J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary masterpiece The Lord of the Rings has influenced generations of readers worldwide and continues to captivate new fans around the globe. Now, New Line Cinema brings to cinematic life the epic adventure of good against evil, The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring, a heroic quest set in a time of uncertainty in the land of Middle-earth.
The future of civilization rests in the fate of the One Ring, which has been lost for centuries. Powerful forces are unrelenting in their search for it. But fate has placed it in the hands of a young Hobbit named Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), who inherits the Ring and steps into legend.
A daunting task lies ahead for Frodo when he becomes the Ringbearer – to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom where it was forged. But he can’t do it alone. A Fellowship bands together to lend Frodo the wisdom of Gandalf (Ian McKellen); the loyalty of his friends Sam (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd); the courage of Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean); the skill of Legolas (Orlando Bloom); and the strength of Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). They are aided in their quest by Arwen (Liv Tyler), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving), whose knowledge of the One Ring brings to light the true danger and importance of their journey.
Directed by Peter Jackson, the trilogy represents an unprecedented undertaking -- three films made silmultaneously over a year and a half of production. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring stars (in alphabetical order) Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, and Elijah Wood.
The film is directed by Peter Jackson and produced by Barrie M. Osborne and Jackson, Fran Walsh and Tim Sanders. The screenplay is by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Jackson based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien. The executive producers are Mark Ordesky and Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne also executive produce.
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THE LORD OF THE RINGS:
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
Table of Contents
Introduction to The Lord of the Rings 2 Taking on Tolkien: Peter Jackson Brings the Fantasy to Life 4 Many Cultures of the Ring: The Cast and Characters 7 Imagining Middle-earth: The Design 13 WETA Gets to Work 17 From Hobbits to Elves: The Costumes and Make-Up 18 Breaking Digital Ground: Visual Effects 21 Into the Ring’s Evil: Stunts and Action 23 The Music of The Fellowship of the Rings 24 Middle-earth Down Under: New Zealand 25 Cast of Characters 27 The Filmmakers 37 Main Credits 47
End Title Credits 51
THE LORD OF THE RINGS:
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
“One ring to rule them all, One ring to find them.
One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”
For decades, the words above have ignited the imaginations of more than 100 million readers around the globe. They were first read in 1954, when J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume in his towering three-part epic, The Lord of the Rings, was published.
Tolkien’s work was to have a profound effect on generations of readers, defining for many the archetypal struggle between good and evil, and was voted in worldwide polls the “Book of the Century.” It set the benchmark for the modern epic in its creation of an entirely new and thrillingly vital universe. It introduced an unforgettable hero – the Hobbit Frodo Baggins – caught up in a war of mythic proportions in Middle-earth, a world full of magic and lore. Most of all, it celebrated the power of loyal friendship and individual courage, a power that may hold at bay even the most devastating forces of darkness.
Now, the legend that Tolkien imagined is finally being brought to life on the motion picture screen, an undertaking that has required nothing less than one of the most colossal movie productions ever embarked upon. The mythos, landscapes, and creatures Tolkien created are so vast and detailed in scope that it has taken more than four decades for cinema technology to reach the necessary level of sophistication to bring his universe to powerful and palpable life. Such a project would require nothing less than a visionary to take it on, and a first-ever experiment in filmmaking to make the simultaneous production of all three films possible. Tolkien’s epic found a passionate and dedicated shepherd in director/writer/producer Peter Jackson.
For the past two years, Jackson and his devoted production team of over 2400 have been filming all over the spectacular landscapes of New Zealand. The result has been the deployment of a logistical operation on par with an intricate and wide-reaching military campaign. An army of artists – including digital experts, medieval weapons designers, stone sculptors, linguists, costumers, make-up artists, blacksmiths and model builders – as well as an internationally-renowned cast of actors and over 26,000 extras have gathered to make this ambitious dream come true.
The result will be three separate installments released one year apart, beginning December 19, 2001, when The Fellowship of the Ring introduces to movie audiences the extraordinary world of Middle-earth.
In this part of the trilogy, the young Hobbit Frodo Baggins inherits a ring; but this ring is no mere trinket. It is the One Ring, an instrument of absolute power that could allow Sauron, the dark Lord of Mordor, to rule Middle-earth and enslave its peoples. Frodo, together with a Fellowship that includes his loyal Hobbit friends, Humans, a Wizard, a Dwarf and an Elf, must take the One Ring across Middle-earth to Mount Doom, where it first was forged, and destroy it forever. Such a journey means venturing deep into territory manned by Sauron, where he is amassing his army of Orcs. And it is not only external evils that the Fellowship must combat, but also internal dissension and the corrupting influence of the One Ring itself. The course of future history is entwined with the fate of the Fellowship.
New Line Cinema presents a Wingnut Films Production, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The film is directed by Peter Jackson from a screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien. The producers are Barrie M. Osborne and Peter Jackson. The producers are Fran Walsh and Tim Sanders. The executive producers are Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne. Also executive producing are Mark Ordesky, Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein. The director of photography is Andrew Lesnie, A.C.S. The production designer is Grant Major. The editor is John Gilbert. The co-producers are Rick Porras and Jamie Selkirk.
The film stars Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, featuring Sean Bean, and Ian Holm, with Andy Serkis as Gollum. The film also stars Marton Csokas, Craig Parker and Lawrence Makaoare.
Casting is by John Hubbard & Amy MacLean (UK), Victoria Burrows (US), Liz Mullane (New Zealand) and Ann Robinson (Australia). Costume designers are Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor. Music is composed, orchestrated and conducted by Howard Shore. Ellen M. Somers is the associate producer. Special makeup, creatures, armour and miniatures are by Richard Taylor. Jim Rygiel is the visual effects supervisor. The film features the songs “May It Be” and “Aniron” composed & performed by Enya. The film is released worldwide by New Line Cinema. www.lordoftherings.net
The Lord of the Rings, the characters, names and places therein (TM) The Saul Zaentz Co., d/b/a Tolkien Enterprises under license to New Line Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.
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TAKING ON TOLKIEN:
PETER JACKSON BRINGS THE NOVELS TO LIFE “I am interested in themes about friendship and self-sacrifice. This is a story of survival and courage, about a touching last stand that paved the way for the ascent of humankind.”
– Peter Jackson
When J.R.R. Tolkien published the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, The London Sunday Times stated that the world would forever more be divided into two types of people: “those who have read The Lord of the Rings and those who are going to.” The publishing world was taken by storm as the book stoked hungry imaginations across the globe. Critics proclaimed that never before in contemporary times had an author dared to create an epic quest that rivaled the classic legends of Homer and Chaucer in scope, yet was utterly accessible to readers of all ages and nationalities.
Tolkien’s Middle-earth struck a chord because it seemed at once to transport readers into an alternate world that existed before life as we know it, while remaining grounded in urgently real human themes. The book immediately developed a following that went beyond mere appreciation to pure devotion. In 1965, the paperback version came to America and became a runaway best seller. By the late 1960s, The Lord of the Rings was considered classic literature, a must-read for a new generation starting to believe in the notion of limitless imagination. It also became a counter-cultural symbol because of its prescient themes of environmental conscience and battles against the forces of corruption and war. The success of Tolkien’s epic led to a burgeoning, lucrative market in books, videos, role-playing games, computer games, comic books and motion pictures inspired by the universe he created.
Peter Jackson, who became known for his own ability to visually evoke the world of dreams - and nightmares - in such films as Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners, was himself a fan of Tolkien’s works, drawing inspiration from them in his formative years as a director. Jackson had long felt that The Lord of the Rings was ripe for its first complete cinematic telling, but he also knew that to do it justice would take perhaps the most ambitious production ever attempted in film history. There was a chance, he felt, that visual effects technology had just about reached the point where it could tackle the legends and landscapes of which Tolkien dreamed – and do his complexly imagined world justice.
Jackson waited for someone else to take on the challenge, but when no one did, he took a chance on bringing Tolkien’s modern myth to the screen. He began with his own ambitious quest: “I started with one goal: to take moviegoers into the extraordinary world of Middle-earth in a way that is believable and powerful,” he explains. “I wanted to take all the great moments from the books and use modern technology to give audiences nights at the movies unlike anything they’ve experienced before.”
From the start, it was a mammoth undertaking, but Jackson felt that if he was going to go for it, he had to give it everything and then some. “I’ve spent seven years of my life on this project so far,” he notes, “pouring my heart into every single aspect of it. But I think that’s the least we owe to Tolkien and the legions of fans around the globe. They deserve our very best efforts.”
While the trilogy of screenplays would take three years to complete, for the first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring, Jackson and fellow writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens paid particular attention to Tolkien’s many vivid descriptions of characters and places, hoping to build a viscerally true and vibrant world that would pull audiences into the adventure as participants.
“From the beginning I wanted to make something that felt real,” comments Jackson. “Tolkien writes in a way that makes everything come alive, and we wanted to set that realistic feeling of an ancient world-come-to-life right away with the first film, then continue to build it as the story unravels. We constantly referred to the book, not just in writing the screenplay, but also throughout the production. Every time we shot a scene, I re-read that part of the book right before, as did the cast. It was always worth it, always inspiring.”
“That being said,” Jackson adds, “it has been equally important to us that the films amaze, surprise and delight people who have never read the books.”
“It is the humanity of the characters that rewards the reader,” says producer/co-writer Fran Walsh. “And we hope we’ve been able to translate that for the film audience.”
Jackson knew he could not translate every single line of Tolkien’s epic trilogy into imagery, and that certain changes to the beloved novel would need to be made, but he committed himself to remaining faithful to how he had responded to Tolkien’s work as just one of the millions of captivated readers.
He explains: “When there was a question about how to proceed, I would just shut my eyes and imagine the characters in my head, the same way a million readers around the world have shut their eyes and seen these books come alive as personal movies in their heads. From doing that, I felt I already knew the characters and the scenes before we started shooting.”
The more the screenwriters read Tolkien, the more nuances they discovered about the characters, the lands and adventures which they traverse. “The more time you spend in Tolkien’s world,” says Philippa Boyens, “the more complex it grows. It was all there for us, but the scope was tremendous.”
Within that scope, Jackson wanted to bring front and center Tolkien’s themes of good versus evil, nature versus industry, and friendship versus the forces of corruption. “All the major themes are introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring,” he notes. “The most obvious one is good versus evil, but this story is also about how friendship endures and overcomes even in a world of tremendous upheaval and change. We really tried to make these themes part of the fabric of the first film.”
“In a sense The Fellowship of the Ring is about understanding that in spite of our differences there is value in standing together,” adds Walsh.
“What we are trying to do, as we adapt ‘The Lord of the Rings’ into a film medium, is honor these themes; and whilst you can never be totally faithful to a book, especially a book over 1,000 pages, we have tried to incorporate the things that Tolkien cared about when he wrote the book, and make them the fabric of the films.”
Producer Barrie M. Osborne, who previously broke new ground with the special-effects blockbuster The Matrix, notes: “They had brought to these characters so much warmth and emotion that you really identify not only with the tale but with the personalities in it. It reminded me of the Godfather saga in that there were so many different characters you could identify with. Some fall while others become heroic.”
Jackson embraced another decision in the early days of the trilogy’s development: to shoot all three films at once, something which had never been done in filmmaking history. “I felt that in order to do the tale’s epic nature justice, we had to shoot it as one big story because that’s what it is. It’s three movies that will take you through three very unique experiences, but it all adds up to one unforgettable story,” he explains.
Jackson’s decision resulted in a record-breaking commitment of time, resources and manpower for a single massive production shoot. The logistics might have been staggering to many, but the notion was thrilling to Jackson. “As a director, it has given me an enormous canvas on which to try all sorts of things. The story has so much variety to it. In each installment there is intimate, heart-wrenching drama, huge battle scenes, intense special effects, sudden changes for the characters, every emotion in the realm. It was a continual challenge for me and hopefully will be an enduring delight for audiences,” he says.
In the end, there were those who thought Peter Jackson might have been closer to the project than was “humanly” possible. “The cast often referred to me as a Hobbit,” admits Jackson. “I’m sure it’s a joke but to tell the truth, the Hobbit lifestyle -- good food and a comfy chair in front of a fire -- sounds pretty good to me! Especially after making three movies at once.”
MANY CULTURES OF THE RING: THE CAST AND CHARACTERS
“The Lord of the Rings required a commitment from our cast to learn how to swordfight, horseback ride, canoe, learn Elvish, climb mountain peaks and at the same time bring the magic and magnetism of Tolkien’s characters to the screen. They were up to the task.”
– Barrie M. Osborne, producer
At the core of the story in The Fellowship of the Ring are the cultures that make up Middle-earth: Hobbits, Dwarves, Humans, Elves, Wizards, Orcs, Ringwraiths and Uruk-Hai.
Each culture has its own rich way of life, its own customs, myths, ways of dress and even style of fighting. Each is fully developed in The Fellowship of the Ring, creating the essence of a living, breathing world just beyond our own history.
For example, Hobbits are gentle and close to nature, an almost child-like group who live off the land. With an average height of 3’6”, the furry-footed creatures dwell deep in furnished holes on the sides of hills. They love the simple things in life: smoking pipes, eating, and, of course, storytelling. They live to around 100 years old, with the age of 33 marking the start of adulthood, and the age of Frodo at the start of The Lord of the Rings journey.
Elves, on the other hand, are noble, elegant, magical beings whose time is running out and who seem to possess a bittersweet sense that they are now about to pass into myth. Although they could be slain or die of grief, Elves are immortal in that they are not subject to age or disease.
Dwarves are short but very tough, with a strong, ancient sense of justice and an abiding love of all things beautiful. Small in stature, they live to be about 250 years old.
Wizards are supremely powerful but can use that power for good or for evil, depending on where their hearts lie.
Humans in The Fellowship of the Ring are a fledgling race just coming into their own. They are warriors, unafraid to defend their heartfelt cause.
Other creatures populating Tolkien’s world are the misshapen Orcs fighting for Saruman; the sinister, black-cloaked Ringwraiths which are neither living nor dead but cursed to live in the twilight world of Sauron; and Uruk-Hai, which are birthed under the watchful eye of Sauron with only one mission: to get the One Ring no matter what the cost.
To bring these remarkably diverse beings to life would require a cast of true versatility – and also a cast willing to spend months in the deep heartland of New Zealand bringing life to a literary legend. It would require a group of actors who could carry their characters through three chapters of climactic changes.
In the first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring, the actors get a chance to introduce their characters and their individual quests. At the center of it all is the story’s 3’6” hero – Frodo Baggins, the forthright Hobbit who assumes the responsibility for destroying the One Ring. Despite the help of the Fellowship, it is Frodo who must bear the burden of the One Ring and resist its constant temptations of evil. For the actor to play Frodo, the filmmakers chose 20-year-old Elijah Wood for his energy and charisma.
“Elijah has a sincerity of purpose that just makes him a natural in the role,” observes Barrie M. Osborne. “He is capable of taking the character through a real transformation, which begins with The Fellowship of the Ring.”
Wood describes Frodo as “a very curious adventurer. Frodo lives in a time when most of his fellow Hobbits want to stay with their own kind, but Frodo is very different in that he wants to leave and see the rest of the world and all its wonders.”
As Frodo begins his journey, Wood was struck by how real the Hobbit felt. “He became alive for me,” he admits. “The way we shot the movie, everything was so authentic that we all believed that Frodo and the others really existed in history. Once I had on my prosthetic ears and feet for the first time, I knew what it was to feel like a Hobbit. It sounds bizarre, but it felt the same as playing a historical character, as if Hobbits had actually once been alive.”
One of Frodo’s closest allies in his plight to destroy the One Ring is the powerful Wizard Gandalf, who begins to demonstrate his true purpose and abilities in The Fellowship of the Ring. Gandalf is played by renowned screen and stage star Ian McKellen, who was thrilled to take on such a challenging role.
“I see Gandalf as the archetypal wizard,” says McKellen. “I think in the creation of Gandalf, Tolkien was playing with ideas about wizards from stories and classic tales throughout time. Gandalf is related to Merlin, and maybe even Shakespeare’s Prospero, but he also is very much his own man.”
“When the story heats up and the journey begins and great things are at stake, he makes a real contribution to the Fellowship,” he continues. “He shows his stuff as a warrior.” Notes producer Barrie M. Osborne: “Ian McKellen has the stature to make you truly believe in Gandalf’s power and wisdom.”
Frodo’s quest to destroy the One Ring begins with his cousin, Bilbo Baggins, an aged Hobbit with a history of bravery played by Ian Holm. Holm says that “Bilbo is not unlike me. He’s quite grumpy on the outside but basically he has a heart of gold. He is a little fellow who things seem to happen to – but when he’s put to the test, he comes up trumps more than most people.”
A longtime fan of Tolkien’s novels, Holm likens playing such a renowned character to another character noted for its many interpretations. “I think playing Bilbo is a lot like playing Hamlet,” he says. “I mean, this is my version of Bilbo, just as it would be my version of Hamlet. He’s an eternal character but as an actor you play it as you see it in front of you and trust in that.”
Says Barrie M. Osborne of the choice of Holm: “He brings out all the nuances in Bilbo’s character – he gets the crustiness of the Hobbit, but more importantly, he reveals what lies underneath.”
Three Hobbit friends also join Frodo on his journey: Sam, Merry and Pippin, played by Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd. True friends, the Hobbits’ loyalty and bravery are put to the ultimate test on their quest. Astin plays the poignant character of Samwise Gamgee, who seems quite ordinary but turns out to be the most extraordinary of friends to Frodo.
“Sean Astin is a wonderful choice for Sam because he brings a real joviality to the role, as well as an empathy for Sam’s struggles,” says Osborne. “I think it’s also a real bonus that he and Elijah Wood are such good friends – that closeness really shows in the relationship that develops between their characters.”
Astin was drawn to a character that seems to define the best of Hobbit-hood. “To me, he personifies decency, simplicity, honesty and loyalty, the ultimate Hobbit,” says Astin. “Most of all, he has an undying friendship with Frodo that is so strong, he’s willing to face the adventure of the unknown to help him.”
Astin also sees Sam as a man of the land. “I look at him as this kind of pastoral figure, a farmer whose hands are always in the soil,” he comments. “He’s not the most sophisticated being in the Fellowship, but he makes up for it with his earnest steadiness.”
Dominic Monaghan, a British actor who comes to the fore in The Lord of the Rings, brings out the quick-witted cleverness and fun-loving spirit of the Hobbit Merry, formally known as Meriadoc Brandybuck, another of Frodo’s closest friends. “Like most Hobbits, Merry always looks on the bright side of life,” says Monaghan, “but I don’t think even he realizes at first how brave he can actually be. As situations arise at the beginning of their journey, he starts to become pretty important.”
Monaghan continues: “The main thing I wanted to get across in the beginning, with The Fellowship of the Ring, is that Merry is just this very sharp, sarcastic and funny boy who hasn’t grown up yet. But he’s about to go through incredible experiences and adventures that will change him into a new person.”
For the comical Hobbit Pippin, or Peregrin Took, the filmmakers chose rising Scottish actor Billy Boyd. Boyd was amused by his character’s “knack for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time” but also moved by Pippin’s transformation throughout the odyssey. “One thing about Pippin right from the beginning is that his whole life revolves around friendship,” points out Boyd. “He loves his friends in the Shire more than anything.”
But when Pippin embarks on the journey to destroy the One Ring with Frodo and the rest of the Fellowship, he discovers a world unlike anything he’s ever imagined. “Suddenly, things turn very serious and dark for Pippin. He’s falling in marshes and meeting strange creatures and he’d rather be back at the pub chatting with the ladies!” admits Boyd. “But that’s what makes him so dynamic a character. He tunes into the fun and beautiful side of life, even in the middle of a war.”
Two Humans join the Fellowship. One, the mysterious warrior Aragorn (or Strider) is played with trademark intensity by Viggo Mortensen, whose affinity for the role sparked rumors that he was living in the forest in Aragorn’s torn, mud-stained clothes. Says Peter Jackson: “Viggo embraced the character so completely it’s difficult to imagine the two being separate now.” Adds Barrie M. Osborne: “Viggo is the perfect actor to play a man who is struggling to redeem himself from his ancestry and his heritage. He’s incredibly dedicated. He’s the kind of an actor who one day had his tooth knocked out by a sword and actually asked if they could superglue it back on so he could finish the scene. He became Aragorn, and he brings a real power to the role.”
Mortensen felt a strong personal connection to the project: “I’m Celtic and Scandinavian, so I was raised on the myths that inspired Tolkien,” he says. “It’s part of my heritage.” The actor was also intrigued by Aragorn’s primal, self-reliant brand of heroism. “He can survive in nature, live from it, read its signs and live happily, not needing anyone, not relying on anything but his own knowledge and discoveries,” he observes. “But now he has to take on more responsibility, and it’s not clear where it will lead him.”
Also joining the Fellowship is Boromir, a valiant warrior who lacks respect for the One Ring’s devastating power. Boromir is portrayed by Sean Bean, who feels that the character “brings the human element into the Fellowship. Boromir has the human qualities of being honorable and brave but also having a very clear opinion about everything.” “In the beginning,” he continues, “he sees the Ring simply as a solution to the problems of his people. But he finds out that it isn’t quite so clear-cut, especially as he becomes susceptible to its powers.”
An Elf and a Dwarf round out the Fellowship: Legolas, the keen archer son of an Elf king, played by Orlando Bloom; and Gimli, the stout-hearted axe-man who comes to represent the Khazad, the Dwarves of Middle-earth, played by John Rhys-Davies. The disparity of their natures proves to be a constant source of both strife and amusement. Orlando Bloom explains: “Elves see Dwarves as these muddy creatures who steal from the earth without giving back. But Legolas and Gimli grow to respect one another’s differences. They learn to rely on each other in battle – and to laugh together.”
Rhys-Davies relished the notion that The Fellowship of the Ring kicks off something many people haven’t experienced in a long-time – an epic, serial adventure: “I think today there is an enormous hunger for adventure and a dynamic life that can only be met in the imagination . . . or in movies like this one. Tolkien feeds that hunger, because in our hearts we want to be part of a heroic civilization like the Elves, Hobbits, Dwarves and men of Middle-earth.”
Facing off against the Fellowship is the evil Saruman, once the head of the Council of the Wise, who has since succumbed to the dark temptations of Sauron’s power. Saruman wants Frodo’s ring and is willing to use his specially bred Uruk-Hai – grotesque, savage creatures -- to get it. Perhaps no one could embody Saruman better than film legend Christopher Lee.
One of film’s great embodiments of Dracula, Lee approached The Lord of the Rings with considerable reverence. “This is the outright creation of an entire world,” he says. “It brings together history and languages and cultures and makes a dreamscape come true.”
“People will always crave power and Saruman wants Sauron’s power,” Lee continues. “To me, he is not just the physical force of evil personified, he is also very real.”
Two of the major female characters in The Lord of the Rings are also introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring: the brave Elf Arwen, who falls in love with Aragorn, played by the luminous Liv Tyler; and the powerful, soul-probing Elf Queen Galadriel, played by Academy Award nominee Cate Blanchett.
Tyler was drawn to Arwen, the immortal Elven princess. “To me, Arwen brings a real touch of femininity to the tale of Middle-earth,” says Tyler. “In the midst of a war, she has fallen in love, and become the backbone and motivation for Aragorn’s fight.”
Cate Blanchett was also drawn to her character’s fascinating strength. “I loved playing Galadriel because she is so iconic. She is the one in The Fellowship of the Ring who truly tests Frodo,” says Blanchett. “I also think she has a profound message to give about taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions. And, yes, I have to admit I have always wanted to have pointy ears!”
Blanchett was astonished by how completely the world of Middle-earth and its many cultures had been explored by the filmmakers. “By the time I started working, there was such a strong and real-life sense of the various cultures, their histories and their hopes for the future,” she notes. “It was really like becoming part of a whole different universe. I’ve never experienced anything like it before.”
Hugo Weaving portrays Elrond, an Elf of great powers, father to Arwen, whose knowledge of the One Ring proves invaluable to the Fellowship. Weaving adored playing such a wise yet wistful hero. “Elrond is so wise, so good, so noble and yet he also has, for a lack of a better word, a real humanity to him. There is a side of him that has been made desperate by the perpetual state of war. He has a real sense of how hard it is for people to get out from under evil,” Weaving says.
The entire cast underwent intensive training in ancient arts and languages for their roles. This included studying sword fighting with veteran sword master Bob Anderson; learning horsemanship with head wrangler Dave Johnson; and practicing the Elvish language with dialect and creative language coaches Andrew Jack and Roísin Carty.
Jack and Carty developed a unique accent and cadence for Elvish, based in part on Celtic, yet entirely unique in the world. In also training the actors in other dialects, they gave exercises during which the actors stood in front of a mirror, making curious noises and faces, learning to use their facial muscles in completely new ways. The result was that the actors found their own accents spontaneously. Jack and Carty taught the actors as if they were learning a language from scratch, not simply memorizing script lines.
In addition to the technical training, every actor involved in The Lord of the Rings had to be in top physical condition – not just because the Fellowship scales mountains, fords streams and fights physically intense battles throughout the trilogy, but because they had to withstand the 274-day shooting schedule. Says Dominic Monaghan, who plays the Hobbit Merry: “We all started fitness programs well before production began and we worked with physical trainers throughout. Not only was the shoot physically challenging, with huge leaps and big battles and stuff like that, but the hours alone required physical conditioning and fitness. Anybody out of shape wouldn’t have made it!”
Summarizes Peter Jackson: “For me the project really came to life when the cast came on board and brought their individual interpretations to the roles. They made it so much more realistic than I had ever imagined.”
THE DESIGN OF THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING “The greatest feeling of success has been to watch all these bits and pieces of polystyrene and metal and wood become a world so real you believe these characters live there. We’ve painted Tolkien’s palette as much as possible across the film.”
Until now, Tolkien’s Middle-earth has existed only in the imaginations of readers and in the detailed yet limited illustrations for the novels. But in The Fellowship of the Ring, the Hobbit holes of Hobbiton, the sylvan glades of the Elf refuge Rivendell, the smoky innards of the Prancing Pony Inn, and the networks of underground caverns in the Mines of Moria come physically, palpably to life.
Peter Jackson had one underlying precept for the visual design for The Lord of the Rings trilogy: a transporting brand of realism. The undertaking would not be possible without the services of WETA Limited, New Zealand’s premier physical effects house, under the direction of supervisor Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger. Their mission: to create Middle-earth’s physical reality, from the interiors of Hobbit holes to the heights of Mount Doom, as if they believed with all their hearts and senses in its existence.
Taylor approached the project like a general going to war. He immediately employed a crew of over 120 technicians divided into six crucial departments:
Makeup and Prosthetics
Armor and Weapons
WETA Digital, a separate arm, also took on the challenge of creating the groundbreaking computer-generated creatures and effects for The Lord of the Rings trilogy (see Breaking Digital Ground: Special Effects).
But before WETA could get to work, the filmmakers needed to turn Tolkien’s vividly drawn descriptions into three-dimensional visions. They turned to the two men who knew Tolkien’s universe best: conceptual artists Alan Lee and John Howe, who illustrated the Harper Collins editions of The Lord of the Rings. Lee and Howe sketched madly, producing seminal images of the cultures, creatures, buildings and landscapes that make Hobbiton, Rivendell, Mordor and other locations in the trilogy feel so alive.
Inspired by their own intimate love of Tolkien’s work, Lee and Howe produced hundreds of life-like sketches which later were metamorphosed into storyboards, then scale models of Middle-earth’s many landscapes and regions, and sometimes into full-scale sets under the aegis of production designer Grant Major. In addition to full-sized sets, the production widely used miniature sets – models so detailed and artistically rendered that the slightly larger ones became known as “bigatures.”
“As a conceptual artist, it is quite a mine field treading through Tolkien’s world, but you somehow have to trust your own judgment and your own vision. Tolkien’s descriptions are so beautiful and poetic, yet he has left plenty of room for us to make our own little explorations,” says Alan Lee.
Lee was especially excited by Peter Jackson’s mandate. “When he said he wanted to be as true to the spirit of the books as he could and try to create very, very real landscapes and as believable a world as possible, I knew I was the right person for the job,” he says.
Says production designer Grant Major of Lee and Howe: “Their contribution to the project was absolutely fundamental. They gave us the look and feel of Middle-earth, and they brought the most intimate knowledge of Tolkien lore to their work.”
Lee had always tried to make his illustrations believable, but now he and Howe had a new challenge: producing illustrations so rich they could be turned into miniatures, models and sets. He recalls the magic of seeing Hobbiton evolve from Tolkien’s charming descriptions to detailed sketches to life-like sets. “We had drawn so many sketches and had so many conversations and then there was the whole construction process,” he recalls. “But, finally it became this absolutely real place where grass grew over the roofs and the chimneys were spouting smoke, and it was like a dream to see it come to life.”
Lee also oversaw the work as his sketches became miniature sets that seemed to take on a life of their own. The miniature production unit was guided by director of photography Alex Funke, who won an Oscar for his effects on Total Recall. Funke and team filmed an unprecedented 64 miniature sets, some of the most complex ever rendered. Among those seen in The Fellowship of the Ring are the “forest kingdom” of Lothlorien made up of tree-houses connected by walkways, and the land of the Dwarves known as Khazad-Dum.
Many of the sets, big and small, were carved out of polystyrene, a material that can look like wood that has aged for thousands of years, as in the Prancing Pony Pub, or the stone sculptures at the gates of Minas Tirith. WETA made some remarkable innovations, using a polyurethane spraying machine developed for spraying rubber coatings on North Sea oil rigs.
“We were able to do in a week what might have taken months to build in a traditional manner,” explains Richard Taylor. “With this machine, we could sculpt anything. We were making a hundred helmets in a day. It helped us to build many worlds.”
Production designer Grant Major oversaw the creation of such life-sized exterior sets as the intricate and delicate Elvish kingdom of Rivendell, the grassy knolls of Hobbiton, and the underground interior realms of the mines of Moria. He, too, made realism and exquisite detail a priority.
The sets for Rivendell, for example, were created to reflect the Elvish culture – which is highly artistic and intimately connected to the forest and nature. It appears as a place of deep serenity, with arching walkways spanning babbling streams and quiet wooden gazebos. “We used a leaf motif throughout the sets, and used a lot of hand-carved statues, pillars and door frames. Even the colors are right out of the forest,” Major notes. “We even added Art Nouveau-style influences that reflect their elegant nature.” Major also wanted to lend Rivendell “a sense of mystery,” so he designed and built a series of 40-foot-tall towers that shimmer in the background of Rivendell, suggesting more than meets the eye.
Many of Major’s sets were built on stages in Wellington, New Zealand. This, for example, is where he created the Mines of Moria, where the Fellowship journeys in The Fellowship of the Ring. Gray granite walls were sprayed constantly by WETA technicians to appear as glistening, dripping, jewel-encrusted caves, a whole network of which spans beneath the Dwarf land, Khazad-Dum.
One thing Major always had to consider in the design of his sets was durability. “You had thousands of people trampling through these sets, and sometimes people were hucking axes into the floor, so they had to be built to withstand a lot! Our sets had to withstand 60 pounds per square foot.” Major worked hand-in-hand with WETA Digital, to make sure the sets would accommodate computer-generated images to be added in later.
Major even found himself becoming a fledgling gardener. To create Hobbiton, he had a large greens department team plant 5,000 cubic meters of vegetable and flower gardens a year before filming began. “We started the year before filming because we wanted the look of it to age naturally in the weather,” explains Major. “We were always trying to make every set as real in time and place as could be imagined.”
Everyone who entered Hobbiton was transported. Observes Ian McKellen, who plays the wizard Gandalf: “Hobbiton really wasn’t a set at all. It was a real open-air village, with growing crops and flowers actually sprouting in gardens, birds singing, insects... Nothing was plastic or fake. It was just totally thrilling to enter another world like that.”
WETA GETS TO WORK: OF MASKS, MEN AND VAST DESIGNS
“The contribution of Richard Taylor & Tania Rodger and their WETA Workshop has been essential in putting this film together. They truly understood my desire to make every inch of this production feel real. Right down to the pitted, greasy, dirty armor, WETA has gone the extra distance to get the details right.”
– Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson made another stunningly ambitious decision early on in the development of The Lord of the Rings: The production would make every single item in Middle-earth from scratch. It made logical sense, since nothing from Middle-earth actually exists. But Jackson’s visions beget a logistical undertaking beyond what anyone had ever attempted before.
To get an idea of the sheer scope of creating Middle-earth, consider the following numbers:
more than 900 suits of hand-made armor
more than 2,000 rubber and safety weapons
more than 100 special, hand-made weapons
more than 20,000 individual household and everyday items handmade by artisans
more than 1,600 pairs of prosthetic feet and ears, individually sized and shaped
WETA’s team oversaw it all in an effort not unlike mobilizing an army. Richard Taylor, head of WETA, became the general spurring his troops on to greater and greater creative achievement.
“I would say that we have been fanatical about this project,” says Taylor. “We wanted to stay fanatically loyal to the written word of Tolkien. The people I hired are people who have an intense love of Tolkien, who bring a totally fresh, written word approach to design. The whole design for every little element of the entire trilogy has been figured out to the nth degree. The bottom line was this: Everything had to feel real.”
In addition to the usual motion picture crew, WETA brought on board blacksmiths, leather-workers, sculptors and experts in medieval armor. A special foam latexing oven was running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to churn out Hobbit ears and feet, Uruk-Hai arms and legs, among other prosthetics.
“The level of reality in WETA’s creations was such that you could pick up a sword that looked completely real and find out it was made of rubber. Their stuff looks that good,” says Peter Jackson.
In addition to weapons and props, WETA brought to life some of Middle-earth’s most imaginative creatures, including the Orcs, of whom no two are alike. WETA artisans created gray, wrinkled prosthetic skin suits – resembling elephant hide – and black armor resembling an insect’s exoskeleton to produce the Orcs’ frightening, insect-meets-medieval-knight appearance.
Each of the 200 Orc heads made for the film was unique – an individually shaped mask made of latex foam silicone and implanted with yak hair, woven strand by strand for different hair styles. WETA also forged blue-tinged prosthetic feet, with long, curving claws, to stick out from the Orcs’ knee-high boots. The look was completed with layers of Middle-earth mud.
“I wanted the Orcs to look like Roman soldiers,” says Richard Taylor, “who live under an ethic of fear of their leaders.”
The physical effects team of Steve Ingram, Richard Cordobes and Blair Foord also joined in the fun to manipulate the natural environment, creating rain, snow, fire and wind storms with spray pipes and giant fans, as well as an enormous volume of mist, steam, fog and smoke through the use of special liquids. The team also created fake rivers and streams running through fake forests on soundstages.
Throughout, the WETA team had one “bible” they used as a constant source of reference: Tolkien’s original novels. “We would photocopy appropriate passages from the books and place them all around the workshops as the artists worked,” explains Richard Taylor. “We were never without Tolkien’s spirit on the set.”
The scale of every character from 3‘6”-inch Hobbits to the huge Cave Troll, had to also be taken into consideration by WETA and the costume department. As Richard Taylor of WETA notes: “We had to create almost everything at least twice in different scales. The mathematics alone was a staggering challenge. But it was the only way to stay true to what Tolkien created in his imagination: a world of many different sizes.”
FROM HOBBITS TO ELVES:
THE COSTUMES AND MAKE-UP “On a project of this size and scope you have to design what you believe in, and on this film there wasn’t a day in the 274 days of shooting that the costumes didn’t look and feel real.”
–Ngila Dickson, costume designer
At the heart of every culture are its clothing and physical appearance, and Middle-earth is no different. In order to clothe an entire universe of beings, costume designer Ngila Dickson faced the challenge of her life. Although she has been creating imaginative, ancient costumes for “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Hercules” on television, Tolkien’s universe presented a challenge unlike any other: clothing not just hundreds of characters, but nine physically and expressively different cultures. Working with a team of 50 tailors, embroiders, cobblers and jewelers, Dickson attempted to make each costume life-like, functional and reflective of each character.
The volume of costumes alone was staggering, an average of 150 costumes for each of the different cultures. Adding to the sheer numbers was the fact that many individual character costumes had to be made in two sizes: one for the actor and the other for the smaller or larger “scale double” used in filming.
Creating the Hobbit costumes was always a priority – and a sticky challenge. “When you have little fellows running around in frock coats and short trousers, you have to work hard to make that believable,” notes Dickson. “But Peter was quite clear that he wanted them to look as real as possible.”
Dickson did so by highlighting their pastoral nature. She used very natural fabrics and strong weaves, influenced by ancient European cultures. They wear waistcoats in harvest colors – greens, yellows and browns -- with brass buttons. But she also reinforced the playfulness of their stature and way of life. “I added a lot of quirks, things to jar the eye,” she points out. “Their trouser legs and sleeves are too short, their buttons are too big, and their collars are out of proportion. I even made their pockets higher than usual for example, so when they put their hands in their pockets it has a very distinctive, funny look to us.”
For the Elves, Dickson went for sheer elegance, mossy greens, tree-bark browns, autumn scarlets, an androgynous quality and a touch of antiquity. “They invoke their environment,” she notes, “and they’re very light on the earth, so we searched for very, very fine layers of fabrics for them.” Their costumes were forged from Indian silk brocade, which Dickson washed, bleached, dyed and sandpapered to give the costumes a shimmering metallic gleam that looks organic.
The Elves also wear silk-velvet acid-etched with Art Nouveau leaf designs. Even their sleeves are made in leaf shapes, coiling around the actors’ arms. On their feet are knee-high leather boots that add to their willowy appearance.
Another challenging costume was that of the Wizard Gandalf. Dickson toiled for weeks designing his hat, the ultimate wizard icon. “I wanted something impressive, ancient and magical but not too overwhelming,” says the designer. “Our first sketches were like great ships on Ian McKellen’s head, but we finally came to something that was perfect, functional and mysterious.”
For the film’s female characters, Dickson went for a new ethereal aesthetic. For the film’s two Elven leading ladies, Cate Blanchett and Liv Tyler, Dickson took their ethereal qualities to create an alluring race who are “the angels of the story,” as Dickson puts it.
Dickson continues, “The Elves are tall, slender and elegant. They have a floating image to their costumes, using colors and fabric that are light and semi-shimmery.”
Once Dickson created her costumes, she then had to “ruin” them. That is, she had to age and soil and tear them to make them look like they had gone through the adventures the creatures of Middle-earth experience. The Hobbits, for example, start out with clean, white shirts at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, but soon find them muddied and bloodied in battle.
In the case of Aragorn’s rugged, mud-splattered costume, Viggo Mortensen did the aging himself. “He took his outfit home with him because he wanted to literally grow into it,” says Dickson. “He sweat in it, lived in it, even repaired it himself, as Aragorn would have. That’s the best you can hope for in making costumes: that the actors will participate and make them their own, a part of their character.”
Working closely with Dickson and Peter Jackson in forging each character’s distinctive, detailed look was the makeup and hair design team of Peter King and Peter Owen. One of their main challenges was hair, which in The Fellowship of the Ring ranges from the belly-length beard of Gandalf to the thinning scraggles on the head of the Orcs to the flaxen locks of Galadriel. King and Owen had hundreds of wigs made to specifications that make them essentially invisible to human eyes. In fact, some 300 hand-made knotted wigs were permed in a giant pressure cooker in WETA’s workshops.
The makeup artists also worked closely with the prosthetic artists to coordinate such features as pointy ears with the overall look. They, too, had to “enhance” their work with a variety of dirt, blood, scratches and gashes collected as the journey went on. In fact, the make-up artists eventually became known on set as “The Mud Men.”
No matter the costume, it was essential that every robe, wig and boot in the film be maximally durable – especially given the fact that actors were scrambling over cliffs, slogging through streams, crawling underground and heaving swords at one another. “We tried to get longevity out of each costume,” explains Dickson. “They had to survive a lot.”
In the end, Dickson hopes her costumes don’t stand out. Instead, she hopes they become part of the astonishing realistic backdrop for the characters’ incredible journey towards friendship and wisdom. “The less people notice the details of the costume the better job we did in a sense,” she comments, “because that means the costumes have helped to completely absorb you in the story.”
BREAKING DIGITAL GROUND: THE VISUAL EFFECTS
“My same philosophy applied to digital effects as to the overall design. I wanted the monsters to feel real right down to the dirt under the fingernails of a Cave Troll or the bloodshot, bulging eyes of Gollum.”
– Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson and his team not only created a physical Middle-earth, they also designed an entirely digital universe for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This staggeringly intensive, behind-the-scenes work was carried out by Wellington, New Zealand based WETA Digital. This innovative effects company assembled a crack team of computer artists, key frame animators, modelers, digital paint artists, motion editors, compositors and software engineers, among others, to devote years of their lives to creating never-before-seen effects.
WETA Digital also invested in a historical first in live-action filmmaking: a massive database that has stored every single frame shot in the making of The Lord of the Rings in a digital library that can instantly access, analyze and cross-reference any single item appearing in the film. This means that every single element in the trilogy can be subject to digital manipulation, from landscapes to mood lighting to Hobbits and horses.
WETA Digital spent countless hours, with their team comprised of more than 200 people at the height of digital production, enhancing the New Zealand landscape to create environments that mirror images of Middle-earth forged into imaginations by Tolkien's prose. They sought to make the colors, images and locations of Middle-earth feel tangibly real, as if they have existed since the beginning of time. A WETA Digital team was on set at all times during the lengthy shoot, cataloging and chronicling all the physical aspects of production to make the digital transition smoother. With more than 5 units shooting on particular day all throughout the country of New Zealand, the team had to be meticulous down to the last frame. Whether it be the Fellowship dangling for life from the stairway of Khazad-dum, Gandalf being damned by Saruman to Orthanc Tower, or a massive battle with the menacing Uruk-Hai, the scope and detail of the digital world of The Fellowship of the Ring proved a key component in creating the adventure and excitement of the epic tale.
But the real creative power of WETA Digital is most apparent in some of the most evil and threatening of characters appearing in The Fellowship of the Ring. Creatures forged entirely through digital magic including the Balrog, the Cave Troll and the Watcher, among many others. One of the most exciting creatures introduced in The Lord of the Rings trilogy is Gollum, who was born a Hobbit-like creature named Smeagol but transformed into something far more frightening through his own encounter with the One Ring. Audiences can look forward to seeing Gollum in his entirety with the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, though he appears briefly in The Fellowship of the Ring. "I think that Gollum may be one of the most sophisticated digital creations seen yet," notes WETA's Richard Taylor. "Throw out all your old ideas about what CG looks like because Gollum defies them."
Gollum was brought into existence through a combination of state-of-the-art computer animation and sophisticated motion-capture technology utilizing "fluid dynamics." Peter Jackson wanted to avoid a "computer-generated look," so instead the painstaking design lends to Gollum realistic joint movement based on actual organic muscle and bone, all seen rippling under his translucent, but flesh-like skin. The computer artists studied anatomy books to create a believable view inside Gollum's skin.
"WETA developed vast amounts of code to create Gollum," notes Peter Jackson. "They developed new modeling codes, new skin codes, new muscle codes. He is amazingly life-like and we were able to give him a range of expressions from the evil of Gollum to the sympathy of Smeagol."
The filmmakers also brought in renowned character actor Andy Serkis to give Gollum a range of voices - from melancholy to menacing. According to Barrie M. Osborne, "It is imperative that Gollum is a real character. He is brought to screen as an animated character, but we need him to have an emotional range, a character torn between the power of the One Ring. Andy Serkis has that range as an actor to do an amazing job, both in his vocal range, in his ability to pantomime Gollum on set, and also on the motion capture stage - so when animated he will become the most realistic animated creature ever on screen." Digital technicians worked closely with Serkis to capture his own uniquely created movement for the bony, lonely creature.
INTO THE RING’S EVIL: STUNTS AND ACTION “This film required actors in tremendous physical shape, both because of the battles they go through and the fact that the Fellowship journeys over water, under the ground and across mountains to destroy the Ring.”
–Barrie M. Osborne
The action of The Lord of the Rings also required the design of unparalleled stunts under the direction of stunt coordinator George Marshall Ruge. They not only helped to choreograph massive battle sequences filled with ancient (and newly invented) fighting techniques, but worked with cast members and stunt extras balancing on high cliffs, scaling castle walls, falling out of boats and charging through forests on horseback. The stunts for this film are unique because of the wide range of fighting styles practiced by the myriad characters. It was a challenge for the stunt department to stage battles with so many different sizes, styles and movements.
Bob Anderson, the world’s top sword master who has consulted on such films as Star Wars and trained legendary film star Errol Flynn, was also brought in to train the actors in different fencing techniques. An expert in medieval arms, Anderson read the novels and then developed sparring methods based on Tolkien’s descriptions of each culture. For example, he determined that the Hobbits are so small, they should fight as a team. Some, like the axe-wielding Gimli the Dwarf, use a variety of other weapons. A commando army of stunt performers was given special training to perfect the unique fighting styles of the Orcs, the Uruk-Hai, The Ringwraiths, the Elves and the other civilizations in Tolkien’s universe. An expert in firing ancient English longbows was also brought in.
The stunts not only required a massive human effort but an animal one as well. The Lord of the Rings used more than 250 horses, including a corps of 70 specially trained horses. Among them are the five miniature horses used for the Hobbits, and the two proud white Andalusians used to bring Shadowfax, the wizard Gandalf’s mysteriously wild and courageous steed, to life. This multi-faceted department was helmed by head animal wrangler Dave Johnson, horse coordinator Steve Old, horse technical advisors John Scott and Lyle Edge, and horse stunt coordinator Casey O’ Neill.
For Peter Jackson, it was all part of an effort to reflect the realistic pandemonium of battles—from the adrenaline rush of the crowds and the hammering hooves of the horses to the heart-wrenching screams and valiant cries in the background. Despite the sophistication of the stunts and effects throughout The Lord of the Rings, in the end Peter Jackson kept the focus on a simple enemy: the One Ring. “What’s so interesting to me about The Lord of the Rings is that the ultimate villain of the entire epic story isn’t a fire-breathing dragon or killer robot or massive shark. It’s a tiny thing,” he says. “The evil is more psychological, intangible, something each character encounters in his or her own way.”
THE MUSIC OF THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING In devising the music for The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson was committed to the idea of creating a timeless, classic orchestral score that would not reflect a specific historical period. Recognizing the tremendous influence of music and song in Tolkien's literary works, Jackson and co-writer/producer Fran Walsh worked closely with Howard Shore to create music that would best reflect Tolkien’s world.
Shore engaged the 96-piece London Philharmonic Orchestra, working in London over an intense 6-week-long schedule, to create two hours of original music for The Fellowship of the Ring. He also enlisted the choral vocal group, The Voices of London, a 60-person male and female adult choir led by Terry Edwards.
Out of his desire to create different vocal and instrumental elements for each of the various civilizations in Middle-earth, Shore included in the fabric of the score a number of exotic instruments, such as the Raita from North Africa, which he utilized in segments involving the Ringwraiths.
The only portions of the score recorded outside of London were to accompany the Moria sequence. This music was recorded over a week at the Wellington Town Hall in the center of Wellington, New Zealand, where The Lord of the Rings production was based.
The soundtrack also features two original songs by acclaimed musical artist Enya, a longtime fan of the trilogy. Jackson, likewise a fan of Enya’s music, invited her to New Zealand to meet with him and watch footage from the film. Among the tracks Enya contributed are the songs "Aniron," which accompanies an intimate sequence between Arwen and Aragorn; and “May It Be,” which is heard during the end titles of the film.
MIDDLE-EARTH DOWN UNDER: THE NEW ZEALAND LOCATIONS “New Zealand is Middle-earth. It has every geological formation and geographical landscape you can imagine . . . and some you can’t.”
–Elijah Wood, “Frodo Baggins”
To truly create Middle-earth for The Lord of the Rings, the filmmakers had to find a location that could represent the earth as it might have appeared 7,000 years ago. In the South Pacific, across the International Date Line, they found their idyll in New Zealand, where a primal, untamed and unruly landscape still exists almost untouched by any blight of modern technology. “New Zealand has the essence of the old European countryside,” says Peter Jackson. “Yet it also has an extraordinary quality that makes it perfect for The Lord of the Rings, as well as very experienced crew members.”
In New Zealand, as in Middle-earth, mountains loom overhead and green rolling hills spread underfoot. Peter Jackson and his team scoured the country’s two islands for their most beautiful, hidden areas. The sheer diversity of landscapes allowed for the recreation of such locales for the trilogy as Hobbiton, Bree, Rivendell, Moria, Mordor, and Gondor, all seen in The Fellowship of the Ring. New Zealand’s volcanic activity came in handy for fiery Mount Doom, where Sauron forged the One Ring, seen briefly in The Fellowship of the Ring. From the remarkable mountain ranges of Queenstown to the deserts of Tongariro, each unique distant location became home for a cast and crew of hundreds.
“Middle-earth has a familiar feel to us, but as an audience you don’t know exactly where it is. That is the beauty of New Zealand with fields that resemble England, mountains that could double as the Swiss Alps, or beautiful pristine lakes that you get in Italy -- all this eclectic mix of locations in a small country where it is easy for a film crew to get from point A to point B,” says co-producer Rick Porras.
When Jackson and company came upon the rolling hills of Matamata on the North Island, they knew they had found their Hobbiton. The size of the small, sloped grassy hills seemed to perfectly match the 3’6” Hobbits and their homestead. “With real moss, real grass, real trees and, thanks to the incredible design team real-looking homesteads, the idyllic rural life of the Hobbits became real. New Zealand made it a truly special place. It meant I didn’t have to use my imagination because Hobbiton was there for Gandalf to feel at home in,” notes Ian McKellen. Adds John Rhys-Davies, who plays the Dwarf Gimli: “New Zealand is such a primitive land it can take you back to a primitive time in history. It’s so breathtakingly beautiful that you believe that even in the twilight of doom there might still be humor, honor, courage and compassion.”
Many of the locations were under the protection of the New Zealand Department of Conservation, but the filmmakers treated the land with the respect it deserved. The indigenous New Zealand people, the Maori, came to bless the production’s soundstages before principal photography began.
Of course, not everything you see in The Fellowship of the Ring is pure, natural New Zealand. Sometimes, the stunning scenery is digitally enhanced with seamless sophistication. “With digital wizardry, we were able to add craggy little mountains, and put buildings where they never have been. New Zealand is an impressive landscape; but with a little extra help from the computer we turned it into Middle-earth,” says Peter Jackson.
“We had a crew comprised mostly of New Zealanders, or ‘Kiwis.’ There are a lot of innovative concepts and technologies on the crew’s behalf that have made shooting a project of this mammoth scope possible,” says producer Barrie M. Osborne.