The Final Battle, Cinema (Germany), December 2003
posted at theonering.net
The Return Of The King
Exclusively for CINEMA, LOTR director Peter Jackson and his stars write about
the shooting of the third and final part and explain, why saying goodbye was so
hard for them…
It is the third Christmas in a row that millions of people all over the world
are looking forward to with especially shining eyes. On 17 December, “The Return
Of The King”, the long-expected finale of the triology will at last be released.
“I assure you that this film is the best”, promises Gandalf-actor Ian McKellen. Director
Peter Jackson also seems to be lacking
some of his Kiwi reservation: “It is the part of the saga I am most proud of.”
The confidence that the stars and makers are using to increase the curiosity of
the fans, does not come from nothing. Not only has the series already grossed
several hundreds of million dollars, but also the producers succeeded to
convince the skeptical fans of Tolkien all over the world.
Accordingly, there’s hardly any doubt that part three will crown the story of
success (see also our review in the next issue, to be released 18 December
2003). In order to provide you an all-embracing impression, we have traveled
around the globe in the past weeks in order to collect exclusive photos in
London, Los Angeles, New York and New Zealand capital of Wellington, and to talk
with Peter Jackson and his actors about
the brilliant finale of the saga.
Cinema spoke with Sean
Astin (Sam), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Billy Boyd (Pippin), Peter Jackson (director), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Dominic Monaghan (Merry), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) and Elijah Wood (Frodo).
Wood: Next year at Christmas, I will probably be at home, packing my
suitcases and wonder why no one picks me up and drives me to a LOTR premiere.
Let’s not fool ourselves: This end in instalments is bitter, even though most
friendships will be more than the usual set-friendships and will continue long
Mortensen: I usually don’t tend to be sentimental, but when we finished the
last pick ups in the summer, I was overwhelmed by the feeling of goodbye. Of
course, there’s still the premieres in Wellington and Berlin to come, but we saw
most members of the crew for the last time. There are actors who don’t care
about such experiences. I do. In the end, we all become senile very early, and
until then I will feed on the memories and will carry the smell of the New
Zealand woods with me. I will never ride into battle as Aragorn, but what I
felt in these moments, will give me power and strength for a very long time to
come. About that, I am certain.
Boyd: Our goodbye was a little relieved by great presents. Everyone was given
an affectionately composed video full of scenes and outtakes of his own roll.
Also, we were allowed to chose a souvenir and take it with us.
Wood: I received the ring. The original ring. But I do not exhibit the ring –
it’s covered in cloth and packed away in a little box which again was packed
away in two larger boxes. And there, it’s well kept.
Bloom: I received Legolas’ bow and a set
of sharp arrows. But when I wanted to fly to England, the souvenirs were
collected by the New Zealand customs and I was told that they would be
dispatched separately. Well, I am waiting still, and I guess that somewhere in
this world a fan now owns original props.
McKellen: I requested the doorknobs of Saruman’s tower of
Orthanc, beautifully made of fibre glass in the form of lizards. You could
hardly recognize them in the film, but it was characteristic for the production:
Even the tiniest detail was treated with the same accurateness as the most
important total shots. But what astounded me even more: When I showed the
doorknobs to a couple of fans, they immediately knew where they belonged. Hardly
to believe, isn’t it? You could almost believe they’ve watched the film under
the magnifying glass.
Mortensen: I was allowed to take my original, terribly worn steel sword. I’ve
always used it despite the enormous weight, whenever the danger of the scenes
Astin: I am the proud owner of Sam’s rucksack and,
most of all, a pair of Hobbit-feet.
McKellen: I consider myself the luckiest of all LOTR actors because I got to
play two roles, and this development comes to a fulminant conclusion in part
three. I started out as Gandalf the Grey who
has little energy and has to face his greatest fears first – and now I play a
mighty role as a leader and fighter who gets mud in his face on the battlefield.
Bloom: ROTK is Aragorn’s story who
learns to take a terribly large responsibility. Legolas? Hey, he’s
firing off a pile of arrows and does the usual hero sh**. The TT scenes where I
surf on a shield or mount a horse in full gallop, were so well received by the
audience that Peter thought of a special sequence for Legolas which will top
anything else. Promised!
Jackson: I am still in the editing, but I guess that we will be exceeding the
three-hour-bounds. Before my inner eye, ROTK had always been the most exciting
and moving part of the triology. I’ve never been prouder than on this part! Last
but not least because I worked up my most terrible nightmares in the scenes with
Shelob. She is designed after a so called tunnel web spider that had been
tantalizing me in my childhood in New Zealand. Giant spiders in films are often
very slow, because they are filmed in slow motion to magnify their dimensions.
Not with us: Shelob is a damn fast beast and will not only make Frodo panic.
Mortensen: After the first films have been received very positively, and the
giant battles this time outshine even Helm’s Deep, everyone is expecting a hit
at the box offices, and I am sure ROTK will be. Still, I would not want to
measure the worth of our work in Box-Office-categories, only. If I look at the
snapshots of my colleagues that have been made four years ago, and compare them
to pictures of today, I see a change in their eyes. These are looks of people
who were put to an unbelievable test and passed it.
Wood: I have seen the final hour of the film – never in my life have I cried
that hard while watching a movie. Even experts of the book will be amazed by the
intensity and darkness of the story. The highest compliment I ever received as
an actor was the fact that even peter had tears in his eyes when we were
shooting the crucial scenes between Frodo and Sam on Mount Doom.
Jackson: The secret of our success? We’ve made the story authentic even
though it operates with a lot of clichés. Good Hobbits, bad Orcs – that could
easily land near Monty Python. But by taking the characters seriously, we made
Tolkien’s world absolutely believable on screen, as if we were telling a true
story – like the one of Alexander the Great or Napoleon.
Wood: Some people are mocking, when I tell them how sworn a community the
team had been. But the other day, at a Radiohead concert, I met the actor Stuart
Townsend who had been replaced by Viggo. It had been a hard decision for him,
but that’s the business. However, Stuart said that he’s never felt bitter
because he’s missed three world hits. But he did miss the family feeling he had
already developed after months of training together. I felt that he will never
experience anything like this again.
Astin: Maybe it sounds stupid: I realized that LOTR had been made for
eternity when I played against Bill Clinton at a celebrity golf tournament and
he actually knew who I was.
Mortensen: Call it luck, or call it fate. I for my part will always be sure
that I never did anything to get the role of Aragorn. It was a
present, and it has changed my life forever. For that, I am sincerely thankful.
Jackson: Viggo is known to chose his projects very carefully and basically
arrived on spec. While I was already shooting, we had a very delicate talk where
he asked me all kinds of questions about Aragorn’s motives that
I couldn’t answer even nearly as detailed as he expected. I tried in vain to
lie, until suddenly that embarrassing silence arose. I was sure at that moment
that I had spoiled the talk and started to mentally go through a list of names
who I could cast as Aragorn. But Viggo just
looked at me and said, “O.K. so we see each other on Tuesday at work.” Gosh, I
McKellen: It’s crazy how life can lead you onto the right tracks. Today, more
people on the street address me as Gandalf thank with my
real name. Back then I had already decided to turn down the role, because the
prospect of such a long production scared me and at first could not be
coordinated with “X-Men”. But believe it or not: I felt that I would regret it
if I turned down the role.
Monaghan: How we would have dealt with it if one of the core would have
turned out to be an asshole? I don’t think that this would have been possible.
The first one and a half years during the main shooting we basicly were stuck
together so closely that no one could have tried to get off the hook without
committing suicide or being fired. Of course, there were cliques, island
trantrums and smaller conflicts – privately, we are no Hobbits. But the
togetherness was never endangered, never. I guess Peter has a diploma for
psychology and casted us socially acceptable.
Jackson: I don’t think much of a dictatorial style, but I prefer to be
surrounded by people who on their particular field have better ideas than me.
McKellen: I cannot remember one single moment of the past years when Peter
had screamed. You have to imagine the set much more like a magnified version of
his garden, and there he’s off with impish joy, making the most expensive home
video of all time, even though we actors needed getting used to him generally
demanding an extreme variety of angles.
Jackson: Out of all characters of the saga, I identify mostly with Bilby
Wood: Peter used to be bare-footed on set, and I must confess that it calmed
me a lot that all this stress and chaos was supervised by a real, live Hobbit.
And I think that eccentrics are absolutely trustworthy.
Bloom: During the shooting in New Zealand we were so isolated that there was
no chance for any airs and graces. The media may pick someone from the ensemble,
that’s normal. But fame is conceptional and did not make it onto the set. I
personally have to be a bit more careful in public only since “Pirates of the
Caribbean” – in LOTR, of course, I was perfectly disguised with the blond wig
and the pointy ears.
Astin (laughing): Unbelievable that someone as ugly as Orlando makes it onto
magazine covers! He must have a clever agent!