Production Designer:Grant Major
The Fellowship of the Ring is the first episode in the film trilogy of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The three episodes were shot simultaneously and were released in consecutive Decembers, from 2001 through 2003.
Beginning with the appearance of the series title, The Lord of the Rings, and continuing over a film montage, voice-over narration by Cate Blanchett as “Galadriel” is heard for approximately eight minutes in a prologue explaining the history of the ring. Then the title of the first film The Fellowship of the Ring appears onscreen, followed by the words: “The shire--60 years later.“ There are no opening cast or crew credits. Some of the cast are credited twice in the ending credits. In the first appearance, most of the lead performers are credited without a character name, except for “Andy Serkis as Gollum.” Later, Alan Howard is credited as “Voice of the Ring,” followed by all featured players in alphabetical order. The credit for “Cute Hobbit children” appears as “Billy and Katie Jackson.” Ending credits include a list of people and organizations the “Filmmakers” wished to thank, a brief dedication to Joan and Bill Jackson, and an inscription in the Maori language, reading: “He mihi nui hoki ki nga tangata whenua o Aotearoa. Ma Rangi raua ko Papa tatou e manaaki, e taiki hei nga tau e tu mai nei.” A brief flashback montage appears during the Rivendell sequence, when “Gandalf” recalls his escape from “Saruman” and when “Elrond” recalls the time when Isildur refused to destroy the ring. Within the film, whenever “Frodo” puts on the ring and when he gazes ...
The Fellowship of the Ring is the first episode in the film trilogy of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The three episodes were shot simultaneously and were released in consecutive Decembers, from 2001 through 2003.
Beginning with the appearance of the series title, The Lord of the Rings, and continuing over a film montage, voice-over narration by Cate Blanchett as “Galadriel” is heard for approximately eight minutes in a prologue explaining the history of the ring. Then the title of the first film The Fellowship of the Ring appears onscreen, followed by the words: “The shire--60 years later.“ There are no opening cast or crew credits. Some of the cast are credited twice in the ending credits. In the first appearance, most of the lead performers are credited without a character name, except for “Andy Serkis as Gollum.” Later, Alan Howard is credited as “Voice of the Ring,” followed by all featured players in alphabetical order. The credit for “Cute Hobbit children” appears as “Billy and Katie Jackson.” Ending credits include a list of people and organizations the “Filmmakers” wished to thank, a brief dedication to Joan and Bill Jackson, and an inscription in the Maori language, reading: “He mihi nui hoki ki nga tangata whenua o Aotearoa. Ma Rangi raua ko Papa tatou e manaaki, e taiki hei nga tau e tu mai nei.” A brief flashback montage appears during the Rivendell sequence, when “Gandalf” recalls his escape from “Saruman” and when “Elrond” recalls the time when Isildur refused to destroy the ring. Within the film, whenever “Frodo” puts on the ring and when he gazes into Galadriel’s water mirror, a series of fast-moving, distorted images appear, depicting his visions. Gandalf, too, has a brief “vision,” when he touches the ring in the Shire sequence. Sometimes the facial images of characters who become affected by the ring’s evil power are momentarily distorted. “Sauron” is depicted as a giant eye and is heard as an offscreen whisper. Voice-over narration, sometimes as brief as a word or a sentence, is spoken by various characters intermittently throughout the film. Subtitles are used when characters are speaking in Tolkien’s Elvish language.
The world of Middle-Earth, which is central to the film, was created by philologist and World War I veteran John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892--1973). It first appeared in his 1937 book, The Hobbit or, There and Back Again. In the film, the book written by the character “Bilbo Baggins,” titled There and Back Again, is a reference to that book, which, according to a Dec 2001 Entertainment Weekly article and other sources, was started while Tolkien, who eventually became an Oxford University Professor of Anglo-Saxon, was grading examination papers and impulsively wrote on one, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” The book received both critical praise and large sales, and Tolkien’s publishers, Allen & Unwin, asked him for a sequel, which the author took seventeen years to produce. In the meantime, while World War II was fought, Tolkien’s vision of Middle-Earth and its inhabitants grew. His intent, according to various sources, was to write a fictional ancient history, rather than a fantasy, and in a Jan 1967 NYT interview, claimed that he “detested” the popular style of tiny mythical creatures, pointing out that, “Hobbits are three to four feet in height. You can see people walking around like that.” According to the Entertainment Weekly article, Tolkien, who also worked on the Oxford English Dictionary, claimed that, even as a child, he made up imaginary languages. After making up a language, he would create a history of the language and its imaginary speakers, then create alphabets, maps, calendars, genealogies, and stories for his imaginary world.
Tolkien continued working on the sequel, noting in an appendix all the details of his mythical world. In 1950, Tolkien wrote to Allen & Unwin that he had “produced a monster,” and described it as “immensely long, complex, rather bitter, and rather terrifying.” His lengthy saga, which contained detailed maps and a 104-page appendix, was published during the mid-1950s in three parts, titled respectively, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Although critics and the general public were divided in their opinion of the complex trilogy, offering both admiration and disdain, later, when the books were published in paperback in the mid-1960s, its popularity grew as a modern classic and a counter-culture phenomenon, especially in the United States. By the 1970s, some Tolkien scholars and followers were studying and conversing in his made-up Elven language.
According to a May 1997 article in The Times (London), Tolkien rejected several requests to purchase the screen rights to his books. A Jan 2001 Newsweek article reported that at one time, Tolkien was offended by a treatment presented to him of an animated version that changed the name of Elven waybread to “food concentrate,” and a Dec 2001 The Times (London) reported that, in 1957, he refused to work with three Hollywood businessmen who pitched an animated version containing misspellings. Despite his misgivings, according to a Dec 2001 The Independent (London), Tolkien sold the film rights to The Lord of the Rings in 1968, and a Nov 1977 NYT article reported that MGM and Disney considered the project. However, it was Arthur Rankin, Jr. and his partner Jules Bass, who produced a ninety-minute, American-Japanese animated version that aired as a special on NBC-TV in 1977. They also planned to release it later in theaters, followed by two other Tolkien adaptations. Although those plans did not come to fruition, in 1978, Saul Zaentz produced a version of the first half of the Ring trilogy, which was directed by animator Ralph Bakshi and combined animation with “rotoscoping” or live action footage copied onto animation paper. The poor box-office performance of that film, which was released by United Artists, caused Zaentz to abandon a sequel.
A Jan 1997 HR news item reported that other companies considered undertaking Tolkien’s work after the 1978 production, and that Universal and DreamWorks had recently approached the Saul Zaentz Co. This was confirmed by a May 1997 The Times (London) article, which added that directors Peter Jackson and John Boorman had declared interest in the film. Although an Aug 1998 Var article reported that Wingnut Films, which Jackson co-owns with his partner Fran Walsh, had struck a deal with Zaentz and Miramax to write and produce the Tolkien epic, after a year of script development and planning, Miramax and Wingnut could not reconcile their different approaches to the project. According to an Aug 1998 Screen International report, Miramax’s co-chairmen, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who wanted to compress the trilogy’s story into a single film, gave Jackson three weeks to find a new backer. New Line Cinema took over Miramax’s option, although the Weinsteins continued to serve as executive producers of the 2001 film, and the collaboration marked, according to an Aug 1998 LAT article, “a rare cooperative venture between two rival companies.”
It has been reported in news articles that several of Tolkien’s descendants became uncomfortable with a film version of their father’s works. In the May 1997 The Times (London) article, Christopher, Tolkien’s son and literary executor, said that aggressive fanatics of the books forced the family to flee England in 1975, and Tolkien’s oldest son, John, expressed concern that further commercial pressures would detract from the book. In Dec 2001, The Independent (London) reported that Simon Tolkien, son of Christopher, claimed that he had been banned from the estate board and other family affairs for supporting the making of the film.
The writing of the screenplay began in Apr 1997, according to a Nov Script 2001 article. Pleased that New Line supported his wish to film all three films simultaneously, Jackson explains in the production notes of the presskit, “I felt that in order to do the tale’s epic nature justice, we had to shoot it as one big story.” During the writing of the screenplay, Jackson, Walsh and fellow writer Philippa Boyens felt that they had to satisfy both Tolkien fans and those who had never read the book, thus necessitating some changes in the story. The book’s journey through the Old Forest and the encounter with the animated corpses (barrow-wights) were cut to keep the pace of the film from slowing down. The popular character “Tom Bombadil” was deleted early in the writing of the screenplay for the same reason, although, in a Dec 2001 CineFantastique article, Jackson said that they had hoped to make a brief reference to the character in the film, but ran out of time. The writing team expanded some of the female characters, especially “Arwen,” who is barely mentioned in the first book of the trilogy, but becomes a pivotal character in the film by saving Frodo’s life. The character’s part required many revisions, according to a Dec 2001 Newsweek article, and troubled many fans, who heard rumors that she was being turned into a sword-wielding warrior.
Although news items and internet websites discussed the casting of Sean Connery in the film, an Aug 1998 Var article reported that Jackson planned to fill the lead roles with lesser known players. For the role of Frodo, Jackson auditioned over 150 actors, according to a Nov 2001 Entertainment Weekly article, before casting Elijah Wood, who actively competed for the part by submitting a homemade audition tape. Before Ian McKellen, whom Jackson described as the “please-God-let-us-have-him guy,” could be cast as Gandalf, negotiations in scheduling had to be worked through. According to an Oct 1999 HR news item, Irish actor Stuart Townsend was originally cast as “Aragorn,” but was replaced by Viggo Mortensen. Ian Holm, who played “Frodo” in a 1970s BBC radio production, was cast as “Bilbo.” British actor Orlando Bloom marked his major film debut in the role of “Legolas.” Although the leads were mostly from Great Britain and the United States, according to an Oct 2000 Var article, fifty-seven of the seventy-seven speaking parts were cast with people from New Zealand, where the film was shot. According to a Nov 2001 Entertainment Weekly article, the New Zealand government offered its army to play extras in a battle scene.
The production notes stated that cast members underwent intensive physical training in swordfighting and horsemanship to prepare for their roles and for the arduous shooting schedule and challenging conditions they would be experiencing. Language coaches trained the cast in Tolkien’s Elvish language and the various dialects created for the film. According to an Apr 2000 Observer (London) article, an Irish-like accent was assigned to the Elves, a West Country burr to the Hobbits, and the Dwarves were given a Cockney accent. In addition, according to a Nov 2001 Script article, Tolkien’s pronunciation guides were followed and monitored by three academic advisors, as well as the two on-set dialect coaches.
Besides a distinctive language, each of the various races in Middle-Earth was given an artistic style that was expressed through the architecture, clothing and physical features of the characters; Tolkien artists assisted production designer Grant Major in conceptualizing the look of the film, so that it would remain true to the author’s original vision. According to the studio’s production notes, an average of 150 costumes for each of the different cultures were made, including the smaller or larger versions of each costume for the character’s “scale double.” Prosthetic artists created facial and other physical features of the various races, and a special foam latexing oven was in constant use to make ears, Hobbit feet and Uruk-Hai arms and legs, along with props. To create the disparity between the three-and-a-half-foot Hobbits and seven-foot Wizards, “scale” doubles and forced perspective filming were used. In the scene at Bilbo’s home in Hobbiton at the beginning of the film, actors McKellen and Holm were shot separately, on two different-sized sets.
According to a Dec 2001 NYT article, many of the leads had their faces scanned and body movements digitally captured for the special effects used in the film. A Nov 2001 LAT article stated that every frame of the film was stored in a digital library, so that Jackson and his team could manipulate the lighting, landscapes, characters and even details like the elaborate smoke rings blown by Gandalf and Bilbo in an early scene. According to the production notes, many creatures, among them the Balrog, the Cave Troll and the Watcher, were entirely digital beings. According to the CineFantastique article, the creatures commanding the most attention from the designers were the frightening Uruk-Hai, which were intentionally made in human form, because, according to Jackson, “the only truly scary thing in the world is other humans.”
As stated in the end credits, the film was shot entirely in New Zealand. Although an Aug 1998 Var reported that Jackson believed his native New Zealand’s landscapes would particularly suit the recreation of Middle-Earth, the decision to film there was partially financial. In a Sep 1998 HR article, Jackson said that New Zealand had technical proficiency, education, English speakers and lower costs, and he believed he could not have made a film of The Lord of the Rings’s quality in the United States.
The production notes reported that artisans of earlier technologies were employed, among them glassblowers, blacksmiths, leather-workers, thatched-roofers, seamstresses and experts in medieval armor. The New Zealand army dug earthworks and built an access road for the production, according to the CineFantastique article, and local citizens provided most of the 2,400 crewmen and 26,000 extras. Meanwhile, according to the Nov 2001 Entertainment Weekly article, the country’s government created a cabinet-level position, which was dubbed “Minister of the Lord of the Rings” by the press, to expand the tourist and film industries in the country. According to a Dec 2001 NYT article, Jackson had hoped to set up a permanent Tolkien museum to display items from the three films, but permission from the Tolkien Estate had not yet been obtained.
Although interior scenes were filmed at Camperdown Studios in Wellington, New Zealand, a Dec 2001 NYT article reported that the film was shot on location in over one hundred areas, and that at one point, seven units simultaneously shot different elements of the three films. Hobbiton sequences were filmed at Matamata, where, according to a Dec 2001 AmCin article, flowers and vegetables were planted a year in advance of shooting. The CineFantastique article reported that an unused army site at Fort Dorset, near the studio, was used for the Inn of the Prancing Pony’s exteriors. Exteriors of Moria were shot on a backlot in the Hutt Valley and in Abel Tasman National Park. The Fellowship’s river journey was filmed at Te Anau, and waterfalls on South Island were shot and combined with shots of a miniature set, a matte painting and photographic tiles to create scenes of Rivendell. In addition, miniature trees with autumn leaves, signifying the approaching end of the Elven race in Middle-Earth, were built and composited into the scenes. Scale models, both smaller and larger than the original, were made of many sets, often carved out of polystyrene.
During the 274 days of principal photography, which spanned four-and-a-half months, the cast and crew formed strong friendships while working on the easy-going Jackson’s reportedly amiable set. To commemorate the experience, the nine actors playing the film’s “Fellowship” had the word for “nine” in one of Tolkien’s languages tattooed somewhere on each of their bodies, according to the LAT review.
A Jun 2001 Entertainment Today news item reported that, six months after production ceased, a new opening was shot for the beginning of the film and that most of the dialogue was re-recorded at several studios in London, because the New Zealand studios were not fully soundproofed.
The total cost of the three-film project has been reported in several sources to be $270 million. New Line negotiated that foreign distributors pay up front for all three films of the series, and according to a May 2001 LAT article, German and New Zealand tax funds, along with the foreign distributors, paid for 65% of the cost. According to a Feb 2001 Screen International article, an official website for the film was first launched in May 1999. A Nov 2001 DV article reported that the film has marketing partnerships with Burger King, JVC, Barnes & Noble and General Mills. In addition, over forty licensed products are being marketed in conjunction with the film, including collectibles, swords, action figures, toys and video games. According to Exhibitor's Relations, as of 1 Jan 2002, the film had taken in over $174,000,000 in the domestic box office.
The Fellowship of the Ring received Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture-Drama, Best Director, Best Score and Best Original Song (“May It Be”). It was the first recipient of AFI’s Movie of the Year award, with additional AFI awards given to Production designer Grant Major and Visual Effects Artist Jim Rygiel. Howard Shore was also nominated as AFI Composer of the Year. The film won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Best Music (original score) and Best Achievement in Visual Effects, and received the following Academy Award nominations: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song, Best Picture, Best Writing (based on material previously produced or published), Best Sound and Best Actor in a supporting role, Ian McKellen. In 2007, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was ranked number 50 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films.
In the mythical world of Middle-Earth, many thousands of years ago, several powerful rings were made and given to the heads of each state: three rings for the Elven-kings, seven for the Dwarf-lords and nine for Mortal Men. Unknown to them, however, the Dark Lord Sauron had secretly forged an additional ring, a master containing the power to rule the others, and for many years, enslaved the inhabitants of Middle-Earth, using armies of disfigured creatures called Orcs to carry out his aggressive campaigns. Eventually, an alliance of Elves and Men drove the Orcs back into Sauron’s territory, called Mordor. At the base of Mount Doom, where the master ring was forged, Sauron joined the battle and slayed the Human king Elendil, but was then attacked by Elendil’s son, Isildur, who cut the ring from Sauron’s hand. Without it, Sauron’s physical body crumbled and his power scattered. The Elf lord Elrond begged Isildur to destroy the ring by casting it into the fires of Mount Doom, but the ring, having a life of its own, enticed Isildur to keep it for himself. Later, Isildur was killed by Orcs when the ring, which grants invisibility to the wearer, slipped from his finger. The ring rested at the bottom of a river until found by the Hobbit-like creature Gollum, and over many years, the corruption in the ring disfigured Gollum’s mind and body. Then Bilbo Baggins, from a race of three-and-a-half-foot tall creatures called Hobbits, encountered Gollum, gained possession of the ring and returned with it to his home in the Shire. Since that time, because of the ring’s power, Bilbo has not appeared to age, although he is now celebrating his ...
In the mythical world of Middle-Earth, many thousands of years ago, several powerful rings were made and given to the heads of each state: three rings for the Elven-kings, seven for the Dwarf-lords and nine for Mortal Men. Unknown to them, however, the Dark Lord Sauron had secretly forged an additional ring, a master containing the power to rule the others, and for many years, enslaved the inhabitants of Middle-Earth, using armies of disfigured creatures called Orcs to carry out his aggressive campaigns. Eventually, an alliance of Elves and Men drove the Orcs back into Sauron’s territory, called Mordor. At the base of Mount Doom, where the master ring was forged, Sauron joined the battle and slayed the Human king Elendil, but was then attacked by Elendil’s son, Isildur, who cut the ring from Sauron’s hand. Without it, Sauron’s physical body crumbled and his power scattered. The Elf lord Elrond begged Isildur to destroy the ring by casting it into the fires of Mount Doom, but the ring, having a life of its own, enticed Isildur to keep it for himself. Later, Isildur was killed by Orcs when the ring, which grants invisibility to the wearer, slipped from his finger. The ring rested at the bottom of a river until found by the Hobbit-like creature Gollum, and over many years, the corruption in the ring disfigured Gollum’s mind and body. Then Bilbo Baggins, from a race of three-and-a-half-foot tall creatures called Hobbits, encountered Gollum, gained possession of the ring and returned with it to his home in the Shire. Since that time, because of the ring’s power, Bilbo has not appeared to age, although he is now celebrating his 111th birthday. During a celebration held in his honor by neighbors, Bilbo confesses to his old friend, the wizard Gandalf, that he is weary and plans to leave the Shire, never to return. Although he is bequeathing his house and belongings to his heir, Frodo Baggins, Bilbo struggles within himself over leaving the ring. Reluctantly, Bilbo departs without it, but Gandalf is disturbed by the power the ring seems to have. Later, after studying old manuscripts, Gandalf shows Frodo markings on the ring identifying it as Sauron’s and warns him that Sauron's life-force is rebuilding a new army to conquer Middle-Earth. After convincing Frodo of the danger of keeping the ring, which will lure Sauron to the Shire, he enlists Frodo’s eavesdropping fellow Hobbit, Samwise “Sam” Gamgee, to help Frodo take the ring to the House of Elrond, in the Elf city of Rivendell. After giving instructions to meet him at an inn in a neighboring village, and warning Frodo to change his name and not wear the ring, Gandalf sends the Hobbits off. He then seeks counsel with the head of his order, the wizard Saruman, who resides in the tower of Isengard, but finds that the old wizard has been corrupted. Saruman asks Gandalf to join him on the dark side with Sauron, but when Gandalf refuses, Saruman tortures and imprisons him on top of the tower. At Sauron's command, Saruman has his enslaved Orcs cut down all the old trees in the forest to stoke a forge to build an army of Urak-Hais, a stronger race of creatures bred by crossing Orcs with Goblins. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam, joined by two Hobbit friends, Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck and Peregrin “Pippin” Took, escape black riders called Ringwraiths, Sauron’s enslaved half-living beings who are drawn toward the ring. At the inn, while awaiting Gandalf, Frodo draws attention to himself by putting on the ring and disappearing, thus betraying his location to Sauron. A mysterious Human, Strider, then warns them that they are in danger and cannot wait for Gandalf. He leads them toward Rivendell, but en route, Frodo is injured in an attack by the Ringwraiths. With the help of Elrond’s daughter Arwen, who loves Strider enough to give up her Elven immortality, Frodo is rushed to Rivendell and healed by Elven medicine. When Frodo recuperates, he is reunited with both Gandalf, who escaped Saruman’s imprisonment, and Bilbo, whose body has aged without the ring's magic. Frodo also learns that Strider is really Aragorn, a descendant of Isildur who was reared by Elves and has abdicated his throne for fear of failing his race, as Isildur did when he became entranced by the ring. Elrond calls a meeting of Elves, Humans, Hobbits and Dwarves to decide the fate of the ring. Although the council agrees that it must be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom, individuals, enchanted by the evil in the ring, quarrel over how to accomplish the deed. Frodo, although he does not know the way to Mordor, volunteers to be the ringbearer and take the ring to Mount Doom. Moved by Frodo’s courage, Aragorn and Boromir, a Human warrior whose father is steward of the city of Aragorn's ancestors, offer to guard him on his journey. Gandalf, the Elf Legolas, the Dwarf Gimli and Sam, Merry and Pippin also give their services to Frodo. The nine companions, whom Elrond dubs the Fellowship of the Ring, set off on their mission. Although a mountain pass seems the safest route to Mordor, blizzard, avalanches and other hardships, all caused by the magic of Saruman, who watches their journey through his Seeing Stone, impede their progress. They enter the Dwarf Mines of Moria and discover that the civilization there has been destroyed. Trapped inside the mine by a water creature known as “The Watcher,” the group passes through the labyrinths of the mines, pursued by Gollum, Goblins and a Cave Troll. In one of the battles, Frodo narrowly escapes death, but is saved by a magic vest he is wearing, a gift from Bilbo. Across a collapsing stone stairway built over a bottomless chasm, a huge fiery creature called a Balrog pursues the group. While giving his companions time to escape, Gandalf tries to stand down the demon, but as it falls into the chasm, it snares Gandalf with its tentacles and pulls him in. Exhausted and grieving for Gandalf, the Fellowship continues, out of the mines and into a forestland, Lothlorien, which is occupied by the powerful Elf queen Galadriel and her court. While the group rests, Galadriel shows Frodo, who is fearing the futility of his quest, the consequences of his failure and encourages him to believe that even the smallest person can change the course of the future. After continuing on their mission by boat, the Fellowship pauses across the river from Mordor, planning to enter it at night. As the others make camp, Boromir accosts Frodo in the woods. By putting on the ring and becoming invisible, Frodo escapes Boromir, whom he knows is enchanted by the ring, and while in that state, sees the eye of Sauron looking for the ring and Sauron’s armies preparing for war. After removing the ring, Frodo convinces Aragorn that it corrupts those who are near it, even his trusted companions, and that he must continue the journey alone. At Isengard, after completing the creation of the Urak-Hai army, Saruman demands their loyalty to him, rather than Sauron, and sends them out in search of Frodo and the ring, so that he can become Lord of the Rings and conquer Middle-Earth. The Uraks catch up with the Fellowship as Frodo is leaving and attack the group. Pippin and Merry, whom the Uraks mistake for the ringbearer, are abducted while luring the creatures away from Frodo, and Boromir, who has recovered from the ring’s enchantment, tries to stop them, but is fatally wounded. The remainder of the Fellowship fights valiantly, until the Uraks leave. The dying Boromir then grieves that he has failed the Humans, and when Aragorn, inspired by Boromir, swears to him that he will protect their people, Boromir calls him "king" with his last breath. Gimli laments that all was in vain and that their Fellowship has failed, but Aragorn says, “not if we hold true to each other,” and leads his companions in pursuit of the captors of Merry and Pippin. Meanwhile, Sam sees his friend rowing alone toward Mordor. Remembering his promise to Gandalf to stay with Frodo, Sam, who cannot swim, follows him into the river, forcing Frodo to rescue him. Later, in Mordor, Frodo admits that he is glad of Sam’s company, but hopes that his other companions have a safer journey.