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Philippa (cont.): [screen fades to black] Yay!

Peter: So, you know, it’s interesting because… I mean, I… I don’t really regard this version of the film as being the director’s cut: I think that the term ‘director’s cut’ implies something that’s not true, you know, it implies that the director somehow wasn’t happy first time round, and I was very happy with the theatrical version of the film; you know, we had certain considerations because nobody wanted to release a movie that was too long, or felt too long. You know, the thing that I guess I missed from the theatrical version is that most of the trims we made were to do with the characters, were to do with little moments between Merry and Pippin, or Legolas and Gimli, Boromir and Aragorn; and so it is nice to have this alternate version of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, this longer version, which has a lot of those moments fleshed out. And I think that the wonderful thing about the DVD format is the fact that, you know, it allows you to present you with an alternate version of the film – it doesn’t replace the theatrical version, it simply allows people to see more of what the theatrical version was.

Philippa: It’s telling more of the tale: it’s being able to show [Peter: Yeah.] more of it.

Fran: It was a hugely daunting task to be taking on these books, and in a way, we felt we had to give ourselves as much permission to deviate and as much creative latitude as possible, and so that was our starting off point: “Don’t be afraid to make changes”; and we made a lot of changes – we did! – in our first passes, we thought, “Well, what do we need to do in order to get this functioning as a screen story?” and then, having done that on, you know, a few drafts, we started to feel secure enough to start to adjust the screenplays back to book – it was like, once we had a really firm sense of how the stories could play, it was like, “Okay, now retrieve it and make it the story that everybody knows and loves” and that –. That was not a, sort of, conscious path that we plotted, it was just the way it organically happened: that we really wanted to give the fans of the book something that they would love, and a story that would reflect the book in a truthful way; and there’s always a tension between doing that and also creating something which is cinematically satisfying. So, we started off regarding the needs of cinema, and then came back to the needs of the people who love this book, and hopefully we found some sort of balance.

Philippa: Tackling this huge task was… It found its own path, it found its own level; and it was extraordinary, the places you found yourself in with the old laptop open and pages and books scattered around; and there were many times when Fran, Peter and myself found ourselves on the sides of volcanoes with [laughs] people walking around in prosthetics, trying to do rewrites. And some hotel rooms: I remember you guys tried to go away for a holiday, which was, like, this fantasy you held onto in your heads, that you were going to get a holiday in July of 2000, during the shooting, and I remember when you were packing, you were packing [laughs] cases full of tapes that you had to review and, of course, we had the script… It just kept [Peter: Yeah.] happening. But you held onto that dream.

Fran: Yes. (beat) I want to make a special mention of Brian, Brian Bansgrove our Gaffer, who is no longer with us. He was very loved by members of the crew and did a fant – and the cast – and he did a fantastic job on this film, and really we would have been sunk without him.

Peter: In a sense, filming ‘The Lord of the Rings’ – the Trilogy of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ – was all in one big hit over fifteen months, you know, it was something that you would not normally do, you know, conventional wisdom would say, “Don’t do it!”; I mean, there were reasons that we did do it: reasons of economy, reasons of being able to release the films one year apart instead of three years apart; but it really laid huge demands on everybody involved, and, you know, the situation was simply one in which everybody just had to put their nose down and get their work done – including the cast – you know, everybody knew what they were involved in: there was no room for people who were complaining, no room for people that found it too hard or too difficult; you just had to do your job with the minimum degree of fuss and not place added pressure on anybody else. And I’m forever grateful for that, for the cast and the crew, you know, everybody was feeling stressed because it was so long but they didn’t dump it on me, they knew that I was carrying enough of my own, and so, you know, it ended up being an incredibly arduous, long shoot, but with a minimal amount of complaining, and a really great spirit [Philippa agrees], which I think everybody felt, “Well, I can’t complain, because the next person has got just as much of a problem as I have getting through this, and…”

Philippa: I think the reason nobody complained, Pete, is because you were… They were… I mean, I remember Elijah saying this: whenever he got tired, he’d just look across at you and know that you… your day wasn’t over. You had four hours of dailies to watch; and he always felt that if you could do it, he could do it. And I think a lot of them were doing it for you.

Peter: You know, if you stop to think too much about what you’re involved in, you would start to worry about it, you know, if you rationalise it too much; and it became a process of really just putting your head down and thinking about what you were doing in the week – it was working, like, one week ahead. Lots of times, as the pressure really went on, we’d be walking onto sets and the paint wasn’t even dry, you know. I mean, I remember Alan Lee, our wonderful conceptual artist who did the most brilliant pencil sketches and delicate watercolour paintings of scenes… you know, we arrived at the set of Rivendell, which was something that he had conceptualised and designed, and Grant Major had ultimately built it; and the set wasn’t really finished at the time the trucks were arriving and the gear was being unloaded and the actors were in make up, and Alan was there with a five inch paint brush actually painting the set [Peter and Philippa laugh] furiously! And then we’d tell the crew, “Don’t lean on this wall because the paint’s not dry yet!” and, you know, it was pretty much… It became something which we planned for a long, long time: we, you know, we knew what we were going into – we had a lot of it planned – but nonetheless it was a seat-of-your-pants operation, really, that we were… We were revising the script, we were editing the movie as we were going, figuring out ways to improve it all the time; the art department got to the point where they started the movie with, you know, lots of sets built and complete, but of course, as the schedule moved on, they had less and less time because sets would have to be torn down and that studio space would have to be turned into a different set. They got to the point that they were building huge sets from scratch in the space of five or six days, with nothing to us being on the set shooting. The fact that it was three films at once certainly created this rolling steam train that you just couldn’t jump off it – it was rolling and it was just going to go with you or without you [Philippa agrees], and you had to somehow keep running in front of the train laying the tracks.

Philippa: This was a crew that always went there and had faith and that sudden inspiration.

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The Lord of the Rings and its content does not belong to me, it is property of the Tolkien Estate;  the commentaries transcribed here, as well as the images used, are the property of New Line Cinema.