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EE Commentary Transcripts
TTT Disc 1

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Note: You'll notice that the word (beat) used quite frequently throughout the transcripts. This simply means that there is a gap in time between one thing being said and another; however, in these transcriptions, I have used beats primarily when there is a change of subject, rather than a gap in time. Also, it is not marked when there is a gap in time between two different people speaking.


Peter: Hi everybody, and welcome to the continuing epic commentary for the extended cut of ‘The Two Towers’; I’m Peter Jackson.

Fran: And I’m Fran Walsh.

Philippa: And I’m Philippa Boyens.

Peter: The first thing we can talk about is the New Line logo, because what people won’t realise is that the logo that New Line gave us was quite scratched an jumpy and old, and so we actually put it through Weta – the digital effects facility – and we cleaned it up and stabilised it and sharpened it and gave it back to New Line as a special little present. So I don’t know whether they even knew about it.

Fran: Did we bill them? [Philippa laughs]

Peter: We should bill them now! (beat) It was interesting to figure out how to start this film, because the studio were quite insistent for a long time that we had a prologue the same as the first film: they wanted Cate Blanchett, in actual fact, to give us a, sort of, a back story of what’s happened so far in this movie – you know, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ – and to set us up; and we resisted doing that, didn’t we?

Fran: Yes, yes. It was ironic, really, because they didn’t like the idea of Cate Blanchett doing the prologue in the first film, in ‘Fellowship’ [Philippa laughs]. It was something we were keen on, but they weren’t –.

Peter: And then it flipped around the other way.

Fran: Yes, and then in this one, they decided that it was a good device, but we’d, sort of, moved on from there and thought, “No [Peter laughs], we’re just going to go straight into this one! [laughs] Nobody needs more back story.”

Peter: Well I kind of think it’s just important to be able to join all three movies up at the end and be able to run them as a film, and I think, you know –. And I think Cate Blanchett’s great to come on at the beginning of the story and do the prologue, but this is not the beginning of the story.

Philippa: We did have this opening for a very long time, though. This was actually written quite early, in very early drafts.

Peter: Well the Balrog scene was. [Philippa: Mmm] The mountain scene – I remember thinking of that idea when I was in the cutting room cutting it, because I thought: how do we actually open the movie? And we knew we were going to open it with the reprise of the Balrog and the plunge, but, you know: what’s the first shot? And then I thought the mountains… I love the idea of hearing the voices coming from [Fran agrees] the first movie. It occurred to me as reminiscent of what Zemeckis on ‘Back to the Future Part II’ when the characters were sort of, you know… went back to the first film again, and I love the idea of: we hear something that’s familiar coming from inside the mountain, but it’s not really the first film although it’s sort of going back to half way through the first film, which is kind of neat. (beat) The editing of this was identical to what we did in ‘The Fellowship’ although we switched a couple of Frodo shots round just to change it slightly; and then the plunge!

Fran: This came about because we felt it was very important to prefigure, in some way, Gandalf’s reappearance in the story. You know, you just couldn’t have him step out of the woods.

Peter: It kind of replaces the prologue and achieves a similar goal because it reminds people of the first film again. [Fran agrees] It actually, sort of, repositions you back into where you were a year ago watching ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ and to re-orientate you into the world of the movie before you have to start giving new information and having people think about new things.

Philippa: And there was also that great John Howe painting that you fell in love with, Peter.

Peter: Yeah, well that’s true. This entire scene way – way back in our scriptwriting days [Philippa, laughing: Yes!] years ago – was inspired by one single John Howe painting, because I would have never ever thought about showing the fight between Gandalf and the Balrog, but John had painted an image for a card game – for a board… rôle-playing game – which was Gandalf fighting the Balrog; and as soon as I saw that picture, I said, “Wow, we’ve got to do this scene.” If it hadn’t have been for that painting, it wouldn’t have happened, I don’t think. I would never have thought of it. (beat) The scene was drastically shortened before we ever shot anything, for budgetary reasons; because once Gandalf hit the water – remember, we were going to have [Philippa: Yeah.] the Balrog turn to slime.

Philippa: Yes.

Peter: And he was going to be, like, a slimy Balrog creature fighting underwater, and then we were going to have a battle up the staircase – the, sort of… what’s called the Endless Stair; and we had storyboards for all that stuff; eventually – and it was literally due to budgetary constraints [laughs], wasn’t it?

Fran: Yes, it was.

Peter: [?] really wanting to go there. I think at one point, we had to cut some CG stuff down, and we… and the ‘slimy Balrog’ was going to cost fifty grand or something, and we decided to do without him. I remember that.

Fran: What was he called? He wasn’t called Slimy Balrog.

Peter: [mumbling] Oh, I think it was…

Philippa: He was – he was ‘Slime Balrog’.

Peter: Slime Balrog…

Fran: Slime Balrog. [Philippa laughs]

Peter: [Elven Rope] It’s great to have a different title shot. It’s the same as what we did with ‘The Fellowship’ Special Edition – it sort of freshens up… You know, it kind of identifies this as the Special Edition, because the title of the film’s on a completely different place in the movie.

Philippa: I remember, Pete, you and I tried about a million different ways to get this – the rope, the Elvish Rope into the…

Peter: I know.

Philippa: Because it was just such an iconic moment, and…

Peter: It’s a lovely part of the book, and it was always tough to fit it in and…

Philippa: It didn’t have a story imperative, unfortunately.

Peter: Well, you realise it’s become a DVD Special Edition kind of thing now, because the giving of the Elvish Rope to Sam was in ‘The Fellowship’ Extended Cut [Philippa agrees], and then the using of it is in ‘The Two Towers’ Extended Cut! [All three laugh, Philippa: Yeah!] If you look at the movie-version, it doesn’t exist! [laughs] It’s kind of cute!

Philippa: We’re first approaching this that you wanted to show Frodo less grim – you didn’t want to start on him being grim.

Peter: Yeah, this was one of the scenes we shot as a pick-up scene, with the actors coming back during the course of the editing and doing some extra shooting; and this was one of the scenes we actually shot, although we didn’t use it in the movie eventually. But it was done to try to see a little bit more of a lighter side to Frodo and Sam before the story got too grim. It does succeed in that – I’m pleased to have it back, because the Frodo that we see here at the beginning of the film is more similar to how Frodo ends up at the end of the film, after he’s travelled the journey that he’s about to go on.

Philippa: Fran and I went hunting for something that could remind Frodo of the Shire. Sure enough, there it was in the book, and the salt is actually something that Sam does carry all the way.

Peter: [Sam: “Who’s going to follow us down here, Mr. Frodo?”] The little prefiguring of Gollum is quite nice, too, because, you know, we’re aware that Gollum’s around after the first movie; and we… Certainly in this longer version, we’d shot little bits and pieces that were teasing on him following them; we abandoned all that in the theatrical and just sort of introduced him very quickly. (beat) [The Taming of Sméagol] [screen cap] This was shot on a real volcano in New Zealand, called Ruapehu. It’s, sort of, the one place we could find all of these jagged rocks and mountain peaks and… Because the Emyn Muil scene is something that I like in the book as well: the idea of just walking round this mist-shrouded mountainous countryside and getting lost, going round in circles.

Fran: And the wider shots were shot about two years earlier, weren’t they?

Peter: Well, the wide shots were done in the original shoot, yeah, the wide location shots; and the close-ups that we’re looking at now were again part of the pick-ups that we did. This sort of shows you what pick-ups can be like, where you’re inserting a couple of new lines of dialogue into a scene you’ve already shot before. We just did these in a studio. That’s a studio shot [screen cap], that’s a studio shot [screen cap]; and now we’re back on location again, just…

Fran: Two years earlier!

Peter: Yeah. Two years.

Philippa: Just coming up about… now! [screen cap]

Peter: Now we’re back on location shots.

Philippa: [laughs] Two years apart!

Peter: [Sam: “Oh yes, lovely! Lembas bread!”] The lembas bread is a funny little thing too, because, like, the lembas bread was introduced in the ‘Fellowship’ extended cut, but it was in the theatrical version of ‘The Two Towers’ [laughs], so unless you knew something of Tolkien or had watched the DVD, you wouldn’t have a clue what this stuff was; but, you know, too bad. You can’t worry about those sorts of things.

Philippa: What was that lembas bread, by the way?

Peter: It was some sort of…

Philippa: Was it scone, or…

Peter: It was like a –.

Philippa: Looks like something I’d make! [laughs]

Peter: Well, it was. It was baked in the oven – it was like a, sort of, a pastry, sort of, ‘biscuity’ shortbread-type thing that they –. The art department made them, and they had a big supply of them; and I think [Philippa laughs] they got to nibble on them during the course of the shoot!

Philippa: [Frodo and Sam sitting in the Emyn Muil at night, rain pouring down around them] I love this scene.

Peter: Another prefiguring of Gollum, where we just wanted to build up tension before his arrival. All of this stuff was, you know, things that we just did without when we cut the theatrical version, really just to try to get the time down to three hours; and we just felt, you know, we won’t spend so long intro… you know, prefiguring Gollum. [Frodo and Sam continue to traipse through the rocks] This stuff here was… This was a great day, because we were up this mountain, and suddenly the clouds descended and it fogged right up, and we just grabbed out cameras – we abandoned what we were supposed to shoot and just said, “Let’s shoot the stuff with them wandering around lost. Quickly! It’s foggy, it’s misty, it’s great, it’s cloudy!” And all this is natural: none of this is like added, artificial, fake smoke – it’s all real clouds and smoke that suddenly all… mist that was suddenly there on the day. And we shot this stuff very quickly – we sort of jumped onto the scene when we realised that the clouds were going to be with us for a few hours. (beat) [Gollum approaches the sleeping hobbits] Gollum! It’s kind of weird to watch this, because when we shot these plates – you know, the background footage – it was about two years before we ever really saw Gollum; and you’re shooting, you know, a shot like this, craning down a cliff and you’re just hoping one day that Gollum’s going to look good! [Peter and Fran laugh] And you’ve got no idea! You’ve got no idea: you’re just shooting this rock and praying that one day, you’re going to have a great-looking creature there.

Fran: And you did.

Peter: And we did, yeah. He’s fantastic. He’s so amazing; I think that, you know, the Weta animators and the CG artists just wanted to do the best work possible, and threw their heart and soul into doing this guy.

Philippa: [Gollum fights Frodo and Sam] For a very long time, this was actually Andy fighting with them. When you look at it…

Peter: Yeah, all the shots in this fight are with Andy Serkis actually physically interacting – like when Frodo grabs Gollum’s hand here, it is Andy’s hands he’s holding. He’s really holding Andy’s hands – we put Gollum’s hands over the top, so the physical interaction is really quite real and immediate.

Philippa: [screen cap] That’s one of my favourite –.

Peter: That shot there – that’s my favourite shot too! That’s incredible! – when I saw that shot, it was like one of the first times you really felt this guy’s going to work.

Fran: [in agreement] Mmm.

Philippa: I love the blanket spinning round.

Peter: Yeah. Well that was because Andy spun it round with his feet. We didn’t plan on that, but we used it. [laughs] (beat) The image of Frodo with the sword at Gollum’s throat while Gollum’s got Sam is straight out of an Alan Lee painting. [screen cap] We actually had Alan’s painting on the set – it was one that he did for the Tolkien books a few years ago – and I always loved that painting, and I just said, “I want to recreate this”; and Alan was actually there on the day we shot it, and we, sort of, worked at trying to get the actors to push themselves into the same positions as what was on this painting.

Philippa: I love the grading in this, too, Peter. Great colours.

Peter: It’s hard to make this stuff look real: it’s all in a studio, and it tends to look like a studio. You’ve got to be very, very careful; but once we, sort of, made it go blue and dark it looks a lot better, but it’s really tricky. You’re always terrified it’s going to look like some cheap, tacky TV thing.

Philippa: [screen cap] And where’s that? What was that shot?

Peter: That’s a matte painting, Philippa.

Philippa: [shocked] Oh, you’re kidding!

Peter: Yeah, that’s a fake shot. You can’t go and visit it.

Philippa: [disappointed] Oh. Why not? [All three laugh]

Fran: We can! It’ll be one someone’s wall! [Peter laughs]

Peter: [Sam pulls Gollum along with the rope] This is pulling Andy along, Andy Serkis and replacing him with Gollum through a lot of this sequence.

Philippa: This scene actually helps Gollum’s voice, because this was one of the early scenes that you got stuck into, Fran. This was where the voice finally came into being. We had to sign off on it, didn’t we? Especially for clarity and how far you could go with some of the noises and…

Fran: Yes it was, because in one of the early screenings of the film that we had for some New Line people, they really didn’t understand a word of Gollum! [laughs] They didn’t understand anything – he was completely incomprehensible to them, so at that point, we had to really work to bring clarity to Andy’s voice without compromising character. It was quite a journey for him.

Peter: It was sort of a journey for us, because I remember, for a long time, New Line were listening to a voice they couldn’t understand and they were looking at a guy in a leotard [Fran: Yes.] on screen instead of the CG creature; and we were just getting strong feedback from they saying, “Less Gollum, less Gollum, less Gollum, this guy is…” I remember them saying, you know, “This guy is okay in a very small dose, but you wouldn’t want too much of him” and it was because they just were not seeing him, they were not hearing what he was going to sound like; and it’s tough to deal with that, really, because they don’t quite have the, you know, the imagination or the vision of what’s going to be there that we do, and you just have to, sort of… well, ignore it, basically!

Fran: Well the other side of it is: you wouldn’t want a key character to be not, you know, understood; so it was something that we wanted – we had to – address. It was just that he had such a great voice for the character, we didn’t want to lose that either.

Philippa: [in agreement] Hmm…

Fran: And separate to that, there were two voices: that of Gollum and Sméagol; so we, you know, we had to try to keep that differentiation going as well. But Andy really, really, was such a trooper! [laughs] I mean, he worked this stuff over and over: he did so many sessions, didn’t he, for this?

Philippa: Mmm. On this particular scene, I think, he recorded this about five times.

Fran: Mmm.

Peter: [Frodo: “You will lead us to the Black Gate.”] The extra footage here gives a lot more clarity to the concept of Gollum actually leading them out of these rocks. I kind of like the idea that he’s become this really weird guide for them, which was lost a little bit – or was certainly more obscure in – the theatrical cut.

Fran: Yeah, he’s pretty conflictive about going to Mordor, which was good, too.

Peter: It’s kind of –. It is the first Gollum/Sméagol interchange.

Fran: It is, yes.

Philippa: Mmm.

Fran: It’s the first, yes.

Peter: Which we’re seeing now, but it wasn’t in the movie, and it sort of starts to establish that dynamic.

Philippa: It was great for reinforcing that he had been there before, and for setting up the whole idea: when and why and how he had been there before.

Peter: I know we played around with the idea of having that flashback to him being tortured again that we saw in ‘The Fellowship’ –

Philippa: Yeah, we did. That’s right.

Peter: – in that scene in Bag End: we tried to actually put it into ‘The Two Towers’. We didn’t do it – I mean, it’s not in the extended cut either, but we did play around for a while with just reminding people that he knew about Mordor because he had been a prisoner there for a while. Guess it was in ‘The Fellowship’ so hopefully people will remember. (beat) [The Uruk-hai] This scene with the Uruks was shot in a very remote part of the South Island, and this canyon is a canyon that we actually replicated in the parking lot of our studio about two years later, because the dialogue scenes that are coming up in here between Merry and Pippin are some shots that we did during the post production of the film, because we felt that –. At that point in time, we felt we wanted to really establish Merry and Pippin with a dialogue scene and have them talking to each other and have that be their first scene in the film; and so we shot the dialogue and then we felt eventually that we didn’t actually need that and we just, sort of, had the original run in. But this stuff here is now shot in a polystyrene replica of the canyon in the Wellington studio!

Philippa: It was also similar to the rope scene, being able to get in that great beat in the book where they do shove the Orc-medicine down Merry’s throat, which a lot of people, for some strange reason, remember.

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: What was it?

Peter: I… I…

Philippa: Yeah, what is that stuff?

Peter: I don’t know. It looks like Coca Cola.

Philippa: I think it was peach tea and…

Peter: Oh, that’s what it was! Peach tea – no, you’re right. [Philippa: Yeah.] It was cold tea with, probably, something added to thicken it up a bit.

Philippa: Yeah. And Coca Cola… I think it –. I know! It was Coke syrup. It was concentrated – you know when you make your own soda?

Peter: Oh…

Philippa: It’s Cola.

Fran: Mmm.

Peter: Oh, it’s…

Fran: Nasty!

Philippa: [laughing] Nasty!

Peter: It’s…

Philippa: Poor darling Dom! [Philippa and Peter laugh]

Peter: But it’s a nice intimate moment: I do like the fact that these two Hobbits are… you know, they’re being brave in the midst of this terrifying ordeal, and we sort of see their spirit, and we see a little bit of their humour and camaraderie; and that’s the reason why we shot it. It’s the reason why we felt we wanted that to be the first time that we see them in this particular movie.

Philippa: [screen cap] Who’s that Orc? Who’s the one who says, “Manflesh”? Because that’s Nat Lees, isn’t it?

Peter: On the left? Yeah. And the other one was Sala.

Philippa: Oh, okay.

Peter: Sala Baker, who – people may know – plays Sauron under the armour of Sauron in the prologue of the first film; that was Sala as an Uruk-hai.

Philippa: Hmm, cool.

Peter: The elven brooch is another little plot thing that is only introduced in the ‘Fellowship’ extended cut, but obviously people have seen them wearing these elven brooches after Lothlórien, and so I guess people realised that they picked them up along the way. (beat) [The Three Hunters] The concept that I was doing with the dir– when I shot this stuff of introducing the boys running was to keep the camera moving as much as possible all the time; so I designed the shots so that the camera very rarely was ever still. It was kind of as they were always moving, so we would always be moving around. The tremendous irony with this running stuff – which is, kind of, very iconic from the books – is that, you know, after waiting a long time to shoot this – and we were only on these locations for a very few days, and we had no choice but to shoot it because we were never going back there – Viggo had just broken his toe [Philippa and Fran: Mmm.] in a scene that’s coming up in the movie later on; Brett Beattie who played the small Gimli had dislocated his knee; and Orlando Bloom had fallen off a horse and cracked a rib; and so I was shooting the running stuff with these guys like the Walking Wounded [Philippa laughs sympathetically] and there’s great dailies where they’re limping and they’re hobbling and they’re groaning. [Philippa laughs] But they were real troopers. They were really great.

Philippa: [Aragorn finds Pippin’s brooch] Another beat from the book we were determined to get in.

Peter: Yeah! I love the line, “The leaves of Lórien…”

Fran: “Not idly do the leaves of Lórien fall.”

Peter: No, that’s right. Thank you. Good! [Philippa laughs] You know all the best lines. But I love that line from the book, and it was nice to put in the movie: the elven brooch. And, you know, I’m just trying to keep the camera craning and moving to give a flow to the chase. And this is south New Zealand – Alexandra – where there was a lot of gold-mining happening in the 1800s. (beat) It’s a little bit different to the book, because the plains of Rohan in the book… you do feel like they’re just grasslands – they’re like the prairies [Philippa and Fran: Mmm] of Russia or America – the, you know, endless grass as far as the eye can see; and we actually don’t have a location like that in New Zealand. We have no grasslands per se, but this place I thought was a great stand-in for Rohan, because it has these interesting rock formations.

Fran: You know those moving shots where you had, both with Aragorn and Legolas…

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: …How did you do that?

Peter: Well that was just a dolly that was tracking along the front of them, and even though you’re not getting closer to them or you’re not getting further away, it actually just makes the background roll around the back of them.

Fran: Yeah.

Peter: And that was just my obsession with keeping the camera moving. As I said, I just didn’t want to do a static shot.

Fran: [shot of Isengard] We used to call this ‘the Pizza’, didn’t we?

Peter: The Pizza… place.

Philippa: This was funny; we wrote this voice-over about fifty million times, and the last time was when Pete was about to record with Christopher Lee. I was in Malta, actually doing ADR with Gimli, and I was out shopping in a gift shop and my phone rang and it was Fran saying, “We’ve got to fix this line! Pete’s about to record it!” Which was the line? It was the ‘fires of industry’ line.

Fran: Mmm hmm. “The old ways are burning in the fires of industry.”

Philippa: That’s right. We couldn’t get it right.

Fran: [at same time as Philippa] An invention of Stephen’s.

Philippa: It is! It’s a Stephen line.

Fran: Mmm hmm.

Peter: This particular script is credited to Philippa, Fran and myself; and in addition there’s Stephen Sinclair. Stephen was involved back in the Miramax days, when it was two scripts; we felt it was obviously fair to credit him, though he wasn’t really involved in the screenplays over the last three or four years. (beat) This is quite a big miniature, the Barad-dûr tower: it’s something like twenty feet tall, and even just to do a shot where we’re rotating and going right up to the summit of it is quite a big move for the miniature team to do. (beat) The tree falling into the pit is a steal from the first movie: we took the same shot we use in the first film [laughs] and just flipped it round to make it look kind of different. In fact, this whole montage is actually comprised of outtakes from the Film One montage, apart from this Uruk birthing stuff, which we never used in the first film. We were going to use it in the first film at some stage; but only really had Lúrtz being born in the first film and we didn’t show many other Uruks being born. And we felt that we wanted to re-establish the concept that Saruman’s army was growing bigger by the day, therefore the threat was growing bigger.

Philippa: [screen cap] This is a woman, this one, isn’t it?

Peter: Yeah –

Philippa: She’s…

Peter: The Orc with the long neck. She’s –

Philippa: [at same time as Peter] She’s fantastic.

Peter: The Orc with the long neck is a great-looking Orc; and it’s actually…

Philippa: A woman.

Peter: … a lady inside there. Yeah.

Philippa: I wish I could [? know who it is.]

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] Quite a few of the Orcs are women, you know – they’re not all blokes. [Fran laughs]

Philippa: [jokingly] What are you saying?

Peter: I don’t know what I’m saying! They didn’t bring their own costumes, though. [Philippa laughs] (beat) [Saruman: “The forest of Fangorn lies on our doorstep.”] This scene establishes the whole concept of Fangorn being the forest on the borders of Isengard, and Fangorn is what they’re now going to rip into to get more wood and timber to burn in the industry; and ultimately, obviously, Fangorn the forest exacts its revenge, and so it’s got a quite a nice little place in our story. [Wildman pledges allegiance to Saruman] Another new scene that we felt was important to establish the characters of the Wildmen. There was a lot of confusion, particularly amongst New Line: “We thought Orcs were bad, Uruks were bad; who are these guys?” [laughs] It’s in the book, and, you know, Saruman is gathering the disenfranchised human beings to his cause as well: the rather primitive, inbred Wildmen. You always imagine banjos to be playing in this scene, don’t you? [Philippa laughs]

Philippa: A bit of inbreeding going on.

Peter: [Saruman’s pep talk to the Wildmen] People think that I did a cameo in this; and I probably should have done a cameo, because I would have loved to have acted with Christopher Lee – if you can call my cameos ‘acting’.

Fran: But you were shooting two scenes that day, weren’t you?

Peter: I was shooting two scenes. I was up at the other studio – I remember jumping into a car and driving for about a mile down to that set, shooting a shot with Christopher, driving back up to the other set, shooting something. I can’t even remember what it was I was shooting.

Fran: It was something completely different [Peter: Yeah.], quite… something quite…

Peter: Like something from the third movie [Fran: Hmm.], from ‘Return of the King’ or something; and it was a tough day, because there were two-hundred extras in that tin shed, baking hot, waiting for me, and Christopher was waiting for me, and they were waiting for me to finish up the other shot so I could drive down and shoot that. It was on one of those ‘doing-two-things-at-once’ days. (beat) [The Burning of the Westfold] This is a sequence that was shot by Geoff Murphy, our second unit director; I think he did a great job: I love the performances of the kids in this scene – it really feels nice and real. This village was built on the side of a really amazing area called [?Pullburn] Lakes in New Zealand, and we built quite a few of the huts – some of them are computer-generated in the wide shots, but most of what you see here we did for real. It was this amazing little Scandinavian-style village on the side of the lake.

Philippa: [Éomer approaches the Fords of Isen, screen cap] Now it wasn’t actually raining on this shot, was it?

Peter: No, this rain was added later. It was… It’s computer-generated rain. We did use rain towers for the close-ups, but this is too big and wide to be able to be covered by a rain tower. This is real rain [screen cap]: this is just, you know, coming off a tower now. (beat) The Fords of Isen is quite an evocative scene, which I… I really wanted to include it in the theatrical version, but I don’t think any of it ended up in the theatrical version, did it?

Philippa: No.

Peter: And it’s establishing the character of Théodred, King Théoden’s son; and this is, sort of, really our first glimpse of the people of Rohan – the soldiers of Rohan, certainly –; and Éomer: it introduces Éomer. (beat) It’s political intrigue that’s in the book, and it’s a bit hard to translate it into the movie, because, you know, nobody knows, really, at this stage, that Saruman’s Orcs are causing this damage, that they assume the Orcs are coming from Mordor, but then the White Hand on their helmet is the first clue that Saruman – who has the White Hand as his personal symbol – is behind this. It’s kind of intrigue and mystery in a way that can easily overcomplicate what is already a complicated story. (beat) [Éowyn runs up the steps to the Golden Hall] Miranda Otto’s first scene in the film.

Philippa: I love this dress. It’s one of Ngila’s great dresses.

Peter: In the book, Théodred’s death happens a little bit before the events of ‘The Two Towers’ [Philippa: Yeah.], and it’s sort of told in retrospect; and we liked the idea of Théoden having a son – you know, a dying son – as part of our screen story, and so we’ve really brought Théodred’s death up into the body of ‘The Two Towers’, which… It’s not technically in the same timeframe as it is here, as opposed to the book. (beat) [Éomer tells his uncle about Théodred] Bernard under hours and hours’ worth of make up.

Fran: Mmm.

Peter: I think that was a four- or five-hour make up job that he had to go through. (beat) [Wormtongue appears] Again, a very memorable part of the book: Brad Dourif as Wormtongue is superb. He had to shave his eyebrows off – not a lot of people really notice it, although it does give him a weird experience; and Brad’s problem was that he had to come down to New Zealand five different times during the course of two years to shoot his rôle, and his wife and child would say goodbye to him on each of these five trips with eyebrows and he’d return home a few days later without any eyebrows. [Philippa laughs] And it happened five times over two years!

Fran: He’s got a false nose in this…

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: … make up, hasn’t he? He’s got…

Peter: Prosthetic nose and some warts, I think – they glued on some warts [Fran: Mmm hmm.] and some moles on his face.

Philippa: And there’s a patch of hair that’s fallen out that they scabbed up, and Brad loved that because he would pick at it as part of his character’s performance.

Fran: And he’s got a cataract in one eye.

Philippa: That’s right.

Fran: A cloudy eye.

Peter: I love the idea that there’s some weird longing, some romantic urge on Wormtongue’s part towards Éowyn.

Philippa: Mmm.

Fran: Yes. Well, what’s weird about Wormtongue is that he is so clearly identified both through his name and his appearance as an evil character; and generally in Tolkien, he doesn’t do that – generally there’s a bit more complexity in terms of how he… how his particular characters are drawn – but in Wormtongue’s case, he is much more, sort of, just archetypally evil.

Philippa: We actually drew on it for the end scene, remember, which is not in this film.

Fran: He’s… yeah, he did start out as a…

Philippa: A good man.

Fran: A good man. And Théoden…

Philippa: [at same time as Fran] And Théoden goes there.

Fran: … references that.

Philippa: Yeah. He actually does tell us a little bit about where Gríma came from: there is stuff in the book about him.

Peter: Right.

Philippa: I mean, he actually reflects Saruman’s own form.

Peter: Right, okay. So he’s like a mini version of Saruman? [Fran agrees]

Philippa: Yeah. He is, yeah.

Peter: In the court of Edoras. [Philippa and Fran agree] (beat) A little tag-on bit here that’s in the extended edition just to set up the idea of the Banishment a little bit clearer.

Philippa: And also, we liked the idea that Théoden had signed his nephew’s death warrant.

Peter: [On the Trail of the Uruk-hai] Barrie Osborne, our producer, was actually the second unit director that shot a lot of these chase scenes. He spent a few days with the big, you know, Uruk crowd down on the South Island in a helicopter doing some of this stuff. And then I did little inserts like this [screen cap], so anything where we’re close on the actors would be me, and then anything wide like this shot here [screen cap] would be the second unit – it’s sort of how we broke up the responsibilities in some of these scenes.

Fran: [Legolas: “They runs as if the very whips…”] Yes, good old Orlando. He managed to get that…

Philippa: Terrible line off the page.

Fran: He did. He crowbarred it up! [Philippa and Peter laugh] “They run as if the very whips of their masters were behind them.”

Peter: All with a broken rib, too.

Fran: And – yeah – on the move. It was quite a hard piece of ADR.

Philippa: He’s a great actor, that young boy.

Peter: [Night Camp at Fangorn] This scene here is actually an assembly of three different scenes, really: we originally, back in our first shooting – you know, the principal photography – we shot two different scenes, because there were going to be two camps that night to show the passing of time, that they were going to – the Uruks were going to – rest up, they were going to have a bit of dialogue, then they were going to run again, and then there’d be another scene at night the following day; and then, later – a couple of years later – during our pick-up shooting, we shot some additional dialogue that we wanted to add to it, and then eventually, we, sort of, took everything we had and just cut it together in one scene. So the scenes talking about the trees in the forest, which Merry and Pippin are doing, was dialogue that we added during post production – we shot this, although we’d already shot the scenes of them arriving and being thrown on the ground a couple of years earlier. And then the scene that has the attack, where the horsemen arrive, was yet another scene that was going to… was supposed to be a night or two later; but we ended up just incorporating it into this one scene and making it just one particular – one longer – section.

Philippa: [Orc: “Why can’t we have some meat?”] This is actually Andy Serkis’s voice, by the way. He did this Orc – and he actually did the Uruk-hai who spoke the other line previously.

Peter: Was that when you were doing ADR in England with him, when you wanted him to do a few extra Orc-voices?

Philippa: Actually, no. It was here in New Zealand.

Peter: Oh, was it?

Philippa: But… Yeah, but… Fran just let Andy have a go at it, and so he did and it was good. [Grishnákh: “What about their legs?”] This is a voice by a lovely English actor called Jim Dunk.

Peter: This whole concept is a little bit obscure for people that don’t know Tolkien, about the Uruk-hai and the Orcs having this rivalry: it’s much clearer in the books. We, sort of, have obviously incorporated it into here, because it’s great, I think, to have these baddies having their own internal, kind of, arguments – there is a whole story in the book about where these Orcs come from and… They’re actually sent from Mordor, aren’t they [Philippa: Mmm hmm.], in the books?

Philippa: Some of the Orcs are from Moria, who were already in the pack, and then there’s the…

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] Oh, that’s right. And they kind of… they squabble…

Philippa: … the ones from Mordor who waylay them.

Peter: … and argue. We originally emphasised it a bit more in the very first version of the scene that we shot, didn’t we?

Fran: Yes, it just got too confusing, when you had, essentially, two evil forces having an internal conflict when you had the Hobbits also at risk – it was…

Peter: Kind of [?] off the point.

Fran: [laughing] It was off the point, and a bit confusing to get into that level of detail.

Philippa: It didn’t move the story forward at all.

Fran: No, it was just… it just waylaid everything.

Peter: It does; but on the other hand, it kind of adds authenticity to it, you know: that’s… The upside of it is that to have something that feels off-the-point but does, you know, feel kind of real, it somehow makes an audience –

Philippa: It can do.

Peter: – you know, it makes the audience buy into it [Philippa agrees] a bit more. But it is true: you don’t want to confuse people: that is, you know, something to try to avoid at all times. (beat) [Grishnákh is stabbed by the Rohirrim] The Orc here is played by a great New Zealand actor called Stephen Ure, and Stephen is such a great actor at playing Orcs that we use him in all three movies, playing different Orcs [Fran: Hmm.], so there’s often – when an Orc is delivering dialogue, whether it be in, you know, the first, second or third film, it’s often Stephen under different make up.

Philippa: Mmm.

Peter: So he plays a lot of different Orc-characters. And he looks different in each rôle, because, obviously, he’s wearing the prosthetics. (beat) I loved the idea, way back when we were writing the screenplay, about, you know… [stutters] us the audience thinking that Merry and Pippin might be dead, and I thought that was just really cool.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: And we wanted to stretch that out a bit and, you know, make people – who weren’t familiar with the books, obviously – really wonder and believe that they might be dead.

Philippa: [The Riders of Rohan appear over the crest of the hill] Amazing shot.

Peter: Yeah, this shot was done by Geoff Murphy, again down in Alexandra. (beat) I love that shot of the horses all turning round – it’s like one of those flocks of birds, isn’t it, that kind of sweep around?

Philippa: [in agreement] Mmm.

Peter: … and come back. And then I shot… I shot all this other drama in one day, which is quite a lot of work to do in a single day of shooting, and I knew I had to get through it really quickly, so I said to the guys: “Look, we’re just going to shoot it handheld. We’re going to not worry about tripods, not worry about dollies, not do any of that.” I only had a day, and I had to get through it really quickly, this entire dialogue scene, so that’s kind of why it has a slightly loose, handheld feel, because it was done for speed reasons! I had two cameras rolling at the same time, so one camera would be aiming at Aragorn, one camera would be aiming at Gimli or Legolas, and it was just a way of blasting through the footage.

Fran: It’s good, though. It suits the scene.

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: We re-colourised Legolas’s eyes in this scene.

Peter: In the computer.

Fran: Yes.

Peter: Because his contact lenses were…

Fran: He wasn’t wearing his contacts.

Peter: Oh, he wasn’t?

Fran: And he’s got brown eyes. His contact lenses – we had a problem with them.

Peter: Well I know there were some days where he’d actually scratched his eye, wasn’t there? He couldn’t wear his contact lenses for a few days. We had to end up changing the colour of his eyes quite a lot, in our computer.

Fran: The introduction of characters has always been… It’s always been a challenge and… Well it’s a drag, really, to have to do it, because you want to get on with the storytelling, and the notion of having to introduce someone before you can actually engage them with the plot is boring! [Peter and Fran laugh] So you have to attempt to introduce them whilst you are unfolding the plot, you know, and somehow –.

Peter: We had seven new characters to introduce in ‘The Two Towers’.

Fran: Yeah. It’s, kind of, like folding in the eggs while you put the sugar in and the milk, and you’re kind of mixing it all up together, and hopefully people haven’t really noticed that you’ve also served up a bunch of introductions while you have also involved them in, you know, the premise of some piece of action.

Peter: [interrupting] The scars of introducing twelve characters in ‘The Fellowship’ had barely healed!

Fran: I know!

Peter: [laughing] And we had a whole lot more to have to introduce! (beat) The shots of John Rhys-Davies playing Gimli in this scene were actually done on a completely different day: they were done about six months after the main scene was shot, because we didn’t have John there at all for the main drama photography, when Éomer and Aragorn and Legolas are talking – we had his small double Brett Beattie, and then, a lot later, we put John in the make up and put a few horses behind him and we just shot some close-ups of him, hundreds of miles away from where the original location was! (beat) I love the Scandinavian kind of design of the Rohan riders – that’s something that you get that strong impression from Tolkien’s book, that sort of culture, and I think Weta did a great job on the armour and the look of all the leatherwork and the embossing and the helmets and… it just makes… Because I think, if a culture like this is believable then you somehow – it makes the whole film believable. It’s a case of trying to remove that fantasy/science-fiction kind of artifice from the movie and give it a grounding and some sort of history. And it’s so important, because you want to make this stuff feel authentic – as authentic as possible.

Philippa: This scene had to do a lot, but actually wasn’t subjected to a lot of rewrites, was it? We… this one…

Peter: No.

Philippa: Maybe a couple…

Peter: No, it’s similar to this in the book, isn’t it? It’s –

Philippa: Yes, it’s very similar.

Peter: It’s one of those scenes in the book where you’re able to go in and adapt with relative ease by just taking the key moments [Philippa agrees] that Tolkien wrote about, and, sort of, shortening it down and changing the order of a few things, but it’s kind of there. I love that shot there [screen cap] of Viggo: his performance, but with that huge crowd of horses galloping down the hill behind him. (beat) I love the head in the stake. You know what they’ve done with this head in the stake?

Philippa: No.

Fran: No, what did they do?

Peter: For TV?

Fran: No.

Peter: They’ve filmed a helmet, and they’ve, like, got Weta to superimpose a helmet over the severed head, because it would be too shocking for American television audiences.

Fran: The old skewered helmet trick! [Philippa laughs]

Peter: Yes. [Peter and Fran laugh] Sorry, you have to laugh, don’t you?

Fran: No, you do!

Peter: Nothing wrong with a good old head on a stick!

Philippa: Legolas is actually saying here, “May they find peace after death.” We were in two minds as to whether or not to subtitle it, and I think in the end it was too intrusive to chuck a subtitle at it.

Fran: I thought it was “in death”.

Philippa and

Fran: “May they find peace…”

Fran: “…in death”.

Philippa: “in death”, yes, it is.

Fran: [at same time as

Philippa] “in death”. Yeah.

Philippa: It is, “in death”.

Peter: The kicking of that helmet was where Viggo broke his toe, and he’s falling down screaming like that because he’s literally just broken his toe on the helmet.

Fran: That was his real scream.

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: We had to leave it in, in memory.

Peter: And so from that point on, for the next couple of weeks of shooting, Viggo was incredibly sore: he had his foot bound up in bandages underneath his boot. We had to stop filming that particular day, and the scene that we’re now watching – the continuation of the scene where he tracks the markings across the ground – was the following day, and he managed to disguise his limping very, very well.

Fran: How many books were in ‘The Two Towers’? Was it…

Peter: There was two.

Fran: Just two?

Peter: There’s always just two in each of them.

Fran: Right. Mmm.

Peter: So the first half is Aragorn and the guys, and then half way through it suddenly switches to Frodo Sam and Gollum, and then, of course, it ends with Shelob and the whole thing about Frodo possibly dying.

Fran: Yeah. It was quite a challenge to try and link those stories, because they’re not particularly linked in the books, and they are told in those two separate pieces. Gandalf was a very useful character in that regard, because he was the common link between Frodo’s Quest – which he after all had sent Frodo off on – and Aragorn’s fate; and he was really driving both stories, and so we would take time out, as Tolkien does in the book, really, to speak to that, and to speak to the bigger conflict that Gandalf has with Sauron in terms for the struggle for power over Middle-earth.

Peter: You also artificially link stories together, don’t you? Like Aragorn is tracking what happened to Merry and Pippin, and you intercut Merry and Pippin running at night, and then you go back to Aragorn following the footsteps, then back to Merry and Pippin, and so suddenly you actually have Aragorn, Merry and Pippin in the same scene in the film, except they’re not in the same scene. (beat) [Merry and Pippin run through Fangorn] This was a studio set, Fangorn Forest, because we hunted round on location in New Zealand to try to find a real forest that could stand in for Fangorn, but it’s, sort of, so evocative and so atmospheric, and the trees have to be big, old, gnarly, twisted trees, and we just, really, couldn’t find a single place in New Zealand that we thought would be a good Fangorn, so we decided it should have a slightly heightened, you know, feel: it didn’t have to be ultra-realistic, and so we built all these trees – everything that you’re seeing here is either a miniature forest or it’s a set, a studio set, and all of the trees are fake. They’re a wonderful job – incredible art department to actually be able to build these things to look real, because often fake trees look really like fake trees.

Fran: I always felt guilty when we would walk into a Fangorn set, because I’d think about the trees that died for the set, and how it was so much in conflict with what the story was about!

Peter: Yeah, most of it was made out of old, dead trees – bits and pieces lying on the ground – and the bark was usually rubber: I mean, a lot of the bark on the trees was actually just big sheets of rubber that had been moulded off a real tree. (beat) The first time we see Treebeard. Treebeard was a really difficult character – initially he was, and conceptually he was tough, because I always felt that there’s no way we could do a walking, talking tree without making him look stupid. And I think I was being, you know, really freaked out by the way he looked in the Ralph Bakshi cartoon version of ‘Lord of the Rings’ [Fran agrees] where he looked like a walking carrot; and on the very first day at Weta, way back in, maybe, 1997, you know, I had the designers around and I said, “Listen, the biggest challenge is going to be to design an Ent, to design something that doesn’t make us laugh.” Daniel Falconer, one of Richard’s great designers, went away, drew a pencil sketch, showed it to me, and it was Treebeard. [Philippa and Fran agree] It was the first time in my life I’d ever seen an Ent illustrated in a way that looked really great. [Fran agrees], and it was his very first drawing; and I said [laughing], “We’ve got Treebeard! Okay, we don’t have to do any more work on that! Let’s go onto the next thing!” It was incredible, it just happened instantaneously; and about four years later, that original pencil sketch was used to design the final creature that we had in the movie.

Philippa: And Daniel loves and knows Tolkien so, so well.

Peter: I like the pedantic nature of Treebeard. He is probably my favourite character – I mean, Gollum, obviously, is pretty amazing, but as a sort of fantasy character, I just like the fact that he’s so pedantic and he’s rather bureaucratic and he’s kind of dull; and his dullness I find very humorous and funny. It’s a rather self-important character, and some of that, I think, comes from almost wanting to send Tolkien up, doesn’t it? Tolkien clearly, kind of, revered Treebeard to such a degree that you can’t help but want to, sort of, poke fun at that a little bit when you’re making the movie. It was difficult to create the face of Treebeard in the sense that, because he was supposed to be bark, you know, you don’t really want bark to act like rubber and sort of stretch and push and squeeze, and yet that’s what the skin of a face does, so we somehow had to try to get a balance between being able to have a mobile, flexible face, but not betray the fact that it is supposed to be kind of wood. We didn’t try too hard to get many expressions into his face, because we thought that with the more expressions there were, the less he’d actually come across like a tree.

Fran: Mmm. In fact, there are times when he lapses into being a tree, doesn’t he?

Peter: [laughing] Yeah! Which is great. I always think if he forgets to move for too long, he’s going to [Philippa laughs] sprout roots and kind of –

Philippa: [laughing] Yes!

Peter: – find it hard to move again! (beat) [Frodo, Sam and Gollum approach the Dead Marshes] This shot was about the first Gollum shot we ever did. We didn’t have a clue what Gollum was going to really look like when we shot Frodo and Sam walking up this hill. We were keeping our fingers crossed about three years ago that one day there’d be a Gollum put there that would be looking all right. (beat) The Dead Marshes was primarily a set that we built in the parking lot of an old factory, right next to a railway station, and a lot of times that we’d be shooting the Dead Marshes, there’d be trains rolling through the background. [Philippa laughs] You’d actually see them in the film, the trains going right past the back of the shot, and then later on, we painted it all out and put an extension to the Marshes in here. The big aerial shot [screen cap] is some real marshlands that are down in the South Island of New Zealand that I found completely by mistake: I was actually in a helicopter going between two different locations to shoot something for the third movie; we had a camera strapped to the helicopter – not for shooting Dead Marshes, but for shooting actually the Beacons of Minas Tirith in the third film – and we were just flying along soon after dawn, and we came across this marshland that I never even knew existed and I said to the guys, “God, this looks like the Dead Marshes” and so we weren’t planning on filming anything, but we had film in the camera, so I said to the pilot, “Let’s just circle round here for a while and let’s just roll some film.” [Gollum: “We are famished!”] This is one of the extra scenes that we wrote originally to begin a, sort of, a slightly more meaningful relationship between Gollum and Frodo, didn’t we?

Philippa: Yeah. It’s playing to the first beat where you see that there is this connection between them, and that comes, of course, at the end of the scene. I love this moment. I always wanted…

Peter: I love the worm!

Philippa: [laughing] Yeah!

Fran: It’s a great piece from the book, too, when he talk about “crunchable birdses” and, you know…

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: … being famished.

Peter: The fact that he eats the most horrible things. I mean, it’s one of the great… [Fran: Yeah, yeah!] He eats everything that’s wriggly and squirmy and raw and horrible and nasty.

Philippa: Here Sam’s disgust is palpable, and that’s something that plays to the later scene when they have the argument: it was one of those scenes where we tried to make it do a few things, didn’t we?

Peter: Yeah… I mean, what it kind of does towards the end is – which is probably the most important function of the scene – is to start to mirror [Philippa: Yeah.] that Gollum has shared knowledge with Frodo about what it’s like to carry this Ring. It’s information that Sam can never ever know.

Philippa: Yeah.

Fran: Mmm.

Philippa: It is quite creepy.

Peter: You know, one of the interesting things with animation that you’re seeing in this scene is: ‘less is more’ with Gollum, that we tried often to keep his animation very still, and not have him move too much – obviously there’s time when he is manic and he’s panicking and he’s running round, but for the really intense moments, you know, we discovered, didn’t we, that just keeping him as motionless as possible and trying to generate all the feeling out of his eyes…

Fran: Yes.

Peter: … which is what actors do, obviously – you know, if they don’t do that then they tend to [Philippa: Yeah.] overact, and you’re the same with Gollum: you can so easily get Gollum overacting, couldn’t you?

Fran: Yes. Well, there seems to be a tradition with animated characters [Philippa: Yeah.] to do a lot of body acting, a lot of physical acting.

Philippa: You both spent a lot of time pulling that stuff back. I remember watching endlessly as they’d bring shots to you both, and you’d both be saying, “Pull it back, bring it back”. But also, that scene was meant to play very directly to when Frodo rejects Gollum and finds him disgusting, and this is meant to be part of his journey towards actually seeing something else; but at this start, at the very beginning, he finds Gollum disgusting, and it was supposed to play to this moment where he turns the other way and Gollum almost – even though he saves Frodo – rejects him and is quite cold to him when he pulls him out and says, “Don’t follow the lights!”

Peter: Very evocative, spooky Dead Marsh stuff in the book. I love the corpses lying under the water. Of course, a few people have said that Tolkien got the inspiration – if you can call it inspiration – for this stuff from the First World War, when he saw bodies of soldiers lying in the shell-holes – the flooded shell-holes. And no-one’s going to really realise if they haven’t read the book, but the bodies under the water here, of course, are supposed to be fallen soldiers from the battle that was in the prologue of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, isn’t it?

Philippa: Mmm hmm.

Peter: It’s that same [Philippa: Dagorlad.] period of history – that they’ve been lying there for a bout two- or three-thousand years.

Philippa: They’re actually really creepy.

Peter: Yeah. These were silicone dummies that Richard Taylor’s team made at Weta.

Philippa: [screen cap] Was this guy real?

Peter: Yeah – the guy that we’re seeing now was a real person. Everybody else is a rubber dummy, but this guy’s a stuntman that looked the most like an Elf, and he just held his breath underwater. But he had normal eyes, in actual fact, when we shot him [Philippa laughs], but we painted them out on the computer to give him those white eyes. It was your idea, Fran, wasn’t it? [Fran: Mmm.] To take his eyes, turn them white. (beat) [Frodo underwater] This stuff’s not really in the book, is it…

Philippa: No.

Peter: … quite in the way that we did it? It’s… I think there’s something in the book that you feel that once you’re under the surface of the water, these corpses are actually quite creepy [Philippa agrees] and they’re ghoulish, and we kind of enhanced it for the movie.

Philippa: I think Gollum definitely hints at that conceptually in the book.

Peter: Yeah.

Philippa: Definitely. And also what I love about that is that you just know he’s been down there.

Peter: [Gollum drags Frodo out of the water] Great shot of Gollum pulling Frodo out of the water – which is an example of using Andy Serkis to actually just pull him out and we painted Andy out and put Gollum over the top, but you get that wonderful feeling of real, physical connection between the two characters. (beat) [Frodo caressing the Ring] This was a scene that we shot as a pick-up early in the editing of ‘The Two Towers’. We felt we didn’t have, really, a strong moment of Frodo and the Ring, because, unlike ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ where he actually puts it on two or three times and so you have that real impact of what happens in the Twilight world, in this film he never puts the Ring on, so in a way we hardly ever see the Ring. The scene develops into a really nice connection between Gollum and Frodo.

Philippa: We thought it would be really creepy – actually, I think this was your idea, Fran – that Gollum knows when he’s looking at the Ring, knows exactly –.

Peter: He’s rubbing his hand [Philippa: Yeah.] because he’s almost feeling the Ring [Philippa: Yeah.] in his hand like Frodo is looking at it in his.

Philippa: We took these lines from a cut –. This is an amalgam: the poem that Gollum is saying.

Fran: Is it from the Barrow-wights?

Philippa: It is. We’ve used some of that, and we wrote some ourselves.

Peter: A wonderful piece of animation here: I mean, this is such beautiful, subtle animation that we’re looking at to make this face of Gollum’s feel so emotional like this.

Fran: Yes.

Peter: Great work.

Fran: What’s really interesting about this scene to me is that it starts off with Frodo very much at a disadvantage – on the back foot if you like – and Gollum almost taunting him about his knowledge of the Ring and what it’s doing to Frodo.

Philippa: Hmm…

Fran: And Frodo turns it, because he too has knowledge, as he starts to reveal, that he… you know, what he’s learnt of Gollum’s background and who he used to be, and disarms him: by the end of the scene he’s disarmed him quite considerably. And really, that’s the time when we see this character of Sméagol – it’s kind of bringing him forth.

Peter: Yeah. Another little secret of that scene, too, is that at the very end when we go in close to Gollum’s face, that was going to be a moment that we were going to go into a flashback [Fran and Philippa: Hmm.] of Sméagol with his cousin Déagol, and we were going to show a three- or four-minute sequence, which Fran directed, which I know a lot of people have actually seen photos of in books and magazines; and when we looked at it in that position – because that’s where it was, at the end of that scene: it was… like, went into a flashback and then it came out of a flashback as the Nazgûl scream happened – we decided that the momentum of the film was getting a little bit too slow; and we also felt that we didn’t know Gollum that well at this point in time, and to actually then learn a lot about his back-story was maybe slightly too premature, and so the decision was made to take that scene, not put it back in the DVD extended version, but to actually put it in the theatrical version of ‘Return of the King’, so that’s where people will be able to see it. (beat) I don’t think we ever really got the idea clearly across that the Ringwraiths that appear here are the same Ringwraiths that pursued them in the first film. I mean, I don’t know quite what people who haven’t read the book really understand of this, but what did happen is that when the horses and the Wraiths were swept away at the Ford of Bruinen, the horses died but the Wraiths didn’t, because the can’t drown – you can’t kill the Wraiths that easily – and so this is the return of one of those Black Riders – of the Nine that were in the first film, except this time they’ve obviously given up horses – they think horses aren’t too flash anymore – and they’ve got these amazing, big winged beasts that they’re now riding on.

Philippa: Yeah, the Nazgûl were in the film and then out of the film and back in the film for a while: we weren’t really sure about using them, were we?

Peter: No. No. One of the things that’s hard to do with the Nazgûl – I find very hard – is that Tolkien’s so great in the books about how they generate fear, that if you’re around them, you hear them, they’re…

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: Just their presence makes you terrified and it’s very hard to convey that in a movie. (beat) [The Three Hunters in Fangorn] Fangorn that we’re seeing in this sequence is a set that we built in an old warehouse right next to the airport, and the days that we were shooting here were interrupted about every… two minutes – two and a half minutes – by 737s taking off about fifty feet away. It was like roaring! The actors just had to keep on going [Philippa laughs] and if you listen to the real sound – because obviously, this soundtrack has been enhanced and changed and there’s additional… you know, there’s other dialogue been put over the top and so it’s all been cleaned up, but the original location sound is just interrupted by the roar of aeroplanes all the time.

Philippa: That could have been a Nazgûl.

Peter: Well, they could have been loud Fell Beasts, couldn’t they?

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: Well, if we’d given the Fell Beasts the sound [Philippa laughs] of 737s, it would have saved us a huge amount of bother!

Fran: Now didn’t you flip a few shots around here so that Legolas’s brooch jumps around?

Peter: Oh yeah, all over the place.

Fran: I’ve read that on the Net.

Peter: Well we flipped – [to Fran] oh, did you? [Fran: Hmm.] Oh, well, [?]. We flipped all the time.

Philippa: No, you…

Peter: All the time.

Philippa: All the time.

Peter: If you look throughout the whole movie, you see the brooches that they’re wearing flip backwards and forwards.

Fran: [at same time as Peter] This scene’s mentioned a lot –.

Peter: Is it? Yeah.

Fran: – but I haven’t noticed it yet.

Peter: Oh, it is. Oh, well it happens dozens of times. It’s weird because you shoot a scene a particular way, and then when you’re cutting it, you suddenly, instead of the actor looking out to the left, you want them looking at the right.

Fran: [interrupting] Oh, it’s flipped there. [screen cap]

Peter: There you go.

Fran: I saw it.

Philippa: It’s an Elvish brooch!

Peter: It’s magic!

Philippa: It is! What do you want?

Peter: [sarcastically] Do you want continuity?

Philippa: [laughs, agreeing] Yeah!

Peter: Oh my God! (beat) [Legolas senses the White Wizard] This scene is lifted pretty much straight out of the book, isn’t it? It’s a very memorable moment. I mean, it’s nice – it’s fun to shoot these scenes because, you know, while we adapt the book and we change things and we alter things – and we do that quite a lot – occasionally, you just hit those moments that are iconic moments [Philippa: Yeah.] that you want to just jump out of the page of the book directly, and this is one of them: the return of Gandalf in Fangorn is… I just wanted it to feel very authentic to the book.

Philippa: You did some trickery here.

Peter: If you look very closely here, there’s a visual trick, because you see Christopher Lee’s eyes very briefly here – they’re actually glued on to Ian McKellen’s face: if you look on these first two or three shots, they are Christopher Lee’s eyes [screen cap], and you also hear Christopher Lee’s voice as well that’s blended in with Ian’s, because we did want people – the uninitiated – to think that this was possibly Saruman for the first few seconds.

Philippa: Actually you know, what was interesting was that Christopher Lee could imitate Ian McKellen better than Ian, I thought, imitated Chris Lee, because they both tried to sound a little like each other to blur the…

Peter: Right, yeah.

Philippa: … blur the things; and Chris Lee did a marvellous Ian.

Peter: There’s one tiny line here that I put back in the DVD that we took out of the theatrical cut because it was too obscure, but when he says, “I am Saruman, at least Saruman as he should have been,” which I… sort of, I kind of understand it [Philippa: Mmm.] but I love the poetry of it [laughs], and we thought it was a bit obscure for the theatrical movie, but I put it back in here because I like it.

Philippa: It’s one for the fans.

Peter: Yeah. One for me, really, I have to admit. [Philippa laughs]

Philippa: You’re a fan.

Peter: [Gandalf fights the Balrog atop Zirak-zigil] This was the culmination of the Balrog fight. What actually happens in the book is that they plummet to the bottom of the chasm, and then they fight their way back up to the top of the mountain, which is the bit we’ve, obviously, skipped out here; but this is the ultimate climax. And killing the Balrog was a difficult thing to visualise, because, you know: how does a little guy with a sword take out a huge, big monster like this, but I think with the help of a bit of lightning and flashing lights and stuff we sort of sold it; and I mean, the big plummeting down and the death-fall and the landing [Philippa: Yeah.] really sells his death [Fran agrees] better than anything that Gandalf can do with a sword, really.

Philippa: [screen cap] Was that a mini?

Peter: It was a big miniature, yeah. The tower and the snow: everything’s fake in that shot. (beat) [Gandalf: “I strayed out of thought and time.”] This sequence was debated a lot amongst ourselves and the studio. You know, you could have done without it, but on the other hand, I thought that just having Gandalf showing up as Gandalf the White needed some form of additional explanation. We had no idea, really, how to visualise this moment: in the script it said something like: ‘death, birth, cosmic, weird’ and that was all that we ever wrote in the screenplay, but rather than have it just dialogue, I thought of some visuals to add support to the transformation, and so you see the death of the Balrog, and then you see this kind of weird, metaphysical kind of transformation that he does. I had a whole other version in my mind of this sequence, which I took in a literal way from the book, because it talks about him being naked in the snow, and then later you see that he shows up at Lothlórien and Galadriel, I think, gives him his white robes [Philippa: Mmm hmm.], so I did think about the shot of a nude Gandalf walking through the Lórien woods asking for directions to Galadriel [Philippa laughs] and having, sort of, Cate Blanchett sort of drape his body in these new white robes; but then we thought, “no, no”.

Fran: No.

Philippa: Ian –.

Fran: That’s more like ‘The Ring of the Lord’. [Philippa and Peter laugh]

Peter: [Gandalf: “One stage of your journey is over.”] This is a scene that was drastically reduced in the theatrical cut, again for pacing reasons; and one of the background, kind of, themes, that we did delete a lot of from the theatrical was the whole story of Fangorn and the trees, and this was good stuff for setting up the concept that the forest’s coming alive and that it’ll be dangerous and that the Ents who are basically… don’t get involved in the affairs of the outside world are going to realise that their strength is actually needed and, you know, Gandalf refers to a lot of this in this scene. In a lot of the scenes that we’ve added to the extended cut, that is actually… a lot of that material is related to Fangorn and the trees coming alive. This was done as a pick-up shoot, wasn’t it? It was directed by you, Fran.

Fran: Yes, there was one funny take where Ian whacked his nose with his staff and it wobbled. [Philippa and Peter laugh]

Peter: What, the staff or the nose?

Fran: [laughing] His nose. [All three laugh]

Peter: Because it was rubber! Ian is wearing a rubber nose, if you didn’t realise. It’s one of the things that I remember having a bit of an argument with him about at the very beginning when he arrived in New Zealand, because you imagine you’re an actor, you know, you come to New Zealand to play a character to fifteen months over three films, and you have this discussion about whether you should wear a rubber nose or not. If you do, you’re going to have to get up two hours earlier in the morning every day for fifteen months and go and have your nose glued on. It wasn’t so much a debate whether the nose was a good idea or not, because we did do a test and he did look good in his nose, but [laughing] he was very much against the idea of doing it because of what it would mean [Fran laughs] for the next year and a half; but fortunately, Ian being an incredibly generous actor, he put up a spirited argument and then gave up. [laughs] Which I was very thankful for, because it does help his appearance as Gandalf. (beat) [Gandalf calls Shadowfax] Now this horse is a horse called Domero, trained by Don Reynolds, an American horse-trainer that we brought to New Zealand especially to work with Shadowfax. And it’s called ‘liberty training’, in which the horse doesn’t have any bridles or reins and it responds to voice commands; and this is done in one shot: there is no visual effects here: Shadowfax – or Domero – was way over the hill, and then Don called him and he galloped right up to Ian McKellen here, and I couldn’t believe it when I saw the cameras rolling on this shot. He goes right up to Ian in one take – it was fantastic.

Fran: Why did he go up to Ian?

Peter: Because he’d been trained to, and there was a little wooden board that he had been trained to put his front feet on, and the little wooden board was on the ground in front of Ian, and Domero just ran up and put his front hooves on that wooden board.

Philippa: Such a beautiful horse.

Peter: [The Song of the Entwives] Now this scene, in the theatrical version was sort of a slightly different form. It was – it had some of the same content, but it was much shorter, and this is the full-length version of the scene, which we made a lot funnier, and it was… The one thing that I wish we could have hung on to, actually, is Treebeard’s poetry, because it kind of gives the character an unexpected, humorous slant, which I think the theatrical would have probably benefited from a bit; but it was slow, and it was something that, you know, when we were dealing with a film that we had to get down to three hours was just something we decided that we could do without.

Philippa: I think it’s lovely, and it’s a real nod towards Professor Tolkien’s own love of poetry.

Peter: Yeah. Bad poetry or good poetry?

Philippa: [laughing] Well…

Peter: [laughing] A lot of people have criticised –.

Philippa: We’re Merry and Pippin, so that’s not to say it’s –.

Peter: A lot of people have criticised Treebeard for being a bit slow – you know how a lot of reviews [Philippa agrees] said that Treebeard was kind of slow and boring; and what this scene does is it sort of celebrates the fact he’s slow and boring [laughs] and it makes a [Philippa: Yeah.] humorous point of it, which I think, actually… The film would have benefited from that, because then you would have got it: you’d have thought, “Oh, okay. Oh, right. This guy’s slow and boring” and accepted it more…

Philippa: Mmm.

Peter: Rather than it being, sort of, an irritant.

Philippa: Who said he was slow and boring?

Peter: Oh, there’s all sorts of reviews have said that… some of them. I mean, the bad reviews have said that. The good reviews like him.

Philippa: Yeah. (beat) I love that shot. [screen cap] It’s so [?great].

Peter: So, in a shot like this, you see, you’ve got… Dominic and Billy are actually riding on a big prosthetic creature that Richard Taylor’s guys made, and we replaced just the head with a computer-generated head: everything else is rubber – is a big rubber rig. [Treebeard lays Merry and Pippin down to sleep] They were lowered down on wires and then the wires were painted out and Treebeard’s arms were added in by the computer. [Treebeard: “I have business in the Forest.”] And this stuff’s all about Treebeard and the Forest; because, I think if you don’t know the ‘law’ of the Forest that Tolkien wrote, you know, you get confused with what Treebeard actually is: people obviously think he’s a tree, but Ents are not trees. They’re sort of like humanoid creatures who obviously look like trees, but they are Shepherds of the Forest; and the Forest is a whole other form of life – the natural trees – which are actually very dangerous. They’re called the Huorns in the book [Philippa: Mmm hmm.] – they have a name, which we never really used in the film – and the Ents are there to look after the trees, and make sure the trees don’t get up to any mischief, or they don’t, you know, have any harm done to them: they’re actually there as protectors of the trees, and they’re two very different species.

Philippa: [The Heir of Númenor] This was us thinking that, maybe if we gave all the exposition in one great wadge to Ian McKellen, he’d leverage it off the page.

Peter: And just tell everybody what the whole film was about! [Philippa laughs]

Philippa: [laughing] Poor old Ian!

Peter: [laughing] It’s one of those scenes where –

Philippa: We always did that to him!

Peter: – this explained the… well, it explained what this film was about.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: And in the end, we didn’t use it.

Philippa: No! [Peter laughs]

Fran: No, no.

Philippa: God, that was pages and pages, and he just did it so brilliantly.

Peter: He did do it brilliantly. This was filmed in an apple warehouse in a very tiny New Zealand town; it was raining, and we were shooting some scenes outside Dimrill Dale for ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ when they come out of the Mines of Moria. It was absolutely pouring with rain, and so we retreated into this old warehouse. We couldn’t built a set, and so that’s why there’s no set there [laughs], it’s just some smoke behind them! [Philippa laughs] And we shot this scene while the rain was hammering down on the tin roof; but at least we got a few pages shot that day when it was pouring with rain!

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: This scene serves a purpose in the sense that it does really focus Gandalf as the enemy of Sauron, and that he’s very much reliant upon Aragorn to help him [Philippa agrees], to be his ally, and the fact that he’s saying to Aragorn: “Well, you know, Sauron now knows about you, and he’s basically going to be coming after you, too. You’re a marked man, you’ve got to now fight back. It’s time now for war, really”; it is, you know, telling Aragorn that now is the hour. (beat) Some of the shots in this scene, we saw with horror that Ian’s rubber nose had gone black – remember that? We had to use our computer to re-colour his nose, because for some reason the lighting [Fran: Mmm.] that we were using didn’t bounce to well off the rubber, and it made his nose look black.

Fran: Yes, we…

Philippa: God, you can’t have Gandalf with blackheads!

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] Like a bit of frostbite.

Fran: No, we had nose rot problems.

Philippa: [laughing] Did you have nose…! [laughs]

Fran: There was a tense week where we were waiting on the verdict from Weta as to whether they could re-colourise his nose or we had to re-shoot.

Philippa: Oh, right.

Peter: Right. (beat) [The Black Gate is Closed] Now what I remember about this scene in particular is: if you’ve seen ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ DVD, you would have seen Sean Astin stepping on a broken bottle in that lake and getting his foot pierced and having to have stitches – well this scene was shot the very next day. We were down in the South Island in a very tiny, little gymnasium in a local town, and we just built this rock summit which was in front of blue screens; and Sean could not really walk on his foot – he should have been in bed – but he was a great trooper and he didn’t want to hold up the filming, so he came in with his foot swollen to all hell, stitched up, and if you look at what he does in this scene, he just kind of gingerly walks his way around the rocks and goes and lies down. He was in a huge amount of pain the whole day that we were filming this.

Philippa: This was funny: Fran and I – we would often go in and look at models that Weta was doing when we were writing, and – this was before even we started filming – and, one day, Richard brought us to this particular miniature that they’d been building, and I looked at it and I said, “Why have you got two gates?” and he said, “Well, that’s what you’d written”; and I realised that we’d done a typo in there, because, of course, it’s the Black Gate, not Gates, but that’s because of a little typo, and that’s how they became two.

Peter: I love the idea that these Gates are so huge that they get pushed open and they creak and they groan, and I was just really pleased with this scene – I’m really pleased with the way it came out. It’s just like pure fantasy, you know what I mean?

Philippa: [in agreement] Mmm.

Peter: It’s just like what fantasy should be in the sense of these creatures and these enormous structures. (beat) The Black Gates very much taken out of an illustration that Alan Lee did in the book about ten years ago. [screen cap]

Philippa: Mmm.

Peter: If you look at the illustrated edition of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, where Alan did fifty watercolour paintings, you very much see the genesis of the design of the film, because those paintings were so inspirational to us, and I really just wanted something that looked exactly like the painting.

Philippa: [Frodo runs down the scree-slope] Very early on, we realised that this was going to be this incredible moment – we knew Peter was going to make it amazing – and we felt that if we were going to have these incredible Gates, then we had to put someone down there, because it was no good just having them at this huge distance staring down at them, so that’s what this was about.

Peter: It was partly what the paintings inspired, too [Philippa: Mmm.], because I remember looking at Alan’s painting from the book – you know, long before we shot the film – and looking at them hiding up there, and you imagine: “Well, what would happen if they actually – if those soldiers that are marching – saw them [Philippa: Exactly.] or thought they saw them?” And you’re suddenly creating little sequences in your mind that are inspired from the artwork. (beat) This was a use of the elven cloaks: it was something that we found difficult in the film to do; in the book, the elven cloaks that they were given at Lothlórien have a very magical quality in which they camouflage and blend in to anything that they’re surrounding. So if they’re against rocks, then the cloaks are grey; if they’re against trees, then the cloaks are green; and we could never really do that properly in the film, and this is almost like tipping our hat: the only time, really, that we ever do it to this elven… special elven cloak. (beat) [the last of the Easterlings enter Mordor] But I remember this day, when Gollum grabbed Frodo and Sam to stop them going – remember that take that Andy Serkis was there grabbing them, and he grabbed Sean’s hair and he pulled his wig off?

Fran: Yes.

Peter: It’s a great blooper, where Sam’s hair just gets ripped off by Andy Serkis, and I don’t think Sean was too happy, actually.

Philippa: What was the name of that little hall where you shot the top of them? Because I remember –.

Peter: The top was shot in Manapouri…

Philippa: In Manapouri?

Peter: … and it was like a little…

Philippa: [at same time as Peter] In the school hall.

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] … community hall, school hall place, yeah.

Philippa: Yeah. I remember turning up there and there you were shooting the Black Gates of Mordor…

Peter: Yeah.

Philippa: … and on the… there was a notice posted on the door: “No play centre today, ‘Lord of the Rings shooting’”. [Peter laughs]

Peter: Yes, well it was…

Philippa: So we –.

Peter: It’s just a bigger play centre!

Philippa: Yeah, exactly!

Peter: Some of these huge scenes we were able to shoot on tiny places, because most of it’s against blue screen; I mean, you literally just have a couple of fibreglass rocks and a blue screen, and that’s all that you need, so even though there’s a big vista, you can actually shoot this stuff on a very small space, so it’s ideal to cart these scenes around the country – they call it ‘weather-cover scenes’, which basically means: if you’re filming outside – and you could be anywhere – and it happens to be a raining day and you can’t do what you’re supposed to do, you rush to the nearest shed, and you, kind of, spend the day doing one of these scenes. In the last few minutes, we’ve been to gymnasiums, squash courts, apple-storage rooms. [Philippa and Peter laugh] I mean, as you can see, we don’t really have film studios in New Zealand, but we do have sheds and warehouses.

Philippa: Kind of demystifies Mordor, doesn’t it? [Peter and Philippa laugh] (beat) This is another beat in the story of the relationship – and the way in which the relationship between Frodo, Sam and Gollum changes an evolves; and this is the moment when, instead of listening to Sam, Frodo chooses to follow Gollum – or Sméagol – and it’s very significant, and these points, and the way in which their relationship developed, were very carefully plotted out by us.

Peter: In a film that was, you know, fairly unrelentingly grim and tense – which ‘The Two Towers’ is – we did think that we should lighten it up, and we should have some more whimsy. And obviously, Merry and Pippin and the Forest and Treebeard are wonderful material for that; and a lot of this is in the book, and we loved the idea of this scene with the Ent Draught, which is basically this stream of this magical water that runs through Fangorn, and the hobbits discover that they actually grow an inch or two if they drink it. I guess it must be all the vitamins and [Philippa laughs] chemicals in the Fangorn soil.

Philippa: He says that. He does, in the book – it’s in the book.

Peter: Yeah?

Philippa: It’s about that, yeah, I remember.

Peter: It’s like the first health…

Philippa: Yeah. Tonic.

Peter: … mineral water. I mean, God, if they could bottle that now, they’d make a fortune, wouldn’t they? [Philippa laughs]

Philippa: We also loved the idea of them feeling that three foot eight would actually be quite tall [Peter laughs], which was where this came from; and it’s one of those – the Ent Draught is one of those moments in the book that, for some bizarre reason, a lot of people remember. They just remember it.

Peter: They do.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: They do. It’s almost… It’s the flip side of the horrible, brown liquid that…

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: … that the Orcs pour down Merry’s throat earlier, isn’t it? It’s like, this is the crystal clear beautiful, magical…

Fran: But no, it’s green.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: In the book it is, isn’t it?

Fran: Yes.

Peter: It’s glowing green. [Philippa: Mmm.] We didn’t do that here.

Philippa: Why didn’t we do that?

Fran: I was going to ask that.

Peter: Probably due to budgetary constraints.

Philippa: [laughing] Budgetary constraints!

Fran: What, we couldn’t afford some food colouring? [Peter and Philippa laugh]

Philippa: I love these two! It’s also the relationship between these two as actors, and both Dom and Billy know each other so well now, and work together so brilliantly; and it’s neat to be able to see them doing that, and this scene shows that.

Peter: It’s a shame that the first thing that gets cut, you know, for length reasons, is always comedy, isn’t it?

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: It’s always the light-hearted stuff, because you just realise that this is not critical to the plot, and when you’re out on an assassination mission to try to get rid of scenes that aren’t critical to the plot, you know…

Philippa: Mmm.

Peter: [Merry and Pippin fight over the Ent Draught] This wasn’t in the book: this doesn’t actually happen in the book, but it is our homage to Old Man Willow.

Philippa: Yes, it is.

Peter: It’s a very, very evocative scene [Philippa: Very…] from ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ where the Hobbits get captured by this tree in a completely different forest; here, we wanted to use it because we wanted to try to establish simply that there are trees and there are Ents, and there’s actually a reason why this is here, and it is to show that the Forest itself – the trees are coming alive and getting very angry [Philippa: Mmm.] and the Ents are having to deal with that situation, that building tension.

Philippa: And also that you can talk and talk about the Forest is growing dangerous, but it’s really great to see it and show it; and –.

Peter: Yeah, yeah. Things are always much better in movies when you see them and…

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: … they’re not just spoken about.

Philippa: [Treebeard saves Merry and Pippin from the tree] Fans of the book will recognise Treebeard’s lines as actually being part of another iconic character: this is taken straight from what Tom Bombadil says to send Old Man Willow to sleep.

Peter: Tom Bombadil lives!

Philippa: Yes he does. And we did that quite deliberately, and we’ve –.

Peter: [at same time as

Philippa] And we were accused – we were accused of [Philippa: Yeah.] killing him, and here you go.

Philippa: We figured Tom wouldn’t mind if Treebeard took his lines.

Peter: [Treebeard: “The trees have grown dangerous.”] I do love this scene. I mean, this was another favourite scene – I really did want to try to hang onto this stuff for the theatrical version. I love them talking about the Entwives. It’s kind of just… you know, it’s a shame… Anyway, it’s here. Hey, we shouldn’t mourn it too much – we have DVDs! Thank heavens for technology! But I am very happy with the way that the extended cut DVDs are now fleshing out the trilogy. This one, I think, was about forty-three minutes longer than the theatrical version, and, you know, I think the extra material that’s in here – particularly things like Merry and Pippin and Fangorn and the Ent stuff – it helps, ultimately, create a trilogy which is much more detailed and has the moments of… has the pacing that you, kind of, you want it to be as a complete story that it can’t be when you’re, sort of, facing having to make a theatrical film once a year that kind of has a momentum and a pace that attracts people to the cinema.

Philippa: And in terms of character, I think what’s great about this scene – and it is really, really funny – that he’s forgotten, and it’s been so long; but it is also playing to the fact that the Ents have turned away from the rest of the world, which is what we wanted to establish: that they’ve been in their little forest and have, sort of, become so isolated from the outside world.

Peter: [The Three Hunters and Gandalf arrive at Edoras] Edoras was built in a location in the South Island of New Zealand, and we built the buildings at the very top of the hill – the rest of the village is just CG buildings, but the mountain is real: the rock that you’re seeing standing up out of the countryside is absolutely the way it really is, and the buildings on top are completely authentic. It was a very difficult built, because the winds in that valley are so high that they can blast building materials off the top of the hill. It’s actually quite dangerous. We had to anchor the buildings down deep into concrete: drill into the rock and put huge, big concrete piles into the rock to even just build the set there.

Philippa: Didn’t they paint it, and then you came back and all the paint had been stripped because of the wind?

Peter: Yeah, well [Philippa laughs] I was shooting Edoras one day – I mean, what happened to me one day is: very high winds, and I was walking along to where the crew were, and my glasses got blown off my face, and I turned and I just saw them sailing – tumbling – over the cliff in the wind. [Philippa laughs] And I had to spend the rest of the day, kind of, with blurry vision. It was weird! It was quite a very vicious kind of climate.

Philippa: [Éowyn mourns beside Théodred] The audition piece for Éowyn was about four pages of almost undiluted text from the book, and it was a very, very difficult read – a lot of people were struggling with it – and we hadn’t found Éowyn, had we? She was a big search; but I remember, Fran, very early on, had been tracking Miranda and keeping her in mind, and had asked her to come in and read. Miranda was the only person who actually rang and wanted to talk about this character and what this scene actually meant. She then went in and did it, and I think – I remember, we were in Queenstown, Mark Ordesky, Fran, Peter and myself – and we saw her tape, and we knew we’d found her. We’d finally found Éowyn. (beat) One of the things… When Brad came down and we were working through the journey that Wormtongue goes on, Fran had a strong instinct that rather than just be this ‘out and out’ villain that there is a very genuine need and desire for Éowyn, and that he actually, in his own way, does love her; and that is brought out in this incredible moment at the end of this scene, when they look at each other and you can actually see that – that’s just one of the great strengths of Brad as an actor – and why we gave him this piece of text, which Tolkien fans will know is actually lines of Gandalf’s that come towards the end of the third book – certainly towards the end of her story – the reason he’s saying them here is because one of the other things we wanted to do in this scene is show that he actually has an understanding of her, that he does understand a part of her. And in this moment where she looks at him, there is for one split second a chance where she may actually go there and seek solace; and this is part of his power. And the other thing in this scene – the final words, for those who know the book – “Your words are poison” is, of course, a play on the fact that she’s a little bit more accurate than even she knows.

Peter: [Éowyn looks out towards the Three Hunters and Gandalf] This was one of the billowy, windy days up there. There’s no visual effects in this shot – it’s exactly what you see from the top of the hill: everything that you’re seeing here is what we built, including the Golden Hall. You know, normally we would have had to have done a computer effects shot for when this flag rips away and blows in the wind – we would have had a little CG flag; we just had this incredible luck, and the flag ripped off – we made it rip off but then the flag blowing in the wind and going over the rooftops is done for real. It just happened! And it was so windy that it did a perfect flight path for what we wanted for the shot. (beat) [helicopter shot of Edoras, [screen cap] We had a helicopter rig to shoot from… up at Edoras, but it was so windy when we were there filming that we didn’t get many good shots, and the one that you’re looking at here was actually shot while we were building the set, because we had a helicopter with a camera flying nearby, and I said to them, “Why don’t you just roll a bit of film to show me how the set’s coming along” and it was a lovely, smooth, beautiful shot; but the set was unfinished, and so we had to do a lot of CG-enhancement to take away construction cranes, safety fences, and to actually complete the set. So it was ironic that we built the set, but the CG shot had to [Philippa laughs] actually fill in the holes because it was only half finished when we happened to shoot the aerials!

Philippa: I didn’t know that.

Peter: Yeah. (beat) It’s always hard to do peasants in films, isn’t it? You always think of ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ [Philippa laughs]: “Bring out your dead! [Fran: Mmm.] Bring out your dead!” [laughing] It’s one of those dodgy things that sort of… Monty Python, kind of, has been a real difficulty with us making this film, because you realise just how close the line is between ‘The Holy Grail’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ really, in terms of what we’re trying to…

Philippa: Mmm.

Peter: … do and show on screen. (beat) [Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf disarm] This is a frivolous scene; and we did actually talk about cutting this scene out at one stage. You don’t need it – it’s a bit of business that, sort of, is not important, but it’s quite memorable from the book. I like the idea that Aragorn keeps finding weapons everywhere.

Philippa: [laughing] Yeah!

Peter: One of the problems that we had with visualising this is that Gandalf asks to keep his staff still, but we didn’t want him to walk into the Hall with the staff, sort of, fully obvious, because why didn’t Wormtongue see it kind of right at the beginning? And so if you look here, Ian very carefully, kind of, carries his staff in a way that doesn’t draw attention to itself, because otherwise why doesn’t Wormtongue jump up now and say, “The wizard’s staff.” See the continuity problem? The staff’s upright in the back shots and it’s down in the front shots.

Fran: I never noticed that!

Peter: No, I didn’t notice it before now, too. [Fran: Oh, [?].]Oh God, it’s live on DVD! [Philippa and Fran laugh] A problem has been spotted!

Philippa: How long did that make up take?

Peter: That took quite a long time. It was, like, half a day in the make up chair. It’s not prosthetics – rubber prosthetics – it’s actually done an old-fashioned way, which is called stipple make up: of basically applying, like, tissue paper to your face and putting grease paint over it. (beat) This whole aspect of the politics in the Golden Hall I’ve always found quite difficult, because what’s the attitude of the people of Rohan to Wormtongue, to their sick King? Why don’t the loyal lieutenants of Théoden actually boot Wormtongue out if he’s clearly that poisonous a character? So we created these thuggish characters – like these henchmen – that you had to somehow believe Wormtongue plus the henchmen were enough of a force to suppress the Rohan civilians. Obviously not quite enough of a force to suppress our heroes.

Fran: [Gandalf: “Théoden, son of Thengel…”] Remember, we had the problem with Gandalf the White not appearing as Gandalf the White [Peter: Yeah, yeah.] until this moment when he…

Peter: That’s right.

Fran: … he takes his cloak off.

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: And then we figured: well what’s he wearing, then? Is he back into Gandalf the Grey here?

Philippa: Yes, that’s right.

Peter: It was all a bit difficult, this stuff to…

Philippa: It was.

Fran: It was really quite difficult.

Peter: … to pull off.

Philippa: It drove us mad.

Peter: One of the things that’s great about ‘Lord of the Rings’ is that Gandalf doesn’t get to be a wizard very much, which I actually appreciate, because wizards are not that, kind of, easy; but this is in a way just about the most ‘wizardy’ bit of the whole movie [Philippa agrees] and maybe of the whole trilogy. You know, like this is straight out of a fairy tale, really: the good wizard fighting the bad spell. The book has, you know, a rather vague description of exactly what’s happening to Théoden: he is some way being heavily influenced by Wormtongue – he’s somehow been under some sort of spell, because Gandalf does come in and kind of free him from the spell – but showing it in the movie without being hokey was kind of tough; and we haven’t really explained it that much, other than that connection, so that when Théoden gets, sort of, blasted by Gandalf’s staff, it’s Saruman that we see being rocketed across the floor in Orthanc, so that connection that, somehow, Saruman was puppeteering Théoden… And the use of the voice that we hear: actually Christopher Lee did some ADR – some dialogue recording – so we hear Christopher’s voice coming out of Bernard’s mouth at one point; and that was the way that we, kind of, tried to address this situation of a spell – an enchantment – because those things are difficult to show visually. (beat) Sound design is very important here, because all that Bernard’s doing is, obviously, just throwing himself back in his chair, and Ian’s just pushing his staff forward – there’s no contact between the two of them – but the sound design really gives a feeling of power coming out of the staff. (beat) This shot here was done as a very simple morphing: needed Bernard to go through three different make ups, each of which took half a day, so we basically shot him over the course of two days, as the old make up, the intermediate and then the young. He was sort of sitting being in either the make up chair or in front of the camera, literally for two days just to do that seven or eight seconds’ worth of film that we were able to morph with that de-ageing. (beat) Bernard Hill’s an actor that made a huge impression on me when I was a lot younger in a British TV series called ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’; since then, he’s obviously the captain of the Titanic, so you wouldn’t want to put him in charge of a sailing vessel [Philippa laughs], but for the King of Rohan, I thought he’d be great. He has that wonderful nobility, and he’s also the type of actor who can take the rôle of a king and play him without the usual clichés as well. He’s a very clever actor, and you need somebody who’s going to actually give the character that integrity and not just do ‘a king’.

Fran: [Théoden rises from his throne] This is where the Rohan theme comes in again, isn’t it? With Howard’s – with the Norwegian fiddle and…

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: Very memorable.

Peter: Yes. (beat) What I like about Gandalf’s rôle in this scene is: he is a manipulator, and that is… one of the key character functions is that he manipulates people into doing what he wants them to do. The way that he says, “Well, you know, you may remember your strength better if you grasped your sword”; because he wants now to deal with Wormtongue: it’s like Gandalf has it in for Wormtongue, but he has to get Théoden there in a way that he suggests and hints, and Théoden finally gets the idea himself that holding the sword, thinking of why he was subjected to this spell – he goes there, but Gandalf is totally manipulating the situation from the beginning. And that is quite a fun aspect of Gandalf’s character.

Fran: The character of Wormtongue – our take on it – came from Théoden’s speech at the end of the book ‘Two Towers’ where he says: “You were a man once.” He was not born evil, and he is not wholly evil now: there is something in him that can be appealed to and possibly redeemed, and in that he rises above stereotype, and becomes a more complex and interesting character – someone who perhaps is allowed the more weaker and ignoble sides of his character to take free rein, but also someone who can have some hope of change. I certainly saw someone in Wormtongue’s character who is trapped within his own sense of, kind of, moral turpitude, but who wanted something else; and it wasn’t just a venal desire, it was something as, sort of, unattainable as Éowyn’s… He also wanted Théoden’s approval, and he wanted to – and needed to – be part of the court, and his expulsion from that compounded a bitter sense of rejection, which, in his own mind, justified further attacks on the people of Rohan and Helm’s Deep.

Peter: [Aragorn bows down to Théoden] When we originally shot this scene with Théoden, we didn’t have any connection with the death of his son – we did have a funeral scene, but there wasn’t any link, and so we had Bernard back out in New Zealand during post production and we shot this one insert shot [screen cap] of him turning round and saying, “Where is Théodred, where is my son?” which was a way of being able to then hint towards the funeral scene, which is coming up.

Philippa: [The Funeral of Théodred] We wanted to use something which is echoed in lots of different cultures – but particularly in Maori culture as well – that the body is taken by the men and handed to the women, which is what we’ve got here: the women are waiting by the grave to receive the body, and they’re the ones that actually put the body of Théodred into the tomb.

Peter: [screen cap] This big crowd shot is a duplication shot, where we had about a hundred extras and we spent four or five hours shifting them around from place to place. We had a motion control camera, so we just repeated the camera move, so the first part of the shot had the body being carried in the foreground and with about, you know, a hundred extras nearby; and then we just kept repeating the shot, and we had the extras moving around, just moving from one quadrant to the next until we actually shot about eight different passes of them, so we turned one hundred extras into eight hundred extras, and we used the computer to composite them all together.

Philippa: The song that Éowyn is singing here was written by David Salo, who is – had primarily acted as a translator into Elvish; being an expert in Old English, when we came to choosing a language for the Rohirrim, we decided to use Old English – there’s very little extant language written for the Rohirrim by Professor Tolkien – and this particular piece was written by David Salo for this burial – using little bits and pieces of ‘Beowulf’, actually, the great poem.

Peter: I always loved the name of ‘simbelmynë’, which is the name that Tolkien gave to those white flowers, and they’re flowers that only grow on the graves of the dead.

Philippa: Mmm.

Peter: And I, kind of, always thought that was a pretty amazing thing, which is why I wanted to feature them here: there’s no real reason for it, but it’s kind of a neat idea. [screen cap] This was an authentic shot. It’s –. No CG involved with that big crane up. It just shows you how remote this location really was! Because it is literally that remote: there’s no buildings much within about a thirty mile radius of where we are here – we’re right in the heart of the mountains of the Southern Alps.

Fran: But the flowers are artificial. The flowers are –.

Philippa: No! Don’t ruin it!

Peter: The flowers were just little bits of white cloth, actually, like white silk.

Fran: And the other thing that came as a shock was the pronunciation of… We always thought it was ‘simbelmoon’…

Philippa: [at same time as Fran, phonetically] ‘Simbelmoon’.

Fran: … didn’t we?

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: And then we had adjust –.

Peter: [phonetically] ‘Simbelmoonya’, or something, I think.

Philippa: Mmm.

Fran: Yeah, we had to adjust to this –

Peter: I’m the worst guy to ask about pronunciation.

Fran: – late read on it, which was –

Peter: I have enough trouble with English!

Fran: – we never liked it as much.

Philippa: I didn’t like it as much, no. (beat) That great line, “No parent should have to bury their child” came from Bernard, actually.

Peter: Yeah. He does a great job.

Philippa: He’d spend all day with Gabriel, his son, running round, playing on the side of that set.

Peter: Gandalf the White, we had to make more vibrant and more, sort of, energetic; he does get more likeable in the third movie: I mean, he’s a bit [Philippa: Mmm.] of a dry character in ‘The Two Towers’ – he, sort of, comes back, he’s changed, he’s not quite the affectionate sort of Gandalf that we liked from ‘The Fellowship’ – and he tends to loosen up a little bit, and he has definitely some much more humorous and intimate moments in the next movie; but here he’s like… It’s almost like a cameo, really: I mean, Gandalf’s appearance in ‘The Two Towers’ is like an extended cameo to some degree: he’s about –. You know, he doesn’t arrive till late and he’s about to disappear for a huge part of the film, until the very end, so…

Philippa: I think what I liked about what Ian did was that he gave Gandalf the White a sense of urgency and immediacy, and he’s come back at the turn of the tide, and he took that as his cue: that he has so very little time to do so very much in defence of Middle-earth against Sauron.

Peter: And here’s another aspect of Gandalf: the Manipulator; and what Ian wanted to do –. It was Ian’s idea that he sit beside the throne, and he’s basically replaced Wormtongue, and he liked the idea [Philippa: Mmm.] that Gandalf really is just another version of Wormtongue! [Fran laughs] He’s, you know…

Philippa: [shocked] Oooh! No! You can’t say that! He’s a persuader, not a manipulator.

Peter: Nah, well, whatever. [Philippa laughs] One person’s persuading is another person’s manipulation.

Philippa: Oh no! I’ll never be able to look at Gandalf the same way again!

Peter: Bernard was originally an actor we were considering for Gandalf, way back at the beginning; and we obviously didn’t ultimately choose him for Gandalf, but we wanted to work with him, basically, and thought he’d be great for Théoden. (beat) It’s a great example of just what John Rhys-Davies brings to these scenes, too; because, you know, Gimli had nothing to do, which is, for an actor, an incredibly difficult thing: I mean, what did Gimli do? Well, he just got to sit there and eat; except John somehow [laughs] always manages to steal the scene!

Philippa: He does steal the scene.

Peter: Without doing anything! Which is kind of a gift for a director, you know: when I’m cutting the scene and I come across something like this – this little burp that he does – it just somehow adds something to the scene –

Fran: [at same time as Peter] Well he’s irreverent…

Peter: – [?] what John’s doing.

Fran: … isn’t he? I mean, he undermines the, sort of…

Peter: The pompousness.

Fran: Yes, he does.

Peter: Yeah, yeah. (beat) [Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli enter the stables] This is a pick-up: when they’re walking in the stable doors, we’re now jumped forward two years. They were walking across the courtyard at Edoras on location; two years later, they walk into the stables in our pick-ups for a whole scene that we wrote after we edited the film together. And we didn’t really have a strong enough reason for Gandalf to suddenly walk out of the story – I mean, what we originally wrote and shot – so we sort of designed this scene as a way of trying to explain his departure, trying to give Aragorn a mission – because basically, you know, we wanted Aragorn to definitely have a rôle to play that the audience were very much aware of, so it is: protect the people of Rohan – and then we also just snuck in this very nice little tease, where Gandalf says those lines: “Look for my coming on the fifth day, at dawn on the fifth day”, and it was a sense that Gandalf has an agenda that we don’ know about.

Philippa: Mmm.

Peter: But it’s obviously something we use later to pay off.

Philippa: Unfortunately, in the original Japanese translation they actually had Gandalf saying: “Look for me on the fifth day. I will return with Éomer”! [laughs]

Peter: Oh, did they?

Philippa: [laughing] Yes!

Peter: They gave it away!

Philippa: Yeah, well I think they just didn’t understand what we were trying to do.

Peter: Right.

Philippa: We were too obscure.

Peter: We changed some of the motivations round in this area of the story, because Aragorn is very enthusiastic about going to Helm’s Deep in the book, except here we made Helm’s Deep kind of like a bad strategic move.

Philippa: Because we did actually write, initially, a version which was quite close to the book – it was laid out before Gandalf, it was laid out before Aragorn, it was laid out before Théoden: it was all just basically said: “Right, we’re going to go, we’re going to hold up in Helm’s Deep, and we’re going to make our last stand there”, and it was laid out for the audience, therefore; and that doesn’t play on film unfortunately. It didn’t give us much room for journey and for reversals – especially, I think, for Théoden’s reversal, because of course, his people stay in Edoras in the book, but we felt we had to put people in the most jeopardy we could to give some value and some stake underneath Helm’s Deep.

Peter: The horse that Viggo’s trying to calm down here… it’s supposed to be the horse that belonged to Théoden’s son that we saw dying. It’s a horse that doesn’t really appear in the books at all, but we knew that Viggo had to be picked up by a horse when he was left for dead after the Warg scene which is coming up, and so we wanted to somehow establish a bond between him and this horse which comes to save him – ultimately when we did the theatrical cut, that seemed like unnecessary set-up, but it’s a nice scene that does show how Aragorn’s raising with the Elves and his connection with…

Philippa: Mmm. That’s what it was about.

Peter: … with horses, as a Ranger.

Philippa: He starts off in this scene speaking in Old English, and then switches to Elvish half way through. There’s very little time in the way the story’s told for connection between Éowyn and Aragorn, and yet somehow this woman – who initially starts off as very distant and reserved – begins to see something else in this man, and begins to see him as something else and somebody she can relate to: she’s so closed off from other men, but she begins to be drawn into this man’s power. So we were just trying to find moment where we could do this.

Peter: [Wormtongue rides to Orthanc] That’s a computer-generated horse and rider riding down a model of Isengard. And this is an extra scene for the DVD that… We didn’t use it in the theatrical cut, but it’s basically giving Saruman the information that Aragorn, the supposed lost King, is out and about. It was ultimately information that we didn’t think Saruman needed to know.

Philippa: We [?] between Aragorn being Saruman’s adversary and Gandalf being Saruman’s adversary in terms of the typical antagonist/protagonists thing, and that was when we wanted Aragorn to become Saruman’s adversary – the guy he’s going to take out – but it was premature.

Peter: It was the first scene we ever shot with Wormtongue. It’s weird when you do scenes out of order; because you see how he’s dabbing his cut lip with a handkerchief: we figured that he’d probably have a cut lip from being thrown down the stairs, even though we hadn’t actually filmed that yet. And as it is, when you see him thrown down the stairs, you don’t really get the idea that he cuts his lip at all! [laughs]

Philippa: [laughing] No!

Peter: But here, because we were shooting this first, we just were guessing, really. Sometimes we were doing things like six months ahead of the next scene, and [Philippa: God!] because we were shooting three films at once, we had to do it all muddled up and mixed up.

Philippa: [at same time as Peter] We had no idea what we were doing. (beat) What I love in that scene is when he starts picking the scab on his scalp, and that was one of those things where Peter King and Peter Owen had designed this very thin wig – it’s like he had psoriasis on his scalp.

Peter: Yeah.

Philippa: And then he started picking at it: it was one of those genius moments –.

Peter: And did he eat it?

Philippa: [laughing] Yuck!

Peter: Because that’s what you want to happen if somebody’s picking at their scalp –

Philippa: [disgusted] Oh! No, that’s…

Peter: – you want him to sort of like… little crunchy chippies or something.

Philippa: That’s ‘Braindead’!

Peter: No…

Fran: Not everyone’s reduced to your personal habits. [All three laugh] (beat) [Théoden puts on his gloves] This scene here really shows you the great fashion sense of Rohan: the colour and the variety. [Philippa laughs] [?Garb]

Peter: Well Théoden’s obviously got the most expensive gloves in the entire kingdom…

Philippa: That’s what they said –.

Peter: … and gets to show them off! [laughs]

Philippa: That’s why they’re in the state they’re in! It’s the amount of money this guy’s spent on his clothes – it bankrupted the kingdom.

Peter: They could do with a Gap branch opening up at Edoras, couldn’t they? They sort of need something to get away from the browns and greens! [Fran agrees]

Philippa: [A Daughter of Kings] And look what the poor woman is reduced to! (beat) This was a quick rewrite, wasn’t it? Quick rewrite, give it to the actors, shoot it.

Peter: Was it one of those slipped under the hotel door…

Philippa: It was.

Peter: … ten o’clock at night, before we shoot it.

Philippa: This was based around wanting to get that great dialogue in of: “What is it you fear, my lady?” “A cage: to stay behind bars.” But you had that very strong instinct that it had to be more than that. We also loved that line, remember: “The women of this country learnt long ago those…”

Fran: “… without swords…”

Philippa: “… can still die upon them.”

Fran: I think this scene, more than any other, captures his spirit.

Philippa: Yeah, it does. It’s more true to [?] [Fran agrees] This is, I think, Miranda’s favourite. I think he’s really spunky in this scene.

Fran: It’s also the scene where you see that she falls in love with him: it’s quite a credible moment, really.

Peter: Is that why I got tossed…

Philippa: Yeah!

Peter: … out of the scene? [Philippa, laughing: You did! Yes!] And leave the spunky… The spunky Aragorn scenes get directed by Fran…

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: … with Philippa hovering in the wings, sort of, drooling –

Philippa: [at same time as Peter] Actually, I want some guy…

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] – and I get to go off and shoot some Gollum stuff or something.

Philippa: [shrugging] Yeah! I want some guy to say that to me.

Peter: Do you?

Philippa: “You are a Shieldmaiden of Rohan.”

Peter: Well, I’ll say it to you.

Philippa: [at same time as Peter] I mean, you’d melt. Wouldn’t you melt? [laughs]

Fran: You did go through…

Peter: Well, do you want us to make you a suit of chain mail or something?

Philippa: [laughing] Yes!

Peter: And to get you a sword?

Philippa: I am Éowyn; Fran’s Arwen.

Peter: [Exodus From Edoras] All of the extras at Edoras were basically local farmers and their wives, because this is a very rural part of New Zealand: there’s not really any towns or cities close by, and so we had –. All these extras were brought in from the various farming communities within a, sort of, fifty-mile radius of the set.

Fran: Well they were amazing. They got up at two in the morning to get on a bus in Christchurch to be driven to the set –

Peter: [at same time as Fran] The location, yeah.

Fran: – yeah – and that would be two or three hours of travel.

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: And then they would be in wardrobe and make up at six in the morning or something [Peter: Yeah.] ready to the set by seven thirty.

Peter: Yeah.

Fran: So they really didn’t sleep, those extras.

Peter: No, they were fantastic. (beat) [screen cap] This is a wonderful shot. John Mahaffie shot this – I just thought it was the most beautiful image, all done for real.

Fran: Are they very high mountain lakes, those?

Peter: Well there’s this place in Queenstown in New Zealand – if anyone ever goes there – called Deer Park Heights, which is like a bit of a wildlife sanctuary, and it’s just this mountaintop – it’s a hill right next to Queenstown Airport, and we did a lot of our filming at Deer Park Heights, because you drive up there, it’s very easy access – only five minutes from town – and you’re basically sitting in this rugged, hilly landscape with cliffs and lakes and 360˚ around you are snowy mountains; and it’s where we shot all of the Warg fight, shot – actually, scenes even for ‘The Return of the King’ are shot there. (beat) [The Forests of Ithilien] That was Andy Serkis actually going into that mountain –

Philippa: Icy river!

Peter: – river in the middle of winter.

Philippa: He’s mad!

Philippa: Freezing cold... freezing cold! Like, it was snow there: it was below zero. (beat) This location’s a good example of the simple art department: that we were filming in this slightly bushy kind of landscape – we just had a truck that used to drive around with pieces of polystyrene ruins; and it’s actually –. The ruins that we’re using in this scene are the Weathertop ruins: when we did Weathertop, we sort of saved the set because it had some quite nice polystyrene carved archways.

Philippa: Mmm.

Peter: When we wanted to dress up this location, make it look, like, a little bit ancient with the ruins, we just got the old Weathertop bits and pieces and just stuck them in the ground. (beat) We were shooting this in the North Island of New Zealand on an army artillery range, and we were filming it at the weekend and we thought there wasn’t going to be anything there – we obviously had permission to go there – but just at the moment that Sean said the line, “It’s the Ring” this huge artillery shell exploded about five hundred yards away! [laughs] And everybody just thought… had this huge shock; we were rolling the film, and you see Elijah, who flinches at the sound of this huge explosion, but then just, kind of, carries on acting – like, he’s a real trooper. It was also kind of nervous because it was right on the edge of an active volcano [Philippa laughs], and when you suddenly have this huge ground-shaking explosion happen, my initial thought was that the volcano had just blown up. It shows you how stressed out I was at the time. [All three laugh] (beat) [Gollum and Sméagol] So this is a scene that Fran directed, so you should talk about it, Fran.

Fran: Well, we shot this scene in the pick-up shoot a couple of years after the original footage – there wasn’t any original footage in this scene, in fact; it was always new – and it was very much a part of the development on the Gollum/Sméagol story; it’s where the two personas properly engage: you come to know the level of persecution – that Sméagol, as the sort of younger, more dependent self – regularly inflicted on him by this rather sadistic ‘parent’ – I… that’s how I viewed it – that Gollum has been both a protector and a tormentor to this other side of his self for hundreds of years, and he’s both the reason they survived and also for his current state of misery. He’s a repository of rage and hate, and there is something in Sméagol still that lets the audience know – and Frodo indicates to us – that he can be still redeemed, that there is something in him that is likeable, and is of us. In another way, I saw that Gollum’s like the monkey on everybody’s shoulders: he’s the voice of derision and failure that…

Philippa: Self-hatred.

Fran: His self-hatred; and most people have that to contend with to some degree or other. He’s the celebrator… [Fran and Philippa laugh] He’s – he’s –. He’s the…

Philippa: [laughing] We have it more than most!

Fran: No, he’s the… He’s the guy who celebrates other people’s loss, you know, or your own sense of loss: he’s…

Philippa: Yeah.

Fran: It’s not really an unfamiliar thing, this division of selves: I think it’s, for most people, it’s something that’s kind of creepily familiar to us. [Philippa agrees] I think that’s why we warm to him.

Philippa: [in agreement] Mmm. (beat) That scene, actually, came out as this whole need for Frodo to be invested in saving Gollum, and drawing Sméagol out, having a creature that was worth saving; and this is the pay-off, that you actually, for a brief moment, believe that Frodo is going to do it. I remember we realised that we didn’t have this, and Fran went away and wrote this amazing scene, which was extraordinary, because it had levels of humour, and it turns…

Peter: As soon as he says: “Murderer!”

Philippa: Yeah. Said it…

Peter: The laughter kind of stops.

Philippa: It does!

Peter: And people feel real…

Philippa: Every single time.

Peter: They feel real compromise and real sorrow for him.

Philippa: Exactly.

Peter: When Fran shot this scene with Andy, he did all the transitions between the character, and he actually did it as a continuous take, if you can believe it: he did it as one continuous piece of performance, and he was Sméagol, Gollum, Sméagol, Gollum, without stopping, one to the other; and he’d do the transitions in between, so that he’d turn his head, Gollum would emerge, he’d be Gollum; then he’d turn back and be, kind of, Sméagol again, and he put all those transitions into it. But when we edited the scene together, we found that it got really unnerving if you just edited the transitions out, so it became a much tighter conversation between the two characters, without seeing the change. And then occasionally we’d show it [Fran: Mmm.] just to remind people what was happening, but when you just cut directly from a Gollum-Sméagol, and they were in a slightly different position with different expressions, it really, kind of, became a bit unnerving. It was a fun scene to cut, in actual fact.

Fran: And it’s in moments like this – “stupid, fat hobbit!” – there’s an unexpected comedy there, because Sam reacts to being called fat [Peter laughs], which, I think, kind of shifts it out of being any kind of animated character, and –

Philippa: Oh, totally!

Fran: – to just two people in a scene having an interaction: it kind of takes it right out of any sense of…

Peter: There’s actually something of Andy’s performance left in this scene: the one little bit of Andy Serkis you see is the spit flying through the air. There’s a shot where Gollum spits, and we used Andy’s spit that happened on the day [Peter and Philippa laugh, screen cap], and we just painted him out but kept the spit!

Philippa: We also wanted to show here that there’s almost a working… workable relationship now emerging between Sam and Gollum, and even though they’re bickering, there’s kind of a level of good humour underneath it all, or at least acceptance.

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] It’s a lighter scene.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: It’s a scene that actually has something of the spirit of the relationship in the books, doesn’t it?

Philippa: [in agreement] Mmm. Before it’s all ruined.

Peter: I mean, everybody seems to remember ‘Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit’.

Philippa: They do.

Peter: It’s a great, memorable chapter.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: And it was one that we really wanted to put into the movie.

Philippa: Yeah.

Fran: We met Andy through the Hubbards, who did the casting in England, and they did an initial sweep through the main rôles, and they presented Andy on a tape, first of all: we saw him and then we met him.

Philippa: Looking mainly for the voice of Gollum at that stage, weren’t we?

Fran: We were, yeah. And I remember the tape was memorable because he was sort of slavering and spitting all over the camera, and, you know, [Peter: Yeah] he went for it in a way that nobody else did.

Peter: Yeah, yeah.

Fran: There were kind of like radio-type voices there, and then there was Andy, who was like, just completely manic. Immediately he had the kind of energy that you felt the character needed.

Peter: Well what was interesting about that performance in the audition is that we were videotaping the audition even though we were just looking for the voice; what was compelling was actually seeing what he was doing. [Fran agrees] It wasn’t just the voice he was using, it was actually seeing the expressions on his face. Because I remember it was a pretty rough, bad quality video that we ended up with: I remember coming back to New Zealand and having the first, kind of, Gollum conversations with Weta – this was long before we started shooting – and I remember dragging the Andy Serkis tape in to show them, and it wasn’t just like: “Listen to this, this is the voice that we want to use”; it was: “Actually look at what he’s doing, because what he’s doing is really interesting.” And I remember using Andy’s audition tape as an example for Weta of where Gollum might go visually.

Fran: Hmm.

Peter: And so the concept of actually using Andy to be driving the visual performance was something that just naturally evolved, simply because he was so good [laughs] at what he was doing! We wanted to use it! He was doing it as a way of conjuring up the voice, and what he was doing was so compelling to look at that that’s what we wanted to use in the movie. (beat) [The Rangers attack the Oliphaunts] When New Line saw this scene, they didn’t know who these people were and what they were doing and why they were doing it, so we wrote some lines for Gollum to say to explain the plot, basically, at the request of the studio.

Philippa: “Very bad men.” [Fran laughs]

Peter: “They are very bad men!”

Philippa: Yeah!

Peter: And I think at that point, New Line nodded and said, “Oh, okay, we get it. Very bad men, right. Good.”

Philippa: They’re bad… “Servants of Sauron.”

Peter: Servants of Sauron, yes.

Philippa: Mmm hmm.

Peter: Good; but the mûmakil are obviously having a little cameo appearance here – I have to say that the scenes I’ve been looking forward to doing ever since we began the trilogy is the Pelennor Fields battle in ‘Return of the King’, where these creatures attack in their full battle mode. We’re only seeing them here in a very brief appearance, but in the next movie, ‘Return of the King’, they play a great part in one of the climaxes of a battle scene, so I’m still looking forward to doing – I haven’t really started doing that much yet, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s… these are great creatures. (beat) [Frodo and Sam run into the Rangers] This sequence has some new footage that we shot originally as part of the ‘Two Towers’ shoot, and it’s a speech that Sam actually thinks these thoughts that… in the book; and we gave it to Faramir as a speech. I think it does a remarkable job of addressing some of the criticisms of Tolkien, because people say that he’s racist, people say that he’s pro-war; and the words that Faramir says here when he sees the body on the ground, I think can only have been written by somebody who had first-hand experience of war as Tolkien had, and despised it. It’s the words of a soldier who does not know why he’s killing people, does not know why the Enemy is supposed to be different to him; and I can just imagine Tolkien in the First World War, in the trenches, wondering just how different the Germans are, and why they have to kill the Germans and why they deserve to be killed, and do they want to be killed, and are they really evil? And it is very much the thoughts and emotions that I think could only come from a soldier who did not like what he was doing.

TTT Disc 2 >>

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.