The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy has been around for what seems like forever. In fact, I remember when the first film made it to theaters. I used to work at the movie theater (free movies were the best), so it was a lot of fun when people came out to see it in masses (insert sarcasm here). I knew nothing about the storyline, and didn’t care back then. I watched anything and everything for the simple joy of watching movies. What I remember thinking at first was how long they were; only to be longer with “bonus” features upon the DVD releases. Then, I remember thinking how the hell do I remember these characters’ names? Who was the attractive blonde elf? Elijah Wood is back! Gandalf is my road dog. You know, things of that nature.
When The Hobbit films made their way to the silver screen, I was even more excited to see that world make a comeback. Well, in my case, mainly Legolas—of course. Anyway, we are to focus on some pretty great films with a lot of storyline, a lot of complicated names and fictional worlds, and beautiful back drops.
I myself still haven’t made my way to reading the books (which I generally find books to be better because they can afford more detail than a movie), but it’s on my list. Since this post is about the films, we will focus on the fact that I have seen all three, and all three numerous times. In fact, one Saturday when I had the rare occasion of zero adult responsibilities, I watched the LOTR trilogy on TBS. Don’t judge me; I paused my TiVo once that day to drive to Smoothie King and grab a refreshing beverage. It worked out for me because I could fast forward through commercials (I know you understand how blissful that is). Also fun fact; I got all three movies on a Black Friday sale for a whopping total of… $3.00. I know a good deal when I see one.
So, let’s get into some fun trivia about these three films…
16. Orlando Bloom Landed His Role Before Finishing School
Speaking of that attractive blonde. Bloom (also known for Pirates of the Caribbean; 2003) was just two days shy of finishing drama school—Guildhall School of Music and Drama—when he landed the role of Legolas. The school he attended served him well because he’s had a pretty successful career since. It could also be the accent.
Since he wasn’t well known until after the movie, I genuinely thought Bloom had blonde hair and blue eyes. He looks good either way, so no disappointment here. I’m sure Bloom is thankful for having played Legolas, because wouldn’t you? Flying to beautiful locations and getting paid to be a complete badass? I’m in the wrong line of work, possibly…
15. Viggo Mortensen Chipped A Tooth And Kept Going
Mortensen (Aragorn) chipped a tooth during a fight sequence. He was so dedicated, he wanted director, Peter Jackson, to freaking superglue the chipped portion back on so he could finish his scene (what??). Instead, Jackson took him to the dentist during his lunch break, had it fixed proper, and then returned to the set that same afternoon.
I can only imagine the world created during the filming of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), but given his response, I would venture to guess that it all felt completely real. Wouldn’t it have to feel real for this dude who had a chipped tooth to be all, “glue it, let’s keep this thing rolling”? I tip my hat to you Mortensen; #dedicatedactor.
14. Liv Tyler Accidentally Stabbed Herself
During filming the “If you want him, come and claim him!” scene she messed up and unfortunately hurt herself. Footage was later featured in the bloopers and outtakes of the film.
I think I may have to dust off my DVDs and see the bloopers and outtakes to see if she found at all any humor in stabbing herself. Was it like an adrenaline thing and she just went with it? Did she break character and scream rightful cries of pain? These are immediate questions I need answered; and kudos to you if you already know.
But just so you all know, Liv Tyler will forever live in my heart as Corey Mason who was utterly excited for “Rex Manning Day.” If that is way before your time, do yourself a favor and rent/buy Empire Records (1995). You are welcome.
13. Eggs Were A Staple Throughout Filming
Yes, breakfast food eggs. Now I cannot speak to the quality of said eggs; nor if they were scrambled, over easy, hard boiled, soft boiled… well you get the idea of what I mean. But a whopping 1,460 eggs were served to both the cast and crew for breakfast. They were served for breakfast for every day of shooting.
I know what you’re thinking: that’s a f*%k ton of eggs. Now I wonder if it was an assembly line situation? Or were there servers? How many cooks did it take every day to feed some “hangry” cast and crew? Inquiring minds want to know. I am also sure if I looked hard enough, google would lead me in the right direction.
12. Script Rewrites Were Constant
Essentially, the scripts were being rewritten every day of the sixteen (16) month shoot. Most of these rewrites were with the added input from the actors portraying these characters; at this point, they were all heavily involved with their characters. I thought this little tidbit was pretty awesome. Mainly because the actors were trusted to do right by their characters.
I have often wondered what the behind the scenes look like on film productions of this magnitude. Screen rewrites; injured actors and stunt men; things of that nature. And then, one has to wonder even with added input from actors, did it become any harder to remember what your lines were if they are ever changing? Honestly, the names of the characters and the places they travel to can be a pronunciation nightmare all on its own. #professionals.
11. The Timeline Is Way Different On Film
So, do you remember when Gandalf (played by the great Ian McKellen) dipped out to do some research on the Ring and tried to find Gollum? Do you also remember how in the movie it seemed to be somewhere around a week and then that wonderful Gandalf graced us again with his presence?
Yeah, in the book when Gandalf does that and then returns to send Frodo on his epic adventure? It was a span of seventeen (17) years. Yes, you indeed read that correctly. Seventeen years. This may not seem like a big deal to those who have actually read the books (please don’t judge me as I actually am an avid reader), but like Frodo, didn’t you miss Gandalf??
10. All Of These Actors Got Injured
Moving right along to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002). When we, the audience, watch the visual masterpiece of the wide shots which show Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Gimli (Brett Beattie—Gimli’s [John Rhys-Davies] stunt double) running after the Orcs, all three men were running with injuries of some kind.
Bloom, with a couple of broken ribs (from falling off a horse); Mortensen, with a broken toe (from kicking a helmet in the Orcs funeral pyre scene); and Beattie, with a knee injury. Director Peter Jackson went on to say that all three were very dedicated and continued to film the scene, often yelling “ouch” or “ow” after “cut” was called.
9. The Orcs Used Liquorice Mouthwash
Since we are all pretty aware that the Orcs have black blood, common sense would suggest that naturally the inside of their mouths should black as well. I think we were all on the same page for that, correct? Well, to make this happen, the Orc actors had to swish a liquorice-based mouthwash prior to each of their scenes.
Honestly, things could be a lot worse. I found that little tidbit of information to be pretty interesting since I had other thoughts as to how they achieved that look. However, I detest liquorice flavored anything, so it would have been a definite challenge for me. And as I just typed that, my immediate thought was to scold myself in the form of “first world problems.” You don’t have to worry, I hold myself accountable, people.
8. Rendering Gollum Was A Long Process
To render Gollum (played by Andy Serkis), it would most often take six hours for a single shot, so WETA (also known as Weta Workshop; a world-leading design and effects facility) would leave the shot to render overnight, and then check the results in the morning. Every now and again a computer glitch would occur, thus messing up a shot. For example, one morning the team woke up to find every hair on Gollum’s head standing straight up in a punk-like afro; or his eyes would pop in and out of his head as he spoke.
Can we get some behind the scenes for this WETA? That would a pretty great bonus. Gollum was one of my favorite characters. Even with his split personalities, I cared for him either way and felt terrible when what happened to him was explained in full detail.
7. Spears Were Made Of Cardboard
The battle of Helm’s Deep featured hundreds of spears made of cardboard tubes. This was so that none of the charging horses would be injured. Can we get a round of applause for not hurting the beautiful horses, please? It bothers be terribly when horses (or any animal, really) are hurt or collapse. I can’t explain it, but it bothers me much more than when humans die. I know that sounds weird, but I can’t possibly be the only person in the world who feels that way.
Do you remember this battle? It was a rainy night, and elves who shot arrows at a sniper status were all in tow. I hope you remembered this battle, and if you don’t for some reason? YouTube. It’s right up there with Google in my opinion.
6. Legolas and Aragorn Drop a 300 Reference
Speaking of the battle of Helm’s Deep… When Legolas (Bloom) is talking to Aragorn (Mortensen) right before the battle, he refers to 300 against 10,000. This happens to be an actual reference to the Battle of Thermopolyae; the one where 300 Spartans killed 10,000 Persians. Ringing any bells?
Well, David Wenham (who portrayed Faramir in LOTR) would later go on to star in the action biopic 300 (2006) about the Battle of Thermopolyae. That’s got to be a good feeling to portray characters in not one, but two very popular movie franchises. Although, I don’t know that two movies about Thermoplyae constitutes a franchise in any capacity, but you get what I’m saying.
5. Billy Boyd Can Really Sing
Okay people, we have arrived at trivia for the last movie in the trilogy: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). So, the scene where Billy Boyd (Pippin) sings, largely stems from Philippa Boyens (writer for LOTR). When she went for a night out at a karaoke bar with the younger male cast members, she was very struck by the quality of Boyd’s voice.
When she remembered that in the film Denethor asks Pippin to sing him a song when Faramir heads off to war, she brought back to life the lyrics from the novel, while Boyd himself came up with the tune for it.
If he can dance as well, he’d be a triple threat. Let’s face it, in Hollywood you have to be able to do more than one thing to stick out. Boyd’s singing scene was definitely one I remember. Also, I thought Pippin was great in the films.
4. Elijah Wood Can Stare Forever Without Blinking
Wood (who portrayed Frodo, obviously) is noted for his ability to stare fixedly in front of him for ages without blinking. This little gift became very useful for the scenes where he was comatose as Frodo and wrapped up in Shelob’s web-like cocoon.
When I saw this tidbit of trivia, I immediately thought of him in Sin City (2005) and his role as Kevin. Although the aesthetics are of a different context, he did have a very creepy stare about him. He also did horrible things to people in that movie, but the stare. You guys, the stare. He also played another creeper in the movie Maniac (2012), which I didn’t get all the way through because I wasn’t mentally prepared for what I witnessed.
3. Stuart Townsend Was Almost Aragorn
Townsend was just a young 26-year-old set to play Aragorn. In a twist of unfortunate events, he was let go after the six weeks of training and rehearsal he endured; which was also one day into filming. This happened because director Peter Jackson felt the character of Aragorn should be played by someone older. He was replaced by 41-year-old Viggo Mortensen.
I’m not saying that I didn’t think Mortensen was definitely the right choice for Aragorn, but poor Stuart Townsend, guys. If you aren’t familiar with his work, what comes to my mind instantly is Queen of the Damned (2002) in where he played the vampire, Lestat (this also happened to be the last film the singer, Aaliyah, filmed. May she rest in peace).
2. Bernard Hill Knows How To Pick A Role
If you don’t know Bernard Hill by name, he was the actor who portrayed King Théoden of Rohan in both The Two Towers and Return of the King. Return of the King specifically was the second movie featuring Hill that earned eleven (11) Academy Awards.
If you had trouble guessing the first film he was in that earned eleven Academy Awards, why, that would be Titanic (1997). I’m sure given enough guesses you would have nailed it. He played the ever respectable Captain Edward James who went down with his ship. One of the saddest (among the sea of sadness) moments in Titanic, no doubt.
1. All Three Films Were Shot Simultaneously
Guys, ALL of the films were shot concurrently: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).
Want to know how long this back-to-back shoot lasted? A record 274 days… in 16 months. Turns out it’s exactly the same time as taken for the principal photography of Apocalypse Now (1979). But back to this LOTR filming craziness. The shooting for these three films took almost an entire continuous year. That’s insane, and I truly understand why so many actors were either hesitant to take on a role in this trilogy, or said no altogether.
On one hand I think, that’s so many days to be away from friends and family; on the other, I would totally go to these beautiful locations with what I’m sure became a family-like atmosphere on set.
Life is all about taking chances, right?