The Lord of the Rings saga holds a special place in the hearts of millions of readers and cinema-lovers. The movies and books in the Rings saga, that also includes The Hobbit have collectively enthralled generations and will continue to do so for eons to come.
The movies, in particular, are some of the most-loved as well as the highest-grossing works of art ever created. Though there were attempts to bring “Middle Earth” to the silver screen, including an animated version, the movies finally saw the light of the day when New Zealand-born director and then relative newcomer decided to adapt the trilogy into movies in 1998. The result was the massively successful trio of movies that are hallmarks in cinematic achievement. They have won raves for their faithfulness to the books and accolades for being exemplary pieces of cinema. Therefore, we decided to bring to you a few things we’re pretty sure you didn’t know about the journey of Tolkien’s fictional masterpiece on the road to cinematic glory.
1. Consider a ‘LOTR’ Starring The Beatles With Stanley Kubrick Directing
1969 was the year the rights to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ were acquired by United Artists, of whose music label worked with The Beatles. Once the iconic band heard the news, they immediately wanted a part of it and decided Stanley Kubrick, with his past work ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ as an example, was the perfect guy to helm a movie adaptation. If all had gone as planned, John Lennon would have played Gollum, Paul McCartney would have been Frodo, Ringo Starr would have been Sam and George Harrison would have been Gandalf. Too bad (or maybe it’s a good thing) the director didn’t feel the same way -– he told Lennon the book could not be filmed, referring to the exhausting task of condensing all that material for the screen.
2. The Cast That Could Have Been
If things had gone differently for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ casting, we would have had an extremely different “Fellowship of the Ring.” For one, Sean Connery was supposed to play Gandalf, but he turned down the role for a couple reasons. The first, which is the most understandable of the two, was the lengthy filming time frame of 18 months; but it’s his second reason that’ll make you laugh –- “I didn’t understand the script.”
Christopher Lee, the man who became Saruman the White, also wanted the part of Gandalf and in fact states in the commentary that it was a “decades-long dream” of his to play the wizard. If it wasn’t for the physical requirements of the role -– horseback riding, the wizard fight scene, etc. –- he might’ve won it, but his self-proclaimed age limitations ultimately made him a better fit for Saruman.
Stuart Townsend was another would-be ‘Lord of the Rings’ star, but his original role of Aragorn was taken away from him by Peter Jackson himself after realizing literally one day into shooting that Townsend was too young and too ill-equipped as a physical actor for the part. Viggo Mortensen wasn’t even sure he could handle the part, being that he never read the books or met Jackson, but ultimately accepted after getting a needed push from his son Henry.
3. Cast Bonding Exercises
Due to the extreme time length needed for filming all three movies at once, the cast had to find some ways to hang out, which often meant listening to hip-hop and playing pranks on each other. Ironically, though, none of this horse- play really caused any trouble with their actual work, but the one thing that did was surfing. The nine black riders were known around the set for their love of surfing and each had their own black wetsuit. When Mortensen tried it, though, he got hit in the face with his surfboard, which was why you saw so many profile shots of him during the Mines of Moria/Balin's Tomb scene.
4. The Injuries Not Seen On The Big Screen
Speaking of injuries, Mortensen's previously mentioned surfing accident was not his only one. The actor also broke his toe while filming the scene where he stumbles on the Uruk-hai massacre and kicks the helmet in anger. (Note: that's why he falls to his knees and screams.) He had to run with the injury in the early scenes of 'The Two Towers,' and later, in an unrelated moment, Mortensen almost drowned during the scene where he floats down the river after getting pushed off a ledge during the Warg attack. Oh yeah, and he lost a tooth during one of the battle scenes.
5. On Location Is an Understatement
Most semi-interested fans know that all three ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies were filmed at the same time over an 18-month time span, but as far as where they were filmed, New Zealand is a just a generalization. More than 350 sets were utilized for the over 100 different shooting sites, which meant bad news for one cast member in particular. As far as getting to these locations, the cast and crew were transported by helicopter, and our buddy Boromir (played by Sean Bean) didn’t like flying (and probably still doesn’t). It was after shooting the scene where he tries to take the ring from Frodo in ‘Fellowship’ that pushed him over the edge, and from then on he refused to fly in the helicopter. So to get to the remote locations, he sometimes had to climb uphill for miles at a time in full Boromir attire. The only other major snag was shooting outside the Black Gate of Mordor, of which the area in real life was the site of a military testing ground and had to be cleared of unexploded ammo.
Other sets weren’t so difficult to film, fortunately. Fangorn, for example, was created through a combination of miniature pieces, CGI and set designs. Then there was Osgiliath, which was only 25-by-30-feet wide in real life. The majority of it was made of polystyrene and was so lightweight that the entire thing blew away at one time due to high winds.
6. Breaking Down Elvish
Liv Tyler (aka Arwen) pointed out many times that the majority of her dialogue in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy was in Elvish, referencing the daunting task of learning a made-up language. Fortunately, she had an Elvish coach by her side to help walk her through the pronunciation, and for all those lines the two collectively couldn’t decipher, an expert was stationed in the US for translating duties. It was no trouble for Tolkien when he first made it up, though, considering the process of creating new languages was a hobby of his. Some of his poems and songs were even written in thought-up and universally extinct languages. Pretty much all the ones he wrote, including Elvish, were generated by the basic principles and dialects of existing languages. The Elvish you hear in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and read in the books, for example, is actually two dialects –- Sandarin, which most of the characters speak, and Quenya.
7. All About Gollum
It's no secret that the character of Gollum was nearly all CGI-ed with his movements based off of Andy Serkis, but we say "nearly" because there were certain moments where parts of the actor stuck out. Most of the filming was done with Serkis in a black bodysuit to record his facial expressions and body motions, which were then digitally copied onto the screen. Other times, though, he was filmed in the scene opposite his cast-mates, and his appearance was then digitally switched out for the computer-generated version. It's with this latter technique that Serkis' actual drool was able to appear in the movie. You might've noticed that the original image of Gollum in the first film where he's stalking the "Fellowship" was not how he ended up looking later on. That's because after the pre-corrupted scene of Smeagol in 'Return of the King' (portrayed by the non-computerized Serkis) was filmed, the crew wanted to redesign his image into the monstrous version we all know and love, so as to make him look more like his hobbit self.