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EE Commentary Transcripts
The Bridge of Khazad-dm

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Peter: [Fellowship run out of Chamber of Mazarbul] What you’re seeing here is –. You’re seeing a completely computer-generated image. [screen cap] The Fellowship are computer-generated, the environment, the columns, the architecture, are completely computer-generated. Often in movies, you know, that’s a rare thing, to have shots in which nothing is real – this is another one [screen cap] – where everything is just done in the computer. And we had no ability to build a set this big, of course, because it’s basically endless, and what we did is we built two bases of columns, so if you look at all those columns, and just imagine the bases of them, we had two of those in the studio against black, so when we cut to the live action stuff that we’re looking at here, you’re just seeing… We’re filming… Our two big column-bases is all that we have, and we’re just looking at the two – the same two columns – over and over again [laughs] from the various angles, and then, obviously, inter-cutting that with some computer wide shots. (beat) This is… This sequence, which is again enhanced from what’s in the book, that it was really… You know, the introduction of the Balrog didn’t happen quite in this way, but we just wanted to make a, sort of, rollicking Indiana Jones type sequence out of it, really to [Philippa: Yeah.] have some fun with it.

Philippa: [Boromir: “What is this new devilry?”] That’s a great Tolkien line. [whispers] “What is this new devilry?”

Peter: I love the look on Ian’s eyes. I love the way that he’s reacting to this Balrog. It’s fantastic!

Fran: And then Legolas’s eyes.

Philippa: Yes.

Fran: His close-up is coming.

Philippa: Because that is… The one thing that Elves would fear –

Peter: Is the Balrog. Yeah

Philippa: [at same time as Peter] – in Middle-earth is the Balrog. A Balrog.

Peter: Yeah.

Philippa: A Balrog is actually a, strangely enough, is actually a spirit, a Maia spirit, very similar to… Gandalf is also a Maia spirit; so these two are actually beings of a similar power, but at opposite ends of the…

Peter: In our screenplay, it –

Philippa: …the scale.

Peter: – said something along the lines of, “The Fellowship run from the Balrog [Philippa laughs] down a staircase…

Philippa: [laughing] It was two lines!

Peter: …and across the Bridge.

Philippa: [laughing] I know!

Peter: It literally goes from the Balrog appearing in the hallway and the Goblins running to the Bridge in, like, two lines; and what happened…

Philippa: And the fools fell for it.

Peter: …with the development of this scene is, to the horror of the studio, I think, is that it obviously developed into the biggest effects sequence in the entire movie. But I think it’s a great scene, and the way that it came together is that Alan Lee drew the Bridge – I mean, the Staircase – we call it the Staircase, really, where the Fellowship run down, and we were just going to get one shot of them running down, and Alan had drawn this picture exactly as you see it in the movie here, exactly, in pencil sketch, except he’d had this broken bit of bridge, and Alan just said to me, “Oh, I thought it’d be fun to have a broken bit because then they could jump over it” and that really sparked my imagination going of, well, what else could you do with a broken piece of bridge? What if, say, you were being shot at with arrows as you were trying to jump over it? So, you keep complicating it; and then Randy Cook was very instrumental in taking a lot of the ideas that I came up with and then he did an animatic, and this was about a year and a half before we started shooting, and he developed an animatic, which is a simple computer version of the scene, just done on a home PC, and Randy came up with all sorts of extra ideas and we eventually, between the group of us, we worked this scene up to the state that you see it now. And we had it pretty well pre-vized with this computer animatic – pre-visualisation.

Philippa: Pete’s got to take credit for “No one tosses a Dwarf!” [to Fran] I’m sorry, we’re disowning that line, aren’t we?

Peter: “No one tosses a Dwarf” [Philippa laughs] Dwarves… It’s a very British thing: it’s something that Americans don’t know too much about, but England has a sport called Dwarf-tossing. In fact, one of our scale doubles – one of our little, four-foot high guys, Kiran, who…

Philippa: Kiran Shah.

Peter: …who came from England – Kiran Shah who came from England – he had been tossed several times in his career.

Fran: Had he? I thought it was an Australian invention.

Peter: I think it’s English.

Philippa: I think it is English in the [?] –.

Peter: Oh, the Australians do gumboot tossing.

Fran: No, no, they have –

Philippa: [at same time as Fran] No, they do Dwarf tossing, too.

Fran: – Dwarf-tossing.

Philippa: They do Dwarf-tossing? Yeah, well it probably spread to the more crasser members of the Commonwealth! [Philippa laughs]

Fran: I thought it had a completely different meaning in England.

Peter: No, no. To toss a Dwarf is a sport. You pick up a Dwarf and you throw the Dwarf –

Philippa: [to Fran, laughing] No! That’s –. Americans have –

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] – as far as you can.

Philippa: – a completely different understanding of that phrase!

Fran: Oh, is that what it is?

Philippa: That particular phrase…

Fran: Anyway, it came from –.

Philippa: I don’t think it’s a sport in America!

Fran: Distinctly un-Tolkien.

Philippa: [laughing] Yes!

Peter: Very un-Tolkien!

Philippa: I think it usually appears in quite a different type of video, Fran.

Peter: [Staircase collapses] Alex Funke did a wonderful job of lighting these miniatures that we’re looking at. The only computer parts are the people running and the column that crashes down is the only computer part. Everything else is a miniature.

Philippa: [the Fellowship run towards the Bridge, screen cap] This is one of my favourite shots! I was so excited to see this.

Fran: [in agreement] Mmm. This is a great shot. The music is wonderful here, too.

Peter: The Balrog was always difficult. He was a real problem, because of the way that Tolkien… I love the heat-haze! [Philippa: Yeah!] The heat-haze really sells it.

Philippa: I love the fire under the skin: I never envisaged that. I think it’s fantastic.

Peter: Well that was one of the ideas earliest, to have cracks in the skin.

Philippa: I love that. It’s brilliant.

Peter: That was on the original maquette.

Philippa: And I love the soot!

Peter: Well, we tried to create the feeling of the Shadow and Flame.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: [The Fellowship run across the Bridge, screen cap] This is a great shot. I love this: this is… These are computer-Fellowship. The people you’re looking at running here are completely computer-generated – they’re not real at all, but you can look at the way their cloaks are swinging round, and they’re… just the way that they look. We’re getting the computer people looking pretty real now as we go through the film, and we’ve got a lot more of them in the second and third movie coming up. The Balrog was described as a creature of Shadow and Flame, and we decided to try to use shadow and flame – for obvious reasons – to provide his look, so we have this black smoke oozing off him, and the flame, and not really seeing too much of the physical Balrog beneath that.

Fran: And he’s got wings.

Peter: He has got wings. I read the book and I imagined Tolkien as describing wings. I don’t know what the big fuss is about.

Philippa: Yes.

Fran: [Gandalf: “You shall not pass!”] Ian has spoken many times of acting this scene to a ping pong ball.

Philippa: [laughing] Was he?

Peter: Yeah, he had a really nightmarish time with this scene, because he was having to confront something… He didn’t know what the Balrog looked like. He didn’t have a clue. We were in a little studio right beside the airport, planes were taking off at the time, and Ian had to, kind of, do his Balrog confrontation; and it was tough, it was hard.

Philippa: [Frodo tries to run to Gandalf] Some people say, “Why does Boromir stop him? Why doesn’t anyone go and help him?” and there’s two answers: one is that they’re actually –. They are actually far away; and also that the rest of the Bridge is in a bad way, and could collapse at any second. [Peter: Oh!] But what I love in the book –.

Peter: I didn’t realise that.

Philippa: It’s what it is in the book.

Peter: Ah, okay.

Philippa: What… Didn’t you do that for that reason?

Fran: I thought he stopped him because he’s carrying the Ring: you can’t afford to have him…

Philippa: Yeah, well that… I love the bit in the book where, later on, when Frodo says, “If it hadn’t been for us” – he says to Faramir – “they wouldn’t have run.” He was talking about Aragorn and Boromir. “If it hadn’t been that they had to look after us, they would not have run.” Love that. [Fran agrees] Wonder if we can get that in.

Fran: And also, on that line, “Fly, you fools” which… I think Ian does it so beautifully – that he lets go rather than falls.

Philippa: Oh yeah, absolutely. He wants them to…

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] Yeah, yeah.

Fran: The choice he makes at that moment is to…

Philippa: It’s the choice he knew that he was going to have to make from the moment he [Fran: Yes] understood the mind of Saruman.

Fran: Yes.

Peter: [Fellowship mourns Gandalf’s death] This was another helicopter location, where we had to fly all of our actors in, and we did this very –.

Philippa: [at same time as Peter] Didn’t Sean walk it?

Peter: We did this very early – no, no, Sean flew in – we did this very early in the shoot; I mean, we shot this sequence long, long before we ever shot Moria, long before –. In fact, Ian McKellen hadn’t even arrived in New Zealand to start working when this scene was shot – so they were all reacting to Gandalf’s death without having ever even seen Ian McKellen dressed up as Gandalf. This was late 1999, and Ian didn’t start work on the movie until January 2000, so it was one of those weird scenes where we found ourselves filming this without having shot anything leading up to it at all.

Fran: It was not Orlando’s first day, but probably his third day of shooting, ever, wasn’t it?

Peter: It was, yeah, and I love the way that Orlando does that reaction where he reacts to the death.

Fran: Yes, it’s great.

Peter: It’s like an Elf… Because Elves are immortal, we wanted to give the impression that he didn’t quite understand death [Fran: Mmm.] and he was having to, somehow, grapple with the concept of death, because it was foreign to him.

Philippa: I remember Elijah saying you gave him a great note here, Pete [screen cap]: when you asked him to turn, you said, “I want your grief to be frightening. I want it to be so powerful…

Peter: Yeah, I wanted to scare an audience [Philippa: Yeah, that’s right.] to see what’s on your face, yeah. (beat)

Lothlórien >>

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.