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EE Commentary Transcripts
The Shadow of the Past

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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 >>

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.