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EE Commentary Transcripts
Prologue: One Ring to Rule Them All

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Peter: Hi, I’m Peter Jackson, the director and co-writer and producer of ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

Fran: Hi, I’m Fran. I have a writing credit in the film and a producing credit.

Philippa: Hi, I’m Philippa Boyens, and I only have a writing credit on the film.

Peter: And we’re up here in our office in Miramar, New Zealand, having a look at this movie: a little bit of a different version to what you’re used to seeing in the theatres. This is the Extended Cut version. We’ve got a few new scenes that none of you have seen before, so it’ll be fun to talk about those. (beat) I think the beginning of the movie was probably the hardest thing, both in terms of conceiving it and writing it, and when we edited the film, it was really difficult, and everything else seemed simple in comparison.

Philippa: [to Peter] Very early on, though, you knew you wanted something quite lyrical as the very, very opening thing, and you knew very early on that you wanted to open in black.

Fran: When we did early drafts of the script we attempted to write the prologue, and it became so over-stuffed with information, and so, sort of, overburdened with its own enormity, that we eventually decided we didn’t need one.

Peter: And we shot, obviously, everything for the prologue when we were doing the original photography, but then I remember that as we got into post-production and cutting, we felt that the prologue was possibly redundant, and we developed an entirely different opening, which was more revolving around Hobbits and what Hobbits are.

Fran: And so we left the prologue behind, and we thought: whatever information we haven’t got can come out in Bag End with Gandalf and Frodo, and he can speak to that. We wrote several different kitchen scenes in Bag End with Gandalf throwing light on the events of the past.

Peter: And I remember the decision to go back and revisit the idea of the prologue, and to put the prologue back in happened when we were about to leave New Zealand to fly to London to do the scoring.

Fran: What happened was, we screened the movie for New Line, and one of their key and mandatory notes was, “You must have a prologue!” which was, for us, sort of like, “Oh, God, we’re back there again!”: it had become a sort of hell for us, and so we found ourselves in England, recording the score with an AVID machine jammed into one of the rooms in the house; our editor John Gilbert came over with a bunch of footage and it was up to us, at that point, to construct the prologue, and this had to happen, sort of, during the time that we were also doing the score. It was a big strain! It was quite a hard thing!

Peter: And, basically, the exact cut that’s in the movie now is what got done in London during that period of time. (beat) [Last Alliance] I always had the idea of doing a big battle in the prologue: it was really one of the attractions, and I looked at it in the sense of, you know, opening a James Bond film, where, you know, they always have there prologue with some real balls-to-the-wall kind of action scene, and I’ve always loved that as a concept in film because, as a device, it plucks you out of the world that you’ve been in that day: you’re now in a cinema in the hands of the filmmakers, and suddenly you’re being put into this incredible action sequence; you are given no time to think: you’ve only just sat down to watch the film, and there’s all this stuff going on, and then by the time a prologue like that finishes, you’re sort of totally in the hands of the filmmaker, and I wanted to do something similar. Obviously, we’re telling the story of the Ring, but I thought that a battle would be a great way to start, and the story obviously gives us the battle with the Last Alliance, where Sauron is destroyed.

Fran: Here was the place, the one place, that we were going to demonstrate the depth of his power, and if we failed to do that, then he really wasn’t going to be very credible for three whole movies, so we knew it was very important that we sell him as this terrible and omnipotent, all-powerful force.

Philippa: [to Peter] A lot of these images, you had in your mind right from the treatment; I remember from the ninety page treatment: nothing changed, not over the five years.

Peter: Isildur is played by Harry Sinclair, who is a long-term friend of ours: we’ve known Harry for about ten or twelve years. Harry himself is a director: he has directed three feature films.

Philippa: I think, if I remember rightly, you and Fran were trying to find the most corrupt and venal person you knew, wasn’t it? [Peter laughs] And you thought about Harry!

Peter: Well, yes [Philippa laughs], [?go there in a second]

Fran: The other thing that was really hard about the prologue was: from what point of view do you tell the story? And I think that in past attempts we told it through the point of view of Isildur solely, or we’d try to tell it from a kind of ‘God’s Eye’ point of view; we tried all of these different points of view, but in the end, it wasn’t until we came to understand that the Ring is, in fact, a protagonist in the story, and in many ways it’s an antagonist, and that what we should do is tell the prologue from the Ring’s point of view. It’s: Who makes it; for what purpose; how they lose it; who it comes to; and who it then passes to. That’s the story of the prologue, and when that became clear to us, it was much easier to do.

Peter: [Isildur jumps in the River with the Ring] The footage we’ve added here does show the process of how the Ring ultimately caused Isildur’s death much clearer than what was in the theatrical version. (beat) The length of the prologue was always a little bit of a debate. Once we got to the point when we knew a prologue was going to be in the film, it was the very last stages of post-production, and New Line started to impose rules on us – which they’d never done before – they started to say, “Well, you can have a prologue, but it’s got to be no longer than two minutes”, and our prologue is actually seven and a half minutes, and it was really –. In a way, it was one of our biggest fights we ever had with the studio, and it was strange, because it was the very last thing that happened before the film was finished: we’d been making this movie for three or four years, with a very good relationship, and needless to say, we won the battle, because we just felt, you know, you can’t make a prologue like this with all of this information in a two minute length of time.

Philippa: And, what we did find in the process of writing the prologue, which was really valuable, is: you can overload, of course, and one of those things that went into overload in the earlier drafts was the prologue was the excessive use of proper names, straight from Tolkien, and such as naming Narsil, such as naming the lance of Gil-galad… in fact, even naming Gil-galad himself – it just was too much information, and it wasn’t really until Pete got in there in post that you could feel the weight of, just, excessive information. (beat) [The Ring crashes against the rocks in the Misty Mountains] Ngila Dixon our costume designer worked very hard where, even if there were descriptions of clothing made by Professor Tolkien in any of his works, they were followed almost to the letter. [Bilbo finds the Ring] If you look closely, you’ll see that Bilbo’s vest does indeed have brass buttons: these are the brass buttons that famously pop off when he tries to escape as is told in ‘The Hobbit’.

Peter: Oh, yes! The read waistcoat with brass buttons! (beat) To make Ian Holm look younger, we attached –. We glued some tabs to the side of his cheeks, and pulled his skin back underneath his wig to pull the wrinkles out, because, obviously, Bilbo Baggins as seen in the prologue is sixty years younger than as we see him later on in Bag End.

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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.