100 Things You Didn’t Know About LotR

We’re celebrating 10 years of The Lord Of The Rings in the current issue of Empire magazine, what with reuniting the hobbits, digging up previously unseen concept art and even Aragorn’s photo album. But we also thought we’d go back and dig a little deeper into the films to bring you a few tidbits of information that you may not already have chewed up and digested. From obscure cameos to Tolkien extended-world stuff, it’s all here…

[via Empire and Oh No They Didn’t]

1. 27 copies of the book were used up in the process of creating the screenplay, between highlighting and note-making and page-tearing.

2. Stephen Sinclair, Philippa Boyens’ partner, was originally a screenwriter on the project when it was set to be two films. He left due to theatrical duties.

3. The idea of having a battle scene in the Prologue to Fellowship was inspired by the tradition of a James Bond pre-credits action scene.


4. Sam Gamgee, professional gardener, is only seen gardening once, in the Extended Edition opening section “Concerning Hobbits”

5. There’s absolutely no CG in the scene where Gandalf and Frodo meet in the forest; just small and tall stand-ins.

6. Gandalf’s original name was “Olórin”. He also goes by Tharkun and Mithrandir.

7. Other wizards named by Tolkien include Radagast, Alatar, Pallando and of course Saruman.

8. Henry Mortensen, Viggo’s son, was called on to research what happened to Thorin’s map in the book of The Hobbit to make sure it could reasonably appear (briefly) in Bag End.

9. Every single character wears a wig, apart from Billy Jackson (Peter’s son) in Fellowship, who had “perfect hobbit hair”.

10. There are only about 100 guests at the Long-Expected Party, not a book-mandated gross (144). Pfft! These films barely deserve to be called “epic” anymore!

11. Lord Of The Rings is the sixth-highest grossing franchise ever, behind Harry Potter, James Bond, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean and Shrek.

12. Peter Jackson “doesn’t like magic in fantasy films” and tried to avoid it.

13. The shot of Proudfoot at the party is a direct homage to the Ralph Bakshi 1978 film.

14. The Special Editions, in total, are 158 minutes longer than the Theatrical releases (718 minutes to 560 minutes).

15. The portraits of Bilbo’s parents over the mantlepiece in Bag End are modelled on Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh.

16. Peter Jackson bought the Bag End set and put it in storage, and plans one day to put it in the side of a hill.

17. Andy Serkis voices the Black Rider who asks after “Baggins” in the Shire.

18. That really is Elijah Wood leaping from the jetty onto the Buckleberry Ferry, not a stuntman.

19. In his Fellowship cameo, Peter Jackson is holding a carrot because the pipe he tried to smoke made him feel sick.

20. When Saruman’s goblins uproot a tree in Fellowship, no real trees were harmed; that one’s fake and shot from several angles. Please send your tree-hugging jokes to P. Jackson, New Zealand.

21. The Barad-Dur miniature was about 15ft tall. This is why Weta started calling the durn things “bigatures”

22. In The Silmarilion, Sauron has an even scarier, even more powerful boss called Morgoth.

23. The bigature of Orthanc filled an entire car park.

24. Since molten metal is hard to fake, the goblin forges of Orthanc were built in a real foundry and filled with real molten metal. Those are foundry workers dressed as goblins.

25. The scene where the Black Riders chase Arwen and Frodo was interrupted by Queenstown flooding. The cast, including Liv Tyler, went to help sandbag the town against the floods while filming was suspended.

26. Sean Bean’s lengthy “One does not simply walk into Mordor” speech was given to him to learn only the night before shooting. And the man made it a meme! Big props to the former Sharpe!

27. The Ringwraiths’ screams are based on Fran Walsh screaming through a throat infection.

28. Bree was built on a World War II army barracks, with Middle Earth facades on existing buildings.

29. The reason the eagles don’t just fly everyone to Mount Doom because “the eagles are their own race and do things for their own reasons”. Also, Tolkien didn’t like them to be seen as “Middle-Earth taxis“…

30. …Also, the Nazgul would have totally killed them.

31. The Balrog, like Gandalf, is a Maiar spirit, but a corrupted one. Fierce debate rages over whether Balrogs have wings. The film’s Balrog does.

32. The shot where Bilbo lunges for the Ring in Rivendell is a morphed composite of Ian Holm and a scary rubber puppet.

33. The close-up shot of the Ring in the snow on the mountain was shot with a Ring 6” across.

34. Bill the Pony is played, in some shots, by two people in a (very good quality) pantomime-style horse costume.

35. The Gates of Moria were next to a railway line.

36. Gandalf’s sword Glamdring doesn’t glow in the Mines of Moria battle scene because, Jackson says, of “budget cuts”. Huh. We assume that’s some sort of wizard thing.

37. The very first orc to hiss at the camera in Moria is a lady orc.

38. “Dwarf tossing” is a real thing.

39. Morgoth created the Orcs out of twisted elves, corrupted the Balrogs and befriended the first huge scary spider, Ungoliant.

40. The shots of the Fellowship mourning Gandalf’s death outside Moria were filmed before Ian McKellen had even arrived on set for the first time.

41. Lothlorien was shot in a forest called Paradise. The bigger, wider trees are fakes made of rubber.

42. The cave troll in Moria is “not really evil; he’s just fallen into bad company“, claimed Jackson.

43. The Numenorian ruins at the breaking of the Fellowship / Amon Hen are recycled polystyrene structures from Weathertop.

44. Some of Legolas’ arrows are CG because Orlando Bloom couldn’t fire them fast enough – which just goes to show that elves are better than humans.

45. The chorus singing as Boromir dies are saying, in Elvish, a rather lovely quote of Faramir’s from the book: “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness; I love only that which they defend.

46. Aragorn wears Boromir’s gauntlets throughout the second and third films in tribute to his fallen friend.

47. Viggo Mortensen broke his toe when kicking a helmet at the scene of the Uruk-hai massacre, which is part of the reason why he falls to his knees, crying out.

48. During the running scenes early in Two Towers, Viggo Mortensen had that broken toe, Gimli size-double Brett Beatty had a dislocated knee and Orlando Bloom had cracked a rib falling from a horse.

49. You can tell which scenes have been “flipped” from left to right by the direction the Fellowship’s Elvish brooches are pointing.

50. When Gandalf the White first appears, they pasted in Christopher Lee’s eyes and blended in his voice to create a little tension and make you think this might be Saruman.

51. Brad Dourif had to shave off his eyebrows for his role as Wormtongue. Over two years of going back and forth to set, he had to shave them five times.

52. Fangorn is entirely artificial: miniatures, CGI and studio set.

53. The script directions dealing with Gandalf’s rebirth describe it as “Death. Birth. Cosmic. Weird.”

54. Helm’s Deep was 25 / 30ft wide, but almost entirely made of polystyrene. Osgiliath once blew away in a high wind, since it was also polystyrene.

55. Aragorn’s Two Towers comment that female dwarves also has beards comes faithfully from Tolkien’s Appendices. If you want that expanded upon further, it’s also a running joke in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.

56. Mortensen shaved his beard for so-far unseen footage of young Aragorn’s first meeting with Arwen. Look out for that in a mythical 25th Anniversary Edition.

57. The Warg attack was originally conceived as a night attack on Edoras, however they couldn’t light it so it switched to a daytime attack.

58. The reason Jackson and company departed from the book and “killed off” Aragorn in the Warg battle was to give Theoden and Eowyn a “darkest hour“, and Aragorn a chance to choose his destiny.

59. Viggo Mortensen nearly drowned in an undertow when floating down the river as half-drowned Aragorn.

60. Elijah Wood’s sister appears as an extra among the Rohirim refugees in Helm’s Deep. And the young Rohirim soldier Aragorn talks to at Helm’s Deep is Phillipa Boyens’ son.

61. 20,000 cricket fans provided the voices of the Uruk-hai in Helm’s Deep.

62. There were only 100 Uruk-hai costumes built; any more than that that you see are CG.

63. The Rohirrim with Gandalf who relieve Helm’s Deep were led by Erkenbrand in the book, not Eomer.

64. When the horses gallop out of Helm’s Deep, they galloped out of the studio, across the road and into something called the California Garden Centre.

65. Fangorn coming to life and moving to Orthanc was inspired by the young Tolkien’s dissatisfaction with Macbeth’s moving forest turning out to be fake.

66. 1,800 pairs of hobbit feet were made for the principal hobbit cast across the films.

67. Weta Workshop made 48,000 pieces of armour.

68. The Black Gate is shown as two gates because of a typo in the script given to the art department.

69. The Fell Beast’s scream is based on a donkey’s.

70. Two years spent making chainmail will rub off your fingerprints.

71. There are 2,730 effects shots in the trilogy in total, or 3,420 in the Extended Editions.

72. Six million feet of film were shot on the trilogy. That’s over 1,100 miles!

73. Peter Jackson plays a single gong sound on the score of Two Towers.

74. By the time the third film came around, Howard Shore had to compose 7 minutes of music a day in order to keep the pace.

75. Andy Serkis wasn’t originally considered to play Smeagol. Then the filmmakers realised it would be bananas to cast anyone else.

76. Christopher Lee is the only cast member who met Tolkien in person.

77. Howard Shore can be seen standing behind Legolas in the drinking game scene on the Extended Return of the King.

78. The first person to join the Lord of the Rings fan club in October 2001 and earn himself a place in the credits was… Elijah Wood.

79. When Legolas says, in Return Of The King, that “The stars are veiled“, stars are clearly visible. It’s probably an Elvish metaphor.

80. The fact that Gandalf sleeps with his eyes open comes from a brief mention to that effect in the book.

81. Women who lusted after Sean Bean on set were dubbed “Beanstalkers“. Why, one would consider becoming one just to earn that title!

82. The production had to build spare sets in case of rain on most locations, so tight was the shooting schedule.

83. Some effects shots for the Special Edition were finished after the film won the Oscar.

84. The Mayor of Wellingon threw (fake) severed heads from the walls of Minas Tirith when visiting the set.

85. The Southron pirates in Return Of The King include DoP Andrew Lesnie, producer Richard Porras, Weta’s Richard Taylor and Peter Jackson among their number.

86. Elijah Wood had Alka Seltzer tablets in his mouth so he’d foam when Shelob stabbed him.

87. Shelob is based on a New Zealand spider called a “tunnelweb“.

88. Peter Jackson is scared of spiders.

89. The first internet trailer for The Fellowship Of The Ring was viewed by a then-record 1.7m people in its first 24 hours.

90. The Mouth of Sauron looks so unsettling because they subtly increased the size of his mouth with CG.

91. The first Orc that Aragorn kills on Pelennor Fields was played by Viggo Mortensen’s son, Henry.

92. Galadriel gives Frodo “the light of Earendil“, who is not just a star; he’s also Elrond’s dad!

93. The Cirith Ungol scene was being shot on the day that Empire first Lord of the Rings cover (the film’s first cover anywhere) reached the set.

94. The scene outside the Black Gate was a military testing ground and had to be cleared of unexploded ammo before shooting…

95. …Not all of it was cleared, so safe paths had to be marked.

96. Elrond’s brother was the first King of Numenor, so he’s a very, very, VERY distant ancestor of Aragorn.

97. Not all elves can choose mortality like Arwen does; she has that option because her family has human ancestry.

98. The Third Age of Middle-Age begins with the battle you see at the beginning of Fellowship, and ends with Frodo, Gandalf and Galadriel’s departure at the Grey Havens…

99. ..Galadriel, for comparison, was born before the beginning of the First Age.

100. Arwen is Galadriel’s granddaughter.

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