As a movie fan, one of the questions I’ve been asked time and time again is, “what’s your favourite movie of all time?” And to be perfectly honest, I still can’t decide between Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight or the final instalment in Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. In recent months though, I’m starting to lean more towards the latter. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is undoubtedly the movie franchise that I’ve watched the most in my life. I still go on a Lord of the Rings marathon every holiday and tear up along the way. Some of my favourite moments in the film include, Elrond telling Aragorn, “The man who can wield the power of this sword can summon to him an army more deadly than any that walks this earth. Put aside the Ranger. Become who you were born to be. Take the Dimholt Road.” Or that speech he gives right at the climax of Return of the King.
“I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight!! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!!!” – Aragorn AKA Professor Badass
I think it’s safe to say, I LOVE this trilogy. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the 15 most mind blowing facts about The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
15. Christopher Lee is a Huge Lord of the Rings Fan
Christopher Lee’s Saruman is undoubtedly one of cinema’s most iconic villains of all time. Saruman is an extremely well written character with a relatively complex set of emotions and motivations. But if it wasn’t for Christopher Lee’s magnetic performance, the character wouldn’t have been half as great as it ended up being. This says a lot about Christopher Lee as an actor as well as how well he understands the material given to him. When you actually think about it, it’s no surprise, since Christopher Lee is ONLY THE BIGGEST LORD OF THE RINGS FAN, EVER!
Christopher Lee initially read the novels when they were first published in the mid-1950s. That in and of itself is a cool fact. However, it doesn’t stop there. Christopher Lee has since re-read the novels every single year till he passed away in 2015. To put things into perspective, Christopher Lee read the books more than forty times before the film went into production. That’s crazy! I consider myself a HUGE Harry Potter fan and I’ve only read the books 10 times.
14. Christopher Lee as Gandalf
One of the cooler characters in The Lord of the Rings trilogy is that of Gandalf the Grey/Gandalf the White. And after watching these movies over and over and over and over again, I simply cannot imagine anyone other than Magneto himself, Ian McKellen, playing that iconic character. McKellen brings the perfect amount of warmth, comedy and badassery to this character. However, things could have been so much different. The late great Christopher Lee actually wanted to play Gandalf. Christopher Lee even signed on to play the role of a wizard in the TV Series, The New Adventures of Robin Hood specifically to highlight the fact that he has what it takes to play a wizard in The Lord of the Rings.
In addition to that, Christopher Lee even sent Peter Jackson a photo of himself in wizard robes, though he admits that, that was meant to be more of a joke than a convincing audition piece. However, Christopher Lee does admit that by the time The Lord of the Rings franchise started production, he was a little too old to play the action heavy character of Gandalf. Besides, Peter Jackson had already made up his mind long before production started to cast Christopher Lee as the wizard gone rogue, Saruman.
13. Matching Tattoos
I’m a huge fan of tattoos – having gotten a few myself – so this fact is particularly interesting. After filming completed, most (well eight out of nine) of the Fellowship members got a small tattoo of the word NINE, spelled out in Tengwar which is pretty much the Elvish language created by Tolkien. All of them got the tattoo from a famous tattoo parlour in Wellington, New Zealand, to celebrate and remember their experience throughout the production of this trilogy.
The one member who chose not to get this tattoo is none other than John Rhys-Davies who plays the character Gimli. John Rhys-Davies declined getting this tattoo claiming that he wasn’t really a tattoo kinda guy. However, he did send his stunt double to get the tattoo in his place. The stunt double was more than happy to do so.
The locations of the tattoos are as follows:
Elijah Wood – lower stomach.
Sean Astin – Ankle to commemorate their hours spent in hobbit feet prosthetics.
Billy Boyd – Ankle to commemorate their hours spent in hobbit feet prosthetics.
Orlando Bloom – Forearm. And this tattoo is visible during one of the fight scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Ian McKellen – Shoulder.
Dominic Monaghan – Also shoulder.
Sean Bean – Right shoulder.
Viggo Mortensen – Left shoulder.
12. Interesting Cameos
As with most movies of this scale, if you look close enough, you’ll be able to spot many interesting cameos and appearances. Throughout The Lord of the Rings trilogy, many family members of the cast and crew were used as extras. Supervisors, writers, and believe it or not, even employees of the physical effects company, Weta Workshop, appear as dwarfs, elves and men throughout. One prominent extra is the great-grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien who played a ranger at Osgiliath.
Another interesting cameo(s) happens right at the very end of the movie, in the epilogue. At the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Frodo, Gandalf and many others sail away with the Elves to their special place (pretty much heaven). After that, we see Sam, who’s married to his long time crush Rosie, carry their two kids into their house. Guess what? The two young children are the actual children of Sean Astin and Sarah McLeaod, named Alexandra and Maisie respectively.
11. Sean Bean is Afraid of Flying
Among all the facts that made the list, this is perhaps the most unexpected and also the funniest. Just like Wolverine, Sean Bean the actor is extremely afraid of flying. “So, what?” You ask? While as it turns out, a lot of the scenes in The Lord of the Rings trilogy were set in locations in which the quickest way to access those places are by helicopter.
At first, Sean Bean just like the rest of the cast members, flew in the helicopters to the sets. However, after one particularly rough flight, Sean Bean had enough. He told Peter Jackson he isn’t going to fly anymore. From that point on, Sean Bean would wake up hours earlier to make his way up the mountain by foot. Okay, fine, he didn’t trek all the way up himself. He would take ski-lifts halfway up the mountain and then hike the rest of the way by himself. To make matters worse, there were no makeup and costume tents set up in those remote locations. Hence Sean Bean actually had put on his makeup beforehand and hike up those mountains in his complete Boromir costume. Talk about determination.
10. Aragorn Was Supposed to Fight Sauron
One of the things I’ve always found peculiar is why they never found a way to bring Sauron back to physical form and face off against Aragorn. It would be a cool parallel to the first battle sequence we see at the start of the franchise involving Aragorn’s ancestor and Sauron, with Galadriel’s narration.
Turns out, that was actually part of Peter Jackson’s initial plans. Peter Jackson filmed a scene for the climax of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in which Aragorn goes one on one with, not the eye, but the actual physical version of Sauron.
However, towards the end of the post-production, Jackson felt like the scene didn’t actually feel right. “By the time we had got to post-production, the scene no longer felt right.” Peter Jackson recalls. So, he decided to cut it out.
Interestingly enough, Peter Jackson still used the footage that was shot. In the final batter, we see Aragorn fighting a giant cave troll. Turns out, that Cave Troll was superimposed over the physical version of Sauron.
9. Frodo Initially Murders Gollum
In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frodo is perhaps one of the nicest, purest guys (besides Sam). He’s not exactly someone who you’d think would outright murder someone. It just doesn’t seem right. However, that was exactly what was supposed to happen. In the early drafts of the script, Frodo was originally supposed to push Gollum off the cliff into the fiery chasms of Mount Doom, after their confrontation. In fact, the scene was initially shot that way.
Peter Jackson had this to say:
“Straight-out murder! But at the time we were okay with it because we felt everyone wanted Frodo to kill Gollum. But, of course, it was very un-Tolkien, because it flew in the face of everything that he wanted his heroes to be.”
8. Injuries Galore
Perhaps this isn’t necessarily a fun fact, since it’s not uncommon for cast members to sustain injuries while filming, especially in movies where there are loads of action sequences. However, if you’re a Lord of the Rings junkie like I am, you will find this interesting.
First up, is Samwise Gamgee. He sustained two injuries during the shooting of this trilogy. The first injury he sustained is by a heavy wooden loom on the Rivendell set which actually knocked him out unconscious. The second injury he sustained was when he rushes to the water to follow Frodo. During the shooting of this sequence, Sean Astin stepped on broken glass and required around 20 stitches. However, just like his on-screen character, Sean Astin is a tough bloke, who decided to get back on his feet and continue shooting the very next day.
But perhaps the most interesting injuries happened to (once again) Viggo Mortensen. Remember the scene where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli discovers that Marry and Pippin have died (or so they thought at that time) and Aragorn angrily kicks the helmet, then crashes to the ground on his knees and screams in agony? Well turns out, that exact sequence wasn’t written in the script. When Viggo Mortensen kicked the helmet, he actually broke two of his toes. And because of that, he falls to the ground and screams in agony. But he did it in such a way that he still remained in character, and so that shot made it to the final cut.
7. Floods Prevented an Action Scene From Being Filmed
One of the more emotional sequences in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (besides Gandalf’s passing) is the final action scene, where Boromir ends up dying. However, if Peter Jackson had it his way, that scene could have been very different and much longer. In the movie, The Fellowship sails on the Anduin river, reaches shore, then the Orcs attack. This is the same in both the theatrical version and the extended edition.
However, the initial plan was for The Fellowship to be ambushed as they row through Anduin river. Peter Jackson said:
“We had all kinds of action planned with boats flipping over… and Legolas’ boat afloat as it bucks and tosses, while the Elf — standing with a foot on each of the gunwales — would be firing arrows at the attackers,”
However, the weather wouldn’t allow it. A massive flood occurred and not only did it cause a state of emergency in Queenstown, New Zealand, it even washed the entire set down the river.
Having said that, I think Peter Jackson managed to shoot a similar action scene many years down the line in The Hobbit Trilogy, where the dwarfs escape captivity in barrels down the river, with Legolas jumping around on said barrels like Spider-Man on steroids.
6. Vin Diesel as Aragorn?
As mentioned above, Aragorn is my favourite character in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Heck, not only is he my favourite character of the franchise, he’s also one of my favourite fictional characters of all time. And after watching these movies more than a million times, I can’t imagine anyone else other than Viggo Mortensen playing the titular character. He’s simply perfect for the role.
However, we could have been living in a very different world right now, one that is far worse than Donald Trump as President of the United States. We could have been in a world where Vin Diesel played Aragorn. Yeap, Vin Diesel AKA “Mr. can’t act to save his life besides in the Fast and Furious franchise,” auditioned for the role of Aragorn. Peter Jackson said that his performance was very compelling but it just didn’t feel like Aragorn. In the end, not only did Vin Diesel not get cast as Aragorn, he didn’t get cast as any of the characters. Thank God for that.
Speaking of casting. The then married couple Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman was initially thought about to play Faramir and Eowyn, both characters whom end up pairing up at the end of the trilogy. Unlike Vin Diesel, the idea of Uma Thurman as Eowyn is pretty intriguing and could have served as a career renaissance after her abysmal work as Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin.
5. Sean Bean Read His Script During the Scene at Rivendell
Repeating what I said earlier on the importance of script, the script in many ways, is the core or the backbone of a film and no good director or actor can make a good film from a horrible script. Which is why critics, pundits and fans alike always get nervous when we hear news that the writers are making HEAVY changes to the script before or during production. More often than not, that would be a huge red flag and indication that the movie will most likely suck.
While point two focused on script issues BEFORE production, this focuses on script issues DURING production. Throughout production, Peter Jackson and his co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens constantly revised and re-wrote the scripts. Many of the actors would get new dialogue to memorize the night before the shoot or sometimes even during the shoot. The most notable case involved Boromir’s now famous – even became a meme – speech in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Before Boromir (Sean Bean) speaks, he has his head in his hand, looking downwards like he’s stressed or anxious about something. In reality though, Sean Bean was looking down at his script that was pasted above his knees.
4. Breaking Records at the Oscars
People often complain that mainstream movies don’t really get much Oscar recognition. While that is true for the most part, when they do win though, they win big.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy has 17 Academy Award wins altogether. With the first movie winning four trophies, the second coincidentally winning two and the third instalment – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – with 11 trophies. That is an amazing feat. The Return of the King ties the record previously held by Titanic and Ben Hur, which has 11 Academy Awards each too.
However, The Lord of the Rings has broken other Academy Awards records as well.
– For starters, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the only movie to date to win more than 10 Academy Awards without receiving a single nomination in any of the acting categories. Which is fair. While the performances were solid all around, none of the performances screamed OSCAR WORTHY.
– Another somewhat interesting record it broke was, with 35 letters, the third instalment in this franchise, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the Best Picture winner with the longest title in history. The previous record was held by 1956’s Around the World in Eighty Days, which has 26 letters in its title.
3. The Eagles Are Not a Plot Hole
“The eagles are coming,” is one of the many iconic lines in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the trilogy, the eagles first helped Gandalf escape from the clutches of Saruman and then appeared again at the end of the movie to help Gandalf rescue Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom. People always speculate why the characters didn’t just fly on the eagles into Mordor and drop the ring into Mount Doom from the get go. Seems like the most logical approach, no?
In fact, this assumed plot hole has been the butt of jokes for many years now, inspiring various parody videos. However, what if I told you that this isn’t actually a plot hole. Number one, the Eye of Sauron is always watching. Remember how Aragorn had to march his army to the Black Gate to be a DISTRACTION so that Frodo and Sam can climb Mount Doom unnoticed? Had the Eagles just decided to fly straight into Mordor, the Nazguls would have taken them out in a jiffy. Also, according to Tolkien, The Eagles are proud creatures which do not simply take sides, hence they would not have assisted the protagonists.
2. Multiple Script Re-Writes
Alfred Hitchcock once said, “there are three most important things to making a film. The script, the script and the script.” There’s no denying how important a script is to any given film. The script in many ways, is the core or the backbone of a film and no good director or actor can make a good film from a horrible script. Which is why critics, pundits and fans alike always get nervous when we hear news that the writers are making HEAVY changes to the script before or during production. More often than not, that would be a huge red flag and indication that the movie will most likely suck.
However, The Lord of the Rings franchise – one of the greatest ever trilogies – underwent bajillion re-writes during production. When the franchise first started out, it was originally going to be two movies. Due to budget constraints, studios tried to convince Peter Jackson to compress everything into one film. Then studios tried to persuade Peter Jackson that the film be presented as a flashback. However, after multiple writes and re-writes, Miramax studios finally came to a realization that these movies shouldn’t be one movie, nor two movies but a trilogy.
1. Viggo Mortensen is Aragorn Even in Real Life
Aragorn is arguably the coolest (definitely my favourite) character in The Lord of the Rings franchise. He’s an excellent swordsman, speaks Elvish fluently and even has the ability to sorta-kinda communicate with horses, or at the very least calm them down when they’re feeling tensed. What’s interesting about all this is, the guy who plays Aragorn, Viggo Mortensen, is more or less like his on-screen character in real life too.
For a trilogy of this sort, a swordfighting coach – Olympic fencer Bob Anderson – was hired to train the cast on the proper use of a sword. The cool thing is, Viggo Mortensen hardly needed any coaching at all. He was a natural. Bob Anderson later said that Mortensen is probably the best swordsman he’s ever trained, and that’s saying something considering the fact that Anderson trained people in many films like the original Star Wars trilogy, The Mask of Zorro, a couple of James Bond films and even Pirates of the Caribbean.
If that isn’t enough evidence to prove that Mortensen is pretty much Aragorn in real life, then this just might. Even in real life, Viggo Mortensen speaks various languages which includes English, Danish, Spanish, French and even a little bit of Arabic. In addition, Mortensen is also passionate about animals and formed a strong bond with the two horses he worked with in the trilogy.