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EE Commentary Transcripts
The Battle of the Hornburg

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Peter: No, but wouldn’t it be cool? That…

Philippa: Oh, my God!

Peter: Because it’s one of those things that’s just hinted at in the books [Philippa: Yeah], and it’s like... anyway…

Philippa: Okay. Well, there were a number of reasons: one, we have already spoken about the Last Alliance, and there being an alliance between Elves and Men. You have this presence of Elves in the films; this was a way of reinforcing them and showing them holding the line with the rest of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth – which they are, in fact, doing in the book: one of my favourite moments is when Elrond sends his sons to Aragorn, and that was a moment that we were never going to be able to do, because it would have meant establishing that Elrond had two sons and introducing two new characters, and so this is in the spirit of Elrond sending his sons to Aragorn.

Peter: And that happens in ‘The Return of the King’, doesn’t it, when his two sons are…?

Philippa: [at same time as Peter] It does, yeah, just before the Paths of the Dead, yeah. [Peter: Yeah, that’s right.] He sends them with the Dúnedain.

Peter: Yes. Yeah.

Philippa: It would have just meant casting two more – and possibly beautiful, good-looking – men, and Fran and I were just sick and tired of doing that, weren’t we?

Peter: Oh, you were already just burnt out, weren’t you –

Fran: [at same time as Peter] And –. And there weren’t –.

Peter: – with good looking men?

Philippa: It was just… had enough.

Fran: [?] combed New Zealand.

Philippa: [laughing] Combed New Zealand for gorgeous –.

Fran: Beautiful men, and we’d found them all!

Philippa: We ran out of gorge–

Peter: Well they would have had no choice but for me to play one of the characters!

Philippa: I know. Well, Pete…

Peter: maybe that’s what you were trying to avoid! [Philippa laughs]

Philippa: I don’t think he’s an Elf, do you? Son of Elrond? [Philippa and Peter laugh] I don’t think so!

Peter; Well, you could –.

Fran: He’s a Half-elf!

Peter: You could squeeze me in a computer! [Philippa laughs] You could, sort of, do some sort of a digital compression.

Philippa: Oh, God! I don’t think even Weta has the technology, do they? [Philippa and Peter laugh] (beat) [Helm’s Deep’s defenders await the Uruk-hai] You shot the guys on the wall, though, didn’t you?

Peter: I shot some of the guys on the wall.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: Yeah.

Philippa: [screen cap] Who’s that beautiful child? Extraordinarily… gorgeous.

Peter: I know, it’s some amazing child that we found somewhere! (beat) A lot of the marching shots that you’re seeing now are actually completely CG: there’s no real Uruks in the big shot that we’re looking at now [screen cap] with the guy on the rock. They’re all digital, as they are in this shot here as well [screen cap]: there’s no Elves, there’s no Uruks. [Aragorn: “A Eruchîn!...”] This is one of my favourite bits. I love what Viggo says here – it’s just really cool. Whenever I see this, I – you sort of think, “Okay, now we’re in for a battle!” When “Show them no mercy because none will be shown to you” – it’s like, “Okay, the rules are established! We know what’s at stake now.” (beat) The editing of the civilians in the caves was something that we did at the last minute. We actually didn’t really have it in our script, for instance, you know. The script didn’t say, you know, ‘intercut between Rohan civilians’, but when we came to edit it together, it became very apparent to us that the battle was going to gain more power if you really juxtapose the preparations for battle with the frightened women and children. It sort of gives the battle a purpose, really, beyond just defending a stone castle: you know, you’re obviously now defending the women and children – and, in a sense, the future of your own race, really. (beat) The stunt-guys were amazing: they just got, you know, drenching, soaking wet, because all this rain was coming from rain towers. (beat) [an Uruk is accidentally shot] This was an idea that… of how the battle begins; it was… I just liked the idea that the battle starts almost by accident: that there’s one guy who lets an arrow go by mistake that causes the Uruks to go crazy. Not that they would have turned around and gone home again, one assumes. [Philippa laughs] They weren’t really into that kind of mode. (beat) Another mixture of completely digital Uruk-hai with close-ups for real. We never actually had more than a hundred Uruk-hai in any shots – we never build more than a hundred costumes for Uruk-hai! – and so we were limited in a sense of what we could actually shoot with the extras and the stunt-guys; so any time that you’re looking at more than a hundred in a shot, you are looking at a lot of CG guys. (beat) All of the arrows that are flying through the air are all CG arrows. In the old days, you used to have to fire them down wires, but now you can just put them on with the computer. (beat) [screen cap] There was a shot there of one of the extras who’d actually lost an eye. He turned up and he had an eye-patch on, and we asked him if he’d mind taking his eye-patch off and he said that he’d never ever done it before, that he felt very self-conscious; but he took it off and he just had this amazing, kind of, you know socket [Philippa: Mmm.], and so I shot a big close-up of it, and afterwards, he came to me and he said, “That was really great.” He said, “It made me feel much better, and I, sort of, don’t feel as bad about it” now that he actually got to, sort of, be in the movie.

Fran: Well, it’s a powerful moment, the way you use it.

Peter: Originally, when we were back in the Miramax days, we built the 31st scale model of Helm’s Deep; at that time, we sort of plotted out the basic beats of the battle. John Howe was very instrumental in coming up with ideas, because John’s very much into mediaeval military stuff, and so he came up with a lot of the ideas with the ladders, the catapults firing, the grappling hook. We shot a version of most of the big shots using these little plastic soldiers and the video camera. (beat) A lot of the stuff on top of the wall, here, we shot in a studio, but there’s a miniature of Helm’s Deep that we made that’s quarter-scale, and we put the miniature down the end of the wall, so, occasionally – it’s very quick and fleeting – but you occasionally see – like, behind this shot here [screen cap] – you see that there is actually Helm’s Deep at the end of the wall, but there’s a quarter-scale miniature that’s just sitting at the end of the full-size wall: it’s like a forced-perspective trick that just meant that we didn’t have to blue-screen-in the castle, because we were shooting the model one for real down the end of the studio. (beat) I made a rule when we were editing the battle together that we shouldn’t have any more than two or three shots where we didn’t see one of our heroes – and our heroes being Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and then occasionally there’s Théoden and there’s Haldir. The battle just seemed to be so much more interesting if we kept looking at it through the actions of the heroes, because we had a lot more footage: I mean, we had, literally, hours of footage of stunt-guys fighting [Philippa: Mmm.] but we just found, when you were looking at stunt-guys fighting, so matter how good the action was, you were just wondering: what was Gimli doing, or what was Legolas doing? What was Aragorn doing? And…

Fran: Or, what was the point?

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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.