Yes, we know. It sounds terribly dorky, and probably is. But today we decided to check out Flat Earth’s Lord of The Rings Tour, taking us to various LOTR shoot locations in and around the Wellington area. As luck would have it, our tour guide for the day, Nathan Clear, played “Elf #14” in the movie series and is an encyclopedia of knowledge about the blockbuster trilogy. Although not exactly massive LOTR fans, we found the tour a great way to see some of Wellington’s stunning natural beauty, and ended up learning quite a bit about the film industry in the process. Here are some pictures of the real-life sites we visited, and 10 LOTR facts we learned from Nathan along the way:
Fact #1: Peter Jackson bought the movie rights to LOTR over twenty years ago. He knew he would one day make the movie in New Zealand, after reading the original books on a train ride across the country.
Fact #2: New Line Cinema agreed to finance the project, giving Jackson a three movie budget that Jackson promptly blew on the first installment alone. However, it was such a runaway success that the studio agreed to triple down and tripled their investment.
Fact #3: All three LOTR movies were filmed together, over twenty consecutive months. Jackson provided all of his major actors with houses to live in, all near his own Wellington residence. In some cases, Jackson paid for his existing neighbours to go on long holidays, in order to free up their homes.
Fact #4: Because Elijah Wood was only 18 at the time the first movie was filmed, his parents refused to let him live alone in a house. Instead, they made him live with a host family for the first six months of the shoot, and he could often be seen around Wellington doing chores like taking out the trash or walking the family dog.
Fact #5: In order to keep shooting locations secret, equipment and crew vans were sometimes emblazoned with dry cleaning logos, pretending to be gathered in one place for “dry cleaning conventions.”
Fact #6: Many of the movie’s fantasy castles and other structures are not, as some believe, digital creations. Rather, they are extremely detailed, real-life miniature models that were later edited into different scenes. Some were so large they were dubbed “Big-iatures.”
Fact #7: In order to maintain the illusion of height (or lack thereof), many of the actors had body doubles in various shapes and sizes.
Fact #8: Sir Ian McKellen (aka Gandalf the Great) didn’t care to learn horse-riding at his old age. Instead, all of Gandalf’s horse riding scenes were filmed by a body double.
Fact #9: Orlando Bloom was such a surprise hit with female (and some male) audiences that the studio had to rush a special photo shoot, just to meet the insatiable demand for his pictures (see first picture from this post).
Fact #10: In return for a location shooting discount, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who also happens to be the country’s Tourism Minister, has negotiated a deal that will see all The Hobbit DVD’s include a 2 minute promotional video of New Zealand tourism.