We wouldn’t have huge fantasy movie franchises as we know them today if we didn’t have Lord of the Rings. That’s not just coming from me as a die-hard fan of the world of Middle Earth, that’s a fact. If Peter Jackson hadn’t taken a chance on Lord of the Rings and made them exactly how he thought the movies needed to be made, we wouldn’t have gotten amazing movies out of it, and on top of that, the fantasy movie genre wouldn’t be as popular and mainstream as it is now. While much of that can be attributed to the accomplishments of the crew, a lot of the success of Lord of the Rings has to do with the way the world fell in love with the cast. If you’re a die hard fan like us, you might think you know everything about this particular cast. Over the years, we’ve learned an awful lot about them, but here are 16 things you may not know.
16. Everybody Was Injured During The Running Scenes In The Two Towers
You might not believe this, but everybody who did the running at the beginning of the second Lord of the Rings movie was injured in a way that makes running very difficult, especially on the rocky terrain those scenes take place on. Viggo Mortensen, who played Aragorn, had broken two of his toes filming another scene in the same movie (you can actually see the moment his toes break in the final cut of the film). Meanwhile, Orlando Bloom, who played Legolas, had cracked a rib falling off a horse, and Gimli scale double Brett Beatty (who’s in the movie almost as much as John Rhys-Davies) had dislocated his knee. There was no way to have stunt doubles do the running for them, either, because of the way the scene needed to be shot, so according to Peter Jackson, the running scenes starred “the walking wounded.”
15. John Rhys-Davies Was Allergic To His Prosthetic Makeup
If you’re like me and your allergies manifest on your skin, you know that dealing with allergic breakouts can be a special kind of hell. I couldn’t imagine having to intentionally put my skin through that, but that’s exactly what John Rhys-Davies, the actor behind both Gimli and Treebeard, did. According to The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition’s appendices, Rhys-Davies would need a couple of days off after he got the prosthetics done to let his skin heal, because the prosthetics would eat through the layers of skin around his eyes. According to him, the experience made him a bit more of a loner on set, because he was really self-conscious about it. However, the experience didn’t really hamper his performance, because he did a really good job with Gimli.
14. The Makeup For The Hobbits Took Over Two Hours
Some of us don’t even take two hours to get ready for work every morning, so the idea of taking an hour to have a wig glued onto your head every morning, let alone having to stand upright for an hour and a half to have prosthetic feet set on, might sound like a nightmare. However, that was the life of being a Hobbit on the set of Lord of the Rings. A feature on The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition showed Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan waking up at the crack of dawn to have their feet and wigs put on, then took the audience through an average day on set for them. On top of that, it would take a little less time than that to get everything off after the day was over, so that’s that much more additional time. Personally, whenever I’m annoyed that I have to spend a ton of time getting ready, I remember that I don’t have to get prosthetic feet painted on and I’m suddenly much more appreciative of my routine.
13. Viggo Mortensen Used To Headbutt The Other Cast Members
There are a lot of stories about Viggo Mortensen’s presence within the cast, which makes sense because he’s a really dynamic sort of guy. Bob Anderson, the fight coordinator and stunt trainer, said that Mortensen was the best swordsman he’d ever worked with, which is pretty crazy considering Bob Anderson has also worked on Star Wars. He’s also kissed a couple of members of The Fellowship, bought the horse he worked with during the second movie, carried a sword around with him everywhere he went in New Zealand, and broke teeth and bones shooting these movies in general. However, the story about him that made us laugh the most was the headbutting he used to do among the cast members, or as Elijah Wood called it “spontaneous, violent love.” The stunt guys also used to do it, and they got Orlando Bloom good with that.
12. Sean Bean Didn’t Like Helicopters
You might not know this about the future Ned Stark, but Sean Bean really does not like helicopters. After an incident getting to a location during the filming of The Fellowship of the Ring, Sean Bean decided that he would do anything within his power to not have to get inside one again. That meant having to hike for hours in full Boromir costume to get to locations. If you think your commute is bad, try having to climb mountains for two hours with a sword on your belt and a shield on your back while your coworkers are all being airlifted in.
11. Sean Astin Was A Safety Nut
Speaking of helicopters, Sean Bean isn’t the only cast member to have interesting stories about them. Sean Astin had no problem getting into a helicopter, but multiple cast members have stories of Astin quizzing the pilots about safety protocols. The other three hobbits told a story on The Fellowship DVD Appendices about Sean Astin not taking part in the fun they were having because he wanted to direct helicopter traffic. They also take time to acknowledge that Sean Astin was unique among the hobbits because he wasn’t there by himself, he was there with his wife, Christine, and their daughter, so his experience filming the movie and in New Zealand was totally different than if he’d been a single guy like the rest of them.
10. Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan Recorded A Song Together
Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan are the pinnacle of bromance. From fake interviews to boxing matches and debates about World of Warcraft, they did a lot together, both on the set of Lord of the Rings and afterwards. One thing you might not know though, is the song they recorded for Viggo Mortensen’s album, Pandemoniumfromamerica, back in 2003. You might not have heard of it, but if you were like me, your Lord of the Rings fandom went so deep that you tracked down and bought anything that had to do with it, so I heard the song “Half Fling” when it came out, and it was my ringtone for years. You can listen to it here, but be forewarned: it’s a weird song, especially if you’re not ready for it.
9. Andy Serkis Once Ripped Sean Astin’s Wig Clean Off His Head
Remember when we talked about the ordeal the Hobbits had to go through in order to look like hobbits every day? Now imagine having all of that done, and then having it ripped clean off your head. That’s what happened to Sean Astin one day filming the Black Gate scenes of The Two Towers. The story was told by him, Andy Serkis and Elijah Wood, who were there for those scenes. According to the three of them, Andy Serkis pulled Sean and Elijah back as part of the scene, but grabbed Sean’s wig along with his cloak and ended up pulling the whole thing off. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, and according to Sean it didn’t even really hurt all that much, but the story is proof that even the best of friends and companions can have issues sometimes, and the important thing is how you handle it.
8. Billy Boyd Composed The Song He Sang For Return of The King
One of the coolest parts of Return of the King was hearing Billy Boyd sing a song that the hobbits sing during the first book, since the movies cut out a lot of the singing that shows up in the original material (if you think the Lord of the Rings movies had some unexpected singing, the books are practically a musical in comparison). So it was awesome when we found out that not only did Boyd make the soundtrack, he came up with the tune for the song as well. On top of that, the song was used for the trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, which is particularly noteworthy because Pippin, the character Boyd played, wasn’t even born during the events of The Hobbit. Additionally, Billy Boyd also sang the credits song for Armies, which is pretty awesome considering that the credits songs have been nominated for Oscars.
7. Brad Dourif Spoke In An Accent The Entire Time He Was Shooting
Brad Dourif, who played Grima Wormtongue in the movies, is an American actor who won an Oscar for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Needless to say, he’s a very well known actor who’s known for being exceptionally talented. He was such a method actor shooting the movies that he never spoke in his own voice for the entire time. He spoke in Grima’s gravely accent for weeks and months, to the point where everyone was sure he wasn’t American.
Needless to say, it was an incredible surprise for everyone when he started speaking normally with an American accent. Bernard Hill, who played Theoden actually recalled thinking that Brad’s real accent sounded put upon and fake!
6. Orlando Bloom Was Cast In The Movies Straight Out Of School
A lot of actors ended up in the public eye and in the mainstream world thanks to the Lord of the Rings movies, in large part due to Peter Jackson’s insistence on casting internationally and not wanting too many recognizable faces in the movies. However, no actor embodies the idea of the “big break” quite like Orlando Bloom. Two days after his graduation, he was cast in Lord of the Rings, and from there his career took off by doing major fantasy movies like the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Troy and Kingdom of Heaven. He then went on to marry a Victoria’s Secret model and is currently dating Katy Perry. On top of that, he was one of the actors who got to come back to New Zealand for the Hobbit movies.
5. Liv Tyler Was Almost Fighting At Helm’s Deep
In early drafts of the script, Liv Tyler‘s character, Arwen Undomiel, was going to be fighting alongside Aragorn and the Rohan soldiers. That meant that Tyler went through the same stunt and combat training that the other actors did, and even went so far as to shoot scenes of her fighting at Helm’s Deep. That was a move that made hordes of book fans absolutely livid, which put her at the center of a lot of internet ire. However, that was eventually scrapped in favor of mining the book’s appendices to tell Arwen’s story in the way it was originally written. Honestly, this was one of the best things the movies could have done, not only because it was faithful to the source material, but because it would have been really crazy if Arwen had gotten to fight at Helm’s Deep and Eowyn didn’t.
4. Christopher Lee Is A Huge Fan Of The Series
Christopher Lee is an incredible actor who’s had a storied career. However, he’s way more interesting than his filmography. He read the books once a year, every year, and actually wrote to Tolkien a few times. They’d developed enough of a rapport that Tolkien said that he’d be okay with Lee being in the movies, which is a major compliment considering Tolkien let the film rights go for nothing because he thought the books were basically unfilmable. That meant that the writer of Lord of the Rings thought Christopher Lee was so cool, he approved him to play one of his characters. That’s basically like your favorite author saying that he’d be cool with you playing your favorite character in your favorite book. On top of that, Christopher Lee made a symphonic metal album called Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross, which has nothing to do with the Lord of the Rings franchise, it’s just awesome.
3. Filming Treebeard Was Way More Complicated Than You Think
Anyone who knows the first thing about movies knows that bringing certain things to life takes more work than others. That goes doubly so for characters that need to have life brought into them by animators, prop masters, and voice actors, like Treebeard. In order to bring him to life, the prop masters over at Weta Workshops created a giant Treebeard puppet that had little hands in it where Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd would sit, and according to them, these were the least comfortable seats ever designed for humans. On top of that, it took several people to get the puppet to move, so while they were doing scenes, there was a ton of stuff happening around them, like puppeteers in blue screen outfits moving the puppet so he’d walk around, Weta Workshop leader Richard Taylor, directing them by shouting, and guys with branches walking around to give the impression that Treebeard was moving in the final product. It takes a lot to be able to filter all of that out and give an emotionally stirring performance, but they and every member of the cast were able to do that.
2. Andy Serkis Went Through A Lot To Bring Gollum To Life
All of the actors in these movies seem to have a crazy story about a unique trial or tribulation they had while filming. For Sean Astin, it was the scenes on the stairs of Cirith Ungol, for Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, it was sitting in Treebeard’s hands and having their family jewels crushed, and for the stunt guys it was the battle of Helm’s Deep. However, no cast member’s struggle was quite like the one Andy Serkis had, not only to bring the character to life, but to prove that what he was doing was actually a performance on par with what any of the other actors were doing.
See, when Andy Serkis was cast, he was only cast to do the voice… until Peter Jackson noticed that in order to bring out that voice, Andy was contorting his face and his body a certain way, so it sort of looked like he was becoming the character. That’s when they thought it would be a good idea to bring him onto the set to act alongside Elijah Wood and Sean Astin, and then the animators in charge of Gollum would use his performance as a reference to guide what they were doing. That eventually led to Andy driving the character during animation time, too, so in a very large portion of these movies, what we’re watching is an actual person’s performance with an animated character on top of it. The scene where Gollum is talking to split personalities? That’s all Andy. The scene where Gollum’s chasing a fish down a river and scrambling down a freezing river? That’s all Andy, too. His performance was actually so good, people were clamoring for him to be nominated for an Oscar, but that didn’t happen since you never saw his face other than that one flashback scene in the third movie.
1. The Fellowship Has The Same Tattoo
The Fellowship of the cast, if you will, had formed lifelong bonds in New Zealand, so they commemorated that with a group tattoo.
“We felt the experience was both wonderful enough and profound enough to have ourselves branded,” Wood said, “so we went ahead and did that about a week before we finished.”
The tattoo is the Elvish script word for nine (Peter Jackson got a similar tattoo, but he got the number 10 in elvish script). The only member of the Fellowship who didn’t do it was John Rhys-Davies, who sent his scale double Brett Beatty to do it:
“The elvish tattoo was designed but, as I am a professional actor, whenever there’s anything dangerous or that involves blood, I sent my stunt double to do it.”
Elijah Wood got his tattoo on his hip, Sean Astin and Billy Boyd got it on their ankles, Orlando Bloom got it on his wrist, Dominic Monaghan, Ian McKellen and Sean Bean got them on their right shoulders, and Viggo Mortensen got it on his left shoulder. No matter how you feel about tattoos, you have to admit that this is literally what #squadgoals are all about.