On Thursday, November 8, 2001, the publisher Houghton Mifflin held a special
event in bookstores across the U.S. to mark the release of book tie-ins for
the upcoming Lord
of the Rings movies: The
Fellowship of the Ring Visual Companion and The
Lord of the Rings Official Movie Guide. I attended one of these events
and watched a special 20 minute exclusive, behind-the-scenes video about Tolkien,
his books, and the making of the movies.
Bringing the Ring to Print: Rayner Unwin
The video began with a montage of many of the scenes from the movie which have
been previously seen in the
three trailers. Over the montage was some of the musical score for Fellowship
[now available streaming online here].
It was beautiful and sweeping and seemed very fitting to the movie.
Next up was a short interview with Rayner Unwin. His father was a friend of
Tolkien and was the British publisher of The
Hobbit. Mr. Unwin at the tender age of 10 years was given a manuscript
copy of The Hobbit to read and review for his father. As part of the
interview, Mr. Unwin read a copy of his review. It was very positive, and he
recommended it to his father for publication. "If I said [a book] was good
enough to be published, it was [published]."
Years later, Mr. Unwin had cause to read the manuscript for The Lord of
the Rings. He considered it "a work of genius" and lobbied his
father to bankroll publishing it. We can also thank Mr. Unwin as the person
responsible for breaking up Rings into three separate volumes: Mr. Unwin
said that he had developed a friendship with Tolkien over the years, which allowed
Tolkien to trust him to split up Rings despite being personally opposed.
(The video noted that Mr. Unwin died shortly after taping his interview for
Cast and Crew
The video featured interviews with many of the cast and crew of LOTR, including
Jackson, artists Alan Lee and John Howe, Cate
Blanchett (Galadriel), Viggo
Mortensen (Strider), Elijah
Wood (Frodo), Orlando
Bloom (Legolas), and WETA president Richard Taylor. It was clear that the
experiences of making these movies had a tangible impact on their lives. Cate
Blanchett described it as a "once in a lifetime experience."
When it came time for Peter Jackson to select a spot for Hobbiton, he brought
Alan Lee and John Howe with him to make sketches and help pick the right place.
The scenes in the video of Rivendell show a similar attention to detail. Alan
Lee designed it while he was out in the woods where it would be built and filmed.
He said that he was trying to think like an elf, and he described how they tried
to fit the buildings into and around the trees, which made for a much more minimal
impact to the environment.
Some fun video segments included watching some of the cast as they practiced
their sword-fighting skills and watching Orlando Bloom (Legolas) practicing
marksmanship with his bow. Bloom had nothing but praise for the WETA folks,
espcially with regards to the weapons they produced for the films. "Mine
[Legolas' knife and bow] happened to be outrageously beautiful... a lot of time,
energy, and love [went into the making of the weapons]."
New to the Screen: Gandalf at Bagshot Row
One scene in the presentation which stands out is a clip from the film itself,
which, to my knowledge, has not been seen in any trailer or commercial. You
first see the familiar scene of Gandalf (Ian
McKellen) riding in his cart up Bagshot Row. Next, you see him standing
outside Bag End, rapping on the door with the end of his staff. Seen from over
Gandalf's shoulder, you see the door slowly open and Bilbo (Ian
Holm) standing in the doorway. His face alights as he says, "Gandalf!
My dear Gandalf!" Gandalf responds with a warm smile, "Bilbo Baggins!"
At that point, your heart just melts. The scene is just as I imagined it.
If the Rings movies fail to capture the hearts of fans worldwide, it
won't be for lack of trying. So much blood, sweat, and tears from the cast and
crew went into the making of these movies, we can rest assured that this labor
of love is the best they could possibly make it, and if the stunned silence
at the end of the Houghton Mifflin presentation is any indication, these movies
are powerful enough to overcome every fan's criticism.