The movie trilogy "The Lord of the Rings" ("The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King") are based on the beloved books by J.R.R. Tolkien. The three films, directed by Peter Jackson and written by Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh, grossed more than $1 billion in theatrical release, according to Box Office Mojo. The three were filmed concurrently over 18 months in New Zealand, and a production this large is not without behind-the-scenes stories.
"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"
Viggo Mortensen was a last-minute choice for the role of Aragorn. He hadn't read the books or met the director, but he accepted the role at the urging of his son Henry. The role was originally given to Stuart Townsend, who was let go when Peter Jackson decided an older actor was needed. The set for Hobbiton, the home of Frodo Baggins, the central character of the films played by Elijah Wood, was built a full year before filming began so it would look natural and lived in. Ian Holmes, who plays Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who gives the ring to Frodo, never filmed any footage on the Hobbiton set -- all his scenes were done using a blue screen. Director Peter Jackson makes a cameo appearance as a peasant outside the Prancing Pony Inn in Bree. His two children appear during Bilbo Baggins' 111th birthday party, and are credited as "Cute Hobbit Children" in the end credits. (reference 2)
"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"
The actors who played the orcs drank a licorice-based mouthwash before filming so the inside of their mouths would appear black. The orc juice that they force hobbit Merry, played by Dominic Monaghan, to drink was made of a combination of peach juice and soda concentrate. When the orcs are outside Helms Deep, ready for battle, their intimidating cry was actually a recording of 25,000 cricket fans led in a war chant by Peter Jackson. The set for Helms Deep took seven months to build, and shooting the sequence took four months of shooting -- all at night, and mostly in the rain. At the end, those case members were given T-shirts that read "I Survived Helms Deep."
"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
One of the pivotal scenes in the film, when Frodo sides with Gollum against his loyal friend Sam, played by Sean Astin, was actually shot in two halves more than a year apart. Sam's close-ups were filmed first, on a day it was too rainy to film outside. The weather improved, so they resumed filming outside the next day, and it was a year before they went back and filmed Frodo's close-ups. During a karaoke outing, film writer Philippa Boyens discovered Billy Boyd, who played hobbit Pippin, could sing. She put together the lyrics for the song he sings to Denethor (played by John Noble). Boyd composed the music. (reference 4)
New Zealand took great pride in the trilogy being filmed there. The nation named a Minister for The Lord of the Rings to explore the economic opportunities the films provided the country. On the day the third movie premiered, two of New Zealand's television networks suspended their broadcasts so they could provide live coverage of the event, and more than 100,000 people lined the streets. The city of Wellington threw an after-premiere party that lasted until dawn and cost $400,000.
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