“The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was, is lost. For none now live, who remember it. It began with the forging of the Great Rings. Three were given to the Elves, immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings. Seven, to the Dwarf lords, great miners and craftsmen of the mountain halls. And nine, nine rings were gifted to the race of Men, who above all else, desire power. For within these Rings was bound the strength and will to govern each race. But they were all of them, deceived. For another ring was made. In the land of Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom, the dark lord Sauron forged in secret a master ring to control all others. And into this ring, he poured his cruelty, his malice and his will to dominate all life. One Ring to rule them all…”—Galadriel, Lady of Light
When The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring hit theatres, it changed cinema forever. Not only would it make the fantasy genre respectable and mainstream, paving the way for properties like Game of Thrones, it would also change the way that novel franchises were adapted into film. But even without the fact that The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring was a trend-setting film, it still took the world by storm and reintroduced the works of JRR Tolkien to audiences worldwide. So how did this landmark movie come to be? What went into adapting such a beloved and complex story for the screen? Keep reading for 42 facts about the first movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
42. This Will Be a Classic One Day
In 1997, despite the fact that they didn’t have a movie studio on board yet, director Peter Jackson teamed up with Christian Rivers to storyboard an adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. They simultaneously brought Weta Workshop on board to design how Middle-Earth would look, setting in motion what would be one of the most ambitious endeavors in the history of film.
41. One Program to Rule Them All
In order to display armies of fantasy creatures like never before, an ambitious (and aptly named) computer program called MASSIVE was used. Thousands of CGI humans, elves, and orcs were created, with every individual having their own field of vision. They could recognize friend from foe, battle independently of each other, and the different species even had their own special fighting styles. Of course, these massive armies mostly feature in the prologue of the first film, but we later got all the epic battle scenes we could ask for once the sequels came out.
40. Three Movies for Three Books
While they were trying to get the film made, Peter Jackson and his collaborators were hampered by the fact that nobody wanted to approve three movies to be filmed simultaneously. They were repeatedly told to bring the whole story down to just one film. Luckily, the heads of New Line Cinema, who eventually gave them the green light, thought differently.
39. Hey! You! Way Over There!
As you can imagine, the film’s production had to get around the fact that, while the world they were building was full of men and dwarves, elves and hobbits, most of the main cast were around the same height. In order to make the hobbit characters small but realistic looking, Peter Jackson would get creative and use forced perspective. Characters who were sitting or standing far away from each other on set would end up looking as though they were right beside each other on screen. It made for stunning footage that has stood the test of time, unlike so many other CGI films that look dated almost immediately.
38. Just Kick Your Feet Up and Relax!
In order to create the hairy feet which help define the hobbits’ look, prosthetic feet were made to fit over the actors’ actual feet. The process of putting on these fake feet reportedly took over an hour every time.
37. It Was a Good Death
When it comes to epic death scenes, Sean Bean has gone down in pop culture lore as the guy who always seems to die in his movies. When it comes to his favorite death scene to have filmed, however, Bean has gone on record and picked The Fellowship of the Ring as his number one.
36. You Can’t Un-Hear That
The sounds of the goblins and orcs who live in the Mines of Moria sure sound frightening, don’t they? It turns out that their growls and shrieks were adapted from the cries that possums make at night. Just remember that in case you ever go wandering in the woods and suddenly hear Moria orcs coming your way.
35. Tolkien, as Performed by the Three Stooges
We always flinched when we watched the terrifying scene of Frodo being chased down by one of the Nazgul on horseback, forcing him to make a desperate leap to get onto the ferry as it’s drifting away from shore. During one take of that scene, however, the thrilling suspense gave way to comedy when Elijah Wood jumped so far that he leapt right over the ferry and fell into the water!
34. Maybe Next Time
One of the actors who was seriously considered to play Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring was former Doctor Who actor Sylvester McCoy. Ian Holm was ultimately cast, but McCoy was later brought back to Middle-earth play the wizard Radagast the Brown in the Hobbit trilogy.
33. Wait a Minute…
If you pay close attention to Legolas in the films, you’ll notice that his eye color occasionally goes from blue to brown, and then back to blue again. This is because Orlando Bloom couldn’t wear the blue contact lenses regularly because of the damage it would have done to his eyes. CGI was used to correct his brown eyes, but some scenes were unable to be corrected so the brown stayed.
32. You Cannot Pass, Duck Your Head First
In the famous scene where Gandalf first visits Bag-End, he awkwardly bumps his head against one of the beams. This wasn’t scripted, nor was it done intentionally. Ian McKellan simply continued to act through the pain of hitting his head.
31. Don’t Forget the Nervous System!
Despite the fantastical world in which the story existed, Peter Jackson made sure that there was an aura of realism in how the world was designed and how the creatures appeared. Under his direction, the CGI creatures were constructed from the ground up, with designs including skeletons and muscles underneath the skin, despite the fact that the audience would never see them.
30. What About Playing the Vultures in Jungle Book Instead?
Long before Peter Jackson got the chance to adapt Lord of the Rings, a famous group of musicians got it in their heads to make an adaptation of their own, with the help of a legendary filmmaker. This group of musicians were none other than the Beatles, and they courted Stanley Kubrick himself to direct! Kubrick, however, preferred to work on 2001: A Space Odyssey, while JRR Tolkien refused to let the project go forward.
29. Getting Inked
As a celebration of their parts in the film trilogy, the cast who played the Fellowship got tattoos of the Elvish symbol for the number nine, as a fitting tribute to the original fellowship that left Rivendell to destroy the Ring. Everyone got the tattoo on different parts of their body, but one of the members bowed out. John Rhys-Davies refused to get the tattoo, urging his stunt double to get the tattoo instead. After the first film’s premiere in New Zealand, Peter Jackson joined in on the fun, getting an Elvish “ten” as a nice in-joke.
28. Elves Look Out For Each Other
The Fellowship of the Ring was Orlando Bloom’s first ever film appearance. According to Liv Tyler, she would consciously spend more time with him to make sure that his transition from student to professional actor was as smooth as possible. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that it was, you know, Orlando Bloom.
27. Scream Queen
The harsh, piercing cry of the Nazgul was originally done by Fran Walsh, the film trilogy’s co-writer and co-producer (and Peter Jackson’s wife!). Talk about range!
26. Ain’t No Lawnmowers in the Shire
In order to make Hobbiton look as lived-in and natural as possible, the sets were designed and constructed a year before filming ever took place. This allowed vegetation to grow naturally, including the vegetable gardens and grass, which was regulated by having sheep graze on it rather than using a lawnmower like we would in real life.
25. Hold Up a Cue Card!
Remember the epic speech Boromir that gave at the Council of Elrond? Remember how that cemented into your mind that Sean Bean truly was the perfect choice for Boromir? Well, it turns out that Bean had only been given said speech the night before filming, and he kept a printout of it on his lap, just out of frame, while filming. Honestly, that just increases our respect for his acting abilities.
24. Don’t Be Silly!
The scene where Merry and Pippin discuss the various meals that hobbits enjoy during the day, only for Pippin to be hit on the head with an apple, had to be filmed no fewer than sixteen times. Not only that, Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) personally got to throw the apples from off-camera—no doubt he was having a blast, at least.
23. Tonight We Feast
Early on in the production, the cast was still getting to know each other when twelve of them went out to eat together at a local restaurant. According to Dominic Monaghan (Merry), John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) took charge of ordering the food and proceeded to order “food that would probably have fed maybe thirty-five, forty people.” Safe to say that they all feasted heartily while John regaled them with talk about his days on the set of Indiana Jones.
22. Famous for a Day
In one scene, Gandalf is being held prisoner at the top of Orthanc, only for him to deliver a message to a passing moth. The moth actor in the scene had been born just before filming began and died soon after filming finished. Shame that it couldn’t reprise its role for the third film.
21. Stand Back! I’ll Fire Air at You!
You might be wondering how many months of training it took Orlando Bloom to be as gifted at archery as his character of Legolas seems to be during the final battle of The Fellowship of the Ring. However, you can cease wondering, because it turns out that all of Legolas’ arrows were CGI. His archery is too much for even the most skilled archer to accomplish in real life, so the film’s crew turned to computers to do the hard work. This gives us a mental image of Bloom running around stringing an empty bow, and it makes us admire his co-stars for holding in their laughter.
20. Next Time, I’ll Poke a Hole in the Bottom
According to Sean Bean, he and Orlando Bloom developed a rivalry over how they handled their canoes during the scenes where the Fellowship is travelling by river. Bean acknowledged that he never got the hang of it while Bloom adapted almost instantly. This would prompt Bean to playfully mess with Bloom’s canoe just before filming began just so that they would look evenly awkward!
19. Galadriel, Warrior Princess
Originally, Peter Jackson envisioned Arwen being played by Uma Thurman and Galadriel being played by Lucy Lawless. However, both actresses ended up getting pregnant during pre-production, and so the roles were played by Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett, respectively.
18. In the Name of the Son
Aragorn proved to be one of the most difficult roles to cast. Peter Jackson originally wanted either Daniel Day-Lewis or Russell Crowe for Aragorn, but they were either unavailable or uninterested. Stuart Townsend was initially cast, but after four days into filming, he was let go because Jackson was convinced that Townsend was too young for the part. When he offered the part to Viggo Mortensen, Jackson had never met the man, and Mortensen had never even read the books. In fact, Mortensen likely would have passed on the project if not for the enthusiastic support of his young son, Henry.
17. Big Boy
You might be wondering who the tallest member of the cast really is before all the forced perspective and CGI does its magic. Well, it turns out that it’s none other than John Rhys-Davies. Despite playing Gimli the Dwarf, he is 6’1″ in real life, making him the tallest member of the Fellowship.
16. Oh Gosh…
In the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring, there’s a scene where Gimli the Dwarf bashfully expresses his admiration for the Elven Lady Galadriel’s beauty and grace. According to John Rhys-Davies, he was channeling his inner fanboy for acclaimed actress Julie Christie when he played that scene. He was starstruck by Christie when he got the chance to meet her in person, and he felt that was the energy needed to carry across when Gimli becomes tongue-tied.
15. We’re Not That Crazy!
Viggo Mortensen chipped a tooth while filming the battle between Aragorn and the Uruk-Hai leader, Lurtz. He was reportedly so gung-ho about finishing the scene that he suggested that he just super-glue the piece of tooth back in his mouth so they could keep filming! Jackson put his foot down, however, and had Mortensen taken to the dentist.
14. We Forgot to CGI in the Tusks
One of the more fearsome creatures to appear in The Fellowship of the Ring is the Watcher in the Water, who traps the Fellowship inside the Mines of Moria. If you’re curious where they got the sounds this monster makes, then you should go to the zoo. Those sounds belong to a walrus!
13. Who Would Have Guessed?
Speaking of interesting origins for famous sound effects, the sound department for The Lord of the Rings needed a special sound for the terrifyingly hellish specter known as the Balrog. Their rationale was ultimately that the Balrog was a creature from deep in the earth, so it shouldn’t be voiced by any animal or human. Instead, the sound guys took a cinder block and dragged it across a wooden floor. They also took rocks and ground them against each other for added effect to the noise.
12. Go Low
Those people who have heard Liv Tyler in interviews, or most of her other films, will know that she had to deepen her voice significantly when she played Arwen in The Fellowship of the Ring and its sequels. In fact, her altered voice even fooled her own father, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, who asked her if she’d been dubbed over by someone else! No doubt Liv had a good chuckle over that.
11. The Circus is in Town
When the hobbits go to the human village of Bree, several of the actors and extras playing the villagers had to go around on stilts in order to make the hobbit actors look appropriately sized!
10. Hit Me!
John Rhys-Davies had to wear a large latex mask over his face to play Gimli the Dwarf, and this made life hell not only for himself but also for the stuntmen who played orcs and goblins! Not only was Rhys-Davies’ vision limited by the mask, he was also allergic to it, which made his eyes swell. His vision was so bad that when it came time to swing an axe during the fight scenes, he would end up hitting the stuntmen for real—at least the fights looked good, though.
9. Impressive Tie
The Fellowship of the Ring was filmed simultaneously with its two sequels, meaning that all three films were also in post-production together. In total, principal photography for the three films lasted a whopping 438 days.
8. So That’s Where Ziggy Stardust Went
One of the many people who expressed an interest in playing a role in this film was none other than famous musician David Bowie. He lobbied hard for the role of Elrond, but Peter Jackson thought he would be too distracting for audiences. Why Peter, why?!
7. Please Say that He Also Yodeled
While shooting the role of Boromir, Sean Bean was terrified of flying. This led to him refusing point-blank to use a helicopter to get to the mountain locations which were used for part of the shoot. His solution to getting there? He would dress up in full costume as Boromir and hike his way up to the set. The journey reportedly took him two hours.
6. Can We Shoot This Next Week, Guys?
The Battle of Amon Hen, which forms the climax to The Fellowship of the Ring, was filmed during a heatwave with temperatures of more than one hundred degrees Fahrenheit! This proved especially difficult for all those people dressed up as Uruk-Hai. Many eventually needed to be carried away from the set due to heat exhaustion.
5. Watch Out for the Pointy End
As utterly badass as it is when Arwen faces down the nine Nazgul, proclaiming “If you want him, come and claim him!”, filming that scene led to a rather awkward and painful moment for actress Liv Tyler. She ended up accidentally stabbing herself in the leg when trying to sheathe her sword! It wasn’t all bad though—some of that footage ended up on the blooper reel.
4. We’ll Save This for The Desolation of Smaug
Originally, there was a plan to film a scene where orcs would ambush the Fellowship while they were canoeing. Among the action moments planned would involve Legolas standing on a boat as they went through rapids, firing arrows at the attacking orcs. However, the set was destroyed by a massive flood before shooting could begin, and the scene was abandoned.
3. That’s Gonna Hurt in the Morning!
Sean Astin (Samwise) suffered a gruesome injury while filming the scene where Sam runs down to the boats after Frodo. It turned out that there was a piece of glass in the water which had somehow gone unnoticed prior to filming, and it went right through Astin’s latex foot makeup and into his real one. Astin needed to be airlifted away from the remote filming location to get to the hospital. Incredibly, Elijah Wood had a more vocal reaction to the injury than Astin, who took the blow quite calmly.
2. It’s for a Film!
Viggo Mortensen went full method while playing Aragorn. He would become so absorbed into the role that he would carry his very real sword around with him off-set, scaring the public around him. On at least one occasion, Mortensen was confronted by New Zealand police.
John Rhys-Davies, who plays Gimli, is actually missing the tip of one of his fingers, which led to one of the makeup artists designing a fake fingertip to accommodate him. Emboldened with an idea, Rhys-Davies and the artist created a fake injury on the artificial fingertip, with fake blood included. Rhys-Davies then approached Peter Jackson and claimed to have an accident. After Jackson had his scare with the fake fingertip, everyone who was in on the gag burst out laughing.