“Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, seven for the Dwarf-lords in halls of stone, nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die. One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne in the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, one Ring to find them, one Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.
We all love The Lord of the Rings… Here are our favorite facts about the movies!
44. No Wings For Sean
Great swaths of The Lord of the Rings was filmed in the mountains of New Zealand. Mountains which, due to their immense height and craggy terrain, could only be accessed by air. But actor Sean Bean (who played Boromir) refused to fly—leaving him only one option for travel…
Even for the scenes set on mountains, Bean hiked to set in Boromir’s full suit of armor.
43. An Actor And An Author Walk Into A Bar…
Christopher Lee was said to have read the Lord of the Rings trilogy every year of his life, until he passed away in 2015.
Lee was also the only person involved with the Lord of the Rings films who had actually met Tolkien. He met him by chance at a bar in Oxford. Imagine how cool that conversation must have been.
42. Glad They Decided To “Let It Be”
In the 1960s, The Beatles wanted to make a Lord of the Rings movie adaptation directed by Stanley Kubrick but Tolkien rejected the idea. They had already cast the movie (Paul as Frodo, Ringo as Sam, and George as Gandalf and John as Gollum) when the final nail in the coffin came from Tolkien himself, who said he wasn’t a fan of the collaboration.
Apparently, John Lennon wanted to play Gollum. How does that sound?
41. Marathon Time
Watching Peter Jackson’s three films in a row takes about 9-10 hours (as if you didn’t do that last year.) It’s a serious undertaking—not for the faint of heart. But if you’re courage is failing you, and you need another reason to carefully re-watch, here it is: Each movie features its respective subtitle as a spoken line. In Fellowship, it’s during the council scene when Elrond refers to the nine adventurers as a “Fellowship of the Ring”; in the second film, Saruman says “The Two Towers” in a voiceover; and finally during the last installment Gandalf says to Denethor that he cannot deny the “Return of the King.”
Now pick up half a day’s worth of popcorn, and check to see if I’m right. I’ll wait until you get back.
40. Friends With Fur
Viggo Mortensen formed such a strong bond with the horse he rode on set (named Brego) that he purchased him from the owners once filming wrapped. He also purchased another horse from the set so that his first horse would have a friend.
That’s one way of thanking Brego for saving him from the river after the warg rider fight.
39. Well-Earned Recognition
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the first and only fantasy film ever to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Here’s another interesting tidbit: The last day of shooting of the trilogy happened over a month after the final film was released in theatres… and three weeks after the 2004 Academy Awards. Peter Jackson wanted to film one last shot of skulls on the floor in the Paths of the Dead (which is used in the extended edition).
Jackson found it funny to be filming a movie that had already won Best Picture. Those that lost probably didn’t find it quite as funny…
38. Tolkien In Space!
According to a regulation from the International Astronomical Union (yep, that’s a thing), all mountains on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, will be named for mountains from The Lord of the Rings.
So when humans finally colonize the stars, we’ll be able to shoot the sci-fi remake of the LOTR trilogy on Mount Doom itself.
37. We’re Taking The Hobbits To Isengard
Elijah Wood created his Lord of the Rings’ Frodo audition tape in the woods with a homemade Hobbit costume.
The guy basically took cosplaying to an unheard-of level… and did such a good job he became a worldwide celebrity.
36. Elvish Ink
The members of the fellowship got matching ink. Spearheaded by Viggo Mortensen, they all committed to a small tattoo of the number nine in Elvish. The idea was to forever link together the nine members of the Fellowship.
Unfortunately, John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) declined to get his. But don’t worry! The fellowship was still technically completed: his stunt double (Brett Beattie) just got the artwork instead!
35. Bigger Budget, Shorter Tale
The budget for the first two “The Hobbit” movies is almost twice the budget of the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Apparently, all the money in the world can’t buy a good movie.
34. Money Madness
JRR Tolkien’s estate only received $62,500 for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. That is until they filed a lawsuit, claiming the $150 million owed.
33. Falling With Compassion
The Return of the King came out back in 2003, when the memory of 9/11 was still fresh in many people’s minds. So when choreographing the destruction of Sauron’s tower, the creators were careful to make sure it didn’t resemble the World Trade Center attack.
32. Bits & Pieces
In a time before CGI had truly taken over, a production like Lord of the Rings required an enormous number of practical effects.
Around 10,000 prosthetic facial appliances, over 3,500 pairs of hobbit feet, 2,500 foam body suits, 1,200 suits of armor, 2,000 weapons and 10,000 arrows were made to film the Lord of The Rings trilogy.
All that care and attention is genuinely noticeable. Even while watching the films today (basically 2 decades later) the world of Middle Earth feels real and believable. That’s the power of truly fantastic behind-the-scenes work.
31. Spoiler Alert!
J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t want the third Lord of the Rings book to be called “Return of the King” because he felt it revealed too much about the story. The title was chosen by the publisher.
Rumour has it the original title was Lord of the Rings: The One Where Something Happens That You Won’t Believe, But You Have To Read It ‘Cause I’m Not Telling, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
30. Until Death Do Us Part
The gravestone that marks the resting place of Tolkien and his wife has a powerful inscription. It marked with the names, “Lúthien” and “Beren,” two tragic, lesser-known characters from Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The pair, a mortal man and an immortal elf, were madly in love.
29. We’re Taking The Students To Isengard?
Freshmen at the University of California Irvine can opt to live in a dorm named Middle Earth. Every hall in the dormitory is named after towns or regions from Lord of the Rings.
28. Clumsy Little Hobbits
Frodo falls down exactly 39 times in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
27. I Dream Of Lord Of The Rings
It was Christopher Lee’s lifelong dream to play Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. He auditioned for the role, but Jackson thought he was too old to handle the fighting scenes. He was given the role of Saruman instead.
26. Time Jump
In the book, 17 years pass between the time that Frodo gets the ring and when he sets out on his adventure. In the movie, the chopped this down to a couple of weeks to keep things rolling!
25. Nicolas Cage, King of Gondor
Nicolas Cage passed on the role of Aragorn because of “family obligations.” Daniel Day-Lewis also turned down the role.
Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf because he had never read the books and “didn’t understand the script.” He was offered 15% of gross profits, which would have net him about $400 million (more than any other actor has ever been paid for a single role).
24. Barely Acting
Olympic fencer Bob Anderson choreographed the fight scenes in The Lord of the Rings. Anderson, who has trained professional fencers and also did the choreograph for Star Wars, said that Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) was the best swordsman he ever trained. Maybe they should have had Nic Cage duel him for the role?
23. Viggo The Legend
Mortensen did his own stunts and used a real steel sword while filming, rather than one made from aluminum and rubber like the rest of the cast.
22. Sounds Tedious…
Tolkien typed all 1,200 pages of The Lord of the Rings with two fingers. Next time someone says you’re not typing right, you know how to respond.
Orlando Bloom (Legolas) was thrown from a horse filming The Two Towers and broke his ribs. He was back to work the next day, but there are plenty of videos of the rest of the cast making fun of him for complaining about the pain!
20. Giant Dwarves
At over six feet tall, John Rhys-Davies (who plays Gimli the dwarf) is the tallest actor in the fellowship.
It’s a small reminder of just how impressive movie magic can be. Amidst all that CGI and make up, I bet you didn’t even stop to consider if Gimli really was that short.
19. Get In There, Sweetie
Peter Jackson’s daughter has multiple cameos throughout the movies. She plays a particularly cute hobbit, a Helm’s Deep refugee, and a child in Minas Tirith. Also, Samwise Gamgee’s daughter in The Return of the King is played by his real-life daughter, Alexandra.
18. Dwarven Sea Creatures
When Denethor tries to burn Faramir on the pyre, they were unable to actually light a fire because Gandalf’s horse wouldn’t go near it.
In order to solve the problem, the crew used a pane of glass placed in front of the camera lens to reflect a real fire and project it into the camera so that it looks as though the pyre burns.
17. You Shall Not Pass!
In The Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandalf has his standoff with the fire-whip-wielding balrog, Ian McKellen was actually looking at a green ping pong ball that was used to stand in for CGI characters.
16. Royal LOTR
The Queen of Denmark illustrated the Danish edition of The Lord of The Rings, under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer.
Clearly, royal duties get a little boring.
Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy because he had never read the books and “didn’t understand the script.”
It wasn’t exactly a smart career move. At the time he was offered 15% of gross profits, which would have net him about $400 million (more than any other actor has ever been paid for a single role).
14. They Weren’t Real?
The horrific Nazgul screeches, which torment characters throughout the series, were made with a surprisingly simple technique: sound technicians just recorded the noises of cheap plastic cups being scraped together.
13. Fellows… But From A Distance
Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood never filmed a scene together in person. “I never worked with Elijah Wood,” McKellen confessed. “He was the main part in Lord of the Rings, but he’s smaller than me, so we could never be together.”
Shows how good their acting really was. Could you have guessed they weren’t ever in the same room?
12. Needles and Rings
Writer Venkatesh Rao published an article called “The Gollum Effect” analyzing how Gollum’s behavior mirrors that of an archetypal addict who has become a shell of their former self due to their addiction. Rao applies this addiction to other figures, and also examines how Gollum is a high-functioning addict since the ring doesn’t kill him prematurely and keeps him functioning enough to be “usefully employable.”
Andy Serkis even claims he based Gollum’s desperation on the withdrawal of heroin addicts.
11. Jackson the Warrior
Peter Jackson didn’t spend all his time behind the camera. In The Fellowship of the Ring, he strolls past the camera munching on a carrot in the town of Bree. In The Two Towers, he defends Helm’s Deep—we even see him throw a spear at the Uruk-hai. And finally when Sam returns to save Frodo from Shelob, it’s actually the director’s arm that first comes into frame holding Sting.
10. Months of Darkness
The Battle of Helm’s Deep took four months to shoot, with nearly all of it taking place at night.
That’s almost half a year!
Tolkien originally wrote Gollum as a kind figure, who offers Bilbo the ring as a prize for solving his riddles (when they first meet in Gollum’s lair in the Misty Mountains). Later when Tolkien began writing successive works, he realized the ring would have to be a more corrosive influence. That being the case, it would no longer make sense for Gollum to give his precious up so easily. So Tolkein re-wrote the chapter.
8. Realism or Fantasy?
JRR Tolkien’s daughter said that she believes her father’s description of the Dead Marshes, a treacherous bog littered with thousands of corpses, is actually a description of his experience in World War I.
7. More Injuries
Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee) was knocked unconscious by a heavy wooden loom on the set of Rivendell. Later, while filming the scene where he rushes into the water after Frodo, he stepped on a piece of broken glass. With twenty stitches on his foot, he was back on set in 24-hours.
6. No Pain, No Gain
While filming a scene where he kicks an Orc helmet, Viggo Mortensen broke two toes. He didn’t say anything about it until after the shot was done. In another scene, he knocked out a tooth, but asked for it to be superglued back in place so he could finish the scene.
5. Viggo the Legend
Stories about Viggo Mortensen on the set of The Lord of the Rings are legendary. The Danish actor (and painter, and poet, and musician) isn’t just a talented swordsman. He also learned to speak Elvish for the films, making it his sixth language—he also speaks English, Danish, French, Italian and Spanish.
4. Miles of Mail
Most fans don’t realize just how tragic Aragorn’s story is in the end.
Aragorn died when he was 210 years old. He decided to end his own life because he didn’t want to suffer through the pains of old age and lose his wits, nor did he want Arwen to watch him deteriorate. With this wish, he chose to die before it was actually his time.
3. Lord Of The Awards
Each Lord of the Rings film scooped multiple Academy Awards.
The Return of the King won a whopping eleven Oscars, winning every single award it was nominated for.
2. Sticky-Fingered Wizards
Sir Ian McKellen was praised for his portrayal of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, but most fans don’t know just how much of Middle Earth he took with him. Ian confessed that he actually stole Gandalf’s staff, and he proudly displays it at his pub, “The Grapes.”
1. It All Makes Sense
Fans often wonder why the characters didn’t fly to Mordor on the backs of the giant eagles and drop the ring into Mount Doom, but most don’t realize that this actually is explained in the book.
The filmmakers didn’t get into the explanation because they thought it was obvious. The eye of Sauron was the biggest obstacle, as it would have seen them coming the whole time. J.R.R. Tolkien vetoed the use of the eagles as they are proud creatures that did not take sides in the War of the Ring until the end. They are basically the Switzerland of Middle Earth.
Take a quiz to see what you learned.
“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.” – Samwise the Brave.
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