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December 21, 1999 - January 09, 2000


Media Watch: The Dominion Plus a Spy Checks in!
Xoanon @ 22:27 EST
The Wellington Dominion has posted another pic from the much scrutinized 'Helms Deep' set.

Helm Deep 1
Click for Larger Version (146k)

The Text below the pic reads: Battle Station: A fortress believed to be a set for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, takes shape in a quarry on Haywards Hill, near Lower Hutt.

The set, visible from State Highway 2, could be for scenes involving a battle at Helm's Deep. A minuature of the fortress has also been built for Peter Jackson's $360 million trilogy.

Filming is being spread among Wellington, Queenstown, and other areas including Waikato.

Producer Tim Sanders said he could not confirm details about the sets and filming locations.

A multiple-crew setup allowed scenes to be shot in more than one place simultaneously. Filming was on schedule for completion by December.

Thanks to Kevin R for the tip!

This is a cool Spy Report from Rotunda:

I just had the opportunity to drive past the Helms Deep set.

Man, it's come a long way from when I first scouted it out (way back in September). As far as I can tell there are 3 tiers of walls. The first one was kinda obscured by a hill, so I couldn't really see much of it. The second one was the most impressive, you could see the entire thing from the motorway (and I'm sure many a driver has almost colided with another car due to staring at the set!).

It appears to look like a wall has been built into the rocky surface, and then the rocky surface gives way to about 5 "holes in the walls", otherwise known as caves. This will probably be the holes that the "reserves" will appear out of. All of this is a rather dull black colour, not unlike the look of scorched rocks.

This tier is about 10 meters (30 feet) away and above the first tier, and is accessable via a dirt path (which
I think was created by vehicles going to and from the different levels). I don't think this path will be shown in the movie, opting instead to show access via the afore mentioned "cave" route.

Above the second tier, the third tier, on angle to the first two, so that I could only see the side of it, with
the "rocky" side of it facing the rotunda.

The rotunda is a very large set piece.


More on Learning Elvish
Tehanu @ 14:18 EST
I had no idea this was such a popular pastime. Several fans have written in to give us more information about how to learn Elvish. According to Steuard Jensen "...the help files that come with Dan Smith's Middle-earth fonts are excellent references in their own right..." He goes on to recommend the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship, "...an international organisation devoted to a scholarly study of the invented languages of Tolkien." They have a journal and sometimes Christopher Tolkien has submitted essays to them. Their website is here and contains a list of resources for Tolkien linguists.
Helge Fauskanger also wrote to say that "An Introduction to Elvish" is outdated: "More than 80% of what we know about Tolkien's languages today was unknown when "An Introduction to To Elvish" appeared.
Helge has a website, the Ardalambion, "with more recent studies that take into account the wealth of new information," which has come from Chris Tolkien among others.


Reading and Writing in Elvish
Tehanu @ 17:42 EST
I got this email from Corun Mcanndra and thought it was well worth passing on to the rest of you Tolkien fans:


I see that the current polling at the site is on languages and which ones people would be most likely to want to learn more about. The languages Tolkien developed have fascinated me since I first read the books while in Jr. High school in the mid 60s. I spent a great deal of time with my nose stuck in the appendices that dealt with the languages and had always
wanted more comprehensive information, but alas I was not a philologist as was the good Professor.

Well as it happened, while I was on a sojourn in England in 1978, I came across the answer to my dreams. I dicovered a book that had been recently published that dealt rather extensively with many of the languages of Middle Earth. It was found at Flood's in London, and was out of print for some time. The book was called:

"An Introduction to Elvish, and to Other Tongues and Proper Names and Writing Systems of the Third Age of the Western Lands of Middle-Earth as Set Forth in the Published Writings of Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien."

Edited and compiled by J. Allan, et al.
A few years ago I found it again at a bookstore in Oxford called Thornton's. For those who don't know, Thornton's is the pre-eminent seller of material related to Tolkien and many of the other Inklings who inhabited Oxford.

Now then, on to the best part. The book is in print again and can be acquired through Thornton's online at the following address:


It is a thick book, packed with Elvish to English dictionaries for both the Eldarin and Sindarin styles and also complete writing systems for these as well as the Dwarf runes. There is even a small section on the Black Speech.It's a marvelous reference and I recommend it highly.

And for those who wish to write letters to their friends in Elvish but don't have a skill for calligraphy, you can get a truly remarkable and highlyd detailed font set for Tengwar script from:


You will definitely want to print out the manual to use this effectively as it makes use of just about every keystroke combination on your keyboard. You may also want to check out the Tengwar utilities link at the bottom of that page. Some of these are quite nice for writing in English and converting directly to the Tengwar font.

In closing let me say that I have no connection with Thornton's of Oxford, J. Allen, or Dan Smith and I gain nothing but the knowledge that I have helped increase an interest into the languages of Middle-earth.
Well, that's about all. I hope you enjoy these.



More on Hobbit Feet
Tehanu @ 03:13 EST
I heard talk about the 14-hour days the hobbit extras were working down at the Hobbiton set. Apparently most of the hours spent at the makeup dept. involve putting on the prosthetic feet, which are latex and have to be glued on all over. Once the day's shoot is over, they take about half an hour to get off, and every hobbit extra then gets a footbath with eucalyptus oil - to help get off the glue? - and then a long footmassage and powder. Something to look forward to at the end of the day, apparently.


Hardworking Hobbits.
Tehanu @ 2:25 pm EST
A friend of mine was chatting to somebody that's working as a hobbit extra. They said that the days were very long. There is a 4am start, and about two and a half hours are spent putting make-up and prosthetics on. The working day finishes around 6:30pm For this the extras get $100 a day, but on the other hand, the catering is in true hobbit fashion - plentiful and superb!

LOTR Stunt Team Interview
Dwane Dipply @ 9:39 am EST
Thanks to Julius for the tip!


Lords of the lance

For a couple of months Fort Dorset, and abandoned Army base built on a finger of land jutting into Wellington's Port Nicholson Harbour, has been ringing tot he sounds of war as a horde of extras and stuntpeople practise Middle Earth battle routines for the epic The Lord of the Rings shoot. Amid the smoke and dust, Onfilm spoke (by telephone!) to their general, Bruce Brown.

What's your role with TLOTR?

I'm the New Zealand stunt coordinator. My company is Stuntworx, which is owned by myself and my partner Elaine Newell. She's a stuntwoman and a pilot for Freedom Air. Elaine works on TLOTR sometimes, when it fits in with her flying.

How did you get the job?

I was stunt coordinator on The Frighteners and Jack Brown Genius with Peter Jackson, and I did Aberration for TLOTR producer Tim Sanders. I guess they were happy with the work I did for them.

When did you get the job?

We've been chatting about it for well over a year - since I knew the project was coming up. I've got 20 people, including two woman, on the job now - most of them have been training for a year, prior to even getting the job, practising different fight sequences and styles, to be ready. They've all relocated to Wellington.

Are there a lot of stunts in TLOTR?

A hell of a lot. Fight sequences, falls,burns, horse stunts, and battles. Of course, these three films are being shot as one, with breaks in between.

There are many character and races involved in the story - each race has a unique, body language.

We're trying to capture something that's not been seen before, and adapting the body language into fighting styles in the leadup to the shoot.

Can you describe some of the stunts?

There's some falls where the guys get shot with arrows off a cliff into rapids, there are guys scaling massive ladders up castle walls and the ladders are being pulled back as the invaders are shot off them by arrows. We pivot the ladders at the bottom, and have the stuntpeople falling onto an airbag.

And then there's stuntmen falling off castle walls into these new crashmats we've come up with. With high falls you normally use a double airbag.

I went to the States and bought a lot of new equipment, including a double bag. It has two fan blowers and a bottom layer that's four feet thick, and above that another layer six feet thick, and it's 30 feet by 25 feet across. It's rated to take up to 80 foot falls.

But the problem witht he airbag is when you fall into air escapes and it collapses, then you have to wait for it to reset. With a normal gym foam crashmat, it's 16 inches or 400mm deep, and it's 1.5m wide by 3m long. But a body only absorbs onto the mat by about a quarter of its depth.

So we designed a foam mat with solid foam on the outside, and it has longitudinal hollow sections running lengthwise and crosswise, vents on the sides and ends of the mats. Two of these - one on top of the other - enables us to do a 40-foot fall into two stuntmats, which means you can be in, roll off the mat, and within a second or two you can have another guy in behind you. It speeds up the process. We can have 10 guys going of the wall at once, and another 10 right behind, rather then one at a time into an airbag.

We've tested these mats up to 40 feet. Anything over that and we'll go back to the airbag. The mats were built to our design in Auckland by the Boat Cover Company.

Tell me more about the fighting styles? Are they
recognisable, or did you 'invent' them?

They're styles developed for each particular character. Some are creepy and cockroach-like, some are quite smooth and dainty - flowing gracefully, and some are just crash-bash-nothing-stops-them killing machines.

How do you devise the fight sequences?

We've been very lucky ... the production has brought out a chap called Bob Anderson, who's the world's top swordmaster, An amazing guy - he's 77, and he worked with Errol Flynn. Even now, he moves like Bruce Lee. When he has a sword or weapon in his hand, he makes the hair stand on end. He's English, an Olympic fencer. He's done all the Zorro films and and TV series, he did First Knight and all the Highlanders, and he played Darth Vader in all the early Star Wars films.

He's been taken on as TLOTR swordmaster, to choreograph the weapon and fight sequences. We get on like a house on fire.

There's also plenty of explosions, as well as sfx with Steve Ingram. He's got a massive job ahead of him, the equipment he's building is out of this world. He and his team have built the biggest wind machine you've ever seen, 450 horsepower and a V8 engine. It will blow you over.


The Wizard Saruman creates a primitive form of gunpowder. There is a battle scene where castle walls get blown up.

Have you read the book?

Only since I know the movie was happening. My oldest son is 18, and he's been reading TLOTR since he was eight, and I didn't realise what I'd been missing.

The aim is to stay close to the book?

Very much. To every last detail.

Does Peter Jackson get involved personally in the stunt sequences?

In everything. He scripts everything, and then we break it down and come up with a sequence. We rehearse it, and then we shoot it on video, usually at a Wellington site that resembles the action location - we're not going to Queenstown to shoot a rehearsal when we can find something similar in Wellington. Then Peter'll view that, say whether he likes it or wants to change something, then we'll lock it down. We do two or three of these tapes a week.

Does he direct these sequences?

Not when we rehearse. Bob Anderson and myself direct and shoot them - pretty roughly, but close enough so Peter can make a judgement.

Do your people do any horse work?

No, we've brought in nine riding specialists ... there's some galloping chase sequences where nobody's coming off, but they're going very fast. There are a few falls, and we have specialists to do those, and pulling the horse down.

How do you approach the script?

We started by breaking the script down and working out the action, then we made lists of equipment we need. I went to LA, not only to check out the latest airbags but also air rams, which are platforms that when you run on them throw you 60 feet in distance and 20 feet in the air.

I also bought are ratchets which are for falls, and jerkback rigs. Rather then using airbags or a mat for a fall you can use an air ratchet. It's a wire that attaches from a harness on your back up through some pulleys and through a purchase system and then down to a pneumatic cylinder. If in the one shot you need to have someone jump 50 feet, leave, fall all the way to the ground, hit the ground and run off, this system allows you to freefall for, say, 40 feet on a slack wire.

Then the wire takes up and runs a pneumatic ram out, and as it pulls to its full length, it slows and slows down your fall. You can set it so you actually step off onto the ground.

We also bought all sorts of flying rigs, so that if someone is being thrown 50 feet through the air they can be spinning around and look like they're doing somersaults as well. That's what we use the air ram and air ratchets for. I brought some back from LA, and Steve Ingram is developing some new ones. Normally, they just fire one way, but he's developed one that'll fire in and out - he's got two-way control over it, which is pretty unique.

You can have a scene where you're standing on the ground, and you're hit by, say, a magical staff which throws you at 45 degrees from the ground straight back and up, say 50 feet in the air, and then pulls you back 30 feet. And that's the end of the shot, then it just lets you down to the ground.

Sounds fun.

There's a lot of rigging in it, I've got a guy, hopefully, coming down from the States who specialises in the rigging of those gags, name of Tony Snegoff.

Is your stunt crew going to grow?

We've got the core group of 20, and then we'll be using extra action people - a B group if you like - for the odd sequences like battles, where we need a lot more stunt people.

When armies meet in battle, the front row are actors and stunt people, then we'll fit in army and extras behind them. When we have two or three hundred extras to train for a fight sequence, each of my guys takes 10 or 20 extras and teaches them a fighting style. Then they put it all together and keep an eye on each group when we shoot it.

It's quite dangerous because extras can hurt you when they're flinging blades and staves around.

We screened all the extras in audition to make sure they're of stable character. When the casting people brought them back for a second interview, we put a sword in their hand, paired them up and had them do a few parries and ripostes. You soon see if people have coordination and skills. Some of them we marked: "NO WAY. NEVER EVER TO GO NEAR A SWORD".

The weapons were designed and built by Richard Taylor from Weta, a process that's taken months. He runs the designs by Peter Jackson. Many are unique, and that's something Peter wanted - weapons that had never been seen before. The period in which the film's set - in pre-history in Middle Earth - precedes the eras we know of, and every fighting style that exists today. We want the audience to look at our styles and say "oh, that's where this modern style of fighting came from."

The styles are specially developed, rather than being classical karate etc?

Exactly. Very natural and realistic fighting. None of this television series bullshit where somebody gets hit in the head and does five backward somersaults.

Bob Anderson says the quality of the weapons is the best he's seen in his career. They're made of rubber, composite, kevlar, aluminum and carbon fibre but they can definitely inflict real damage. We've had no serious injuries - just a few nicks and bruises among my guys, but that happens when you're pushing things to the limits. There's little room for error, and we're often working very close for things to work to camera.

Can you talk about locations?

All over.They really look after you. Peter Jackson seems to stick with the same people and he knows how to keep people happy. He never raises his voice or loses his rag. He's open, and that's really helpful when you're doing stunt work. You can put things to him, and if he doesn't like them he says so. When he does like something, his face lights up.

RINGMASTERS: he stunt team on location in Seatoun for The Lord of the Rings. Brown is the shorter, dark-haired figure in the centre at the back; Bob Anderson os on Brown's right.

An air ram and a ratchet, one is used to launch a stuntman in the air, the other is to let one jump from high places with saftey. I've seen the ratchet in action in some behind the scenes work in Men In Black.

A large mat used for high jumps. All images thanks to 'Actionpac.com' and are NOT from the LOTR set.


Sam's Helms Deep Pics
Dwane Dipply @ 9:30 am EST
Thanks to Sam for the pics!


That Entire Woman's Day Article
Dwane Dipply @ 8:59 am EST

Hobbits come to life Liv Tyler's surrounded by creatures great and small in The Lord of the Rings but some of them are real dummies.

After 50 years of waiting, the world has finally had its first real-life glimpse of perhaps the century's most famous literary creation, a furry-footed hobbit. Deep in the woods and hills of the South Island, J.R. Tolkien's diminutive fantasy creatures are the stars of the $360 million movie trilogy The Lord of the Rings.

As Woman's Day's exclusive pictures show, director Peter Jackson's hobbits come in all shapes and sizes - and some are not even flesh and blood.

You won't notice on the big screen, but Hollywood siren Liv Tyler, as Elf Princess Arwen, had only a plastic hobbit for company when she filmed a dramatic horse chase sequence last week near Wanaka.

The dummy was standing in for the pint sized actor playing Liv's hobbit sidekick Bilbo Baggins as they escaped from a fearsome band of Ringwraiths, among the books' eeriest bad guys.

Meanwhile, on another set in nearby Queenstown, the movie's hobbit heroes Frodo and Sam Gamagee appeared, played by Elijah Wood and Sean Astin - who are both normal-sized. Peter and his team of special effects wizards have created an awesome computer system, called Massive, which will shrink the stars down to size on film - except for the giant hairy feet which are a hobbit's trademark.

The torrential downpours that flooded Queenstown and Wanaka have wreaked havoc to the Lord of the Rings' shooting schedule, trapping one unit in remote Te Anau and even washed some elaborate sets built on riverbanks around Lake Wakatipu.

The weather also took its toll on 22-year-old Liv. She may have become one of the movie world's hottest properties after starring roles in Armageddon and Stealing Beauty, but she still needs a hot-water bottle under each arm as she waited for the cameras to roll. Luckily for her, it was Liv's last day on set before taking a break back home in the US after several weeks filming.

Like the other Rings stars, she has been able to watch the floodwaters rising from her suite at Queenstown's Novotel Saint Moritz Hotel.

And when on well-wisher asked her as she boarded a plane what her memories of Queenstown were, she said simply. "Lots of rain!"

Thanks to Julius for the tip!

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