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July 13, 2005 - July 19, 2005

7-19-05 Latest News

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Nine
Xoanon @ 11:00 pm EST

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Nine
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Start: Wanaka
Finish: Te Anau
Mileage: 302 KM / 187 miles

Sites: Two areas in the Mavora Lakes region, including the edge of Fangorn Forest and Nen Hithoel/Parth Galen, where the Fellowship was broken, and the Redcliff Café in Te Anau

Leaving Wanaka, we followed the road over the Crown Range for a view of Arrowtown and the Remarkables. The view from the Crown Range looking down on Arrowtown and the valley was spectacular, an amazing mixture of fog, light, snow and muted colors early on a New Zealand winter morning.

We continued south past Arrowtown, skirting the Remarkables Range, then turning west to pass through Mossburn, the southernmost point of our journey at 45.41 degrees south. A few miles past Mossburn we headed north on a gravel road for about 18 miles to come to South Mavora Lake.

Several important scenes from The Two Towers were filmed here in a very small area of grassy, rolling plain, bordered by thick forest and surrounded by mountains. On the golden plain near the edge of the forest Eomer and the Rohirrim burned the dead orcs. Aragorn, Logolas, and Gimli arrived the next day, and at first feared that Merry and Pippin were dead. Viggo Mortensen broke two toes kicking an orc helmet , then fell to his knees screaming in grief and pain. That’s the take Peter Jackson used in the film.

Aragon then discovers signs that the hobbits are not dead but have escaped into Fangorn Forest. The scene showing the edge of the forest and Gimli wondering “what madness drove them in there?” was filmed right here. There is also a photo in today’s gallery taken inside the forest.

The last important scene filmed here was Gandalf summoning Shadowfax as Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli watched. The magnificent Andalusian playing Shadowfax approached gracefully through the distant fields and stopped directly on his mark in front of Ian McKellan. Surely one of the few scenes in the Lord of the Rings completed in one take!

We returned to our bus and proceeded a short way to the larger North Mavora Lake, a camping area popular for hiking, boating, and fishing. This lakeside area and the adjacent forest represented Nen Hithoel and Parth Galen, where many scenes at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring were filmed.

A lot of action took place in the forest. We saw where the orcs ran down the slope and others entered from the left (foot stepping on log) to start the battle with Boromir, the hollow under the tree stump where Merry and Pippin first hid from the orcs and then called to Frodo, and the tree where Frodo hid from the fellowship, having decided to go on to Mordor alone (see gallery)

On the shoreline are the sites where the fellowship camped when they landed at Parth Galen, and where Frodo and Sam entered the River Anduin to sail away from the fellowship, across the river and towards Mordor. This is also the location where Sean Astin badly cut his foot walking out toward Frodo’s elven boat. (see gallery)

The lake water here is brilliantly blue and fairly still, the shoreline a fine gray gravel. The mountains rise steeply from the far side of the lake. We had our picnic lunch by the shore, not far from where the fellowship made camp on its last day together. Today the setting has none of the atmosphere of menace and uncertainty it held on the last day of The Fellowship of the Ring.

From Mavora Lakes, we headed south and then west to Te Anau. We had dinner at the Redcliff Café, in the small dining room often used by The Lord of the Rings cast and crew while staying in Te Anau. Megan, manager of the Redcliff Café, has some great stories from her work as a runner during filming in Te Anau. One night she had to deliver a script to Orlando Bloom’s room – she heard the shower running and sure enough, Orlando came to the door wrapped in a towel to get his script revisions.

Many cast members were regulars at the café. Sean Astin came in using a walking stick after he cut his foot at the Mavora Lakes. Megan cooked for Christine Astin’s birthday. The Café was a favorite location of Sean Bean, who stayed ‘til 5AM one night and missed his flight back to the United Kingdom. On another occasion, John Rhys-Davies recited a Shakespearean sonnet on poetry night, and at the time no one recognized him. Viggo Mortensen came in to get spices for a curry meal he cooked one night for the scale doubles. Megan’s Lord of The Rings display in the café has a t-short signed by Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, and Billy Boyd, and a thank you note from Sean Bean. Questions or feedback on the series? Email me!

Tomorrow: Ithilien, Amon Hen, and the Ford of Bruinen

7-18-05 Latest News

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Eight
Xoanon @ 10:16 pm EST

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Eight
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Start: Clyde
Finish: Wanaka
Mileage:131 K / 81 miles
Sites: Rohan (Poolburn)

Special Guest: Ian Brodie, author of The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook


After a hearty homemade breakfast at Oliver’s we headed out to our major site for the day, Bonspiel Station at Poolburn in the Ida Valley of Central Otago, where a number of Rohan sites for The Two Towers were filmed, passing by the gold mining town of Ophir on our way. Bonspiel Station is owned by Sue Falconer and her family (her husband Keith sadly passed away last year). The site was found by helicopter location scouts. (The term “bonspiel,” by the way, means “good game” or “good play” as used by the Scots, and the term is also for a curling tournament.)

Poolburn is Peter Jackson’s favorite accessible location; his other favorite, Norwest Lakes near Te Anau, is reachable only by helicopter. In Ian Brodie’s location guide Peter notes that Poolburn had the epic scale needed for the plains of Rohan: “It also had a sense of scale. Whenever you can put a camera down, and literally see 50 km in one direction, and have no power poles, no houses, no roads, it’s just expanse, it suddenly gives the film that kind of epic…quality of tiny figures in this big landscape.” (Extended Edition, page 16, with picture)

Sue Falconer was our guide, joining us in our bus as far as we could go before getting out and trekking, just like the Fellowship members and the orcs. She explained that filming at Poolburn started in early 2000. Crew came from Queenstown and Wanaka to build sets, disguise existing buildings with false fronts and thatch, and temporarily remove fences. Sue’s family did not work as extras but a number of locals were hired to be people of Rohan. Everyone in the area benefited from the film production, not just the extras but the many merchants who benefited from the money spent in the towns by the production company.

Walking through Poolburn, one of the first sites we visited was the Rohan village on the lake, where the orc attack took place and from which the refugees fled. The terrain and lake are very recognizable, and we could see the existing buildings that had been given false fronts and covered with thatch. The Rohan refugees fled through two burning huts in the foreground of the scenes, toward the camera. The huts were constructed and then burned on location. We could see many burned timbers, nails, and the foundations of the two huts still there, and several of us took tiny bits of charcoal as souvenirs - a small thing but something real from the production. Sue even helped us find charcoal and nails.

We also saw visited several sites that appear in the pursuit of the orcs by Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli in their attempt to rescue Merry and Pippin – all easily recognized. We saw Aragorn’s rock, where he listens for the orc troops’ movement, and where he found the Lothlorien brooch Merry dropped as a signal and says, “Not lightly do the leaves of Lorien fall.” From here we walked to the hollow where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli first hid, then came out to meet Eomer and the Rohirrim, and where the Rohirrim surrounded them. (see re-enactment photo where our Gimli challenges Eomer, surrounded by Rohirrim.)

Next we visited the Eastemnet Gullies where the orcs ran carrying Merry and Pippin, and re-enacted the scene in which one orc says, “What do you smell?” and the other answers, “Manflesh.” Seeing all these locations within a half-hour’s walk really made us feel like we were in an historical Rohan where these events had actually taken place.

Like many ranches, Bonspiel Station has diversified its businesses beyond raising sheep and cattle. The Falconers also raise pine trees commercially and have on the property an old gold miner’s tavern and cabins which can be rented.

A Visit with Ian Brodie

Heading back from Poolburn we had lunch in Alexandria before proceeding to Wanaka to meet Ian Brodie. We met Ian at the Wanaka Airport, home to the New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum, of which he is Director. Ian Brodie’s book, The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook, has sold more than 275,000 copies and is one of the top 5 best selling books in New Zealand. Ian has written many books on aviation and explained to us that none had sold anywhere the number of copies as the location guide.

Ian talked to us about the research and writing of the book. He had met Peter Jackson, also a historic aviation enthusiast, at airshows throughout New Zealand. He spoke to the New Zealand Tourist Board, who were eager for someone to do a book on the Lord of the Rings locations, recognizing that increasing numbers of visitors from around the world would be inspired to visit New Zealand and would be interested in visiting the film locations.

Working January to June 2003 Ian identified 150 locations by word of mouth. Later, working with producer Barrie Osborne he got access to the call sheets to locate even more. Many locations are not in the book, because the owners didn’t feel comfortable having their property included. Locations on private property can’t be mentioned without specific permission. Ian used photos from the production and his own visits to all the locations to illustrate the book. He said he found it interesting that the book is shelved in different sections in different stores. He’s found it in travel, Tolkien studies, and film sections.

Ian explained that he was a fan long before the films were made. He first read the books in 1973 and even has t-shirts from the 1970s. His favorite location is Glenorchy, where the Wizard’s Vale was filmed, and said he was a regular visitor at www.theonering.net. He still keeps in touch with people from the production, noting that Barrie Osborne visited Wanaka in December. Following the success of the book, he’s enjoyed lecturing about Tolkien and the films on cruise ships and at fan conferences including RingCon in Berlin. He is currently working on “Cameras in Narnia” which will cover “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.”

You can get an autographed copy of Ian’s book if you order through http://www.aotearoa.co.nz/lotr.htm

After leaving Ian, we had a chance to practice our archery skills at Have-A-Shot in Wanaka, which was great fun and gave us a renewed appreciation of Orlando Bloom’s archery skills.

Tomorrow: the Mavora Lakes region, including the edge of Fangorn Forest and the breaking of the fellowship, and the Redcliff Café.

7-17-05 Latest News

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Seven
Xoanon @ 10:51 am EST

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Seven
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Start: Mt. Cook
Finish: Clyde
Mileage: 269 K / 167 miles
Sites Visited: The Pellenor Fields, The Great Chase

Twizel -The Pelennor Fields

Today’s principal location was the Ben-Ohau Station outside Twizel, where the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in The Return of the King was filmed. At the ranch we met owner Simon Cameron, his daughter Sarah, and her friend.

Twizel is still in Mackenzie Country, where many people from Scotland settled to establish sheep ranches. Simon’s ancestors came around 1860, and they have been raising sheep on Ben Ohau Station since 1897. After World War I, many soldiers settled in the area and the large stations were split up. The original property was 85,000 acres, and long precedes the development of the town of Twizel, which was established for people working on hydroelectric projects in the area in the 1960s. Currently the Camerons have over 14,000 acres where they raise very high quality merino sheep, known for their fine wool used for clothing. They have about 5000 merinos, who, to maintain their fine quality wool, receive a uniform diet and wear jackets over their fleece.

Simon explained that he had set up a website, primarily to promote their award winning super fine and ultrafine merino wool. The site also mentioned the beauty of the land as a film location, and it was from the website that the location scouts found the ranch.

The site negotiation process took over two years. An access road was put in so the support area with its many tents, trailers, and vehicles could be set up. The road was built record time - just 1 ½ days for the three miles – and remains on the site.

Simon said he always dreamed of marrying a film star, and he finally got his wish. The only problem was that his wife Priscilla played an orc! (See photo of Sarah holding a picture of her mother in orc battle dress.) Among other celebrities, the family met Peter Jackson, Bernard Hill, and Kirin Shah, and Orlando Bloom gave Sarah tours of the set and staging areas.

Filming at the ranch took place over three weeks in September and October, and the days were long, with a 4AM call. The stars stayed in Twizel or arrived by helicopter.

Because rabbit holes would present a serious danger to horses and riders, senior citizens from the area were employed to walk the fields and fill in any rabbit holes. When Simon’s father, who’d battled rabbits on the ranch for years, saw that, he said, “Now I’ve seen everything.”

On the biggest day of filming there were over 1000 people on the site. Many extras who played Rohan riders came to the site with their horses and vans and stayed there, so it was very like an encampment. Often there were 250 horses on the site. Horsemen came from as far as the Calgary Stampede in Canada.

Simon mentioned that Peter Jackson had wanted to do a Nazgul-view shot of the battlefield requiring a helicopter but wasn’t able to. Instead, cranes were brought from Dunedin and Queenstown and cameras mounted on them for the aerial shots.

Simon explained the complicated setup used for the battle scenes, with separate lanes for riders, and camera and crew to ensure safety, and showed us where Theoden and the Riders of Rohan entered, swept down from a rise of hills, and raced into the legions of orcs and other enemies. He described how the ground shook from the thunder of the horses’ hooves.

The land where the battle took place consists of rolling, open golden plains, with a few small hills, a perfect setting for Theoden’s charge. Framing it from behind are the snowcapped peaks of the Ohau Range, playing the Ered Nimrais, the White Mountains between Rohan and Gondor. You can just see them a bit through the fog in the pictures.

Sarah continues to find souvenirs from the production on the ranch. They include numbered bridle tags used to identify the horses and also bits of fiberglass armor torn off by the extras because it made sitting the horses uncomfortable.

Two other scenes were filmed here: the scene of Gandalf riding out to repel the Nazgul from Faramir and his rangers, and the scene of Gandalf and Pippin crossing a stream on their way to Minas Tirith (this one is in the photo gallery.)

You can learn more about the Camerons and Ben Ohau Station at http://benohau.co.nz/index.html – the website that led the location scouts to them!

After visiting Ben Ohau, we continued through Omarama, where we stopped for lunch, and on through the Lindes Pass toward Otago and the gold fields to reach Clyde.

Tarras – The Great Chase (Arwen, Frodo, and Black Riders)

On the way we stopped at the area outside Tarras where the great chase in The Fellowship of the Ring was filmed. This land is not accessible to the public. However, from the road you can easily see the pine trees and the paths among them where Arwen and Frodo were chased by the Black Riders. Jane Abbott, Liv Tyler’s riding double, worked here for about three weeks, and Liv was on set for five days.

The OtagoValley growing region is a wine known for its Pinor Noir, which does well in the area’s sandy, stony soil, dry climate, and hot weather. Our guides told us that Viggo Mortensen’s favorite was from the Mt. Difficulty vineyards in Bannockburn.

We stayed at Oliver’s in Clyde, an old gold mining town, where Billy Boyd had also stayed. At dinner we were entertained by a trio of local musicians, the Middle Earth Minstrels, playing music from Lord of the Rings. Our guide Anwen also morphed into Arwen, complete with wig and red and black dress! You can learn more about historic Oliver’s and see the property at http://www.olivers.co.nz/.

Tomorrow: Rohan (Poolburn locations) and Location Guide author Ian Brodie

7-16-05 Latest News

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Six
Xoanon @ 9:15 am EST

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Six
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Start: Christchurch
Finish: Mt Cook
Mileage: 480K / 299 miles
Site Visited: Edoras


As we left Christchurch for Potts Station and Edoras, our guide Anwen noted that we’d passed our last stoplight for the rest of the trip – six days. The South Island of New Zealand is rough golden country, much different from the rich green landscapes of the North Island. We drove west across Canterbury Plain, an agricultural area with open fields west of Christchurch.

Our guide Anwen and her father Derek both worked as Rohan extras at Edoras, so during the ride they told us stories about life on set. Anwen worked at Edoras in late September 2000 for two days, as a Rohan villager and as a refugee. Typical of Peter Jackson’s attention to detail, the filmmakers asked the extras if they had other family members present so they could actually be grouped as Rohan families.

Anwen is the Rohan villager stirring soup when Eomer enters with the wounded Prince Theodred. She’s also in the scene where Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Gandalf head toward the stable, after Hama announces the removal to Helm’s Deep. Of her memories of the principals, she says Orlando was very energetic and enthusiastic, Viggo was in character nearly the whole time, and Ian McKellen would ask her how the soup was coming.

Her father Derek Carver joined us for the Edoras visit in his Gandalf costume. Derek appears in several scenes, as the last villager to kneel when the rejuvenated King Theoden is presented, and among refugees straggling into Edoras. Derek remembers having to wear a cape when leaving the extras’ tent to avoid being seen by spies, and sitting on the steps of the Golden Hall discussing Tolkien’s languages with Ian McKellen.

Our bus had a CD/DVD player, so we prepared by watching the scenes from The Two Towers, and then listening to the Edoras/Rohan theme music as the site first came into view. All this just helped set the stage emotionally. After leaving the main road, we traveled down a long gravel road, stopping at a ski lodge near Mt. Potts to change clothes and get into our stream-crossing and hill-climbing gear. The lodge was closed, but I think the key was under the mat. You can still do that in New Zealand.

Mt. Sunday (Edoras) is a glacial moraine formed some 20,000 years ago. It is located at Mount Potts/Erewhon Station (Nowhere spelled backwards – you may have read the novel by Samuel Butler), a huge, high country merino sheep farm that goes back to the mid-19th century. The Rangitata River divides it from its neighbor Mesopotamia Station, so named because it lies between two rivers. Everyone seems to quote Samuel Butler, so I will as well: “Never shall I forget the utter loneliness of the prospect…the vastness of mountain and plain, of river and sky.”

“Rugged” does not do justice to this landscape – it’s barren, windblown, big sky country with wide, flat, golden plains between stark hills and old, braided rivers, surrounded by the high Southern Alps that could easily be the Ered Nimrais, the White Mountains. It feels utterly isolated, and absolutely like Rohan.

To reach Edoras itself, we had to cross three streams. They were cold and rather fast running, but not too high. Our fellowship made it across safely by going in teams and linking arms. Then we had to climb to the site of the Golden Hall. Believe me, it’s the only way to do it. We approached the same way Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli did, though without horses, and the climb gives you both a sense of accomplishment and a real feel for the geography of the town and the Golden Hall.

We spent nearly an hour at the top, eating our picnic lunch, walking the sites of the stables, the stairs, and the Golden Hall, and photographing the surrounding Southern Alps and the open plains. I sat on the ground by Meduseld and read “The King of the Golden Hall.”

Anwen and Derek explained that there were two sets, upper and lower, at Edoras, with the upper set consisting of the Golden Hall and the stairs. A beloved sheep dog belonging to the owner is buried on Mt. Sunday, and he asked that the grave not be disturbed. So the bell tower was built over the grave. Unseen in the film are the two access roads, one for each set, that were built on the back side of Mount Sunday to ferry up people and equipment. Like the stunning sets, they are no longer there.

We had arrived at Edoras in mid-morning, when there was still fog in the valley and on Edoras itself. By the time we left, much of the fog had lifted, so on our way out we were able to photograph Mt. Sunday against the sweeping background of the Southern Alps.

For many fellowship members, Edoras had been their favorite location in the films or books and was their favorite location on the tour. We stood where Eowyn had stood, where Aragorn ran up the stairs, where Gandalf rode away on Shadowfax with Pippin, where Theoden ordered the muster of the Rohirrim, and we had to push ourselves a little bit to get there so we appreciated it all the more.

From Mt. Sunday we stopped in the rural farming town of Geraldine for tea, then headed into Mackenzie Country, named for Scotsman James McKenzie, who pioneered sheep ranching, and sheep rustling, back in the 1850s. We passed the base of Lake Tekapo and the lovely small church of the Good Shepherd, an appropriate name in a region where sheep are so important. We continued on many miles in darkness on a road along the shores of Lake Pukaki to the foot of Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak at over 12,000 feet and where Sir Edmund Hillary trained for Everest. It’s the most remote place I’ve ever been.

If you are in the area with limited time and want to visit Edoras, there are several day tours from Christchuch and Methven that go via 4 wheel drive, and even a helicopter tour. You can find a selection at nzto.resultspage.com.

Tomorrow: The Pellenor Fields and The Great Chase

7-15-05 Latest News

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Grabs the Gold Ring with Ringers: Lord of the Fans!
Xoanon @ 2:20 pm EST


Contact: Seth Carmichael
Carmichael PR
+1 212-803-5880
visit www.sonypictures.com/ringers


LOS ANGELES, CA (July 14, 2005) -- The ‘Ring’ has now come full circle for the worldwide following of J.R.R. Tolkien and his “Lord of the Rings” fantasy books. Indie production house Planet BB is proud to announce the sale of its feature-length film, RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS, to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. A rousing favorite at film festivals this year, RINGERS was honored the “Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking: Documentary” award at the 2005 Newport Beach Film Festival.

Narrated by Dominic Monaghan (star of ABC’s Lost and the Academy AwardÒ winning Lord of the Rings trilogy), RINGERS garnered outrageous attention from audiences and press alike during its smash festival circuit run. Screenings continuously sold out in Newport Beach, Dallas, and Park City -- with many enthusiasts camping out in Utah’s freezing January weather just to be the first to get tickets.

Premiere magazine proclaimed what eager audiences and fans have waited to hear: "There's a new documentary to take you back to The Shire" -- while The Toronto Star called RINGERS "comprehensive, entertaining and informative pop cultural history." Indie ubersite FilmThreat loudly praised: "It is a documentary that will always be a salient part of “Lord of the Rings” history.... See it, absorb it, love it!"

RINGERS charts the ongoing influence of “The Lord of the Rings” on pop culture, which continues at full speed more than 50 years after the books’ first publication. Filled with exceptional interviews with legendary rock musicians, filmmakers, professors, actors, authors, and true-blue Ringer fans, the film breathlessly weaves together five decades of Western popular culture. Infused with a dynamic rock score, irreverent cut-out animation (á la Terry Gilliam), and even a centerpiece audience Sing-a-long, RINGERS is a genre-busting documentary that shows how a single literary work continues to spark the minds and hearts of millions.

Director/Producer/Writer Carlene Cordova: “I am genuinely thrilled to work with our friends at Sony. Together we will continue celebrating J.R.R. Tolkien’s amazing achievement by telling the story behind the story.” She adds, “This film is about a true creative legacy and Sony definitely gets it. RINGERS is really special; reminding us how one work of art, this one huge book, can influence so many generations."

Executive Producer Tom DeSanto (X-Men and X2: X-Men United) sums up the LOTR phenomenon: “RINGERS is a celebration of J.R.R. Tolkien and how one author’s work has rippled out to affect other artists -- from musicians to moviemakers -- for over fifty years. Whether you are a J.R.R. Tolkien scholar or a person who has never heard of Frodo or Gandalf, RINGERS is a 90-minute ride that rockets you through the “Lord of the Rings” phenomenon.”

The deal was negotiated by Craig Kestel of William Morris Independent and Gary Hirsch for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is a Sony Pictures Entertainment company. SPE is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, (SCA), a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE's global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution; television production and distribution; digital content creation and distribution; worldwide channel investments; home entertainment acquisition and distribution; operation of studio facilities; development of new entertainment products, services and technologies; and distribution of filmed entertainment in 67 countries. Sony Pictures Entertainment can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.sonypictures.com.


RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS is a feature-length documentary that explores how "The Lord of the Rings" has influenced Western popular culture over the past 50 years. Moving beyond “cult classic” and over several different generations, the film unearths countless people gathered under the banner of ‘Ringer’ -- academics, musicians, movie stars, authors, filmmakers, and a plethora of pop junkies. Celebrity interviewees include Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Clive Barker, and David Carradine.

RINGERS features a dynamic rock-driven score with musicians who were influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien. Several indie recording artists have provided new covers of songs from previous “Rings” adaptations. Produced in association with the popular fan-site TheOneRing.net, RINGERS stands as the most comprehensive film document of the ongoing impact of “The Lord of the Rings.”

From the hippie counter-culture to the electronic age; from the Bakshi animated film to Jackson’s epic trilogy; this documentary brings together extensive footage collected over 21 months -- across three continents.

What began as the private amusement of a tweedy Oxford professor has now become a new mythology for the 21st century. RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS shows how an adventure story published in 1954 has had dynamic ripple-effects through Western pop-culture. RINGERS carefully pulls away the veil between Tolkien’s book and the creations of art, music, and community that have been inspired by it.

RINGERS INTERVIEWEES INCLUDE: Writer/Director/Producer - Peter Jackson, Actor - Elijah Wood, Actor - Sir Ian McKellen, Actor - Viggo Mortensen, Actor - Sean Astin, Actor - Dominic Monaghan, Actor - Billy Boyd, Actor - Andy Serkis, Actor - Orlando Bloom, Screenwriter - Philippa Boyens, Author/Interviewer - Cliff Broadway, Author/Filmmaker - Clive Barker, Writer/Director/Producer - Cameron Crowe, Actor - David Carradine, Author - Terry Pratchett, Author - Peter S. Beagle, Author - Terry Brooks, Musician - Lemmy Kilmister, Musician - Geddy Lee, Tolkien Scholar - Dr. Jane Chance, Chairperson of the Tolkien Society - Christine Crawshaw, Author - Colin Duriez, Filmmaker/Critic - Chris Gore, Writer/Publisher - Forrest J. Ackerman, Actor - Bill Mumy, Author/Broadcaster - Brian Sibley, Illustrator/Author - Colleen Doran, Illustrator/Author - Jill Thompson, and hundreds of Tolkien fans!

visit www.sonypictures.com/ringers

Hall Of Fire This Weekend - Of The Sindar
Demosthenes @ 7:23 am EST

This weekend, Hall of Fire resumes discussing the Silmarillion with chapter 10 – Of The Sindar. After the dramatic rebellion of the Noldor, our focus switches to the rise of the mightiest kingdom of the Sindar – that of Thingol and Melian in Doriath.

We’ll discuss the arrival of the dwarves, and examine the affect their partnership has on Doriath’s development and the events surrounding the creation of Menegroth and the girdling of Doriath by the power of Melian.

Join us on the TORn IRC server this Saturday July 16 in #thehalloffire as we discuss chapter 10 of the Silmarillion – Of the Sindar.

Time and date:
Saturday July 16

5.30pm EDT
4.30pm CDT
3.30pm MDT
2.30pm PDT

10.30pm UK
11.30pm Central Europe

7.30am (Sunday) Brisbane
7.30am (Sunday) Sydney
9.30am (Sunday) Wellington

Chats usually last 45 mins to an hour, and are very newbie friendly. Simply drop in and join the conversation!


Chat happens on #thehalloffire on irc.theonering.net - the TORn IRC server. You can connect instantly via our java chat client that works inside your web browser (find it here!) or choose to install a dedicated chat program such as mIRC on your computer.

To find out more about using mIRC to connect to TORn IRC server, check out these instructions.

Upcoming topics:

July 16 - The Silmarillion – Of the Sindar
July 24 – Theoden King of the Mark
July 30 – Theoden King of the Mark

Got a topic? Let us know your idea!

If you have a burning desire to discuss something in Hall of Fire, drop us a line with your topic at halloffire@theonering.net. If we like it, we'll probably give it a run in the coming weeks - you might even get to guest moderate the session!

Join HoF Announce!

Did you know that Hall of Fire has a mailing list? Join today and get topic announcements and news delivered regularly to your inbox!


7-14-05 Latest News

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Five
Xoanon @ 7:47 pm EST

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Five
Click here for more images

Click here for Day 4
Click here for Day 3
Click here for Day 2
Click here for Day 1

Start: Wellington
Finish: Christchurch
Mileage: 150K / 93 Miles (estimate, not counting flight from Wellington to Christchurch)

Sites: Lothlorien, Isengard Gardens, Minas Tirith/Helm’s Deep, and the elven cloak factory

Stansborough Fibres Ltd. (the elven cloak factory)

Our first stop was the Stansborough Fibres shop in Wellington. Stansborough manufactured the Elven cloaks used in Lord of the Rings and has the license to sell them, but their story is much bigger than that.

Everyone’s heard about all the sheep in New Zealand, but Cheryl and Barry Eldridge’s are very special. Starting with Gotland sheep, they have used embryo transfer and other breeding techniques for ten years to evolve a unique breed, called Stansborough Greys. Bred to provide high quality wool for worsted fabric, they are raised on the 3000 acre Stansborough Farm in the Wairarapa Valley.

What is fascinating about Stansborough is that their use of high technology is in the agriculture, not the manufacture. They may use embryo transfer to develop a unique breed, but the fabric is woven on two rare antique looms from the 1890s in a manufacturing area behind the shop. The Eldridges are involved in every aspect of the wool business from breeding the sheep to selling the products online. After shearing, the wool is hand sorted by color and texture, carded (combed out), dyed with natural color fast dyes, and then spun into fiber. Cheryl explained that the same color dye will yield a different result, depending on the natural color of the wool. Finished products are then sewn and tailored from the spun fabric.

Lord of the Rings costume designers saw samples of their fabric in New York, loved the “silky, soft, and lustrous” wool and tracked them down. They wove over 3200 yards of fabric for the elven cloaks used in the films. Stansborough fabric was also used in Gimli’s tunic, numerous soldier’s mantles, the Ring Wraiths' robes, and some of the hobbits’ pintuck jackets. Several members of our fellowship purchased elven cloaks or scarves, wraps, and throws made from this unique fabric.

Barry and Cheryl’s business continues to diversify. It’s possible to stay at the farm in the Wairarapa. They design fabrics for architects, boutique hotels, interior designers, and offer baby goods, corporate gifts, and other lines. They sell fabric to designers and raw wool to spinners and weavers. They are now also breeding alpacas for wool.

And the film work has also continued: They have designed fabric for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and plan to obtain a license for Narnia fabric products. More on Stansborough, including their online store, at stansborough.co.nz.


From Stansborough we drove to Fernside, in the Wairarapa region about an hour northwest of Wellington. This estate was used for the Leaving Lothlorian and Deagol and Smeagol/Gladden Fields locations.

Fernside is a lovely Georgian English country house dating from the 1920s, complete with a large English garden and a lake. Our Lothlorien guide Mike, who works as the gardener on the property, met us in full Middle Earth costume. He told us he attended the Wellington Return of the King premiere and had his sword signed by Orlando Bloom and Andy Serkis, though drawing the sword in the crowd also got security’s attention at first. (not to worry, it’s not live steel.)

The scenes of the Fellowship leaving Lothlorien, saying farewell to the elves and floating down the Celebrant to where it joins the Anduin, were filmed here in winter, in early 2000. More than 200 people were on site, and the house itself was used for editing. The original bridge on the lake was embellished with Elvish motifs and details, and a large Lothlorien mallorn tree was built on the side of the lake that served as the river. The mallorn and the Elvish motifs are gone, but Fernside still looks and feels like Lothlorien. The bridge, trees, and lake are still there, and it is very easy to imagine that Galadriel’s farewell and the departure of the elven boats took place not long ago (see gallery).

Mike explained that in October 2000 cast and crew returned to film the Deagol and Smeagol scenes that open The Return of the King, noting that visitors enjoyed re-enacting both the finding of the ring and Deagol’s murder.

After Fernside, we had lunch in Martinborough, the center of the Wairarapa wine region, known for its Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Here I learned the location of Peter Jackson’s new house in Masterton, when I mentioned to a bank teller that I was on a Lord of the Rings tour. I didn’t ask for the information; she volunteered it and told me exactly how to get there to see the turrets from the road. Alas, there was no time, though it would have been lovely to see The Bag End set in its new home. Read more about the Wairarapa and its attractions at wairarapanz.com.

Harcourt Park – The Gardens of Isengard

Heading back toward Wellington, we stopped at Harcourt Park in Upper Hutt, site of the Isengard Gardens where Gandalf and Saruman walked, where Gandalf arrived in Isengard, and where the orcs cut down the trees that fell into the underground factories. (The trees used were not from this park. Location Guide author Ian Brodie explains that the trees used were harvested elsewhere, cut into pieces, and re-assembled on set so they could survive repeated falls, calling them “the famous hinged trees of Isengard.”)

Both the garden path where Saruman and Gandalf walked, and the path between the two trees where Gandalf rose into Isengard, are very easy to recognize.

Winstone Aggregates – Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith

The Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith sets were built in the Winstone Aggregates quarry in Lower Hutt, close to Wellington. The sets are gone, but from the road outside the quarry and from the other side of the highway you can get a good picture clearly showing the outlines of the hills behind Minas Tirith.

We returned to Wellington and flew to Christchurch, saying goodbye to our hosts Vic and Raewyn James. Our South Island guides Anwen Carver and Bruce Holtshousen met us at Christchurch. Our flight was late due to fog, so we didn’t arrive at the hotel until around midnight, and leaving no chance to see any locations from Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures.” We consoled ourselves by thinking of the next day….

Comments? Email me!

Tomorrow: Edoras

7-13-05 Latest News

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Four
Xoanon @ 1:26 pm EST

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Four
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Click here for Day 1
Click here for Day 2
Click here for Day 3

Start: Wellington
Finish: Wellington
Mileage: 49K / 30 Miles
Weather: Glorious

Sites: Production facilities in Miramar, The Shire, The Chocolate Fish Café, and the Embassy Theatre

Special Guest: Daniel Reeve

Daniel Reeve, Calligrapher and Mapmaker

Our day started with a visit from Daniel Reeve, mapmaker and calligrapher. Daniel is another extraordinary person involved in the production whom we would not have met outside the Red Carpet Tour, and another one whose life and work have gone in a different direction because of working on The Lord of the Rings.

After reading the trilogy as a teenager, he started working in elvish scripts and creating maps. When he learned about the about the production, Daniel was working in the IT department of a bank and creating watercolors on the side. He sent samples of his calligraphy to Peter Jackson, and the studio called almost immediately.

Like Chris Rutten’s, Daniel’s involvement expanded over time, especially as the films moved from production to distribution and merchandising. The labels for Gandalf’s fireworks, made in two sizes, were his first prop. Think of the many scrolls, letters, books, and maps in the trilogy: Bilbo’s party invitations, the scroll of Isildur, Bilbo’s and Frodo’s manuscript, shire calendars, scrolls for Rivendell and the Houses of Healing, orcish graffiti in Cirith Ungol, Saruman’s journal, the dwarves’ history found on Balin’s Tomb in Moria – Daniel created them all. As he spread out all these original works on the table, we were just in awe at the quality of each piece and the scope of the work.

Daniel explained that he distressed paper with coffee and tea to make it look old, and made his own quills from bird feathers. Wrapping paper and watercolor paper were two types he used frequently.

Daniel created different styles of handwriting, paper, and even alphabets to reflect the different regions and peoples of Middle Earth. For example, even though Frodo and Bilbo use the same alphabet, their handwriting is quite different (Bilbo’s has more flourishes). He also became artist in residence for all crew gift-giving occasions, designing jackets and t-shirts, even a tattoo design of the ring inscription, and creating in calligraphy the personal notes Elijah Wood wrote to each fellowship member. He also taught Elijah calligraphy (see photo of Elijah’s practice sheets), and served as Frodo’s calligraphy hand double.

One of his biggest projects was the massive licensee style guide created for New Line Cinema, covering all three films, involving a huge range of scripts, name treatments, borders, and maps for all characters and locations, and including font, size, color, and spacing. Licensees have to follow the style guide to ensure their presentation matches that of the film. (This was the one thing of Daniel’s I’d have given anything to have as a reference, but I guess you have to be a licensee to get one.) He created the theatrical and DVD titles for the films in all languages, including the DVD menu options.

Then there are all the maps used in the films and related merchandise. Daniel told us a secret about the Middle Earth map: Look closely at the harbor by the Grey Havens– it’s Wellington Harbor, complete with the peninsulas where Miramar and the airport are located. He also created the map of New Zealand as Middle Earth commissioned by the Tourist Board and maps for Electronic Arts’ computer games and the Hasbro/Parker Brothers’ Risk and Monopoly games.

Calligraphy and mapmaking are now a full time job, as Daniel is working on both King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia. When you see King Kong, look for the 1930s newspapers, marine charts, maps, and the captain’s log – more of Daniel’s work.

In addition to sharing with us so much of his original art, Daniel had items for sale and was also kind enough to create a personal inscription for each of us. See more of his work at http://www.danielreeve.co.nz/.

Tour of Miramar (aka Wellywood)

After the meeting with Daniel, we boarded our bus for Miramar, where most of Peter Jackson’s production and editing facilities are located. On many tours, the Red Carpet group has been able to meet Richard Taylor, visit WETA’s board room, and actually hold some of their Oscars. This time Richard was unable to meet us due to heavy commitments on King Kong. However, Kathy (TORn’s own Garfeimao) called Dan Falconer, and he came out to speak to us. Dan told us a bit about the newest division, WETA Productions, which is producing a computer animated series for New Zealand children’s television titled Jane and the Dragon. It’s pushing motion capture even further, with the ability to mocap 6 performers at once.

We drove by Stone Street Studios, Park Road Post, and other facilities, many of which are adaptive reuse buildings, including a former paint factory and a cookie factory.

As a side note, on Shelley Bay Road headed into Miramar, we could see The Venture (King Kong) tied up a public pier. And just down the road is a lot with discarded foam-carved and painted trees from King Kong jungle scenes (you can see them in the trailer).

Lunch at The Chocolate Fish Café

If I lived in Wellington, I’d have lunch at the Chocolate Fish every day! Cast members ate here regularly, and the café is justly famous for its food and harbor views. A special surprise was seeing producer Barrie Osborne at the next table, lunching with “The Lovely Bones” author Alice Seybold. We all managed to contain our enthusiasm, and no one took a picture or interrupted their meeting. Strolling down the beach, one of our fellowship encountered a huge weta in the women’s rest room, which we all rushed to photograph, taking it as a favorable omen. We also drove past Peter Jackson’s house in Seatoun, located somewhere along the beach road going toward the Chocolate Fish Café. I will speak no more of this.

Mount Victoria

After lunch, we returned to Wellington for the views from Mt. Victoria and to visit the site where production began, back on October 11, 1999. Mount Victoria has thick forests and lovely walking trails. Downtown Wellington is just a few blocks below – hard to believe because the locations look so secluded and remote in the film. The most easily recognized locations are the “Get off the road!” site, where even after nearly six years the trees still frame the path where Frodo stood, and the large tree root where the four hobbits hid from the Black Rider. The tree and its root are easy to spot, although it’s more barren in real life without the plants added during filming. Also here is the ridge where they slid down, into the mushrooms.

Embassy Theatre

As all Ringers know, the Embassy theatre was the site of the Australasian premieres of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, and the world premiere of The Return of the King. The restored Embassy is a real jewel, its restoration being a condition from New Line for having the last world premiere there. The tilework and glass absolutely glow. Upstairs is Blondini’s jazz lounge and café where you can have a drink, meal, or specialty coffee, and you don’t even have to have a ticket. There’s a photo mural about the ROTK premiere on one wall. Learn about the Embassy’s history and restoration at http://www.theembassytheatretrust.org.nz.

We had dinner near the Embassy at Strawberry Fare Dessert Restaurant (http://www.strawberryfare.co.nz), where the main courses were good but paled before massive dessert choices like chocolate madness, white chocolate cheesecake, and the triple chocolate brownie, to name a few.

Tomorrow: Lothlorien, Isengard Gardens, Minas Tirith/Helm’s Deep, and the elven cloak factory


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