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Peter: We originally were going to crane-up and they were going to be walking towards the Morgul-vale – the valley – but we never actually did the shot: it was never finished or anything, but it was a piece of artwork that was done that we thought, “Okay, we’ll just go above the trees and we’ll look at this big, horrible valley that they’re heading to, and the sky will be flashing above; but they’re basically heading towards Minas Morgul. But then we decided that it wasn’t really about going towards Minas Morgul, it was about Mordor, so in order to get to Mordor, we had to just keep the camera moving up and up the Mountains, to get to the top of the Mountain range and see Mount Doom and Barad-dûr.

Philippa: Mmm.

Peter: So we just decided, basically, to go from ending on Minas Morgul to ending on Mordor, to just… to wrap it up a little bit, and wrap up the tension. (beat) It was interesting, when I did the press junket for ‘The Two Towers’, one of the most commonly-asked questions, you know: why did we not have any recap of Part One? Why didn’t we explain what had happened so far? and to me it wasn’t that difficult, it was just, you know, assuming that most people had seen ‘The Fellowship’ – maybe if ‘The Fellowship’ had been less successful as a film, you would have felt obliged to have a recap, because it was, like, “Oh, hang on, you know, not many people saw [Philippa: Mmm.] the first one, so we’ve got to make sure everyone gets the story!”

Philippa: Mmm.

Peter: But because, you know, so many people had seen ‘The Fellowship’, I think we felt that we were able just to jump in; and it was only a year ago: that’s what I kept saying to the journalists, you know, “Well, it’s only a year ago, you… surely you haven’t forgotten what happened in the movie.”

Philippa: Plus, you’d just had the extended cut DVD released of ‘Fellowship’, which was very clever.

Peter: Well the DVD and the video release helped a lot [Philippa agrees] because it was able to, sort of, put everybody back into a ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ frame of mind –

Philippa: Or if they hadn’t seen it.

Peter: – two or three months, you know [Philippa: Mmm.], before the release of ‘Two Towers’. (beat) But it would be fair to say that it was given the least amount of thought…

Philippa: [in agreement] Oh, yeah.

Peter: … during the writing, because [Philippa: Oh.] there was so much focus on the beginning of the story, of how we introduce everybody up [Philippa agrees], do we spend too long in Hobbiton before they hit the road? You know, how do we get all this incredibly complicated back-story about Isildur and the Ring [Philippa agrees] across? We then… On the other side of it, we were focusing on ‘The Return of the King’, of wanting to climax the story in a great way, of really trying to shape the end of what happens [Philippa: Well –.] in the third act, ‘Return of the King’ and then… and in some respects, this one slipped through the cracks –

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: [laughing] – if it’s possible for an entire movie to slip through the cracks!

Philippa: No, it did.

Peter: It sort of… This, kind of, did…

Philippa: And because it was the hardest, too.

Peter: … in a way.

Philippa: It’s the hardest one [Peter: Yeah.] to put your brain there. I mean, Film Three is much more filmic: the story plays out, especially Frodo and Sam’s one.

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] Yeah. It really rattles along. Yeah.

Philippa: It lends itself, of any sequence in the book, lends itself to film…

Peter: Yes, it does, actually, yeah.

Philippa: … the best, so that was always easier to do; but I think with the second film, it’s what it had to do to bridge these two, to bridge these two great stories: you had a great beginning, you had a great end, and we didn’t know – until we sat down and looked at it –. That was the other thing: after production, we had no time: we were straight into ‘Fellowship’, so we didn’t really have any time to sit down and see what we’d got. We didn’t know, did we, what we had?

Peter: Also, I think it would be fair to say that it’s the slightest of the books, too: it has the least dramatic conflict of any of the books.

Philippa: [drawn-out] Mmmm.

Peter: It has the most linear, kind of, plotting…

Philippa: It does –. It certainly suffers from a lack of reversals in the Aragorn/Théoden/Gandalf story.

Peter: Well, and even in the Frodo/Sam/Faramir story, as well.

Philippa: Yeah, well, exactly.

Peter: Really, you know.

Philippa: It… yes, yes. This [?]

Peter: I think the irony, too, is that one of the most memorable sequences in ‘The Two Towers’ book is the whole Shelob [laughs] sequence, which [Philippa: Yeah] of course we didn’t have in the film, so [Philippa: Yeah.] in a way, we’d already [Philippa: Maybe…], you know, taken out the most memorable scene. I suppose Helm’s Deep is the other… is the other memorable…

Philippa: No, you’re right, because you read –.

Peter: Because it ends with a cliff-hanger, I mean –

Philippa: Yep, you do.

Peter: – they use Shelob as an enormous cliff-hanger, you know [Philippa: Yeah.], Tolkien provides you with this great cliff-hanger, but as I said earlier, I think that when people see our film version of ‘Return of the King’, you’ll see immediately why we put Shelob into ‘Return of the King’ – I don’t think there was any doubt about it.

Philippa: Well, as you’ve actually often pointed out, Pete, in terms of true chronology with the story, Shelob doesn’t play out against Helm’s Deep, it plays out against the…

Peter: The Siege of Minas Tirith.

Philippa: Yeah, the Siege of Minas Tirith.

Peter: And, of course, the thing that we should mention here as well is the fact that this is not really where ‘The Two Towers’ ends from the point of view of Aragorn and Théoden, either –

Philippa: No.

Peter: – because there’s a sequence where they return to Isengard and confront Saruman. [Philippa: Mmm.] Now, we shot that, and when we shot it, we originally thought it was going to be in ‘The Two Towers’ – I mean, it was in the ‘Two Towers’ script when we filmed it – but we just felt that we couldn’t go through that entire Battle of Helm’s Deep, and with the climax of Frodo and Sam, and then go into what was going to basically be a seven- or eight-minute sequence…

Philippa: Mmm.

Peter: … of returning to Isengard, and the reason why it’s not in either the theatrical version or the extended cut is because it is somewhat anticlimactic. It’s a much better beginning for a film [Philippa agrees] than it is a climax for a film; and so, therefore, we made a decision last year when we were cutting ‘The Two Towers’ that that entire sequence of the – basically the Voice of Saruman is the chapter in the book, of course [Philippa: Mmm.], as people remember – that got shifted to the beginning of’ Return of the King’, so it’s weird: the identity of ‘The Two Towers’, even in the way we’ve constructed the film… we’ve shifted its identity round and just used bits and pieces of it, haven’t we?

Philippa: Mmm.

Fran: All cinema storytelling – to a degree – is shallow [laughs], and that’s the nature of the medium: you’ve got two or three hours to present a world and a dense story with a hundred themes and a ton of back-story in this instance, and twenty-two characters, so you can only, really, have the veneer of that. [laughs] You really can’t have anything that comes close to the depth of the books – or the experience of the books – so I think what we attempted to do was to use the language of the books where we could, and to certainly invoke them – the iconic images – where we could, but to keep the storytelling very much… to modernise it, if you like, in terms of cinema language, so we didn’t, for example, use the style of storytelling that was in the books between these different after-the-fact storytelling: Sam and Frodo, and then a chunk of the Aragorn story: we completely intercut it: that was a far more, kind of, immediate and more engaging way to connect it to the audience. You can’t really hope to satisfy people who adore this book with the movie; you can only ever give them a sense of what might have been! [laughs] That’s all a film can do. I think in that sense, films… I mean, they’re entertainments. They’re just not going to give you the pleasure that a book can give you. We felt, the entire year, that we didn’t have the time that we should have had [Peter: Hmm.] and had lost so much because of the junkets, you know, for the Academy and… gone to the BAFTAs, and we’d done all the things that you’re supposed to do to support your movie, but at the expense of ‘The Two Towers’.

Peter: We went into the pick-ups not having written all the stuff we needed: actors were arriving – I mean, actors were actually landing in the country saying, “Can I have a look at what you want to shoot with me?” and we hadn’t even written it yet! [laughs]

Fran: I was writing them on-set for the pick-ups.

Peter: I know! It was just –. We were, sort of, four or five weeks late for everything the entire year. On top of that, it was a tough movie to do: I mean, ultimately, you know, any movie can be fixed and any editing can be refined if you have enough time, but because we always felt like we were four or five weeks late the whole year, we felt an enormous amount of pressure on us. I’m happy with ‘The Two Towers’ because, for a long time, we thought it wasn’t going to be as good as the first film, and then, for some reason – [laughing] I still don’t know quite how! – we ended up with a movie which a lot of people think is better than the first film, which is totally not what we expected! It was obviously a very pleasing result: it’s a very satisfying result. We’re happy that we ended up somehow, you know, making a film that people enjoyed, but it was problematical – and continued to be problematical all the way through post-production and right up until the very end.

Philippa: We used every second to tell the story, right up to Fran [?in the mix]. We used every second of time that we had to tell the story and to fix the story, and to make it work.

Peter: So, we hope you’ve enjoyed this extended cut of ‘The Two Towers’, and I hope in seeing it, it’s given you, you know, a nice context for things that you’re about to see in ‘Return of the King’, which is going to be on in the theatres very soon.

Philippa: Mmm.

Peter: That’s if you’re watching this DVD before December; but if you get it for Christmas and you watch, you know, after Christmas, then ‘The Return of the King’ is in the cinemas right now.

Philippa: And go and see it.

Peter: Yeah.

Philippa: Please.

RotK: To be completed >>

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.