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(Peter Jackson 2001-2013)








“I will take the Ring to Mordor! way. Though... I do not know the way."



Before it fell to Peter Jackson, a fairly unknown New Zealand director, to make what is, unquestionably, the greatest epic in the history of the cinema, four British men frfom Livedrpool werekeen on adapting the same books.

There were more usually referred to as the boys.The Beatles!

“We talked about it for awhile,” said Sir Paul McCartney, 35 years later.They were so keen on theMiddle Earthclassic, theytook copiesof it on theirIndian trip to guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967. The books had been a gift from producer Denis O’Dell.

And the film, Denis said, “was a serious idea aimed at David Lean orStanleyKubrick.”Lean, a surprise fan of A Hard Day’s Night, was committed to “a little romantic film in Ireland”(Ryan's Daughter). Kubrick was more defeatist - Tolkein was unfilmable.


Paul being Paul smelled “a bit of a carve-up”

when John wanted the lead.

Not Gandalf (reserved for George),

nor Frodo and Sam (Paul and Ringo;

Donovan was keen on Merry)

but  Gollum!


This news would hardly surprise the forunate  few (like me) receiving  John's  squiggley drawn Christmas cards in the 60s, where his Xmas partying humans, undressed, unsexed, looked like aliens,... or, indeed, Golums.  

“It was a shame,” said Dell  about the project.  “John even thought there could have been an album of music based around the film.”

Having heard the rumours. Peter Jackson quized Paul McCartney about it. He confirmed the idea was that it was going to be their next film after Help.  “Paul was very gracious.  He said, ‘It was a good job we never made ours because then you wouldn’t have made yours and it was great to see yours.’ I said, ‘It’s the songs I feel badly about. You guys would have banged out a few good tunes for this. You were The Beatles, after all. It’s a shame we missed out’.”

Ian Holm, aka Bilbo Baggins,wondered why Peter Jackson, this “affable, slightly eccentric man,” had been entrusted with the Brobdingnagian task of making three films simultaneously when, if they went wrong, they would have sunk the New Line Cinema company.

“But, in fact, he was absolutely the right choice.There was no doubt he was a good director… Helooked like Stephen Poliakoff on a particularly bad day… awoolly little man with a crinkly, grow-anywhere beard and a slightly concertinaed shape. Healways wore shorts and operated a rota system with what appeared to be just two short-sleeved shirts.”

Nothing fazed Peter Jackson... not even failing to convince

Daniel Day-Lewis or Russell Crowe to be Aragorn,

and Patrick McGoohan or Sean Connery for Gandalf.


Daniel rejected the role - three times!   Crowe was excited about such a massive picture in New Zealand, but was committed to too many Hollywood commitments (one of which won his Oscar).

Gandalf the Grey . Sean, certainly, made a huge error. For the usual(and honest) reason. “I don’t understand the books.”Plus he (and his wife) had no wish to be stuck in New Zealand for 18 months.McGoohan (who twice turned down James Bond) was also the first choice for Albus Dumbelgore in the first Harry Potter film, 2001.

Following his much praised work as the dying elven king in Dungeons and Dragons, 2000, Tom Baker  (the fourth TV Doctor Who) was a strong candidate. As were Bernard Hill (who became Theoden), Anthony Hopkins, Sam Neill, Patrick Stewart.

And Dominic Monaghan, who played hobbit Merry, even saw David Bowie entering the casting studio in 1999. "I'm assuming he read for Gandalf. I can't think of anything else he would've read for," he told The Huffington Post. "We approached him," agreed casting director, Amy Hubbard. "I'm pretty sure it was Peter Jackson's idea [but] he was unavailable."

Plus John Astin, The Judge from Jackson’s 1996 horror film, The Frighteners and Gomez, head of The Addams Family, TV, 1964-1966). John’s excitement about the Jacksons’ passion for the project, led his son to push for a role. Agreeing to gain 30 lbs, Sean (The Goonies) Astin became Samwise Gamgee. (Sean’s child,   Alexandra Astin, aged seven, played his daughter in the final chapter).

When Peter Jackson’s first Gandalf thought - Nigel Hawthorne - was dying of pancreatic cancer, Ian McKellan became the director’s "please-God-let-us-have-him guy."

Frodo Baggins  .  Jackson said he  auditioned more than 150 actors… Including Jake Gyllenhaal. And, of course,  Elijah Wood, who simply sent in his own homemade audition tape.  Apart from his audition, the closest Lost TV star Dominic Monaghan came  to Frodo was helping out by reading his farewell party speech (in Elijah Woods’ absence) as Jackson shot reactions  from the other hobbits.  Dom became Merry. 

Bilbo Baggins .  Ian Holm reigned supreme! As he had done in a BBC radio version years before.The film, he said, was a fabulous distraction. Jackson was such a Doctor Who fan, he wouldhave dropped his Ringscycle if asked to helm a Whovian movie… or even an episode!Consequently, Doc7 was second choice for Bilbo - Sylvester McCoy was first non-English Doctor Who (he’s Scottish, even though his real name is Smith). Jackson later expanded the role of the wizard Radagast for McCoy in the next JR Tolkeintrilogy, The Hobbit, 2012.(Jackson’s pal, Steven Spielberg, was another Whovian and he had wanted McCoy to be Governor Weatherby Swann whenSpielberg was planning to sail with The Pirates of the Caribbean in the early 90s).

Aragorn .  He saw lesser known actors - two Brits from the Babylon 5 series, Jason Carter and Robin Atkin Downes. They both went on to voice TheLord of the Rings video-games.In fact,Downes’ stage and screencareer is overhadowedby his impressivetotalofvideo-game voices- from Star Warsto Pirates of the Caribbean.

Finally, Stuart Townsend, 26, was chosen- and then,  let go after the six weeks of training and rehearsal and one day’s filming as Peter Jacksonrealised Aragorn requiredsomeone older. Viggo Mortensen, 41, joined the shootingwithouthaving met Jackson, never having read the books either - Viggio’sson, Henry, 11, pushed him into the role. Veteran sword master Bob Anderson called  Viggo “the best swordsman I've ever trained.”  (On April 16, 2010, Viggo was knighted by Queen Margarethe II of Denmark, making him the fifth knight  of the Rings, after Ian Holm, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee and Peter Jackson).


Galadriel .  First choice was Kiwi star Lucy Lawless - Zena: Warrior Princess, herself! - but she proved pregnant.


Aussie Cate Blanchett took over.

“I’ve always wanted pointy ears.”


Arwen .  Uma Thurman was also pregnant. Liv Tyler was not.

Gimli .  Obviously, the first time that Warwick Davis (the 2ft 1in Willowand Star Wars’ Ewok, Wicket Wysrti Warrick), lost the small perrsonrole to… the 6ft 1ns Jophn Rhys-Davies, the tallest of the actors playing members of the Fellowship.Also seen for the dwarf warrior were Timothy Spall and Robert Trebor (his name is a palindrome).

Sam Gamgee .  The “only regret” thus far in the lifeof British stand-up Johnny Vegas was failing to wrest Sam away from Sean Astin. “I was dreadful,”Johnnyadmitted abouthis test. “I’m in frontof a blue screen, they go, ‘Imagine a spider’ and there’s me going, ‘Oooh, Shelob!Shelob!”Peter Jackson’s talking his glasses off and rubbing his eyes, saying: I flew from New Zealandfor this.”



“All our hopes now lie with two little hobbits, somewhere in the wilderness”

2.   THE TWO TOWERS  2002 .


As I was saying…

Eowyn .   In December 1999, Peter Jackson first offered the White Lady of Rohan,to Irish actress Alison Doody, from Indiana Jones’ Last Crusade, 1989. She passed having only lately given birth to her second daughter.


Uma Thurman also passed,

Kate Winslet was too busy.


That was Jackson’s fault. He’s the director who made her a global star as one of his Heavenly Creatures in 1994.

When  Miranda Otto turned up for her first day as Eowyn, Liv Tyler welcomed her witha hug: “I’m so glad there's another woman in this film.”

Faramir .  Orlando Bloom auditioned - and received his career-making Legolas Greenleaf in the trilogy just two days before finishing drama school. David Wenham became Faramir (in the final two chapters) because he resembled his screen brother, Sean Bean.



“Aiya Earendil Elenion Ancalima”


3.   THE RETURN OF THE KING    2003 .


Again, as I was saying…

Denethor .  Peter Jackson first saw John Rhysd-Davies for the role that appeared only in the final chapter. That was before Peter worked out a way to make the 6ft. 1in actor into the dwarf Gimli. Having tried, tested and accomplished that effect (not always satisfactorily),Jackson gave Denethor to the renowned stage actorand teacher John Noble.

So all honours have to go - brilliantly earned - to Peter Jackson for his trilogy of the classic JRR Tolkien saga.


For which enterprise, Jackson juggled 30 with fictional dialects and lingoes

(tri-lingual Viggo Mortensenspoke some Elvish), 20,602 background actors,

100 Kiwi locations, 48,000 swords, axes, shields, makeup prosthetics, 19,000 costumes;

and... 1,600 pairs of prosthetic Hobbit feet.


Not to mention... a 10,000 crowdmaking armygrunts at a New Zealand interntaional cricket match,a crew of 2,400, some 250 horses in one scene,  180 computer special-effects artists,  50 wardrobe department tailors, cobblers, designers, etc,  seven years of development and production for the three movies… adding up to more than sixmillion feet of film being edited, more or less simultaneously,by threeteams!

Never was an Oscar more richly deserved.One? The last of the films won a record eleven Oscars - from eleven nominations.A first!

So it is the second filmfeaturing Bernard Hill to score eleven; the first being Titanic, 1997, butfrom 14 nods). In February 2004, it also became second film (after Titanic), to break the $1b barrier worldwide - a 1408% profit onNew Line’s initial outlay.

And, naturally, Jackson -the inspired cause of it all - was soon wondering where his cut had got to...

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