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Farewell to the King, Dreamwatch (UK), January 2004
typed by Tweed

As the battle for Middle-Earth concludes in Return Of The King, director Peter Jackson and stars Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Viggo Mertensen and Orlando Bloom discuss the end of the Rings trilogy.

 

It ends here! More than half a decade after Peter Jackson embarked on his epic quest to bring J.R.R. Tolkienís The Lord Of The Rings saga to the big screen, the final battle for Middle-Earth is now playing to packed cinemas with the release of Return Of The King.

††††††††††† For millions of film fans, Jacksonís trilogy will be remembered as three of the best movies ever made. And thatís a monumental achievement Ė especially when you consider even Tolkienconsidered the books unfilmable.

††††††††††† Dreamwatch meets director Peter Jackson and stars Elijah Wood (Frodo), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Viggo Mortensen 9Aragorn), Andy Serkis (Gollum/Smeagol) and Orlando Bloom (Legolas), and quizzes them about their experiences in Middle-EarthÖ

 

Do you feel that youíve saved the best for last with The Return Of The King?

Peter Jackson: We always felt that ROTK was the strongest film, simply on the basis that is has a climax; it had an emotional pay-off. The reason you make a trilogy is because you want to get to the last one. The last chapter is the reason for the first two even existing. And it always felt the most comfortable of the scripts to us , in a way. It was more fun to shoot too.

Ian McKellen: Itís my hunch that Itís going to be the third film that really establishes these film as classics: movies that people will watch again and again and want to show to their children.

 

How does ROTK compare to the first and second films?

Elijah Wood: Itís the conclusion of the story. Itís the story in which each of the surviving characters has to face their ultimate opposition., as well as themselves and their own choices and responsibilities and internal struggles. Itís about loss, itís about sacrifice and Itís about what is ultimately gained through sacrifice. There are pretty powerful themes and pretty dark themes at play in this particular film and thereís also a real sense of urgency because time is running out. I love how the story plays itself out and what happens to these characters. I think whatís most interesting about the story is what this journey has down to them and how they are forever changed.

 

The title, the Return Of The King, refers to Aragorn realizing his destiny. Viggo, how did you see your characters role in the movies?

Viggo Mortensen: Aragorn is no exception to the other members of the fellowship. Aragorn like the others, is constantly having to prove himself and show he is willing to sacrifice himself for the common good, which I think is a constant theme in the story. In the third film, but really starting with Helmís Deep, Aragorn is having to do that more publicly, and heís having to ask more and more people to join him Ė and youíre not going to convince people to willingly march to their death unless they believe in you, respect you and feel your heart is in the right place. So the challenge that my character faces is to be more of a public leader, which is not something he is comfortable with.

††††††††††† Heís underestimated in the beginning because of his self-doubt. Thatís seen as a weakness by some, who feel he canít have self-doubt and still be a leader. But I think itís too bad more leaders in the world donít hesitate for a moment before committing themselves and others to difficult situations.

 

Is Smeagol/Gollumís character any different in ROTK?

Andy Serkis: The audience should be kept guessing about Gollum. We think at the end of the Two Towers we know who he is. We think, ďOh, Smeagolís the innocent one whoís been crushed and heís come out as his bond with Frodo has grown and Gollumís been slapping him down,Ē but in that reflection in the pool scene you actually get to see a side of Smeagol which isnít absolutely trustworthy.

 

We get to see your actual face as Smeagol in the movie. Did you always know you would be doing that scene?

Serkis: Absolutely. Originally, that scene was going to be in The Two Towers. Thereís a moment when Frodo says, ďYou used to be a Hobbit once didnít you?Ē and then that was going to be a flashback. But I think really cleverly Pete and Fran chose to move it to ROTK, so that way, Gollum lived in the publicís consciousness for a year or so, and then it would be like a psychological thriller, as we find out how he became what he is. Itís also a great start to the film, because not only is it the beginning of Gollumís story , but it takes you back to The Shire, in a way.

 

These films have been a part of your lives for nearly five years. How have you maintained your excitement and enthusiasm ?

McKellen: Well, it was an important job for each of us. Initially, it was a year of my life in New Zealand, and 18 months for the actors playing Hobbits. It was a big chunk of our lives Ė but we were all enormously enthusiastic about what seemed to be an important job. Then when the first film was such a success, how could you go on not being enthusiastic?

 

Looking back, what was it like devoting such an extensive period of your life working with one director?

Wood: When that director is Peter Jackson, itís pretty good. I would work with him again in a heartbeat. I never ever considered the fact that I might not be able to get other work and it would be a detriment the whole time I worked on these movies. I was so ready to give my life over to Peter and this experience because itís a once in a lifetime opportunity.

††††††††††† Its not something that will come around again and theyíve turned out so brilliantly. I think theyíre beautiful films that weíre all incredibly proud of and its because of Peter and his leadership that these movies are as good as they are.

 

What makes Peter Jackson so special?

Wood: Heís an incredibly visionary, heís an amazing storyteller and heís enormously passionate about making films Ė and certainly passionate about making these particular films. He has managed to keep these stories straight in his head for the seven years weíve been working on this and he hasnít really waned in energy or lost track. I would love to work for Peter in New Zealand for the rest of my life. I would be quite happy doing that.

 

Peter Jackson didnít shoot these films in chronological order. Given the depth of the story, how difficult was it to keep track of your characters?

Orlando Bloom:It was very, very hard. The good thing is we had the book. The book was like a road map for me throughout that whole period. If you got lost in terms of where you were at, you could pick up the book and reference the script to the book. Tolkien obviously layered the book with a lot of detail, so that was useful

††††††††††† Once youíre under the skin of a character and understand who the character is, you can throw them into any situation and so long as you are prepared you can make it work.

 

Do you feel the Lord Of The Rings saga is stillas relevant today as when J.R.R. Tolkien originally wrote it?

Jackson: I think itís timeless. Itís not relevant to currant affairs particularly, unless you want to put your own interpretation to it, but all of the themes that Tolkien write about are relevant. He was ahead of his time in some cases Ė his love of the English countryside and his hatred of the factories and his hatred of chopping the forest down to fuel the engines of industry. So in some instances, political thinking has caught up to Tolkien. Some of his themes are much more broad: the themes of friendship and war, and the fact that some wars are worth fighting, which Tolkien is certainly saying. If people are trying to enslave you, then you should stand up against them and fight back. And yet he also was very clearly making a point that if you went to war, you donít really win. There are no ultimate winners in war, there are only people that lose. And you come out of war changed, and no matter what the justice of the war, you come home and youíre different. And thatís very obviously true of Frodo Ė that he didnít win. He lost who he was, he lost his sense of innocence, even though what he did was justified.

 

What effects have these films had on your lives?

Mortensen: I havenít really assessed it. My first impression would be that itís been about the people that I worked with and the experience I had doing it. With any movie for me itís the process that I hopefully will enjoy and whether you have a good or bad experience, you learn from it. This has been a good experience, not always an easy one, but Iíve learned a lot and I have made some lifelong friends. Thatís what I have taken away from it.

 

Has it been difficult coming to terms with the fact that this really is the end?

Bloom: We went back to do re-shoots in New Zealand over the summer and I was very emotional. I got given my bow and arrow and my clapperboard from the last shot and then the stunt guys did a speech and Peter gave a little talk. It was really very emotional. So Iím sad to see it coming to an end but its nice to put it to bed as well. Although in a funny king of way I donít think that Iíll ever really feel that itís over.

McKellen: Well, there could be a forth movie. We could make not the sequel but the prequel. Thereís a story before The Lord of The Rings and Tolkien wrote it: The Hobbit. I keep saying ďWhy donít we make The Hobbit?Ē but weíll see.

††††††††††† I wonít ever really sat goodbye to Gandalf because I think when the third film comes out and even long after Iím dead people will still be in love with Gandalf. When I die thereís going to be a billboard saying ĎGandalf dies.í But of course he wonít die Ė heís immortal!

 

Finally, Elijah, do you have any souvenirs from these movies?

Wood: I have the Ring. People get pretty excited when I tell them that I have the Ring, so maybe I shouldnít tell people!