Academy Award record holder “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” took the world and box office by storm in 2003. This modern classic closes off the epic The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Here are 51 exciting things you might not have known about The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
51: A Box Office Success
Return of the King made a whopping 1408% profit for New Life Studios at the box office.
50: We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Corpse
The oliphaunt carcass used is on record as the largest prop ever built for a movie. Apparently, Peter Jackson thought it could have been even bigger.
49: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
For the Battle at the Black Gate, the production team needed so many extras that they called in members of the New Zealand army. They were so enthusiastic about being there that they kept breaking the props that were given to them in playfights.
48: Cautiously Dragged By Horse
For the scene where Faramir is dragged back to Minas Tirith by his horse, great precaution was taken. The crew was so worried of the horse suddenly running and hurting David Wenham, so they built a release into the saddle. Wenham had a handle in his hand so that if the horse began running, he could release himself. Luckily, they never ended up needing it.
47: Whose Precious?
After filming, Elijah Wood was given The One Ring prop used in the movie. Ironically, there was a second The One Ring prop that was given to Andy Serkis. They both believed that they had gotten the only one.
As Peter Jackson suffers from arachnophobia, he based the Shelob design on the kinds of spiders that he is most afraid of. Apparently, he is most afraid of 15-foot spiders. That seems fair.
45: Christmas Came Early!
After the last day of shooting, each of the cast members were given a gift. Most of which were props that were significant to the characters they played.
44: Dress and Sword
Miranda Otto (Eowyn) was gifted one of Eowyn’s dresses and her sword.
43: I’m Sorry, Arwen. Your Dress Is Terminal.
The gift Liv Tyler (Arwen) received was Arwen’s “dying dress”.
42: Bow and No Arrow
The gift Orlando Bloom (Legolas) received was one of Legolas’ bows.
41: Burn It! Burn It With Fire!
Joh Rhys-Davies (Gimli) often suffered from rashes from the Gimli makeup he had to wear. After the last day of filming, the makeup department allowed him to throw the Gimli mask into the fire.
40: Going Once, Going Twice, Gone Like The Wind!
The horses that the production company owned were put up for auction after filming was completed. Viggo Mortensen bought two of them: the one he rode for most of filming and the one used by Arwen’s riding double.
39: And The Oscar Goes To…
This trilogy shares the record for the most nominated film series in Academy Award history. The LOTR films have received 30 nominations, surpassing The Godfather trilogy (28) and sharing the record with the Star Wars franchise.
38: Mines of Mordor
The scene where Aragorn’s army attacks the Black Gate was shot in a desert that the New Zealand army trains in. The field was still littered with mines and other bombs that hadn’t been detonated, so the army had to do a sweep with metal detectors to make sure everyone was safe to film. If they left the mines, they probably would have defeated the orcs a lot faster.
37: Extra Serial Killer
In an estimation, Viggo Mortensen says he has “killed” every stuntman on the production team at least fifty times over the filming of the trilogy.
36: Seven Times as Good as a Normal Movie
At the time, an average major motion picture will contain about 200 shots containing special effects. This film alone had 1,488.
35: Laughing All The Way To The Academy
The last day of shooting of the trilogy happened over a month after the film was released in theatres and three weeks after the 2004 academy awards. Peter Jackson wanted to film a final 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 he hd already won the “Best Picture” Oscar for. Those that lost probably didn’t find it quite as funny.
34: Scaredy Horse
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.
33: New High Score Achieved!
The Return of the King has the highest “perfect score” at the Academy Awards. This means they won every award they were nominated for. They won 11 awards out of the 11 nominations. Additionally, The Lord of the Rings trilogy won in every single category it was nominated for throughout the trilogy except for Best Supporting Actor (Smeagol was robbed).
32: Pippin the Musical
The scene which Billy Boyd (Pippin) sings in happened mostly because screenwriter Philippa Boyens went to a karaoke bar with some of the cast and was particularly impressed by the quality of Boyd’s voice. She remembered that Denethor asks Pippin to sing him a song in the books and gave Boyd the lyrics from the novel, leaving him the task to come up with a melody.
31: The Winner of Every Staring Contest
Elijah Wood has a special talent for being able to fixedly stare in front of him without blinking for long periods of time. This skill came in handy for scenes in which Frodo was wrapped up in Shelob’s web in a comatose state.
30: Cleaning Up The MTV Movie Awards
In 2003 Andy Serkis (Gollum) won two MTV Movie Awards for “Best Virtual Performance” and “Best On-Screen Team” (which he won with Elijah Wood and Sean Astin).
29: Design Defect
Gollum’s left ear lobe is missing. This is because in the casting of a mould made for Peter Jackson’s approval, an air trap was caught where the lobe should be. When looking at the finished casting, the design team decided it should remain that way.
28: The Titular Line
In every movie of the trilogy, the subtitle of the film is spoken by someone. In FotR, it was during the council scene when Elrond refers to the nine adventurers as the “fellowship of the Ring”; in the second film, Saruman says “The Two Towers” in a voiceover; and in this film Gandalf says to Denethor that he cannot deny the “Return of the King.”
27: Peter Jackson: Hater of the Dead
Peter Jackson reportedly hated the Army of the Dead. He thought them to be too unbelievable. However, he kept them in the movie because he didn’t want to disappoint diehard fans of the novels.
26: Rearranged Scenes
The opening scene of the movie that shows Smeagols fall from grace was directed by Fran Walsh. It was originally supposed to be in The Two Towers immediately after Gollum’s name was revealed.
25: The Luckiest Rider
One of the shots filming the charge of the Rohirrim (riders of Rohan) includes a horse rider who falls off the back of his horse. Miraculously, every horse that came behind him managed to either miss or avoid him, and he was left uninjured.
24: Return of the Renovations
WETA digital effects company had to add an additional room to its effects facility to store all the computer equipment it needed to render the battle scenes for this movie.
23: Leave It To Peter
When Sam returns to save Frodo from Shelob, it is actually Peter Jackson’s arm that first comes into frame holding Sting.
22: Wet Off The Presses
Peter Jackson first saw the completed film, start to finish, at the premiere.
21: A Spear Fanatic
It was Bernard Hill’s (Theoden) idea to touch the spears of all his soldiers before riding into battle.
20: How To Sound Like A Fake Spider
The shriek of Shelob is made up of several different sounds, including a plastic alien toy, steam hissing, and the shriek of a Tasmanian Devil. Spider noises are intense!
19: History Made
Return of the King marks the second time in history that the third movie in a franchise was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, right after The Godfather Part III, and it is the only time a third movie has won the Best Picture Oscar.
18: The Best Party in Wellington
After the movie premiere, the city of Wellington held an all night party that City Council funded with $400,000. There were street performers, outdoor screenings and ever a giant mock up Nazgul that flew over the Embassy Theatre.
17: This Helmet’s Just Right.
Miranda Otto (Eowyn) had to go through many fittings before production settled on a helmet that disguised her face, yet also revealed who she was to the audience.
16: Go Against Your Instincts
Peter Jackson gave Howard Shore the difficult task of writing music for Shelob’s Lair. He told Howard to “Go off and pretend you’re making another movie for David Cronenberg. This should sound like The Fly!”
15: Can I Have One Too?
Denethor (John Noble) had a sword attached to his belt even though he never uses it. The prop department gave it to him so that he could feel as important as the rest of the cast who had swords.
14: 100,000 Fans
The streets of Wellington were lined with 100,000 people for the world premiere. That is approximately a quarter of the city’s population.
13: Poor Rabbits
The Battle of Pelennor Fields was filmed on a large field that was the home to many rabbits resulting in rabbit holes covering the whole terrain. In order to keep horses safe, the entire field was searched and the rabbit holes were filled in.
12: Eowyn’s Revolution
The Rohan army is made up of hundreds of extras from New Zealand who responded to an open casing call for anyone who knew how to ride a horse. Many of them were women who had to dress as men because the only woman in the Rohirrim is Eowyn.
11: Tobacco Intollerant
When Merry and Pippin are smoking pipes at Isengard, Dominic Monaghan (Merry) had to drink milk before filming to keep from throwing up while smoking. Drinking milk as an antacid must be the opposite of lactose intolerance.
10: Already Cast The Best
Andy Serkis wasn’t the first choice to play the real Smeagol in the opening scene. But once people started auditioning, they quickly realized that Serkis was the only man for the job.
8: Don’t Blink
The opening scene of Smeagol’s fall from grace had to be touched up. Thomas Robins (Deagol) blinked after his death by accident, but Peter Jackson loved that take so much that he had the WETA Digital crew “freeze” the eyes.
7: Too Athletic For Your Own Good
The opening scene of Smeagol also had to be touched up in the shot where Smeagol falls upon the rocks before Gollum begins to narrate because Andy Serkis’ legs seemed too muscular and athletic.
6: Before and After
One scene cut from the movie entirely (including extended edition) was a scene where Eowyn (Miranda Otto) was stripping off her regular clothes and redressing herself in the armor of a Rohan warrior.
5: Long Road Out Of Mordor
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 film makers didn’t get into 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. Oh, and there’s also Gandalf the Grey’s famous last words, “fly you fools.”
4: Almost Didn’t Happen
Return of the King may be the most successful film in the franchise, but Viggo Mortensen revealed that the film would never even have been released in theatres if it wasn’ for the success of The Fellowship of the Ring. Mortensen said, “Officially, [Jackson] could say that he was finished in December 2000—he’d shot all three films in the trilogy—but really the second and third ones were a mess. It was very sloppy—it just wasn’t done at all. It needed massive reshoots, which we did, year after year. But he would have never been given the extra money to do those if the first one hadn’t been a huge success. The second and third ones would have been straight to video.”
2: Method Acting
During the shot that Frodo was stabbed by Shelob’s stinger, Elijah Wood actually got stabbed by a prop stinger. Wood mentioned that not only was it extremely painful, but it actually did enough damage to land him in the hospital for a few days.
1: Always Wear Protection
Elijah Wood had to be wrapped in a latex-esque material when he was in Shelob’s webbing. On the DVD extras Wood jokes that it was like being in “the world’s largest condom”.
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