It’s hard to believe but nearly twenty years ago, the cast and crew of the Lord Of The Rings headed to director Peter Jackson’s homeland of New Zealand to film all three parts of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic masterpiece, a trial that so many other filmmakers believed shouldn't have been attempted, as the general consensus was that this saga was un-film-able.
Not only were naysayers proven wrong, but expectations for the films, which were set pretty high were blown completely out of the water. Yes, the films had faults and missing entire passages and characters from the novels, but there's only so much straight adapting you could do when the author spends well over 100 pages on debating what to do with the One Ring, or a chapter or two where our heroes meet some people on their journey that have nothing to do with the main storylines.
Amazon has recently acquired the rights to produce a live-action television series, so if there was ever a time to dive deeper into Middle-Earth, the time is now. Let's go there and back again - here are 25 Little Details Fans Should Know About Lord Of The Rings.
25 Ian McKellen Really Bumped His Head
Ian McKellen is Gandalf! Nevermind that Tolkien himself once blessed Christopher Lee as Mithrandir should an adaptation of Lord Of The Rings ever get made. Ian McKellen’s take on the role is exactly as plenty of fans always imagined - the playful grandfather they always wanted.
Before the trilogy gets behind dark and gritty, we needed a fun and happy introduction to the Hobbits and their wizard friend who has all of the great fireworks - Gandalf the Grey. The pilgrim travels to Hobbiton to say hi to old friends and stick around for Bilbo’s 111th birthday party.
In endearing himself to the role and in turn the audience, while filming, McKellen accidentally smacked his noggin on a beam inside Bilbo’s house. But the consummate professional never broke character and the scene was left in, becoming an early memorable spot in the trilogy.
24 The Silmarillion Acts As A Lot Of Exposition
Fans of the movies already know that there is a ton of exposition sprinkled throughout The Lord Of The Rings. Seemingly every line of dialogue is dripping in historical information about Middle-Earth and how our heroes and the lands they've come from have come to find each other at this moment.
If you want an in-depth look at the history of Middle-Earth, then you owe it yourself to comb through the pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion. It's a dense read that puts you right in the middle of events briefly mentioned in the film's, such as the Fall Of Numenor, and the story of Beren and Luthien; which mirrors Aragorn and Arwen.
23 Originally Planned For Two Films
Miramar, the original studio Jackson pitched to were able to only acquire the rights to LOTR, but thanks to their market research gave Jackson a brief window of time to adapt Tolkien’s tome into one movie.
Thankfully, through some hemming, hawing, and cajoling, Jackson was able to get the project over to New Line Cinema and the head of that studio at the time, Bob Shaye was wondering why they would adapt three books into two films; and the rest was history as the correct number of movies would match the number of books.
22 Viggo Mortensen had a tough time Playing Aragorn
When you're making a movie of this magnitude, and the dearth of action scenes that were part of the proceedings, you're bound to get dinged up a bit. Viggo Mortensen, who played Aragorn went full throttle into the role, earning the respect of the Olympic fencer who trained him, but also refusing to use a fake sword for action scenes.
Throughout the filming, Viggo wound up having a tooth chipped. Mortensen left to get a cap and returned to filming later in the day. But the big injury Mortensen would suffer is caught on camera during The Two Towers. When Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are hunting down the Uruk-hai in search of their friends, Aragorn kicks a helmet and screams in anguish. But the pain was real - Mortensen broke a few toes kicking the helmet.
21 Stuart Townsend Was Cast As Aragorn
Watching The Lord Of The Rings saga, it seems kismet to plenty of fans. The casting seemed perfect, especially with Viggo Mortensen and Ian McKellen steering the Fellowship as Aragorn and Gandalf respectively. To imagine anyone else in any of the roles just doesn't seem right, but as we all know, not everyone cast in a role makes it to the final day of filming.
Initially, actor Stuart Townsend was hired to play Aragorn and went through several months of training. But a day before filming, the guy was deemed too young for the role and Mortensen was hired, and thanks to a loophole, Townsend wasn't even paid for his work.
20 Other Potential Cast Members
Stuart Townsend wasn't the only potential cast member, just the only one that was cast as worked on the film. Nicolas Cage and Russell Crowe were also considered for Aragorn. Sean Connery was offered Gandalf but didn't understand the script or the book (even after seeing the movie). According to Peter Jackson, Vin Diesel’s audition for Aragorn was “very compelling,” but didn't feel like Aragorn.
Liam Neeson had passed on Boromir. Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman were up for Faramir and Eowyn. Jake Gyllenhaal read for Frodo, in what he described as a terrible audition. One Jackson had to ask him, “You know, you have to do this with a British accent?” Gyllenhaal heard back that it was one of the worst auditions.
19 Christopher Lee Was A Superfan
The first person cast for the trilogy was Hammer Horror veteran, Christopher Lee as the white wizard Saruman. There quite frankly wasn't a more spiritual choice for the first actor cast than Lee. Besides Lee being an absolute mega fan who read Tolkien’s myth every year until his death, Lee was the only member of the cast to have met Tolkien, and the author embraced and endorsed Lee as his choice for Gandalf.
In wanting to keep as much as his scenes pure unadulterated Tolkien and true to himself, look no further than his scenes in the extended cut of The Return Of The King. Besides his dialogue atop Orthanc being lifted right out of the books, he suggested his death scene be the brief gasp he gave as opposed to a scream, based on his own experiences in war.
18 Riders Of Rohan Were Women Of Wellington
Seemingly all of New Zealand pitched in during the making of the films. The country adored Jackson and what he was trying to do, not just by bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s vision to life, but highlighting his beautiful home country as well. But one thing that he found difficult was finding horsemen of New Zealand to play horseman of Rohan.
So he did what any progressive filmmaker would do - he put plenty of women in beards and had them bring their horses to the set. According to some of the actors, most of the women were very capable riders.
17 Aragorn Was 87 Years Old
Thanks to the Extended Editions of the films not only add approximately two hours of film time to an already approximately nine-hour film saga, but there's also a slew of meaty Tolkien goodness that wasn't deemed necessary for the theatrical runs, but it certainly fascinating for any die-hard Lord Of The Rings fan.
One of those tidbits came when Eowyn was telling Aragorn that she remembered hearing stories her uncle told her that Aragorn fought alongside her grandfather. While she initially thinks that her uncle, King Theoden was mistaken, Aragorn assures her that he isn't and he did fight with her grandfather.
The rightful king of men is actually a member of a race of men known as the Dunedain, blessed with long life - he's actually 87 years old.
16 Sean Bean Hiked In Costume Everyday
We all know that despite the One Ring turning him into a traitor of the Fellowship, that Boromir was also tough as nails; it took several arrows just to take the mere mortal down. He remains a favorite character of many fans of the trilogy for his efforts and tragic nature.
The actor behind one of the sons of Gondor, Sean Bean was no slouch either. He was just a little afraid of flying. During the shoot, he would whenever possible, hike up to wherever the film was shooting for the day - in full Boromir costume no less! That's certainly a great way to get into character.
The rest of the crew when flying to sets via helicopter would catch a glimpse of bean climbing the mountains during early morning shoots.
15 The Films were Massive
With three films, each of epic magnitude, and each featuring at least one massive action set piece, there was tons of fighting to be done during the filming. But New Zealand isn't so populated with able-bodied men and women to portray Orcs, Uruk-hai, Elves, and Men. You probably couldn't even found enough stunt people throughout all the world’s film companies to help out.
That's where Weta comes into play. The effects house behind the whole film series helped to innovate a program called MASSIVE. The program was able to create, thousands upon thousands of characters. But the program was also able to have each and every one of them think and move independently and anyone could even see through any random character’s eyes via their line of sight on the battlefield.
14 Billy Boyd Really Sings
Throughout the first two films, Merry and Pippin seem to be nothing more than just comedic companions and then liabilities to the rest of our heroes. But the two tagalong Hobbits would get their shining moments during Return Of The King. Through his own foolishness, Merry winds up in the hall of Denethor, Steward of the Kingdom of Gondor.
With Gondor falling and Denethor going mad, all he can do is feast and be…merry. He requests Merry to sing him a song. The quick song he sings was actually written and performed by Billy Boyd and then used again in trailers for the Battle Of The Five Armies, the last of the Hobbit films.
13 Preserving The Filming Locations
Instead of just coming in to film, doing whatever they wanted to the land and leaving, the crew took great lengths to preserve and even add to New Zealand’s landscape during the filming of the series. A year before filming, the crew planted all sorts of grass and trees rob and Hobbiton as lush and full of green as possible.
As for Edoras, home of Rohan, the Conservation Society Of New Zealand gave Jackson permission to film, provided they left everything the way they found it. Which meant the crew would have to carefully remove all of the vegetation and greenery as store it in a greenhouse throughout the 18 months of filming.
Did you expect anything less when adapting a story featuring a slew of outdoor activities?
12 Filming Wrapped After Winning The Oscar
The Return Of The King not only won the Best Picture Oscar back in 2004, it won every single award that is was nominated for. Eleven nominations and eleven wins - film, screenplay, director, and best song to name a few. Surely, it was a perfect film, and a fitting end to a seven-year process.
But Jackson actually wasn't done the filming. About a month after the ceremony, he was filming sequences from the Paths Of The Dead for the Extended Edition. The director thought it was funny to still be shooting a film that had already won best picture.
11 No Horses Were Hurt During Filming
From the start of production until the very last scene was filmed was an arduous seven-year process. Plenty of actors were battered and bruised, but somehow not any of the nearly 300 four-hoofed actors were harmed in the slightest during the making of the film. Thankfully, because the filmmakers were smart about protecting them.
Whenever the action called for a horse and rider (so like, all of the time) were scanned into a computer and animated, similarly to the same way Andy Serkis was suited up for Gollum. Once the riders were scanned in, they could be digitally inserted into the action. Now go rewatch the thundering herd of the Rohirrim and marvel at already marvelous scenes.
10 Helped Out New Zealand Economy
If you ever felt like New Zealand loved the fact that Lord Of The Rings was filmed in their country, you'd be right. You'd be happy too, if a film production bumped up the countries economy between the filming and the jobs and the tourism. The countries government gave New Line a humongous tax credit to film there.
But rather than send all kinds of Hollywood people to such a remote location to do a lot of the jobs, the cast and crew of nearly 3000 were mostly made up of Kiwis - and that's not accounting for the all of the outside businesses used by the cast and crew to help with the production.
9 “I Survived Helm’s Deep”
With the films being such a big part of New Zealand culture now, the behind the scenes making of the films certainly has left an indelible imprint amongst all of the Kiwis who took part in the filming. The Battle Of Helm’s Deep would prove to be the toughest among the crew.
The grueling shoot went on for months, filming under a deluge (the rain was not added digitally), and all of that raw footage was edited down into about 20 hours of usable footage, and reconfigured into the last half of The Two Towers. So when the cast and extras were all gifted a shirt that read “I Survived Helm’s Deep,” it became sort of a club across all of New Zealand, whenever people saw their fellow countrymen wearing the shirt.
Friendships were formed across the whole country because of this shirt.
8 Shelob vs. Frodo
Especially if you're afraid of spiders, watching Frodo flee for his life against Shelob, the outrageously giant spider nesting in Cirith Ungol is harrowing, to say the least. In the film, she sticks Frodo in the gut, paralyzingly him and wraps him up in her web before Sam can meet the eight-legged freak in battle and save his buddy.
As it turned out Elijah Wood (Frodo) didn't do well getting stung by the fake stinger either. According to the cast commentary track of Return Of The King, Wood was actually jammed pretty hard by the prop that doubled as Shelob’s stinger. He had to stay in the hospital for a few days to recoup. His co-star, Sean Astin joked that he had appendicitis.
7 LOTR By The Numbers
It is astounding to watch Lord Of The Rings and contemplate all of the efforts that went into the massive undertaking. Here's a by the numbers look.
There were 48,000 weapons and makeup prosthetics, 20,602 background actors, 19,000 costumes made, 10,000 cricket fans who had their grunts recorded for Uruk-hai, 2400 crew members, 1600 pairs of Hobbit feet were created, 250 horses used in one scene, 114 total speaking roles, 100 real locations used, 80 computer effects artists used, 50 tailors, cobblers, designers, and other members of the wardrobe, 30 actors trained to speak fictional dialects and languages. All of these numbers added to 7 years of development for the entire trilogy.
6 Matching Tattoos
The Fellowship of the Ring had nine characters, so naturally, The Lord Of The Rings movies would have nine lead actors to star in the films. The nine actors got close during the filming too, closer than a lot of actors get during a shoot. The primary shooting took a year and a half - and they're in a country away from their friends and family.
To commemorate their time together, the four Hobbits, the Elf, two men, a wizard and Gimli's stuntman all got the Elvish symbol for “nine” tattooed on themselves. You can even see Orlando Bloom’s tattoo in the Pirates movies and Viggo Mortensen’s is visible in Eastern Promises. Even Peter Jackson got a tattoo, but his was the Elvish word for ten.
5 Taught By An Olympic Fencer
Veteran sword master Bob Anderson had fenced in the Olympics and was Darth Vader’s stunt double in Empire and Jedi. He was also responsible for training a slew of actors in fight choreography in some of the most memorable films of all time. For over fifty years the stuntman and sword master taught just about every famous swashbuckler we’ve ever known from Errol Flynn, all the way to stars of The Lord Of The Rings.
Anderson has praised Viggo Mortensen with high marks too, “the best swordsman I've ever trained.” Mortenson was so good and dedicated that he insisted on using a real steel sword – he must have been good; there are no stories of him inadvertently decapitating any stuntmen are there?
4 Bilbo Voiced Frodo
By the time The Lord Of The Rings began filming, Ian Holm, the beloved actor who was playing the small (no pun intended) but very, very important role of Bilbo Baggins had given moviegoers plenty of memorable characters besides the beloved Hobbit. He was the priest in The Fifth Element, and Ash in the first Alien movie to name a few. He also won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Chariots Of Fire.
But playing Bilbo wasn’t Holm’s first time visiting Middle-Earth. Not too long ago, the BBC in England used to have radio adaptations of famous books and movies. In 1981, Holm actually voiced Frodo.
3 Animated Homages
While plenty of directors and screenwriters over the years would deem Lord Of The Rings to be un-filmable, Peter Jackson’s eventual adaptation wasn’t the first time that Tolkien’s epic was adapted for the big screen. Thanks to the fringe cartoonist, Ralph Bakshi, who was previously famous for wild animated movies for adults like Fritz The Cat, would shift to fantasy films.
In 1978, Bakshi released Lord Of The Rings. His adaptation featured Fellowship and the first half of The Two Towers. Until Jackson’s trilogy, this was the only adaptation, along with Enron unofficial Rankin-Bass sequel. But there are certain shots from this film that inspired Jackson, such as when we briefly see a Hobbit named “Proudfeet,” and when one of the Black Riders is in the Shire, hunting for the One Ring.
2 The Beatles Wanted To Be The Hobbits
Despite Led Zeppelin having several songs based on Tolkien’s works, it was actually the Fab Four, the Beatles who once tried to acquire the rights and make their own Lord Of The Rings movie. John had Gollum in mind for himself and George was going to play Gandalf with Ringo playing Sam, and Paul would've been playing Frodo.
Not being a bunch of dum-dums, the band wanted none other than Stanley Kubrick to try and tackle the project. Kubrick had tried but quickly told Lennon what so many other directors would find out over the years - the source material is too immense.
According to Jackson, who Paul McCartney explained this story to, Tolkien who was still alive at the time had no interest in the Beatles starring in any eventual film adaptation.
1 Based On WWI Experiences
Born in 1892 in South Africa, J.R.R. Tolkien. Unlike many of able-bodied men his age, Tolkien found a loophole out of staying out of the First World War, provided he finished his schooling. But he would eventually find his way into the conflict. He even at one point found himself bossing men around, but that wasn't something he was fond of doing.
With a wild imagination, Tolkien was clearly suited more writing than for fighting, but he used his experiences and was greatly influenced by them when writing both The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings.
According to some, the scene and description that haunted Tolkien the most based on his experiences were the Dead Marshes; where in reality, the tides would roll out and you'd see faces in the water of soldiers from both sides of the conflict.
Source: HuffingtonPost, Mentalfloss, Geektyrant, Ranker, Screenrant, Buzzfeed