Starburst Return to main Starburst page ContentsSelected feature: Lord of the RingsBuy it
ContentsSelected feature: Lord of the RingsBuy It

Feature: Lord of the Rings

Nor shall my sword sleep
in my hand

Danger, Frodo, danger! Elijah Wood with his trusty elvish blade, StingFor many years, The Lord of the Rings was thought to be an unfilmable tale. But over the last two years a talented cast have dedicated their working lives to turning it into screen reality...

by Ian Spelling

Some of them are relative unknowns, such as Sean Astin, Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan, who play three of the young Hobbits joined in The Fellowship of the Ring, or Viggo Mortensen, who appears as Strider, the sinister Ranger with a surprising secret – and another name, Aragorn. Others, such as Sean Bean, Christopher Lee and Sir Ian Holm are veterans, and the last of these has even played Elijah Wood’s character Frodo in a radio production of the tale. But all are united in their enthusiasm for the film... with over two years of shooting they had to be!

We understand some very strong friendships formed between the members of the Fellowship of the Ring?

Dominic Monaghan (Merry) We're all incredible friends. I made the greatest friends that I've ever had doing a job. I spent nearly two years with these people on the films and I'm going to spend the next few years working with them, as the subsequent films are released). I'll know them for the rest of my life, so we're all brothers and we all became incredibly close. We supported each other every day and helped each other out. In that sense it was an incredibly valuable job, making friends who are actors.

We hear the Ring itself was treated a little unusually for a prop?

Elijah Wood (Frodo) The Ring was sort of treated as a character. There were days we'd all be together and I'd bring out the Ring and the guys would be like, "Aaaaaah." It became its own thing and we actually started to treat it with a certain amount of seriousness after a while. "It's the Ring. It's the Ring of power! It's the One Ring!"

Presumably you spent most of your time working with Elijah Wood, Sean, as you're playing his servant?

Elijah Wood and Sean Astin rehearse a scene Sean Astin (Sam Gamgee)
Most of my time was spent with Elijah, Dom and Billy. I also spent a lot of time with Andy Serkis (who plays Gollum/Smeagol in the later films). But I did get to work with Cate Blanchett, if only for a couple of days. She has this regal presence. I don't know if it was life imitating art or the reverse.

I encountered Sir Ian McKellen more off-screen than on-screen because his makeup chair was in our booth, and I was very grateful for that. I did get acquainted with Christopher Lee and I had a few experiences with Ian Holm, and I got to hang out a little bit with Liv Tyler. So it was an amazing experience. I was down there for 15 months and it was a true acting troupe. People would come in and come out and it was phenomenal to be able to experience all those different energies.

The trilogy took 16 months to film. How long and hard did you have to think about the time commitment involved in signing on?

Sean Astin It was more the thought of leaving family and stuff for such a long time, but we did manage to get back and forth over the year and a half. It did become like a second home. Before we went there were slight worries, but to be involved in making The Lord of the Rings was such an amazing experience, as you can imagine. If you thought twice about it, it was only for a second. Once we got there, it was so comfortable.

To your thinking, why is The Lord of the Rings so popular more than 45 years after it was originally released?

Sir Ian Holm (Bilbo Baggins) It's the classic story of good and evil. It's as simple as that. It is because it's so simple that it's universally appealing. There have been other great novels written with a good and evil theme, of course, but I think this just appeals so strongly to all ages. I wouldn't be able to actually sat to you what the spark was, why this book more than any of the others. I don't know. Why was Chariots of Fire such an enormous success?

So has there been much interest from the public in your role yet?

Ian Holm Yes, People say, 'What are you playing?' I say ‘Bilbo Baggins,' and they go, ‘Oh, Bilbo Baggins! You're the star of the movie!' They're forgetting that Bilbo is only really in the original book, The Hobbit, which, of course, they didn't film. Bilbo, in fact, doesn't really have a great deal to do in The Lord of the Rings stories. Basically, he's giving the Ring over to Frodo at the start and then he's got a few scenes with Gandalf, so I'm only in films one and three.

Turning to you, Orlando Bloom, you're going to be thrust into the limelight by this trilogy. Do you worry about be typecast as an elf?

Orlando Bloom (Legolas) I look completely different. I've got a buzz cut now, but in the movie I have long blonde hair and blue eyes. I can't get my head around (being so associated with Legolas). It freaks me out, but it's not something I can think about.

It's Boromir who takes the greatest fall as The Fellowship of the Ring unfolds, isn't it Sean? But none of them is perfect, really. Wouldn't you agree?

Sean Bean (Boromir) They all have their problems. It's what happens to normal people, I suppose. At one stage or another, some member of the Fellowship seems to go through a period of crisis or weakness, and it's for the rest of the crew to support that character.

That's what's quite interesting about the Fellowship; they're not all perfect. It's not this group of untouchables, of invincible people. They're very human, in a way, even though some of them are Hobbits and Elves. They've all got problems. That keeps you interested because you think they might not actually make it, they may not be able to achieve this. They've got everything against them. And they're not all together all the time...

Just part of the 8-page cover photo-feature in Starburst #281.

Images © New Line Cinema
Feature © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction

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Peter Jackson
The hobbit-like Peter Jackson

While the cast of The Lord of the Rings were kept busy for almost two years, they came off lightly in comparison with director Peter Jackson, who's been working on it for almost five years. We spoke to the director who chose to accept the monumental task of bringing a myth that lives in the imaginations of millions to life...

In making the trilogy, what did you feel you simply had to nail? What absolutely had to work for people to buy into your adaptation?

Peter Jackson I think it's very important to transport an audience into another time, another place, another world, and to give people a movie-going experience that takes you away from the here and now.

I say that because when I was a kid I was hugely influenced by the original King Kong. I was seven or eight and I saw it on TV. That experience made me want to be a filmmaker. When I saw the film, the magic of it and the way it took me to Skull Island with King Kong and the dinosaurs made me realize that fantasy in cinema can truly take you somewhere.

It was the same thing with the films that Ray Harryhausen worked on. I wanted The Lord of the Rings to somehow do that as well. The way I thought that would be possible was to make the films as real as possible. I didn't want to make it too fantasy-driven and I didn't want to make it too over-designed.

I wanted the films to be authentic and real and to transport people to a place they'd never been.

In a perfect world, will the films drive people back to the books?

Peter Jackson The Lord of the Rings is a book, not a film. What we've done is an interpretation. The actual work itself is a wonderful book. I'm sure, I'm certain that a lot of people _ especially, hopefully, young people _ who go to see The Lord of the Rings will be inspired to read the book, if for no other reason so they can find out when happens in the next two movies. You won't have to wait two years to pick up the story and see what happens to Frodo when he gets to Mount Doom. I'm sure it will inspire people to read the book, and that will be great.

Will you ever be able to read the book again without seeing the images you yourself have created?

Peter Jackson Probably not. I don't think so. I'm always going to imagine Ian McKellen as Gandalf. I'm always going to imagine Elijah Wood as Frodo. I think a lot of people who see the films will feel the same way. When I read an Ian Fleming James Bond novel I imagine Sean Connery as Bond.

Co-screenwriter Philippa Boyens, producers Barrie Osbourne and Mark Ordesky and president of WETA Digital Richard Taylor also reflect on their Ring cycle in this issue

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