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The Lord of the Rings, Campus Circle (LA, US), December 17, 2003- January 13, 2004
typed by Jen

The Fellowship Lives On with The Return of the Kings

By Josh Herman

If society can coin the phrase "chick flick" for female-themed movies, then can The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King be described as a "d--- flick?" After all, the film does promote brotherhood and the strength of the male bond through adversity.

"There are a fair bit of fans who see the relationship as a homosexual relationship," Elijah Wood says about the close proximity of his character, Frodo and fellow hobbit Sam, played by Sean Astin. "It wasn't really how I or Sean saw it. I think it is a very loving, caring close relationship, which happens to be between two men. I think it's still up for interpretation."

What can't be debated is that this film, the last of Peter Jackson's LOTR uber-epic, is the rare finale of a trilogy that not only trumps the previous films, but makes them more delicious in its completion. The anxious thrust of The Return of the King is that Frodo and Sam (Wood and Astin) are near, as Gandalf says, "The great battle of our time," while Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) must deal with inner-demons for a change and do what Simba was required to do in another far away kingdom "remember who you are" and take his regal place in the circle of death.

The onscreen fellowship echoes the one behind the Kookaburra tree. Mortensen and Orlando Bloom spent much of their off-time on a green bus they named the "C-Bago." According to Mortensen, "It was a crazy small bus" that he decorated wall-to-wall with his behind-the-scenes photos of the set. For Christmas, they had a tree made out of tampons. The C-bago became a frat house, where much drinking and partying ensued the bus even had its own wine cellar. The motto? "Everyone is welcome, but when it's time to go, GET OUT."

"The actors had a spiritual connection to it," director Jackson says of the bus. "I liked the way they had photographs [Mortensen and Bloom] taken behind-the-scenes, plastered all over the walls.

"Ahhh yes, the bus. It was mine, all mine. It was my precious," Bloom says sifting LOTR character Gollum through an [English] drawl.

Bloom, a "sex symbol" according to Mortensen, christened the bus the "C-word" when the makeup artist was fuming about someone and asked Bloom's advice.

"You should kick him in the ct and tell him to fk off!" Bloom said. "Viggo just lost it for half an hour. He kept saying, 'What did you say?' [The bus] became all about "the word." We took that word and took all of its power away. We made it the most loving word in the world. If you were a true ct, you were the most amazing person in the world."

As LOTR can be read as a possible metaphor of acceptance, the Bago accepted everyone no matter what sex or sexual persuasion.

"Did they call it the party bus? More like the farty bus!" Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf in the film, quips.

"I can't believe he [Mortensen] talked about that. That was our private world," muses co-star Liv Tyler, who continued, "There was a lot of liquor on that bus. But the funniest thing about this bus is that this thing was a beast. It was so tiny; nothing worked. If they ever washed our hair it would go from scalding hot to freezing cold. There was no heat."

While talking about the C-Bago, the "end-of-an-era" nostalgia that creeps into the last day of high school grips the cast. The Return of the King is senior year for these performers, who will now graduate and go in their separate directions. Some will become sex objects (Bloom), some will become poets and have exhibitions (Mortensen), and some will reunite with their families (Astin). But when they have their 20-year reunion (the 20th Anniversary Release) you know stories of "The Bus" will be fondly swapped.

"It was a very free-spirited bus," Bloom reflects. "It came about because me and Viggo kept being moved around, and we ended up on this bus one day. And the actors were fed up and we said, "This is it. This is our home and we are not moving. If they come, tell them to go away."

The fellowship is complete.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is currently in theaters.