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EE Commentary Transcripts

The Black Gate is Closed

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Peter (cont.): [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.

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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.