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EE Commentary Transcripts
The Council of Elrond

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Peter (cont.): … 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.

Gilraen's Memorial >>

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.