“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.
The Lord of the Rings is that rarest of things: a piece of fiction as fun as it is deep, and as moving as it is wildly entertaining. It’s perhaps for that reason, beyond anything else, the series has had such monumental impact on the hearts of fans… as well as its outsized influence on fantasy fiction for the past 60-odd years.
But Tolkien didn’t just set out to tell a genre-defining story—as much as anything else, the author wanted to build a world. At that, he truly excelled. The LOTR series is littered with information that alludes to a story going back hundreds and hundreds of years. So, if there’s anything more alluring than the One Ring itself, it’s fun facts about the series! Here are all of our favorites: drawn from the movies, books, and lore.
Lord of the Rings Facts
1. Guess it’s time for a marathon
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.
2. 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.
3. How to get Carpal Tunnel
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.
4. This is why we can’t have nice things
The production team needed so many extras to shoot the Battle at the Black Gate (near the end of The Return of the King), they called in members of the New Zealand Armed Forces. You’d think a mock-battle might mean nothing to a group of professional soldiers… but you’d be wrong. The real-life army men were so excited to be there, they kept breaking the props given to them to use in-scene.
5. A Very Different Gollum
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.
6. “The movie is so different from the book”
In one of the scenes at Osgiliath, Sam moans, “By rights, we shouldn’t even be here!”.
The line was written-in to acknowledge how the screenplay had deviated from the book’s; in the source material, Frodo and Sam never pass through Osgiliath.
7. Creature of darkness
Speaking of book vs movie… While the three Peter Jackson adaptions give us a pale, sickly Gollum, he is originally described in The Hobbit as looking “dark as darkness”. And you thought he was creepy already…
8. Old Timer
J.R.R. Tolkien never actually specified how old Legolas is. Not that there aren’t hints though: at one point he refers to Aragorn (87 to start) and Gimli (140) children compared to his own advanced age. He also claims to have watched a hundred oak trees grow—from acorns, to saplings, to a “ruinous age.” English oak trees can live for more than 1,000 years… meaning Legolas could be anywhere from 500 to 2,000 years old.
Orlando Bloom looks a bit younger.
9. 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.
10. Bringing it to life
The town of Hobbiton was created a full year before filming of the series began, in order to make it look like it was a real, lived-in place. It was complete with real vegetable patches, and sheep ate the grass to keep it short. CGI might have been easier, but nothing beats the real thing.
11. A very different kind of trilogy
Nicolas Cage was supposed to play Aragorn, but passed up the part due to “family obligations”.
We’re not saying it would have been better or worse. Just, you know… different.
12. The coolest thing anyone could ever say about anyone?
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?
Gandalf is immortal. Gandalf is one of the Maia from the Undying Lands, meaning that his body is mortal but his spirit is not. After he died fighting the Balrog, he is reborn as Gandalf the White, the highest rank of all the wizards. (4)
And after all that, the guy is pretty dang humble. A lot of people would go from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White and get all “I’m way too cool for you now.” But not Gandalf. He still hangs with all his old friends, and by all accounts is a super cool guy.
Be like Gandalf.
Peter Jack is afraid of spiders—which is an affliction which almost never comes in handy. But when it came to producing the design for Shelob… Jackson’s phobia was his Sting.
The director claims that Shelob’s look was heavily influenced by all the spiders he finds most terrifying. Which apparently means 15-foot tall nightmare monsters, with poisonous fangs and a taste for people.
15. You all look like dwarfs from up here…
John Rhys-Davies, who plays Gimli, is the tallest of any of the actors in the fellowship.
That makes this photo incredibly interesting…
16. Burn it! Burn it with fire!
His height wasn’t the only thing production had to change: Rhys-Davies also spent hours in the makeup chair each day, getting Gimli’s mountain-man look just right. He often suffered from rashes from the irritation. Finally, after shooting his final scene, the makeup department gave him permission to throw the Gimli mask into the fire. And he did.
17. Details, details, details
After being corrupted by the ring, Gollum’s body rejects anything Elven-made. One example is the rope used to restrain him in The Two Towers, as well as lembas bread Frodo and Sam eat on their way.
18. Bad Kitty
Andy Serkis, who played Gollum using motion capture, said he based the wretched creature’s coughing on sounds his cat made… when coughing up a hairball.
19. Royal drawings.
The queen of Denmark illustrated the Danish edition of The Lord of The Rings under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer.
20. A Happy Ending
A beautiful story emerged from the Battle of Helm’s Deep. During the battle, a one-eyed man turns toward the camera revealing an empty eye socket. The actor who played him showed up to set wearing an eye patch. When Peter Jackson learned of the actor’s condition, he was asked if he would be interested in appearing in the film without the eye patch. The actor was reluctant at first and rather self-conscious, but afterward claimed the experience on set made him more comfortable with himself.
21. 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.
18. A lot of dead extras.
At the time of its release, The Return of the King set the record for highest human body count in any movie. The total number of corpses? 836.
19. Extras hate him
In an estimation, Viggo Mortensen says he “killed” every stuntman on the production team at least fifty times each, over the course of filming of the trilogy.
If only Legolas and Gimli knew. The whole time they were counting kills, Aragorn was busy beating them all along. That’s not fair!
20. Seven times as good as your average movie
When the Return of the King was first released in 2003, the average major motion picture would consist of about 200 shots containing special effects. Meanwhile, RotK alone had 1,488.
21. Laughing all the way to the academy
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.
22. Let’s have a staring contest
Elijah Wood has a special (some might say weird…) talent for not blinking. Which probably saved the VFX department a couple nickels, when editing the scenes in Shelob’s lair.
No CGI here. Elijah’s eyes are just incredibly dry.
23. What about 16th breakfast?
You know the scene: Pippin asks for second breakfast (and immediately becomes the Patron Saint of every college student ever). Seconds later, he’s belted in the head with an apple.
Well turns out the apple was being thrown by none other than Viggo Mortensen himself. They had to film the shot 16 times to get it just right, and actor Billy Boyd says he believes Mortensen loved each take.
24. A Prince among elves
Legolas is a Sindarin Elf, and though we know nothing of his mother, his father Thranduil is the King of the Elves of Northern Mirkwood. Legolas’s surname is Greenleaf.
25. Almost Never Was
While Legolas is one of the most beloved characters in The Lord of The Rings, most fans don’t realize he almost wasn’t in the Fellowship of the Ring at all, and was instead replaced by another elf. That’s right, in early drafts Tolkien had that space filled by a different Elf, Glorfindel (which isn’t quite as catchy). Tolkien changed his mind during the final draft.
Because sleep isn’t really a necessary thing for Elves, Legolas can actually dream while awake.
27. Listen up
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. Laziness or a bit of luck-inspired genius?
28. 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.
29. Rearranged scenes
The opening scene of The Return of the King, which shows Smeagol’s 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.
30. 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.
31. 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 the trilogy.
32. Talk about pressure
Peter Jackson hadn’t seen the completed cut of The Fellowship of the Ring, from the start through to the finish, until he was siting with audience at the premiere.
33. A spear fanatic
When filming the Charge of the Rohirrim, it was Bernard Hill’s (Theoden) idea to touch the spears of all his soldiers before riding into battle.
34. We’re gonna need a bigger corpse…
The oliphaunt carcass used in The Return of the King is on record as the largest prop ever built for a movie. But even that was apparently not enough; Peter Jacksonstill maintains that it could have been even bigger.
I say he should try the whole thing again.
35. How to sound like a giant, evil spider
In case you were wondering, the Shelob’s shriek is made up of several different sounds including (but not limited to) a plastic alien toy, steam hissing, and the shriek of a Tasmanian Devil.
What you do with that information is your own prerogative.
36. The Spider and the Fly
Devising music for the ominous scenes in Shelob’s Lair was no easy thing. After all, what instrument pairs best with the howl of a steamy Tasmanian Devil? Peter Jackson gave the gig to composer Howard Shore, apparently with the instruction, “Go pretend you’re making another movie for David Cronenberg. This should sound like The Fly!”
37. The best party in Wellington
When the The Return of the King premiered, the City of Wellington held an all night party… funded by City Council for an estimated $400,000. On the downside, there were almost zero 111-year-old hobbits, but the party wasn’t a complete wash: among the festivities were street performers, outdoor screenings and a giant mock-up Nazgul that flew over the Embassy Theatre.
39. Imagine the bathroom lines
Well, you might say, a Nazgul and some street performers is all well and good, but how many people actually show up to a part in Wellington. It turns out the answer is about 100,000 people… or a quarter of the city’s population.
That’s a lot of Kiwis.
38. This helmet’s just right…
As wiser men than me have noted, good head-wear can do wonders. But nobody said finding the perfect bucket would be easy…
When filming the Battle of Pelennor Fields, 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. The final result? Well worth it.
40. 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.
41. Gravity schmavity
Sometimes what looks like awful CGI is really a clever detail. Elves don’t sink in snow, leaving Legolas to skip across the tundra (while his friends toil in the snow). There’s no better example of this on-screen then Redhorn Pass sequence, when the Fellowship is beset by a magically-induced blizzard.
42. Pippin: The Musical
The scene in which Billy Boyd (Pippin) sings over Faramir’s charge to Osgiliath 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.
43. Eowyn’s revolution
The Rohanese (Rohanian? Rohwegian?) army is made up of hundreds of extras from New Zealand, who responded to an open casting call. The stipulation? Anyone who wanted a place had to know how to ride a horse.
Many of the successful candidates were women, who were obliged to dress as men for their moment in the sun. The only woman in the Rohirrim is Eowyn… couldn’t have the extras stealing her spotlight!
44. Tobacco intolerant
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.
45. Dragon? What dragon?
When the dragon firework goes off at Bilbo’s birthday party, the shriek heard is Pippin actor Billy Boyd screaming. He didn’t know that the firework was really going to blow up on set (he thought it would be put in with CGI). It was not scripted, but ended up in the final film because it sounded so real.
46. It’s mine!!!
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.
47. 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.
48. Some guys have all the luck
Another touch up: When Smeagol falls on the rocks (before Gollum starts to narrate) the show had to be edited because Andy Serkis’ legs seemed too muscular and athletic.
49. Where Gollum came from
Tolkien reportedly based aspects of Gollum’s character on that of Grendel from Beowulf. Grendel is another figure who lives in a world called “Middle Earth.” While Grendel is a direct descendant of Cain, the biblical figure who killed his brother, Smeagol killed his cousin to acquire the ring. Like Smeagol, Grendel’s body became monstrous over time, while also granting him a lengthened lifespan and increased strength. Tolkien also wrote a translation of Beowulf (from Old English) that was published in May 2014.
50. 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’t 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.” Maybe the should have done the same thing for The Hobbit?
51. Return of the (Box Office) King
Return of the King made a whopping 1408% profit for New Life Studios at the box office.
52. Gandalf the Thief.
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.”
53. 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.
54. Always wear protection
Elijah Wood had to be wrapped in a latex-esque material when he was in Shelob’s webbing. In a few of the DVD extras, Wood jokes it was like being filmed in “the world’s largest condom”.
That adds a new layer to the scene…
55. 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.
56. Super Sam.
Tolkien considered Sam Gamgee to be the true hero of The Lord of the Rings.
57. The ultimate cosplay.
Elijah Wood created his Lord of the Rings’ Frodo audition tape in the woods with a homemade Hobbit costume.
58. 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 to mark their Fellowship. John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) declined to get his, but his stunt double (Brett Beattie) got the artwork instead!
59. 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.
60. Falling with compassion.
The Return of the King came out 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.
61. Bits and pieces.
Around 10,000 prosthetic facial appliances, over 3,500 pairs of hobbit feet, 2,500 foam body suits, 1,200 suits of armour, 2,000 weapons and 10,000 arrows were made to film the Lord of The Rings trilogy.
62. Being For The Benefit of Mr. Baggins
In the 1960’s, 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.
63. Until death do us part
The gravestone of Tolkien and his wife is inscribed with “Lúthien” and “Beren,” who were two tragic characters in The Lord of the Rings. The pair, a mortal man and an immortal elf, were madly in love.
64. We’re taking the students to Isengard?
Freshmen at 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.
65. A wizard is never old. He ages precisely as he means to.
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.
66. 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 ychopped this down to a couple of weeks to keep things rolling!
67. Life is all about who you know!
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.
68. Dwarven sea creatures.
John-Rhys Davies (Gimli) is also the voice of Man Ray on Spongebob Squarepants.
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.” 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).
70. Fellows 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.”
71. Fly you fools!
The cast often had to fly to isolated locations in a helicopter to shoot scenes. Sean Bean had a fear of flying and would only get in the helicopter if there was no other choice. When shooting scenes of the Fellowship where the characters were crossing snowy mountains, Bean would spend two hours each morning hiking from their base camp to the set, all while dressed as Boromir.
72. Addicted to you
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.
73. 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.
74. 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.
75. 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.
76. The Ball-Rog!
While filming the epic battle between Gandalf and the Balrog in the Mines of Moria, the actor playing Gandalf, Ian McKellen, filmed the scene with a tennis ball in place of the Balrog. (6)
77. Viggo the legend.
Stories about Viggo 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.
78. 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.
79. No pain, no gain (Volume 2)
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!
80. A close shave
The blade that the Uruk-hai, Lurtz, throws at Aragorn during the final fight scene was a real dagger. It was supposed to miss and hit the tree behind Mortensen, but because the Orc armor impleaded the actors’ mobility it was accidently thrown straight at him. Luckily, the actor was quick enough to deflect it with his sword.
81. Can I have one too?
Denethor (John Noble) had a sword attached to his belt, even though though the distraught Denethor never bothers to use it. The prop department gave it to him so that he could feel as important as the rest of the cast who had swords.
82. 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.
83. Long Live Sauron
Most fans think that Sauron died when the ring was destroyed, but the truth is much darker. In Tolkien’s words in The Return of the King, the destruction of the ring caused Sauron to fall so low that “none can foresee his arising ever again. For he will lose the best part of his strength that was native to him in the beginning, and all that was made or begun with that power will crumble, and he will be maimed forever, becoming a mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows, but cannot again grow or take shape.”
84. Exit, dragged by a 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, 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.
85. Horse Whisperer
Speaking of surprisingly cooperative horses… The scene where Gandalf calls for Shadowfax, who comes galloping across the fields to him, was captured in just one take. This is proof that Sir Ian McKellen is indeed a wizard.
86. Time To Die
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.
87. Fingers to the Bone
A total of over 12.5 million plastic rings were created to make fake chain mail armor for the movies. Two of the crew were tasked with connecting the rings by hand to help make costumes. By the end of shooting, they had worn the fingerprints off their thumbs and index fingers.
88. Sauron Ain’t So Tough
Sauron has gone down as one of the most terrifying and powerful villains in all of fantasy. He tormented Frodo and those who tried to diminish his power over Middle Earth. But most people don’t know that Sauron had a true master whose power absolutely overshadows Sauron’s.
Morgoth, the fist Dark Lord was much more terrifying. His other titles included The Great Enemy, The Corrupter, The Black Foe. He was the equivalent of a God. He was the creator of all evil. Every bad thing that happens in the world can be traced back to him.
Sauron was his minion.
89. A well-read wizard
Christopher Lee was one of the first people to be cast for the movies, in part because of his familiarity with the books. He visited the makeup department regularly, and often gave tips about how the monsters should look.
90. If you insist…
Viggo Mortensen said that he only accepted the role of Aragorn because he wanted to please his son, who was ten at the time and an avid Lord of the Rings fan.
91. (Another) Lord of the Rings
In ancient times, 20 rings of power were created with each possessing unique powers. Three of the rings went to the elven kings, Seven to the dwarf-lords, nine to the mortal Kings of men, and one for the Dark Lord Sauron. Gandalf was given one of the three powerful elven rings by an ancient Elven King as he was seen as being the wisest and most capable custodian of the ring. His ring was called Narya and had abilities to control fire and light. (10)
92. Uruk-Hais and lows.
Extras that were greater than 6” tall were needed to play the Uruk-Hai but unfortunately they couldn’t find as many tall people as they would have liked. Running out of time, the team had to go ahead with casting shorter extras for pivotal scenes. These diminutive combatants given the nickname the “Uruk-Low”.
93. More than just a dwarf beard
As well as playing the gruff dwarf, John Rhys-Davies also provided the voice for the Ent, Treebeard. They achieved the voice by having Rhys-Davies read lines in his natural voice at the lowest pitch he could muster while speaking through a wooden megaphone.
94. Gollum’s beta test
To render the special effects for Gollum it would often take around six hours for a single shot. WETA (the digital effects studio that worked on the film) would leave the shots over night to render and check the results in the morning. Every so often there would be a glitch resulting in the team waking up to find pretty hilarious results. In one instance, every hair on Gollum’s head standing straight up as though he had just discovered what hair gel was. Another time his eyes would pop in and out of his head when he spoke. If that’s not horror, I don’t know what is.
95. A special talent
In the scene where Grima Wormtongue sees Saruman’s army of Uruk-Hai, he becomes so shocked that he sheds a tear from one of his eyes. This was actually unscripted and Brad Dourif can do this on command.
96. Worth it?
Orcs have black blood. Peter Jackson decided that the actors playing Orcs should have black flesh and saliva as well. In order achieve this, the actors playing Orcs had to rinse their mouths with black liquorice mouthwash before every one of their scenes! Tasty!
97. A very trusted wizard indeed.
Not only was Gandalf entrusted with one of the most powerful rings in all of Middle Earth, but he was also given the map and key to the most sacred place for the Dwarves. He was entrusted with the map and key to the Lonely Mountain by an ancient Dwarf King as the king knew that Gandalf was the wisest and most trustworthy person in all of Middle Earth. (4)
98. A real fake map
Faramir and Madril observe a map in the film that is used in the original books and was drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien’s son, Christopher.
99. Stadium war cry
To create the war cries of the Uruk-Hair army, Peter Jackson went to a cricket stadium, filled it with 25,000 people and led them all in chanting the words “Derbgoo, nashgshoo, derbgoo, dashshoo.”
100. Precious juice
To keep his voice and throat lubricated for his harsh vocal performance, Andy Serkis drank bottles of what he called “Gollum Juice”. To make Gollum Juice you will need honey, lemon, ginger, a touch of love, and a dash of precious.
101. Get my good side
Most of the members of the Fellowship tried their hand at surfing in their free time. During one unlucky run, however, Viggo Mortensen managed to fall and bruise his face. Makeup couldn’t cover up all of the darkened skin in time, so for the entire Tomb sequence in Moria,Bre Aragorn is only seen from one side.
102. Helm’s Deep: Survivor Stories
Filming the Helm’s Deep battle was extremely complicated and went on for so long that all the extras were given t-shirts that read “I Survived Helms Deep.”
103. Musical Planes
Bernard Hill, who plays Theoden the king of Rohan, met a woman who told him about one of her children who had passed away and how parents shouldn’t have to bury their child. The moment resonated with Hill so much that he requested to have the iconic line “No parent should have to bury their child” put into the script.
104. Brego and Viggo
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 had wrapped.
That’s one way of thanking Brego for saving him from the river after the warg rider fight.
105. A bloody good prank!
Earlier in John Rhys-Davies’ (Gimli) life he had lost the tip of his left middle finger in a farm accident. For filming purposes the special effects team made him a prosthetic fingertip from a cast of his right middle finger. While filming, he decided to prank Peter Jackson but cutting the prosthetic finger and filling it with fake blood. He was said to have gone up to Jackson in agonizing pain saying,”boss, I had an accident!”
106. The most delicious candy
In the scene where Gollum is eating a whole fish, Andy Serkis is actually snacking on a fish shaped lollipop.
107. A long time ago, in a land far, far away…
Gandalf was from a high race of immortal beings called the Maia hailing from a distant land called Valinor. He was a chosen as one of the five highest beings to be sent to Middle Earth to help its people fight against the forces of evil. Those five beings took on a human form and became known as wizards. Gandalf wandered Middle Earth for a very long time, learning about each race and culture. He spent extended periods of time with the elves, gaining their trust and support. In time, Gandalf became known for his superior intellect, his trustworthiness, and his ever-increasing wisdom that he shared when needed. (4)
108. More women on set!
On Miranda Otto’s (Eowyn) first day of shooting Liv Tyler (Arwen) approached her with open arms, enthusiastically saying, “I’m so glad there’s another woman in this film.”
109. It rained for four months…
The Battle of Helms Deep was only shot at night and took four months to film.
110. Elf of the Wand
Gandalf was named by the ancient Men of Middle Earth. They called him “Gandalf”, which translated from old Mannish into “Elf of the Wand”, a nod to the cane that he always walked with. (1)
111. Known by many names
Other than Elf of the Wand, Gandalf was known by many names while on Middle Earth: Gandalf the Grey by men, Stormcrow by his enemies, Tharkun by the Dwarves, Mithrandir from the elves, and finally Gandalf the White after his rebirth. (4)
112. Is The Hobbit canon?
Tolkien didn’t write Legolas into The Hobbit, but its screen adaptation adds him into two of the three films.
113. A bigger budget for a shorter tale.
The budget for the first two “The Hobbit” movies is almost twice the budget of the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
114. The case of the missing horses
The production of all three movies in the trilogy used over 200 horses… and because most scenes involving them were action-packed battle scenes, the horses were in danger of being hurt. To mitigate the risk, both horses and riders were fitted with motion capture suits and were filmed in studio doing actions like galloping and rearing. They were then digitally inserted into battle scenes so no horses (or riders) were hurt.
115. The best job, or the worst job?
All of the dead horses seen at the end of battle scenes are made of polystyrene. Next time you think you have a weird job, just remember that someone had to spend a month making dead horses.
116. Vigo “Dream Boat” Mortensen
After Miranda Otto (Eowyn) was introduced to her cast mates she commented on meeting Viggo Mortensen saying, “It’s going to be SO easy to fall in love with this man!”
117. He won’t be needing these
Aragorn’s costume changed slightly for The Two Towers. In this sequel he wears the leather Gondor gauntlets that Boromir wore before he fell in combat.
118. Andy’s favorite spittle
In the scene where Sam is cooking rabbits, Gollum spits in disgust. It is actually Andy Serkis’ own spit flying through the air.
Confirming the notion that all men are really 12 forever, Serkis has said that this was his favorite scene from the trilogy.
The scene where Gandalf hits his head off a beam in Bilbo’s house as not originally in the script. Ian McKellen knocked his forehead on the beam by accident. Peter Jackson thought McKellen did a fantastic job “acting through” the gaffe, and so he kept it in the final cut.
Not all movie magic is CGI. Treebeard, for example, was actually an animatronic puppet that was 14 feet tall.
121. Blue or Brown?
Bloom found the blue-tinted contacts lenses he wore as Legolas uncomfortable, so you may notice his eyes are Bloom’s natural shade of brown in some scenes throughout The Lord of the Rings.
122. One does not simply Memorize Lines
Boromir’s speech at the Council of Rivendell was read from a sheet of paper sitting on Sean Bean’s lap because he had only received his lines for it the night before. Sean Bean claims he has no memory of being in New Zealand on the day they shot the scene. He says that Boromir must have been put in digitally.
123. Double Threat: An Actor AND a Song Writer
It was Andy Serkis’s idea to have Gollum sing while catching fish in the Forbidden Pool. The song is based on a poem from Bilbo and Gollum’s riddle contest in The Hobbit.
124. And a Director too??
Serkis portrayed Gollum again in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and also took on second-unit directing duties, shooting aerial shots and battle sequences for Peter Jackson. “Directing was my main job this time—more than playing Gollum. I worked 200 days with a huge team shooting battle sequences, aerials. It was an amazing experience and one which I was very, very thankful to Peter for asking me to do.”
125. Elvish Runes
The Elvish lines used in the films are not simply quoted straight from the novels…. they were copied from J.R.R. Tolkien’s own dictionary of the language.
126. A fire that creates, not destroys
After receiving the Narya ring, Gandalf gained skills in manipulating fire and smoke. Interestingly, Gandalf’s fire abilities were associated with creation and light, while Sauron’s fire abilities were associated with destruction and darkness. (7)
127. A precious actor
When Andy Serkis was told about the role of Gollum, his agent thought it would be a simple three weeks of voiceover work in New Zealand. Peter Jackson was so blown away by his audition that he gave him extra responsibilities: capturing the movements of Gollum/Smeagol too.
128. Stupid fat academies-es!
Unfortunately Serkis was considered “ineligible” for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in the 2003 Academy Awards, because Gollum was computer animated.
129. The One Ring… Times two
Once shooting for the trilogy was finished, Peter Jackson gave one of the rings used in the movies to Elijah Wood… and another to Andy Serkis. Both Wood and Serkis thought they had the only one.
If either of you are reading this, sorry to break the bad news.
130. The Uruk-hai Are Getting Old
Signs such as matted hair and blotchy skin are used on the Uruk-Hai to show that they are inbred creatures already beginning to fall apart.
131. Small and steady
The armour that John Rhys-Davies wore for Gimli weighed around 30kg (66lb).
132. The Silent Type
In the film series, the only time Legolas speaks to Frodo Baggins is in The Fellowship of the Ring, when the Elf says “and you have my bow.”
133. A fan ’til the end
134. Keep Shooting!
When the Riders of Rohan surround Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, three or four cameras were used at the same time to get the most realistic shot. They filmed continuously for the entire sequence from the moment the riders arrive until after they ride away.
135. Life imitating art
The actor who played Grima Wormtongue, Brad Dourif, has a goddaughter in real life named “Arwen”
136. 10,000 hours
Designing Gollum took over 100 maquette sculptures and 1000 drawings before he was just right.
137. Movie magic
The film crew on The Lord of the Rings spent about eight minutes rendering each single frame of Gollum’s animation. Although that might seem like a lot, it took much longer to render one frame of the character Treebeard: two days.
138. My sword will go on…
Kate Winslet was initially offered the role of Eowyn.
139. Dress and Sword
Miranda Otto (Eowyn) was gifted one of Eowyn’s dresses and her sword.
140. I’m sorry, Arwen. Your dress is terminal.
The gift Liv Tyler (Arwen) received was Arwen’s “dying dress”.
141. THIS. IS. ROHAN!
While Legolas talks to Aragorn before the Battle of Helm’s Deep he speaks of 300 against 10,000. This is a reference to famous Spartan battle at Thermopolyae where a few Spartans held off a massive Persians invasion. David Denham (played Faramir) would star in the theatrical epic “300” based on that same event.
142. Three movies to rule them all
Miramax was the first studio to express an interest in Peter Jackson’s interpretation of the books but they wanted to do it all in one film. Jackson refused, and thank goodness he did!
143. If You Ain’t First, You’re Third.
The Two Towers was the first sequel to be nominated for a “Best Picture” Academy Award when the first film didn’t win the award, and is the third sequel ever to be nominated.
144. That’s all of them, ladies and gentlemen.
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.
145. An author and a wizard
In the films, actor Sir Ian McKellen (who played Gandalf) based his mannerisms and speech patterns on J.R.R. Tolkien himself.
146. Realism or fantasy?
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.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 54, 55, 56, 57