Tag Archives: The Lord of the Rings

Extended edition TH – AUJ: 5 things I’ve learnt

Like any other devoted Ringer, when the extended editions of Fellowship, The Two Towers and The Return of the King were released I immediately watched them and then spent hours going through the bonus content.

Director and producer Peter Jackson named this bonus content the ‘appendices’. He was following in JRR Tolkien’s footsteps; Tolkien placed a huge amount of background material at the back of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ that he called the appendices.

Now that I’ve finally got my hands on copies of the extended editions of the three The Hobbit films courtesy of my friend Ben, I’m attempting this feat again. It really is a feat, as all together there is around 27 hours of bonus material.

Here are five of the things that I have learnt from watching the appendices in An Unexpected Journey.

Sir Ian McKellen contemplated quitting acting due to the difficulties of green screen filming

As Gandalf (McKellen) is 25% larger than the dwarves and Bilbo, a lot of McKellen’s scenes were shot on green screen while the dwarves and Bilbo were shot simultaneously on the main set.

Hidden earpieces and faces on illuminating tennis balls meant that McKellen knew when to say his lines and who to speak to. It sounds easy enough but, as McKellen points out, part of being a successful actor is reacting to those around you. Very hard to do when your counterpart is an inanimate object.

The podium that Bofur dances upon in Rivendell is the same podium that the One Ring is placed onto during the Council of Elrond

I am, quite frankly, ashamed that I missed this.

When Bofur (James Nesbitt) seeks to liven up the atmosphere during the company’s dinner with the elves he jumps onto the same podium that would later hold the One Ring.

For me, this is a defining moment.

During the events of An Unexpected Journey, 60 years before the events of Fellowship, the majority of Middle-earth was in full bloom. While darkness was slowly creeping back into the world, it most certainly hadn’t reached Rivendell.

Elrond and the elves of Rivendell were thriving. They opened their doors to the company and we saw a Rivendell that was full of life. At that point, that podium was merely a podium, with nothing special about it.

Fast forward 60 years and that podium became something quite different. It held the most dangerous artefact within Middle-earth, and the reason that Sauron was able to return.

I doubt Elrond was ever able to look at that podium in the same way, the memory of dancing dwarves long forgotten.

Radagast has worn a hat-shaped hole into one of the branches in his house

One day, hundreds of years ago, an acorn fell out of Radagast’s pocket and began to grow. Radagast, the sensitive, nature-loving wizard that he is, didn’t have the heart to remove the seedling so it continued to grow until it came up through the house.

Over the hundreds of years since, Radagast has worn a hat-shaped hole in one of the lower branches from walking back and forth.

It is these kind of subtle, delightful touches that make the Rings and The Hobbit films so captivating.

Set decorator Ra Vincent commented during the appendices that 90% of the work his team does within the films isn’t noticed. The 10% that is, is what makes it worthwhile.

Sadly, the hat-shaped hole is one of those things that I missed. The Academy didn’t, though, as Vincent and colleagues Dan Hennah and Simon Bright were nominated for Best Achievement in Production Design for An Unexpected Journey.

The One Ring was previously missing from the Isildur mural in Rivendell

Perhaps it can be explained that the passing of time has worn it off, but in The Fellowship of the Ring, the mural that depicts the moments before Isildur cut the One Ring off Sauron’s hand is actually missing the One Ring.

When we see the mural again in An Unexpected Journey, as Bilbo is taking a look around Rivendell after the company has arrived, you see that the One Ring is there, in all its bright golden glory contrasted again Sauron’s black metal gauntlet.

This correction is courtesy of Tolkien artist and conceptual designer Alan Lee. Howe actually painted the mural for Fellowship of the Ring, and, as such, simply painted the One Ring on when An Unexpected Journey began filming.

Ori was potentially the dwarf that fell down the well in Moria in FOTR

While you are able to physically distinguish between the 13 dwarves, there is not time in the three films to get to know them all individually.

With some of the dwarves, notably Thorin, Kili and Balin, you do get a strong flavour for their personalities, but with the rest there are only a few glimpses.

The appendices are able to fill in the gaps and provide this background information.

Oin, for example, is the alchemist and healer of the company; producer Fran Walsh joked that with all his lotions and points Oin coined the term ‘ointment’.

The appendices also reveal that because Ori keeps a journal, he may well have been the dwarf in Moria whose diary Gandalf reads from and who Pippin accidentally causes to fall down the well.

This is a sad thought but it encourages you to think about what happened to Thorin’s company following the events of the three films and imagine what their lives were like.

What’s your fantasy nationality?

If I belonged to a race in Skyrim I’d be a Nord.

If I lived in Westeros I’d be from Winterfell.

And if I lived in Middle-earth I’d be from Rohan.

No, I haven’t been doing quizzes on Buzzfeed. These are references to races and places in works of fantasy that I feel I ‘fit’.

The ‘Skyrim’ reference is thanks to my boyfriend, who thinks he would be an Imperial. While I visually look like a Nord thanks to my height, blonde hair and blue eyes, he also reasons that it’s because I prefer cold weather.

Preferring the cold weather and having a penchant for medieval architecture is why I’d be from Winterfell, despite looking more like a Lannister.

I’d feel quite at home in Rohan due to my love of horses. I also feel that while Hobbiton would certainly have a jovial atmosphere and all the home comforts you could desire, Rohan has the grassland and rugged countryside that I would so love to explore with my dog.

Do you feel that there’s a particular fantasy race or place that you have an affinity for?

Diaries ready – important dates for film fans


While many of us are familiar with the reasons why 1st January, 31st October and 25th December are commemorated, would you be able to tell me the significance of 4th May, 31st July or 22nd September?

These three dates are noteworthy to many film fans, especially to those who, like myself, enjoy the fantasy and sci-fi genres.

In case you weren’t sure, 4th May is Star Wars Day (say it out loud – May the 4th be with you) and is a day celebrated by Star Wars fans across the globe. It’s also a popular wedding date.

31st July is Harry Potter’s birthday, and he would have been 35 this year. J K Rowling kept his exact date and year of birth absent from the novels, but fans have established a timeline and Rowling has since confirmed the date is 31st July 1980.

22nd September has been on my calendar for many years now. It marks Hobbit Day and the date of my annual The Lord of the Rings marathon. The reason? 22nd September was Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday, though several years apart, of course.


Star Wars, LOTR and the Harry Potter series have such devoted followings that they don’t need a specific date for fans to unify and celebrate their passion. It certainly adds to the comradery, though.

Having these dates also make the characters and their worlds more real; it’s similar to ‘Friends’ fans saying that they feel very old when they realise that baby Emma would actually be around 12-years-old now and Phoebe’s brother’s triplets would be 15.

Apart from re-watching the films, I haven’t particularly celebrated Star Wars Day or Harry’s birthday – yet. I threw a themed dinner last year for Hobbit Day, though. My friends and I dressed as Middle Earth races and enjoyed a very tasty three-course dinner together that we’d jointly prepared.

If I get married, I can’t deny that my geek side would be extremely happy if I got married on one of these three dates, the last one especially. It would also make the wedding date easier to remember…

Film-viewing Rule No 8 – You Will Not Jump Ahead

“I really want to watch the Harry Potter films again,” said my boyfriend recently.

This wasn’t what he actually meant, though. What he meant was that he wanted to watch the ‘good’ films again, starting from film three, The Prisoner of Azkaban. I agreed with him, as I’ve seen the first two films that many times and ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’ was always my favourite book.

This got me thinking, though. Were we breaking some unsaid film-viewing law by jumping ahead? Should we have gritted our teeth and watched The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets? They’re not ‘bad’ films by any stretch after all.

When films are released as sequels or trilogies there is always the temptation to skip ahead, especially if you prefer one film over another.

When we rewatch The Lord of the Rings trilogy later in the year for our annual viewing around Hobbit Day, we’ll play each film, though I could start with The Two Towers as I’ve watched Fellowship more than any other film and could probably recite the whole script unprompted.

Out of all the series I can think of, I think that potentially the only series that you can dip and out of, choosing a film at random rather than in order, is James Bond.

The earlier films are especially easy to watch out of order. While the Daniel Craig-era of films carry themes over, the earlier Sean Connery and Roger Moore films introduce and close themes in just the one film. The repeated mention of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. is the exception, of course.

What do you think? Are we rule breakers for skipping ahead?

Meeting Sir Ian McKellen

If, as the Mayans had predicted, the world had ended yesterday, I would have been in very good company. After all, it’s not every day that you get to spend the evening with a wizard. He may have even been able to protect us using his staff!

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Last night, on Friday 21st December, my boyfriend and I joined 38 other people at a private screening of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and a Q and A session with Sir Ian McKellen in London.

This exclusive event was in support of Step Forward, an an independent charity based in east London that provides free and confidential services to young people. Sir Ian has been Step Forward’s patron since 2006, and, in a bizarre coincidence, my family used to live in the Tower Hamlets area of east London in the 1850s!

My attendance was a long story that I won’t bore you with, but it was down to eBay, a pleading message on Facebook and good old fashioned luck!

My boyfriend and I arrived at London Marylebone about 5.30pm and then started our journey across London by tube to get to the Genesis Theatre in Stepney Green. We were aiming to arrive at 6.30pm, and when we got out at Stepney Green about 6.40pm, there was a fantastic firework display going on at a block of flats behind the tube station. We jokingly said to each other: “That’s Gandalf’s work, I bet!”

Arriving at the Genesis we were given our VIP packs with our passes (above) in, a couple of postcards (which would prove very handy later!) and information about Step Forward. We then waited to be called into Studio 5, the Genesis’ deluxe screen that has a seating capacity of just 40. We settled into our seats, which were gloriously comfy armchairs with a cushion and throw each, and had a glass of bubbly, our first of two complimentary glasses.

After an introduction from Step Forward’s CEO Jennifer Fear and a video about the work that the charity does, the man himself appeared, armed with several props from the The Lord of the Rings and An Unexpected Journey. Perhaps you recognise them?

Gandalf 2After revealing that the fireworks were, sadly, not down to him, Sir Ian then launched into the Q and A session. You’ll have to forgive me because I can’t remember all his answers, but there were several that stood out. A few people asked their questions before I asked mine. Their questions were rather more serious than mine, so when Sir Ian asked for my question I started by saying: “I’ve got more of a lighthearted one for you…”.

As my boyfriend and I were sitting on the back row, Sir Ian couldn’t hear me very well so started walking towards me. Without thinking, I got out of my seat, walked to the end of the row and started walking towards him. Within seconds he was in front of me and I started my question again: “I’ve got a lighthearted question for you. Which five characters from the Middle-earth universe would you invite for dinner?” His answer? “Ah, good question. I’d invite Merry, Pippin… Frodo, my favourite dwarf and Galadriel, as long as it was Cate Blanchett who was embodying her.”

Other answers that stand out include Sir Ian’s response to what it’s like performing in front of a green screen. “It’s just like performing in a theatre. There isn’t really a castle behind you, of course, while you’re acting on stage.” That’s something I’d never thought of, but, of course, he’s completely right.

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Sir Ian also revealed how he always preferred playing Gandalf the Grey compared to Gandalf the White as Gandalf the Grey is much more humane. “Gandalf the White is a commander,” he said. “He has to save Middle-earth.” Other Gandalf-related snippets included revealing that Sean Connery and Anthony Hopkins had also been in the running to fill his boots before Sir Ian took the role. He also revealed how whenever he was late on set, which was quite rare, Peter Jackson would always say: “Where’s John Hurt got to?”

Sir Ian then spent a good half an hour taking photos with everyone. My boyfriend went first, and took the opportunity to ask his question: “Out of the props that you kept from The Lord of the Rings, which is your favourite?” He answered saying that he kept Gandalf’s hat, though he didn’t particularly want that. He also has the keys to a certain hobbit hole, though we can’t tell you which one!

Gandalf 4I then had my photo taken with Sir Ian. He held his staff and I put Gandalf’s hat on, though I wasn’t sure it’d fit! “It never really fitted me either,” Sir Ian said. Then, grinning like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, I returned to my seat.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think that my photo (pictured left) hadn’t come out that way, so my boyfriend and I then joined the photograph queue after everyone else had been to have my photo taken again and to have the postcards that were in our VIP pack signed. When I revealed why we had come back again because the photo hadn’t come out that well, Sir Ian very sweetly said: “Well, that won’t do.”

Sir Ian then bade farewell and left us to watch An Unexpected Journey. Sadly, we had to leave before the film had finished so we could get back to Marylebone and catch our train home. But, that was a small price to pay.

On behalf of my boyfriend and I, I’d like to say a big thank you to Step Forward for organising the event and to Sir Ian for attending. He truly was everything I’d hoped he would be: friendly, smiley and answering questions very thoughtfully and thoroughly. It was an absolute pleasure.

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