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EE Commentary Transcripts
The White Rider

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Peter (cont.): [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.

The Song of the Entwives >>

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.