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EE Commentary Transcripts
Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

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<< Gollum and Sméagol

Peter (cont.): … and he was Sméagol, Gollum, Sméagol, Gollum, without stopping, one to the other; and he’d do the transitions in between, so that he’d turn his head, Gollum would emerge, he’d be Gollum; then he’d turn back and be, kind of, Sméagol again, and he put all those transitions into it. But when we edited the scene together, we found that it got really unnerving if you just edited the transitions out, so it became a much tighter conversation between the two characters, without seeing the change. And then occasionally we’d show it [Fran: Mmm.] just to remind people what was happening, but when you just cut directly from a Gollum-Sméagol, and they were in a slightly different position with different expressions, it really, kind of, became a bit unnerving. It was a fun scene to cut, in actual fact.

Fran: And it’s in moments like this – “stupid, fat hobbit!” – there’s an unexpected comedy there, because Sam reacts to being called fat [Peter laughs], which, I think, kind of shifts it out of being any kind of animated character, and –

Philippa: Oh, totally!

Fran: – to just two people in a scene having an interaction: it kind of takes it right out of any sense of…

Peter: There’s actually something of Andy’s performance left in this scene: the one little bit of Andy Serkis you see is the spit flying through the air. There’s a shot where Gollum spits, and we used Andy’s spit that happened on the day [Peter and Philippa laugh, screen cap], and we just painted him out but kept the spit!

Philippa: We also wanted to show here that there’s almost a working… workable relationship now emerging between Sam and Gollum, and even though they’re bickering, there’s kind of a level of good humour underneath it all, or at least acceptance.

Peter: [at same time as Philippa] It’s a lighter scene.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: It’s a scene that actually has something of the spirit of the relationship in the books, doesn’t it?

Philippa: [in agreement] Mmm. Before it’s all ruined.

Peter: I mean, everybody seems to remember ‘Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit’.

Philippa: They do.

Peter: It’s a great, memorable chapter.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: And it was one that we really wanted to put into the movie.

Philippa: Yeah.

Fran: We met Andy through the Hubbards, who did the casting in England, and they did an initial sweep through the main rôles, and they presented Andy on a tape, first of all: we saw him and then we met him.

Philippa: Looking mainly for the voice of Gollum at that stage, weren’t we?

Fran: We were, yeah. And I remember the tape was memorable because he was sort of slavering and spitting all over the camera, and, you know, [Peter: Yeah] he went for it in a way that nobody else did.

Peter: Yeah, yeah.

Fran: There were kind of like radio-type voices there, and then there was Andy, who was like, just completely manic. Immediately he had the kind of energy that you felt the character needed.

Peter: Well what was interesting about that performance in the audition is that we were videotaping the audition even though we were just looking for the voice; what was compelling was actually seeing what he was doing. [Fran agrees] It wasn’t just the voice he was using, it was actually seeing the expressions on his face. Because I remember it was a pretty rough, bad quality video that we ended up with: I remember coming back to New Zealand and having the first, kind of, Gollum conversations with Weta – this was long before we started shooting – and I remember dragging the Andy Serkis tape in to show them, and it wasn’t just like: “Listen to this, this is the voice that we want to use”; it was: “Actually look at what he’s doing, because what he’s doing is really interesting.” And I remember using Andy’s audition tape as an example for Weta of where Gollum might go visually.

Fran: Hmm.

Peter: And so the concept of actually using Andy to be driving the visual performance was something that just naturally evolved, simply because he was so good [laughs] at what he was doing! We wanted to use it! He was doing it as a way of conjuring up the voice, and what he was doing was so compelling to look at that that’s what we wanted to use in the movie. (beat) [The Rangers attack the Oliphaunts] When New Line saw this scene, they didn’t know who these people were and what they were doing and why they were doing it, so we wrote some lines for Gollum to say to explain the plot, basically, at the request of the studio.

Philippa: “Very bad men.” [Fran laughs]

Peter: “They are very bad men!”

Philippa: Yeah!

Peter: And I think at that point, New Line nodded and said, “Oh, okay, we get it. Very bad men, right. Good.”

Philippa: They’re bad… “Servants of Sauron.”

Peter: Servants of Sauron, yes.

Philippa: Mmm hmm.

Peter: Good; but the mûmakil are obviously having a little cameo appearance here – I have to say that the scenes I’ve been looking forward to doing ever since we began the trilogy is the Pelennor Fields battle in ‘Return of the King’, where these creatures attack in their full battle mode. We’re only seeing them here in a very brief appearance, but in the next movie, ‘Return of the King’, they play a great part in one of the climaxes of a battle scene, so I’m still looking forward to doing – I haven’t really started doing that much yet, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s… these are great creatures. (beat) [Frodo and Sam run into the Rangers] This sequence has some new footage that we shot originally as part of the ‘Two Towers’ shoot, and it’s a speech that Sam actually thinks these thoughts that… in the book; and we gave it to Faramir as a speech. I think it does a remarkable job of addressing some of the criticisms of Tolkien, because people say that he’s racist, people say that he’s pro-war; and the words that Faramir says here when he sees the body on the ground, I think can only have been written by somebody who had first-hand experience of war as Tolkien had, and despised it. It’s the words of a soldier who does not know why he’s killing people, does not know why the Enemy is supposed to be different to him; and I can just imagine Tolkien in the First World War, in the trenches, wondering just how different the Germans are, and why they have to kill the Germans and why they deserve to be killed, and do they want to be killed, and are they really evil? And it is very much the thoughts and emotions that I think could only come from a soldier who did not like what he was doing.

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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.