knew. We’d had the discussion; we said: “Ah, you know, I suppose they’d eat tomatoes.”

Fran: I thought it was Dominic ad-libbing on the day.

Philippa: No, no. It –. No, “Ash on my tomatoes”, no, that was Pete’s –.

Fran: No, “One of my tomatoes burst.”

Philippa: Oh yeah, no that was the ADR ad-lib, yeah. [Fran and Philippa laugh] No, no, no, the tomatoes… the tomatoes… We’re getting into the vegetables again! [Fran and Philippa laugh] Having entire discussions about vegetables!

Peter: Weathertop was one of the very first things we filmed. This was done at the very beginning of our shooting schedule, so we were all a little bit green and naďve, and, you know, it’s amazing, when you start shooting a movie, how awkward things are at the beginning, just from the point of view of directing the movie, and getting your head into what you’re doing; and I always look upon Weathertop as being one of those scenes, in my mind, that represents that, sort of, foggy –

Philippa: [Frodo takes out the Ring] That’s a brilliant shot!

Peter: – that foggy area at the beginning of the shoot.

Philippa: [Frodo stares up at the Ringwraiths] Another brilliant shot.

Fran: [at same time as Philippa] Great… this is the best…

Philippa: I think this is one of the best moments in the film [Fran, at the same time as Philippa: best moments in the film], actually. [laughs]

Peter: Why they’re going on like this is that some of this was directed by Philippa and Fran. The shots of the Witch-king – this stuff of the Witch-king coming towards camera – were particularly their shots.

Philippa: [The Witch-king raises his blade, ready to stab Frodo] That moment there: I got called by Pete, saying, “Watch the sharps on the blade” and I turned to Alan Gilford, our D.O.P., and said, “Pete wants the blade sharpened!” [Philippa laughs] At which case, I think they decided to remove me from any other directorial duties!

Peter: The wraith-world sequences… This wraith-world stuff is pretty much as described in the book, really. I always loved the way that the Ringwraiths are visible in twilight world: they’re visible as their, sort of, their… in a kingly… ghostly shapes, which I always thought was neat, and something a bit spooky about it. (beat) Now this fight that Viggo did was his very first day, wasn’t it? This was day one of Viggo, wasn’t it?

Fran: Yes, it was, yeah.

Peter: He had just been cast in the film. As most people probably know, he came to the movie very late. He was cast after we started shooting, in fact, and he had to get on a plane immediately and come down to New Zealand; and within two days of getting off the plane, once we made sure his costume fitted, he was put on set, and this was –. This scene that we’re looking at now is the very first thing that he shot on day one, which was good and bad, I mean it was great that it was a fight scene rather than a dialogue scene, just to allow him to get into the character a little bit, but he also had never handled a sword in his life before. This was his debut as a swordsman! [laughs] And Bob Anderson, who was our Master Swordsman, did a brilliant job at just training Viggo at a very short notice, and obviously he was there as we were shooting and Bob was able to train Viggo as each shot was being shot, and it was a very, you know, it was a pretty tricky introduction to the movie for Viggo; but by the time we finished shooting fifteen months later, he was an absolutely amazing swordsman. (beat) [Aragorn, with Frodo over his shoulder, runs from Weathertop with the hobbits behind him] This scene here was just about Viggo’s last scenes, right at the end of the fifteen months. (beat) [The ‘moth shot’ at Isengard] This is one of my favourite shots in the movie, because normally with visual effects shots, the concept is that if it’s fake – if it’s some sort of trick – then you don’t dwell on it, you don’t let audiences study it long enough to see where the seams are; but the reason why I like this shot is that it just keeps on going and going and going. I actually think it’s over a minute long. And it’s largely a miniature, I mean everything that you’re seeing – the environment, the scaffolding, the tower – it’s actually… all of that is big models. This was a huge model that filled an entire parking lot; but the moth and all the little people are generated on a computer, and Gandalf – you’re looking at Gandalf – he’s a CG Gandalf here [screen cap], but at some point when the moth flutters across him… about there, somewhere, [screen cap] he becomes real, and he’s now a real Gandalf that we filmed on the stage. And I just love the way that the shot is fairly… It’s, you know, it’s a brave shot in a sense, and we managed to pull it off pretty well, I think. This is a real moth, but moths only live for, like, two days, and they only have a twenty-four hour lifespan, so this moth had to be born and photographed before it died that night.

Fran: But how did you make it stay on Ian’s hand?

Peter: Oh, I think it just sat there.

Fran: You told me you superglued it. [Philippa laughs]

Peter: No, no, no, no, no… I think the wrangler… I think the wrangler keeps them in the fridge, and sort of dulls them down a little bit, kind of gets them a bit cold and they go a bit floppy, and it just sits on the hand. (beat) Despite all the effects technology, there was one thing that we couldn’t really figure out a way to cheat that well, and that was all that red-hot metal, molten metal, and so what you’re seeing there is genuine molten metal. We actually set up a studio set inside a foundry; we filmed real molten metal being splashed around, and all of the red-hot steel that they’re hammering is genuine red-hot steel. We had a forge, and we, sort of, used to heat the swords up, hand them to the Orcs – who couldn’t see very well – who were, sort of, waving these red-hot bits of metal around and whacking them with hammers. [Peter laughs] But it’s funny because things like that, you can’t really figure out a good way to fake it, and you’ve got to use the real thing.

Fran: And the foundry men were dressed up in Orc make up.

Peter: That’s right, yeah, the Orcs themselves were the foundry workers that we dressed up as Orcs, that’s right. (beat) Lúrtz is a character that we developed for the movie – he’s not in the book – and, you know, the reason for that is really because the villains in the book, which are really Sauron and Saruman, have limitations. Obviously, Sauron is in the form of a giant eye and can’t really participate in the story to any great degree; and Saruman never leaves his fortress, so we felt we needed a villain that could hit the road and ultimately have a showdown with our Fellowship at the end of the movie. And in the book, the Uruk-hai do get sent from Isengard, they do confront the Fellowship on Amon Hen, but we created Lúrtz as the leader who was a character in his own right to personify that group. (beat) This is the Trollshaw Forest, which obviously fans know that the three stone trolls of Bilbo’s –. Actually, in the theatrical version, we never even referenced the fact that they were these three stone trolls, but we did have Bilbo telling the story at the beginning of the movie, so we hoped that people would make the connection. But it’s another one of those things that I don’t believe you need to explain everything in Tolkien’s world as you see it on film, you know, fans of the book know what they’re looking at, and if you haven’t read the book, it doesn’t really matter: there just happens to be three big stone trolls there! (beat) Obviously, one of the major changes to the book was the fact we replaced Glorfindel with the character of Arwen, but there were, really, logical reasons to do that. One of the problems with ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is that there are so many characters, and to introduce an Elf called Glorfindel in this scene and then to have Glorfindel drop out of the story a few minutes later and to have to then introduce Arwen at Rivendell, it just seemed like it would be introduction upon introduction, and there’s so many that we felt we needed to somehow condense characters – reduce them and condense them.

Fran: And additionally increase Arwen’s rôle, because it was [Peter: Yeah.] so small.

Peter: Yeah. So we, you know, we took a chance here at doing this, and, you know… But the character of Arwen, essentially, is still very much within the spirit of the character in the books. I know there was a lot of criticism and a lot of concern early on that we were going to do things to Arwen that would have made her a very different character, but ultimately, I think we’ve ended up with somebody who, you know, does feel pretty much like they belong in the books.

Fran: Yeah, Liv had a fantastic natural instinct for Elvish!

Philippa: She did.

Fran: She had…

Peter: Incredible, yeah.

Fran: She really had the most –.

Peter: And the sound of Liv’s voice is amazing, I mean, I just love the way that she sounds here [Fran: Yeah.], which is just her natural voice dropped a few octaves, isn’t it? She did it herself, she, sort of…

Fran: She just pitched it down a little.

Peter: She pitched it down, yeah, but she created… I think she –. What it does is it makes Liv sound so old and, you know, it gives her that feeling, because these Elves are, you know, thousands of years old, and it gives her that, sort of, that maturity, I guess, that weight in her voice.

Fran: Yeah, she has a brilliant ear.

Philippa: She does. Beautiful.

Fran: Yeah.

Philippa: The… All the translations were done by David Salo, an American scholar: all the Elvish, and in fact, some of the other languages as well.

Peter: [Shot of Arwen riding with Frodo, zooming in and tracking] This horse riding was all done for real. I mean, this is… This shot here is amazing, you know, I love the way the horse is pounding along; shot down near Te Anau in New Zealand.

Philippa: Beautiful horse.

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] Obviously, you have to –. We have to be honest and say that this wasn’t Liv riding in every single one of these shots: she’s there here… she’s here and there throughout the sequence, obviously, but we had a phenomenal group of riding doubles. A lot of this was directed by John Mahaffie, our second unit director, and it was shot over a period of three or four weeks near the beginning of the shoot, right at the time where all the flooding was happening, and I know that the horse chase scene was actually interrupted by the flooding, the huge storms that happened down in Queenstown, and they had to –. The crew and cast had to actually stop filming and go and help barricade the town with sandbags; and I think Liv and John and a lot of the other people involved were just helping the town sandbag up against the floodwaters.

Fran: Yes, I think all that plain area was flooded. It took a while before they could go back there and film again.

Peter: Yeah. (beat) I wanted the horse chase to ultimately feel like a car chase. I thought, you know, I wanted it to have this, sort of, excitement; and to… Ultimately, it should be shot in a type of way that you would shoot a car chase, if you’re imagining, you know, it was cars instead of horses. (beat) The Ford of Bruinen itself – which is this location here – is in a place called Skippers Canyon, and the irony is that the ford that you’re looking at there is an actual ford from the gold-mining days of the 1800s; this area – this canyon – was full of gold, and we had a gold rush in New Zealand, just as had happened in America at about the same time in 1860-1870. And this whole area was populated by about ten or twelve thousand people; and they used to have to get their wagons across the river, and so they built – they made this ford across the Shotover River at this particular point and this is the ford that we used in the movie: a very spectacular part of the countryside.

Philippa: And also there has been some criticism here that we, again, changed the books – the waters, of course – I mean, Frodo rides across by himself and the waters rise of their own accord, but we are actually honouring that the… What Arwen is saying is an invocation to those waters, but it’s not a spell to raise them; and actually, what Howard Shore did with the choir – the choral piece underneath this – is the spirit, almost, of the River, telling her that they’ve heard her call.

Peter: [Arwen: “Frodo, don’t give in…”] This little piece that we’re looking at now was added on much later, and it was actually shot by –. Fran directed this, and it wasn’t originally in our first cut of the film where Arwen thinks that she may have lost Frodo.

Fran: Yes, we added it because we felt that, in the end, after that spectacular chase, we’d lost sight of what was at stake in the scene, which was Frodo’s life, so it felt like the scene hadn’t properly delivered itself.

Philippa: The line that she says here, which is, “What grace I have, let it pass to him” is directly from the very end of the book, the very end of the entire series, when Arwen, in fact, does give her place to Frodo; and that’s what we were wanting to honour there, and that was the moment to do it.

Peter: I always loved this scene in the book where Frodo wakes up and finds that Gandalf is beside his bed, and we experimented with different ideas of whether or not we know how Gandalf escaped, because obviously the last time we saw Gandalf, he was imprisoned on top of the tower, so, you know, to see him here is a little bit of a shock; but we thought we should do what Tolkien did in the book, which was to basically have him turn up as a surprise, and then to explain how he got there. Of course, in the book, Tolkien does a lot more, because we don’t even know that Gandalf was imprisoned, even, at this point in the book, and we find out the whole story later; so we, sort of, split the different [?]. (beat) [Flashback to Gandalf and Saruman atop Orthanc] This was a scene that was shot after Christopher had had an accident with his hand: he’d actually badly smashed up one of his fingers in a hotel room door slamming shut on his left hand, and so, if you look at this stuff, Christopher’s left hand is always down by his side. He’s holding a staff with one hand because he couldn’t actually hold it with his damaged hand. (beat) Gwaihir the Eagle, which is another great image from the book. I always wondered… I don’t –. Does Tolkien ever explain why they don’t just get Gwaihir back and fly to the Crack of Doom and drop the Ring in the Crack of Doom from the… sort of, using the eagle?

Philippa: Yes he does.

Peter: Oh, does he?

Philippa: He… In fact, one of the early scripts that was written by a Hollywood screenwriter for – I believe it was an animated version from the 1950s or 60s – he particularly objected to what he called the use of the Eagles as “Middle-earth taxis”.

Peter: Right.

Philippa: But yes, he had a very specific reason, which was that the Eagles are their own race, they’re not necessarily part of this world, and that they don’t… they do things for very specific reasons.

Peter: Elrond was one of the really difficult characters to cast. Do you remember how much of a problem we had trying to find somebody to play Elrond? [Fran agrees] It’s… The Elves themselves were always difficult, because they are basically non-human, but we looked around, considered quite a few different people, auditioned a huge number of people, and we suddenly came up with the idea of Hugo Weaving.

Fran: Well Barrie did.

Peter: Yeah, Barrie did.

Fran: Because he’d worked with him on ‘The Matrix’.

Peter: And we thought it was a great idea, just because of the way that Hugo looks: he has that lovely, sharp features. So Hugo flew over to New Zealand; we were filming in Hobbiton – I remember we were up in Hobbiton – and he came to meet us, and had a look around Hobbiton and said hi, and so we ultimately offered him the rôle. He accepted.

Philippa: He says he only does trilogies now. [Peter laughs]

Peter: We experimented with many different ways to reintroduce Bilbo, didn’t we, into Rivendell. In fact, Rivendell itself was, I think, the biggest nightmare of the scriptwriting.

Fran: Yes, it was.

Peter: Wasn’t it? The actual sequence of Rivendell.

Fran: [at same time as Peter] Yes.

Philippa: [at same time as Peter and Fran!] Second only to the prologue.

Fran: Oh, well…

Philippa: [at same time as Fran] The great horror of the prologue!

Peter: I think it was worse than the prologue.

Fran: Possibly it was worse than the prologue.

Peter: Because it was so important, so critical to this part of the film that we felt there was a real danger that the story could just come to a complete, grinding halt at Rivendell. And…

Philippa: And the fact that numerous drafts –.

Peter: The difficulty is that Frodo’s got the Ring to Rivendell, and in many respects, you feel that the story’s come to an end: there’s really nothing else happening in the story because he’s achieved what he wants to achieve. So, we thought about how we could fix that, and we shot this scene between Gandalf and Elrond [this is said during the scene between Frodo and Bilbo with the Red Book] where they’re talking about the state of the world, and how chaotic things are, and how desperate the situation is, and how the Ring can’t stay in Rivendell. We shot that scene as a way to try to maintain some sort of dramatic tension.

Philippa: [Frodo: “I’m not like you, Bilbo”] It’s interesting how sometimes scenes are just meant to happen and meant to be: I remember this scene was a particularly easy write. This was one of the few Rivendell scenes that just [Peter: Yeah] wrote itself.

Peter: Yeah. Ian and Elijah did so well to –.

Philippa: [at same time as Peter] And we all knew it was right, yeah.

Peter: Ian and Elijah just played that scene so wonderfully well. It’s beautiful.

Fran: [Frodo: “Packed already, Sam”] This was a pick-up. This happened in one of the late pick-ups, and you can see that Sean Astin’s lost quite a lot of weight. [>b>All three laugh]

Philippa: Yes, he has! It’s all that Elvish food!

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] He’s a lot thinner! He’s a lot thinner than he used to be, that’s right!

Philippa: He’s been on an Elvish diet for a few days!

Peter: As soon as Sean was done with the movie, he raced back home and lost as much weight as quickly as he could. (beat) You see, people often talk about, you know, actors coming back for re-shoots, but there’s never really re-shooting, it’s always what you call pick-ups, and this is a great example. We cut the film together, and we felt that we somehow needed to… We needed to return to the Ring, that Frodo was carrying this Ring, and yet in our Rivendell sequence that we originally cut hadn’t really got any reference to Frodo and the Ring.

Philippa: But more importantly that he wanted to go home.

Peter: Yeah. And that –.

Philippa: That was the critical part of it.

Peter: Yeah, and that this scene with Elrond and Gandalf is deliberately attempting to retch at the tension back into the story again. (beat) This was another pick-up.

Fran: And it was –. This one was done so close to the bone that we didn’t have time to ADR Ian’s side of the dialogue, so all of that had to be cleaned, do you remember?

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: We had to check it on the day.

Peter: Because Ian was, like, shooting this scene, and then he was flying back to England.

Fran: Yes.

Peter: Oh, he was actually flying to New York to do his play, and so we didn’t have time to do any voice recording afterwards, so we had to do it as –. We had to stop for the aeroplanes, we had to get as clean a dialogue track as we possibly could.

Fran: Yes.

Philippa: And they are shooting, sort of, right next door to Wellington Airport! [Philippa and Fran laugh] So you can imagine what that was like!

Fran: Well we used to have a plane-spotter…

Philippa: That’s right.

Fran: …who was positioned somewhere near the airport, and would radio in when a 747 was about to take off! And we’d get a two minute warning [laughs], and we’d [?] the cast down and let a plane over.

Peter: That’s right,

Philippa: Hugo had a cold, didn’t he? He had that great, deep, sexy voice on that day!

Peter: He had the flu. He was sick.

Philippa: [at same time as Peter] He had the flu, yeah.

Peter: He was very, very sick.

Philippa: But he sounded great, I thought.

Fran: Yes, we kept that voice. (beat) [Boromir rides into Rivendell] Here’s Sean.

Peter: These are introducing three of our key characters now, obviously. We grappled again with how we introduced Boromir, Legolas and Gimli, and we tried various things through drafts of the script, didn’t we?

Fran: Yeah.

Peter: You know, at one point I remember that the script had a big Rivendell party. We had a, like a big [Philippa: Yes] reception, and there was singing [Philippa: Yes] and food and much jolly…

Philippa: Merriment.

Peter: …partying. Jolly merriment! [All three laugh] And that these characters would be introduced at the party: this was, like, the night before the Council; but we abandoned that, and…

Philippa: Yeah.

Fran: Well we did: we counted that within the Rivendell sequence – which itself is about twenty-five minutes long – there were seven introductions of…

Philippa: Yes, yes.

Fran: …of character introductions, which was really horrendous.

Philippa: [at same time as Fran] It was overload.

Fran: And to try not to base whole scenes around introducing people, because that would become fairly dull. It was a real challenge.

Peter: What I like about the way we ended up using our prologue was that, apart from the prologue itself at the beginning of the film, we… A couple of times during the course of the movie, we keep building on the prologue, so rather than just reprising the same thing that you’ve seen before, you’re developing it, so, you know, here we are in the Crack of Doom with Elrond and Isildur that we didn’t –. We never saw this at the beginning of the movie, but you’re able to now piece it together. It was quite a good device, I think, of trying to let audiences – especially those that hadn’t read the book – sort of put two and two together in a way that was easy enough to understand and yet wasn’t too obvious. (beat) This was a scene that Fran directed, big scene in the Crack of Doom.

Philippa: Also, the other character that Hugo Weaving voices – he actually voices two characters in this film – the other being Isildur’s great “No”.

Peter: [The Sword That Was Broken] And this is where we start to flesh out Aragorn’s character, because, you know, at this point in time, we’ve only known him as Strider – a fairly enigmatic Ranger – but, you know, Aragorn has this very complex, sort of, psychological story, really. Well, we’ve made it more complex, in a sense that what is actually in the books, of the fact that he is the heir to the throne of Gondor. The Broken Sword – which I didn’t want to introduce in Bree being pulled out of the scabbard –, so this is the way that we decided to present the Sword. Alan Lee designed that wonderful statue holding the shield.

Fran: And painted the triptych on the back wall that Boromir’s just looked at.

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: Which is beautiful.

Peter: The introduction of Boromir, and his relationship with Aragorn, was fleshed out slightly more in the original footage that we shot. We trimmed it back in the theatrical version, but we just had this little piece of dialogue between the two. When we were making our decisions about what to include in the film, we felt that the scene in the Council where Boromir and Aragorn have their little confrontation was a strong enough scene to be the first time that we see the two of them interact together; but we had already shot this, which was very nice, I mean, it’s very evocative, and there’s nothing at all wrong with it. We just felt that there was a slight piece of redundancy since they do have a moment together later in the Council. We really wanted to create a nice story between Boromir and Aragorn, because really, from this point on until the end of the film, the relationship between Boromir and Aragorn becomes one of our central pieces of dramatic structure, really.

Fran: [in agreement] Mmm.

Philippa: Ironically, one of the first scenes you shot with them together was the last scene that they had together; and the connection was so great and they worked so brilliantly together that we tried, from that moment on, to earn that scene.

Peter: That’s an Alan Lee painting – original painting – behind Liv, there. [screen cap] (beat) And this was a critical moment, too, to connect Aragorn and Arwen in a way that we only hint at in the forest, in the Trollshaw forest.

Philippa: [Arwen: “Your time will come”] I love Liv’s conviction here, and her strength.

Peter: Yeah. (beat) She has wonderful Elvish dialogue, and she makes it sound so real.

Philippa: [Pan over Rivendell at night, before we see Aragorn and Arwen on the bridge, screen cap] This is a miniature?

Peter: Yep, this is a miniature. It’s a model of Rivendell, about six foot long.

Philippa: [Aragorn and Arwen standing on the bridge] It’s a very early image that you wanted, isn’t it?

Peter: Yeah.

Philippa: This image, Peter had envisaged; and it was really wonderful to see it actually happen.

Fran: Mmm…

Peter: I wanted to shoot this scene really close, so there’s a lot of close ups: I wanted it to be just about their eyes and their hands, and, you know, I just wanted to somehow have the camera, kind of, seem incredibly intimate with the way that they’re relating to each other.

Philippa: The concept of the Evenstar as a physical object was one that we found, again, buried at the end of the book, at the end of ‘Return of the King’ and we felt that it was –.

Peter: Her name is Arwen Evenstar, isn’t it?

Philippa: Her name is Arwen Evenstar, and the concept that there is such a thing as the Evenstar… In fact, I think we thought about it, and then we realised that there was one.

Fran: She gives it to Frodo.

Philippa: She gives it to Frodo at the end, yeah. But it becomes more and more important, really, as the thing about her that he carries.

Peter: Well, we used it as a symbol of her mortality, didn’t we? [Philippa agrees]

Philippa: A symbol of her mortality and a symbol of what she’s giving to him.

Peter: Yeah.

Philippa: And what he carries with him.

Peter: And, needless to say, it’s not the last we see of the Evenstar: in the second and third movie, the Evenstar itself that Aragorn carries around his neck is used in different ways. (beat) The Council of Elrond was a bit of a nightmare to shoot. The scene that’s in the movie is a little bit shorter than what we originally shot, and it took us – I think it took us – six or seven days to shoot.

Fran: It did, it was a week.

Peter: And it was just one of those eye line nightmares that when you’re shooting a scene you don’t want to cross a line; so in other words, if somebody is looking to the left, then you want the next character, who’s responding to them, to look to the, sort of, right. It’s just… It’s called “don’t cross the line”: it’s one of the rules of filmmaking; and when you have a group of people – many, many people – in a circle, it becomes an absolute nightmare to figure out who’s talking to whom, who’s looking at whom, and to get their eye line direction to be correct.

Fran: Pete, when you can flip a shot, why does that matter?

Peter: Well, sometimes you can flip a shot and get away with it, but often, if you flip a shot, people’s faces look different, because people don’t have perfectly balanced faces. And also, often, you know – not so much with this scene, perhaps – but often you can tell by things that are in the background and stuff. (beat) The Council of Elrond was always a problem because it’s so long in the book, and it was very long in the original cut of the film, and we trimmed out a section of it near the beginning [Gandalf recites the Ring-verse in Black Speech] – which we’re looking at here – purely for length reasons. But, it is notable in a couple of ways: it shows Boromir’s initial fascination with the Ring, and as it includes the poem – the Black Speech poem – “Ash nazg durbatuluk” which otherwise is not really part of the movie, but here it is. We did shoot it, and it’s a moment, obviously, from the book, in which Gandalf does say those words and the clouds come over and it goes dark momentarily; and it shows the power of Black Speech within the Elven world of Rivendell and the immense, sort of, the evil force that saying those words can conjure up.

Philippa: The Black Speech… This, of course, is the inscription, what you would call the Ring-spell; and a very, very tricky language to speak. And the voice that you can hear underneath is the voice of Alan Howard, a great British actor, and he is the voice of Sauron. (beat) One of the heroes of this shoot was Victoria Sullivan – the continuity script supervisor – and she had to help you with a lot of this, didn’t she, Pete?

Peter: Yep, Victoria had to keep a real running tab on who was looking at whom at any particular time.

Philippa: I think we must have driven her crazy. She came from ‘The Matrix’ and she’s gone back to do ‘Matrix’ 2 & 3.

Peter: Yeah. (beat) The Council of Elrond in the movie is really quite different to how it is in the book. I mean, in the book, it’s used as a way to catch up on a lot of story points that we need to hear about: about, you know, Gandalf and Saruman, and it introduces and tells us a lot of stories about Gimli and the Dwarves, and Boromir and where he’s been, and we obviously didn’t have time, really, for any of that. But we also had one fundamental difference in our Council of Rivendell which is very different to the book in the sense that, in the movie, we had Frodo saying that he was going to take the Ring to Rivendell: he was going to Rivendell and that was going to be it; whereas in the book, Frodo is really going to the Crack of Doom right the way from the beginning, and Rivendell is merely a place to stop and regroup, but we wanted to have an event happen at the Council of Elrond which propels the momentum of the film through until its second half which was the fact that Frodo now really has to make a choice all by himself to volunteer to carry this Ring all the way to Mordor – that it wasn’t what his original intention was; and that was a fundamental change that we made in the movie. We just felt it would be undramatic if, right from the very beginning, he was going to Mordor.

Philippa: [Boromir: “One does not simply walk into Mordor”] This speech of Boromir’s was given to Sean the night before, and he [Peter: That’s right.]… he…

Peter: That’s right: he hadn’t had time to learn it.

Philippa: [laughing] No!

Peter: And it was written out, and it was on a piece of paper that he put on his lap, so if you look at him talking he occasionally – as part of his dramatic performance – he lowers his head, and what he’s actually doing is he’s reading his lines of dialogue off his lap.

Fran: I’m not sure he’d thank you for saying that, Pete.

Peter: He doesn’t do it too often… Yeah, but he had this great, like –. He had a page of dialogue.

Fran: I know.

Peter: He was given…

Fran: [at same time as Peter] I know, it was terrible.

Peter: It was given to him virtually on the morning that we were shooting.

Fran: It’s just terrible!

Philippa: [laughing] Another failure on the part of the…

Peter: But he does it brilliantly well.

Philippa: …the writers!

Fran: It’s a mean thing to do to actors.

Philippa: Yeah. He was so phenomenal, though. He did rise to all occasions. (beat) One of the things we were wrenching for with Gandalf, and wanted to hint at, is the thought that he has an understanding that Frodo is the only person who can carry this, but he knows that he cannot force Frodo to do this; but we also wanted a sense of great sadness and loss…

Peter: I said to Ian that –.

Philippa: …at the moment that he does volunteer.

Peter: I said to Ian that he should imagine that he’s just heard his son volunteering to go and join the army in World War I. [Philippa agrees]. There’s that look there that he gives.

Philippa: Understanding that it must be done.

Peter: Understanding that it has to be done, but it could kill him. (beat) Once Frodo volunteers, it gave us an opportunity to really see the forming of the Fellowship, because after all, this movie’s called ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ and so it gave us this wonderful opportunity to just – one by one – to let each character come forward and to join, which I think is nice; and all a little bit different to what’s in the book but I think it worked quite well for the film. It provides you with one of those cinematic moments that you need.

Philippa: [Gimli: “And my axe”] It’s quite funny, especially when you think that John Rhys-Davies is about six foot three!

Peter: Yeah! That’s right.

Fran: But that’s the perfect proportional height to the Hobbits.

Philippa: Yes, it is.

Peter: That’s right, because John and the Hobbits don’t have to be changed [Philippa: No.] in relation to each other. (beat) The group shot of the members all standing together was done – obviously, it’s a visual effects shot – and it was done against blue screen where we had the… we were able to shrink the Hobbits down, and Gimli down, to be small. There’s actually not that many shots in the movie of all nine members of the Fellowship together in one shot. There’s very few of them, in actual fact, and so it’s always nice to see it when it happens.

FotR Disc 2 >>

The Lord of the Rings and its content does not belong to me, it is property of the Tolkien Estate;  the commentaries transcribed here, as well as the images used, are the property of New Line Cinema.