One thing I have always loved about film is the little things you find out after viewing them. Like when Tarantino reveals connections to his other movies, or how many takes David Fincher needed to get his shot juuuuust right. Whether it’s a couple days after or 15 years later, discovering little anecdotes and tidbits reignites life into the stories we know and love. True, some of these stories are urban legends and hearsay made up to either boost viewings or sully someone’s name; it’s the truthful ones that really allow me to appreciate the craft of film making.
It’s surprising to think that even after so many years since the Lord of the Rings’ release, we still have unheard stories to hear from the set. From on set injuries to real-life experiences, this list should enlighten you on what the cast and crew had to go through to bring this epic film to our homes. Given some of these have made their rounds on the internet already, that doesn’t mean you have heard them before. Hopefully the one you haven’t heard of are handy morsels for all you trivia buffs out there who love these sort of things. I know I do.
15. The Elvish Tongue – Mix of Welsh, Old Norse, and Icelandic Languages
The Elvish language spoken throughout the film was created just for the movie. However, it wasn’t some random letters and sounds they threw together. Jackson and his team took actual notes by Tolkien on his creation of the language.
Having a large interest in philology, Tolkien loved creating new languages, one of which is the Elvish language Sindarin that we hear in the film. He had constructed it based off of the Welsh, Old Norse and Icelandic languages we know and love today. This wasn’t the only language he developed, though. In fact, by the time he was in his early 20s, he already had multiple languages completed.
14. Fight Scene Took Four Months To Shoot
At the climax of Two Towers, we see our heroes facing off against unimaginable odds. Out-numbered, out-skilled, and out-uglied by Saruman’s army, it’s up to a few hundred to defend against a few thousand. Elves and humans band together for the first time since the War of the Ring, and when things seem most dire, Gandalf arrives with a healthy addition of Rohirrim to aid in the fight. All of this takes place over one night. In fact, the fight is just a few hours long. I bet the cast and crew wish they could say the same. That 20 minute sequence took four months to shoot. One-third of a year for 20 minutes of footage!
13. Commitment to the Role
As Two Towers opens, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are still on the trail of the Uruk-hai that took Merry and Pippin. When they finally come across a scorched pile of dead Uruk’s left behind by a traveling band of Rohirrim, they discover the knife belts belonging to their friends. In a moment of despair and frustration, Aragorn, played by Viggo Mortensen, kicks an Uruk’s helmet on the ground and let’s out a powerful yell. That yell was genuine, as when he kicked the helmet, he broke two of his toes. Instead of yelling cut and seeking medical attention immediately, he ran with it, using the pain to fuel his anger.
12. The Head Bump
When Gandalf first arrives at Bag End for the first time in 60 years, he has a bit of trouble adjusting to the height restrictions of the Hobbit hole. After he passes off his hat and staff to Bilbo, he knocks into a small chandelier and as he turns, smacks his forehead on one of the rafters – hard. The chandelier? Most likely planned, but the head bump was not. However, Sir Ian McKellen kept on going through it. Peter Jackson enjoyed the moment so much he kept it in the final film.
11. Meet Your Maker
Only one cast member met J.R.R Tolkien, the man behind the Lord of the Rings. That cast member was none other than Christopher Lee who had an incredibly-eventful life. This man has an impressive list of accomplishments including the ability to speak Italian, French, German, Spanish, with a little bit of Swedish, Russian, Greek and Mandarin. It served him well when he served with the British Special Forces in WWII.
Interestingly, Tolkien gave Lee his blessing to play Gandalf, should a live action adaptation ever occur.
10. The Big Bloom
Well, it seems inevitable that we would get to see Orlando Bloom in Middle Earth. He was a strong contender for a much smaller role than he got – Faramir. Bloom was still attending the Guildhall School of Music and Drama when he auditioned. He had a few roles already, including Wilde with Stephen Fry, but it just wasn’t enough to get his career jumpstarted. That didn’t happen until he impressed Jackson enough to cast him in a role he didn’t even audition for. Imagine where he’d be today had he not become the light-footed heartthrob we know and love him for – even if he does needlessly show up in other movies…
9. Mr. Bilbo’s Trolls
True fans will have already known this, as well as anyone who made it through the extended editions of the original trilogy. You know those three troll statues you see when Aragorn is trying to mend Frodo’s stab wound? Those are the same three trolls that Bilbo and Gandalf trick into arguing until sunrise. It’s even stated in a brief scene of the extended edition, with Sam saying “Look, Frodo, it’s Mr. Bilbo’s trolls.” It’s a neat little piece of world building, as well as a nod to the true fans of the series. It’s something they easily could have left out, especially since they didn’t know if there was ever going to be an adaptation of The Hobbit.
8. Three Books Condensed In Two Movies?
Early in production, before New Line took over, Miramax wanted to condense the trilogy into two movies. Yes. They wanted to take three books that could easily stand alone and squeeze them all into two over-stuffed, exposition-filled epics. Thankfully, Peter Jackson and the producers kept looking, and New Line Cinema saw the potential in keeping it as a trilogy. Too bad they couldn’t have thought the opposite for The Hobbit trilogy. We would have had less pointless Elf/Dwarf romance and more real story. Although, it was cool to see bits of the Silmarillion brought into the story.
7. Honour Thy Brother
A lot of us probably don’t pay attention to much of the detail put into the wardrobes, but there is plenty of it. From the cloaks the Hobbit’s receive in Rivendell to Aragorn’s crown, the design team put thousands of man hours into perfecting the style of Middle Earth and its people. For those of us that do have a keen eye for details, you may have recognized Aragorn’s wrist bracers, but don’t know why. Well, as we all know, Boromir meets a valiant end in Fellowship and dies in Aragorn’s arms. What we don’t see is that he takes his bracers. Why? You’ll notice Aragorn wearing them in the next two films, to honour his fallen comrade.
6. Licorice Goodness
Orcs and Uruks are the fallen elves of the past, tainted by evil. So it only makes sense that they would have black blood and grimy skin. But did you ever wonder how they managed to make the insides of their mouths black? I mean, body paint wouldn’t stick, you couldn’t use permanent dye, and sticking a prosthetic palette into someone’s mouth seems impractical. The solution? A licorice-based mouthwash. Extras and stuntmen were required to swish around a deliciously-dark mouthwash that kept their mouths and spit as dark as possible. I don’t know about you, but I’d take lead-based paint before licorice mouthwash.
5. Family Ties
While taking a route around the mountains, Gimli suggests taking a shortcut through the Mines of Moria and that his cousin Balin would give them a royal welcome. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Balin is one of the 13 dwarves from The Hobbit. Unfortunately, he has been slain by goblins by the time we see him again – or at least his tomb. And he’s not the only one to ‘posthumously’ been seen again. The skeleton that Gandalf takes the book from, depicting the end of Moria, is that of Oin, who stuck with Balin through their reign under the mountain.
4. Awards Aplenty
There are plenty of movies that have had numerous nominations. Titanic, Gladiator, Lincoln, the list goes on. Despite that, there has only been one move to have won every single award it was nominated for: Return of the King. It swept away the competition, taking Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay. Best, Best, Best… It’s no surprise considering the amount of time, effort and passion that went into every aspect of this series. Even the first two won their fair share of Oscars.
3. Child Stars in the Making?
Many of the kids selected for the trilogy were the children of many LOTR cast members. It would not only save time from having to pick and choose out of a handful of extras, but they could probably get away with doing it for free, too. Hell, if my dad was Aragorn, I would. Peter Jackson’s son is one of the kids Bilbo tells of the trolls in Fellowship; Viggo’s son, Henry, producer Philippa Boyens’ son, as well as Elijah’s little sister all played refugees in Helm’s Deep; and Sean Astin’s daughter, Ali, played one of Samwise’s daughters at the end of Return of the King.
2. I Know What Death Is
I wouldn’t be surprised if you have heard this one before, it has made a few rounds on the Internet. As I mentioned earlier, Christopher Lee served with the British Special Forces during WWII. So while Jackson was directing the scene where Saruman is stabbed in the back by Grima Wormtongue, he tried instructing Lee how to react to taking a knife in the back. Lee interrupted him asking, “Have you ever heard a man who has been stabbed in the back?” Of course, Jackson not being a veteran or a criminal, responded “No.” “I have,” Lee responded.
1. The Battle That Sort Of Was
In the Battle at the Black Gate in Return, Aragorn faces off against a heavily-armored Troll. Well, this was originally supposed to be a one on one with the Dark Lord Sauron himself. In fact, most of it was filmed with a Sauron placeholder. After a review of the screening, though, they decided to take it out, citing that it would take away from Frodo and Sam’s story, as well as not be true enough to Tolkien. The footage was saved however and instead of digitally-inputting the Dark Lord, they replaced it with the troll.