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<< The Pass of Caradhras

Peter: [Gandalf talks to Frodo about the power of the Ring] Another scene trimmed from the theatrical version – for pacing reasons – is this nice little moment between Gandalf and Frodo. We wanted to really emphasise the fact that Gandalf is sensing his impending doom, that he doesn’t want to go into Moria; however, because Frodo has now made a decision, he’s going to go along with it, but he wants to just take an opportunity to warn Frodo that from here on in, the journey is going to get more dangerous. And it’s a scene we did with Ian McKellen: it was actually the last thing we shot with Ian for the Fellowship of the Ring. It was a pick-up that we did after the completion of photography and Ian flew out to New Zealand and we shot the sequence in front of a blue screen and we composited in the mountains behind them; it was done in the studio and it was done literally on Ian’s last day of being involved in the movie, and he flew home that afternoon. (beat) [Gimli: “Dwarf doors are invisible when closed.”] The little moment here between Legolas and Gimli is a little beat of the rivalry between Dwarves and Elves which we did shoot for the movie, and we had to trim most of that stuff out for the theatrical version. It’s obviously a very notable part of the book, the, sort of, antagonism between those two characters that slowly turns into friendship. (beat) The Gates of Moria used to be a very well-used road that the Elves and Dwarves would take in ancient times, before they fell out. (beat) I always loved the idea that the door has this inscription that reflects moonlight, and so that if the moon’s out, then the letters… the markings on the door glow, which I always thought was really magical.

Fran: And that wide shot was your deliberate recreation of the Alan Lee painting of the Moria doors. [screen cap]

Peter: Yeah, Alan’s got a painting that’s almost identical to this, and I just thought, “That’s got to be what the Gate of Moria is like in the movie”; so we deliberately tried to replicate it as closely as possible. Obviously, Tolkien himself designed the pattern of the Gate, the symbols on the Gate. (beat) There was a lot of concern about whether Gandalf should appear too much of a failure here – and I guess this slightly longer cut shows more of his frustration – but I actually always loved it. I thought that to make Gandalf fallible, to show that he, even though he’s this spirit, he’s inhabited in the body of an old man, he does forget things, he’s not always perfect: I think it was very nice for his character. It’s, sort of, ‘anti-wizard’ in a funny kind of way. (beat) This was filmed on what’s called the ‘wet set’ which is basically like a big swimming pool that was outside in Wingate which was right next to a railway line! If you hear the real sound that we recorded on the day, it’s just full of trains rumbling past the set. In fact, I think people could look out of the window of the train and actually see what we were shooting.

Fran: [Aragorn and Sam let Bill go] This little moment here was a studio request from Mark Ordesky. [Philippa and Fran laugh]

Philippa: [laughing] Yes!

Fran: He was worried about what the audience might think, you know, would become of Bill the Pony.

Philippa: What happened was when he’d finally discovered that, somehow, Bill the Pony had materialised he said, [putting on Mark Ordesky’s accent] “What happens to the pony?” and I said, “Well, in the book, he’s released outside the Mines of Moria where all the wolves are howling and they’re really hungry and all Mark could see was this great horror that we were going to send Bill the Pony off to be eaten by wolves.

Peter: I always wanted the Watcher to go and grab…

Philippa: Grab him! [Philippa laughs]

Peter: I thought that would be great, if the little donkey was, kind of, like: [does a donkey impression] [Philippa laughs] and he was, kind of, pulled below the surface by a big, slippery, slimy tentacle.

Fran: No, so it…

Philippa: [laughing] Mark would have had a heart attack!

Fran: That very lame line, “Don’t worry, Sam, he’ll find his way home” [Philippa: Yeah.] was our concession to the studio.

Philippa: Yes. [Peter laughs]

Philippa: That was done under duress.

Fran: It was. Under protest.

Philippa: The idea of giving the solving of the puzzle to Frodo – which some people, sort of, objected to because, of course, Gandalf himself solves it in the book – was basically because by this stage Frodo’s staring to drop out of the story, and always one of the things we had to work very hard to do was to keep him in focus and keep him very proactive, so that he’s not just somebody who’s being dragged along by other people.

Peter: (beat) [the Fellowship discovers the Dwarf skeletons in the entrance to Moria] Now, there’s a couple of shots there that are not John Rhys-Davies, they’re another person in his make up.

Philippa: John had had a very bad reaction to the prosthetic by this stage, because he faced a… I think it was… began as a five hour or four hour prosthetic, and ended up being three hours. I don’t think it was ever less than three hours, was it?

Fran: Yes, the glue was giving him tremendous inflammation around his eyes.

Philippa: He was such a… He was so great at dealing with it.

Fran: And it got to the point where we couldn’t shoot with him on consecutive days: we would have to shoot with John every two or three days [Peter: Yeah.] to give him a break.

Peter: (beat) The Watcher is one of those scenes that was a little bit of a fight with the studio, that there was always a feeling that it was unnecessary, that we could just have the door open and then just go straight into the Mine and carry on going through the Mine; but I always… I love the notion of the scene, I thought the film needed some more, you know, a good monster sequence at this point in time.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: And so, I kind of fought for it, and obviously it’s a little bit more than what’s in the book, even, because in the book you don’t see the creature as clearly as you do here: you just see the tentacles coming out of the water. But I, you know… So this was a fight, I have to say, to retain this sequence in the script. But fortunately, as they did in most situations, the studio finally relented and let me do what I wanted to do, which I was always very grateful for.

Philippa: One of the most important things it does, of course, is it gives them their choice: it locks them in there, and we would have had to have…

Peter: Yeah, I mean I love the idea that they decide [Philippa: Yeah.] they don’t want to go through the Mine when they see how nightmarish it is, and then they have no choice: they get entombed in there. [Philippa: Yeah.] They have no choice at all but to have to walk through the Mine.

A Journey in the Dark >>

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.