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EE Commentary Transcripts
At the Sign of the Prancing Pony

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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.

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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.