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July 04, 2003 - August 10, 2003


Full 10 Minute ROTK Report?!
Xoanon @ 6:58 pm EST
Murky Majare writes: I have just gotten a sneak peak at the 10 min preview of RotK and can confirm that it is on the TTT DVD which will be out on the 26th.

The 'teaser' that many of us have already seen is the end of the preview, where we get some short interview from Sean, Viggo, Eliah and PJ as well as a few other directors, Alan on Minas Tirith etc.

We get to see a lot other short clips from diffrent stages of the film. A few scenes of Frodo running in Shelob's cave. (awesome) The entrance to the Path of the Dead Sequence.

A scene between Merry and Pippin, where Pippin is informed that Sauron now believes that Pippin has the ring and thus is after him.

A scene with Denethor, who is not pleased about this "ranger of the north"

Several snap shots of Minas Tirith, and also a sequence about Massive, their program for making the armires move. (In which we get to see some flyby scenes from the battle).

There is a long sequence from Pelenor Fields, where we get to see lots of horses attacking, a cool scene (in Massive) where an Oliophant tries to stomp some horses. Merry charging (in full armor).

And lots more than I can remember.


Towers EE Spoiler Info
Demosthenes @ 8:40 am EST
A spy by the name of Jedi over at Comingsoon.net has posted a bit of information about the scenes in the Two Towers Extended Edition and some minor spoilers for RoTK.

A lot of the Towers information we've already read in AICN's report, but there are some very interesting clarifications on several scenes. Although this report seems credible, the usual spy report disclaimers apply. Jedi writes:

I'll give you report on the EE of TTT first then info on ROTK including my experience on set of the pick-ups going on and a look at a completed scene I got to view. Then info. on the trailer.

The day was Tuesday and it started with getting up around 9am and going for some breakfast with my "friends" at a little cafe called "Fidel's." If you stay in Wellington, I highly reccomend Fidel's for your eating needs. Got out of there around 10:30am, drove to the screening where we sat down in a little screening room with about 30 seats and then it was show time.

Extended opening with Sam and Frodo: After Frodo wakes from his nightmare of Moria, the scene cuts to the hobbits carefully making their way down a cliff as the two towers title appears on the screen contrast to the theatrical version where the scene cuts to the hobbits making their way up a mountain and title pops up on screen. There is a better teaser leading up to Gollum, the audience really gets full of effect of the hobbits being followed, I believe there was a scene where we see Gollum's point of view watching them as rome around emyn muil.

The Urukhai: You see the rivalry between Mordor's orcs and Sauruman's urukhai. One orc asks Grishnak why "the master wants the halflings..." The reply is "they have some elvish weapon, the master wants it for his war..." It all still leads to the food fight.

Sauruman in the cabins of Isengard is extended a little, he just walks around more.

Great new added scene here: The fight at ford isens where Eomer comes upon the body of a wounded Theodred who was ambushed by orcs. Karl Urban rules! Nuf said.

Treebeard: New scene added with Treebeards home and the hobbits rest and then drink the ent draught where they realized they have grown in the next scene. The look on their faces is kind of deja vu..

Fangorn forest and the return of Gandalf seemed in tack, although when he speaks about what happened in Moria, it looked like some scenes of Gandalf battling the balrog were added. It's been months since I last saw the theatrical version of TTT.

The king of the golden hall: This scene is extended a little, mostly it is more wormtounge, we see the the rohirrium guards leading Grima to the steps as he protests, this scene is contrast to the theatrical version where after Theoden is exorcised the scene cuts directly to the steps of of the Golden hall and Wormtounge is thrown out. We then go to the funeral of Theodred when the beautiful Eowyn (Miranda Otto) sings a lament for her cousin. Very moving scene, Miranda has a beautiful voice.

There is are new scenes in the golden hall, in paticular Eowyn serves Aragorn some stew, the stew doesn't look too tasty, but when you have been living off Lembas for days anything looks good. Also if I remember correctly there was another small scene where Aragorn reveals his real age to Eowyn.

Extended scene in the Edoras stables as the Rohirrum guards along with Aragorn and Eowyn are seeing that the horses are saddled ready to depart to Helms deep.

[My guess is the picture below is part of this scenes - Dem.]

Eowyn In The Stables At Edoras

Brego is better introduced as he becomes wild, kicking and screaming. A calm Aragorn says "turn this fellow free... He has see enough war..." That is when Eowyn really begins to fall in love with Aragorn.

More conversations between Gandalf and Aragorn, including the scene we have seen in the previews where Gandalf and Aragorn are talking at nightfall about Sauron and Saurman tightenting the noose... Also talking about how war is upon us.

Some new scenes with Faramir. Faramir role is beefed up. Most notable is the extension of scenes and new scene added to the osgiliath sequence, during the sequence where the Gondorian army and Faramir rangers retake the city of Osgiliath the great new scene of the flaskback of Boromir being sent to Rivendell and the introduction of Denethor. Great new scene, the Denethor's cameo is well done and well placed. I gurantee you that when you guys see and meet denethor, you want jump through the screen and strangle him and tell him to show love to both his sons. Faramir gets no repect, which better explains Faramir hard nosed attitude and why he wants to take the ring to Gondor.

There are extended scenes of Sauruman and Worntounge in orthanc.

Helms Deep seemed longer and I could bet the farm in saying that I saw some new scenes in interlaced with others. Like I said above it has been awhile since I saw the theatrical version, so I can't remember what is new and what is not new.

The storming of Isengard has some new scenes added, what appears to be hurorns leave and appear at helms deep as the urukhai are fleeing the scene and the huorns take on all comers. This was a cool scene..

The ending is not really new, but more extended, it still has the same stuff but there are more scenes that lead up to it, like Merry and Pippin going in the store room, Legolas and Gimli claiming they each won the orc killing contest and of course Faramir showing Frodo, Sam and Gollum to the sewers of Osgiliath where he tells Frodo "Go with the good of all men..." Then Faramir snickered something at Gollum. Sam and Gollum make a semi truce there too.

Well, that's it. Another job well done by PJ and the editors.

Now the ROTK stuff:

I got to see some footage of ROTK, actually it was an actual scene. The scene consisted of a King who as fallen in battle and his nephew who is his last true heir gives a lament to his fallen Uncle. Very emotional scene. I was almost driven to tears, I would haved cried if the scene had been scored. That won't happen untill sometime in late September or early October. BTW, if I have to actually tell you the names of the characteres invloved in this scene, then you are NOT a LOTR fan.

I did get to go Thursday and watch some pick-ups being shot at Wellington studios, they are actually doing some more pick ups for the pellenor fields, they are using a giant blue screen and there were a bunch of extras. Also in previous pick ups, Dom Monaghan did some new scenes with Bernard Hill who plays Theoden.

Finally, work on the trailer will begin in late August.
It will be a type of "super trailer," over 2 minutes in length. Also, don't get your hopes up about seeing shelob in the trailer, she will be teased. You may see just a leg or any eye or just her lair, they really are not considering putting her in the trailer in all her glory.

Also, there is talk of adding a hidden ROTK preview to TTT EE dvd just like what was done with TFOTR EE dvd and TTT hidden preview. Nothing is certain yet.

That's it.

Peace out,


More ROTK Battle Scenes Info!
Xoanon @ 12:31 pm EST
3rdOrcfromtheleft is back with more information on just what scenes they are filming at the studio backlots in Wellington. Take a look!

Mostly our scenes consisted of Gondorians awaiting the Orc army to arrive at Minas Tirith, the battle then occuring with bows and arrows, a catapult, with the Orcs using the same as well as Nasgul arriving.

Then we did the opposite, as Orcs lining up and marching to Minas Tirith; some of the battle - firing arrows, dodging CG rocks; the arrival of Aragorn and his ghost ships (all green screen); lastly, dead and dying Orcs and Rohans.


Pelennor Fields Filming Info!
Xoanon @ 12:52 pm EST
[Take a look at our latest studio images from New Zealand]

Ringer Spy 3rdOrcfromthelef writes: Both the blue and green screens have been in use over the past two months for pick ups, reshoots and additional film.

An oliphaunt scene was shot recently with stunties, who are also back as Rohan warriors riding on Pelennor Fields. In fact, both screens are currently joined together as one enormous screen, specifically for shooting Pelennor. It is still ongoing, even though the wrap parties are being held over the next few days.

[Take a look at our latest studio images from New Zealand]


Report on Bay Rait and Weta at the Aussie FX and Animation Festival
Tehanu @ 5:00 pm EST
Lolly's Report from the Australian Effects and Animations Festival held in Melbourne back in May, at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image at Federation Square. This happened back in May, but I don't think we got such a detailed and funny report as this at the time.

Lolly writes:

Firstly Bay introduced himself and gave a brief run down on his role at Weta, which in TTT was building hero facial systems. He discussed what would be discussed and shown, and we were treated to a 50 minute tape of behind the scenes.

He started by showing some background info footage from FOTR, and if you've got the extended version it wasn't anything new. Apparently, Legolas was the most used digital double. In the scene with the warg attack, where Legolas does his wonderful mounting of Arod, there is actually more Orlando Bloom than I thought. Orlando is in the shot right up to when the horse comes alongside him. He was filmed jumping up once the horse reached him, then the fun started trying to work out how to get him up on Arod. We were shown some of the different ways tried to get the digital Legolas on the horse, one in particular was jumping up in front of Gimli, which looked really corny. Another scene was Aragorn going over the cliff with the warg. There was some blue-screen shot with Viggo Mortensen hanging on the side of something that looked like a bucking bronco machine covered in blue cloth! Problem with this is that although Viggo was bouncing around, his feet were too, not dragging as they would if one was caught in the harness of a warg (I personally avoid that myself). The way around this was similar to Legolas on top of the Cave Troll in FOTR, actor from the waist up, digital legs.

While on the topic of the wargs, Bay explained that they developed a specific hair system for the wargs, and used reference footage of dogs to create a realistic (ish) gait for the critters. To test that the programming was right, and being animators after all, there were a couple of interesting scenes with wargs. Firstly, we saw a warg fetching a stick, like any good little doggie does. Another was labelled a "ham" warg, the one that falls on Gimli, very corny death scene by the warg! And finally the warg who comes at the camera with mouth open is then shown coughing and gagging and up comes the camera, but no sign of the camera operator! Gollum also gets special treatment, but more on that later.

There was a little bit on Treebeard (I don't have too many notes so I am assuming it was only "little). Its probably well-known by now that he was a 14 foot puppet, but because his face wasn't so flexible they had to digitally create a number of his expressions, and naturally his speech.

Now, Gollum!! As we know, a lot of Gollum was acted out by Andy Serkis, who was then rotoscoped out of scenes to put the more emaciated Gollum in his place. Gollum has some 925 facial morph targets. The facial expressions were based on Eckman's Facial Action Units, a guy who put together a database of different facial expressions, mainly to determine through facial expressions alone when a person is lying. There were 30 people working on rotoscoping and paint for Gollum. Bay did say that Andy's performance was very good, but some of the actions they wanted Gollum to do was not possible, for example when Gollum jumps on Sam and bites him on the shoulder. You'll notice that Gollum's feet are at Sean Astin's chest, not something a real person could do, well not have Sean still standing anyway. Still there were some scenes that were motion capture of Andy, it was generally a mix of key frame and motion capture. Now, the fun bit. We saw Gollum with spiky purple hair, Kermit made an appearance while the Hobbits were battling with Gollum and the rope, plus when Gollum rears back ("every orc in Mordor will hear this racket") he has a red electric guitar in front. May not sound quite so funny in text, but we certainly had a good laugh. Kermit also makes another appearance at Osgiliath, sitting in a window as Frodo, Sam and Gollum are pushed along. One of the marvels, and probably life-savers for Directors and Producers, of modern-day technology is that when you get an extra all dressed in Gondorian armour who clearly doesn't have a clue what they're meant to be doing, you don't need to go to the expense of shooting the scene again, you just get them rotoscoped out of the scene! This extra was in the middle of the shot where the line of Gondorian soldiers jog past, took three months to fix but I'm sure it was less expensive than trying to re-build the set, get the actors back etc. etc.

We should know by now the wonders of Massive, Weta's fantastic software. For TTT it was further developed where each agent (i.e. Soldier, orc etc) can see and hear, has its own brain and makes a decision what to do. It recognises the difference between orc and Elf armour and knows that its supposed to fight this other agent. Makes you wonder what's in store for us with Return of the King!!!

Thanks to Lolly for that detailed report!


Appearance Of Sauron In RoTK?
Demosthenes @ 10:23 am EST
Ringer Spy Bellerophon alerted us to some interesting discussion of arms and armour over on Council of Elrond's forums that gives just a few snippets about how Sauron might appear in RoTK. We've reproduced the information here, since the last time we deeplinked to CoE we managed to break their site.

In answer to a question from a CoE reader about United Cutlery's plans for Sauron merchandise, Kit Rae had the following response:

"We have been hlding [sic] off on Sauron because there was word that PJ wanted to totally change his look for ROTK. Latest is that he will not make a physical appearance in ROTK now, which he never did in the book anyhow.

I have [a] wicked prototype of his gauntlet already, which will include the "Sauron size" one ring and a display case. The gauntlet will be fully functional armor with the etched intaglio surface and a leather inner glove, exactly as seen in the film. We hope to have this out around Spring of 04, but nothing is confirmed yet. We have not proceeded with Sauron's helm or mace yet. They should be mid to late next year.

These will be very limited, probably no more than 3000 pieces because they are basically hand made armor. The cost will likely have to be more than the swords but it will be worth it."

Kit Rae
Art Director/Product Designer
United Cutlery

He later clarified:

"My info came from New Line, but it was vague. I can tell you the rumours about Sauron appearing with a sword in the next film were wrong. They were based on a photo that was actually from the first film, showing Sauron with a dagger, not a sword. The scenes with the dagger were not used in FOTR. Everything I have read or been told suggests that Sauron will only appear as the lidless "eye", in ROTK, like the book. Of course, nothing is definte until we actually see the film."

Kit Rae
Art Director/Product Designer
United Cutlery

Sauron Rumours Backround

What do we know of Sauron's appearance, and what has been rumoured? First and easiest are Jackson's and Boyen's own words.

Back in 1998, Jackson answered 20 questions for AICN. He had this to say in response to a question about Sauron:

"This is a great question, and one that we have been grappling with for 18 months. We still don't have a definitive answer. The Sauron of the books is sketchy at best, which makes it hard to turn him into a screen villain to carry 3 movies. Imagine not really seeing Darth Vader for all 3 Star Wars films. You just can't do it.

We obviously have Sauron's various emissaries to represent him, but just how Sauron himself appears is still a puzzle we are trying to solve. I agree that you can't reduce him to being a big guy striding around in black armour - but he cannot be limited to a flaming eye either. It's tough. We'll keep working on it."

Creative Screenwriting Magazine

Philippa Boyens has also made made some comments about Sauron, notably in Creative Screenwriting Magazine. This snippet from From Vol.8 No.2 on page 6:

"Speaking of Sauron, Boyens says the Dark Wizard manifests in three ways only: the Eye, the Dark Tower, and the ring which he created. 'He never assumes phsical appearance in the books except when the ring is cut from his finger. As screenwriters, we totally agree Sauron is far more fascinating as a force of evil than as an actual presence. What they can do now with digital imagery is amazing. The couple of moments when Sauron presents himself are incredible.'"

I can't recall if Fran Walsh has made any comments in a similar type of magazine. I vaguely recall something, but I can't seem to track it down right now.

Alleged Trailer Report

Recent rumours include this alleged - and probably spurious - Trailer Spy Report that we posted back in March. In part it read:

"But the coolest thing of all is SAURON COMES BACK IN PHYSICAL FORM ... unless it was some weird flashback, which I doubt, in the final battle before the black gates, Sauron is back, decked out in the same armor he was wearing in the flashback sequence in FOTR, and he goes after Aragorn -- so it would seem ... Sauron is bashing his way through, they cut to Aragorn fighting off a bunch of orcs, they cut back to a shot of Sauron, and they cut to a shot of Legolas, shouting Aragorn's name, as if to say, "Hey Aragorn, look out, there's a huge %$^#$^&^ with a mace about to pound your skull in!"

Considering we've gone two months without sight of a Teaser Trailer - and will in all probability have to wait till September to see something - I think we can discard this report as false. Additionally - and more significantly - the leaked EA RoTK footage contained nothing remotely like that.

Also, fishing around on Tolkien Online, I discovered this spy report from Leonides* ...

5. Sauron... Any dialogue, sightings, or actions?

Sauron returns to human form at the climax of the film. Just before the Battle of Morannon commences, he arrives -- looking very similar to how he appeared in the prologue. He stares over the Lords of the West, and his "eyes" meet with Aragorn's. He then (silently) orders his great army to attack with a wave of his mace.

As the battle rages Sauron simply looks on. When Frodo claims the Ring (this will all be intercut for dramatic effect), Sauron turns and peers at Mount Doom. His Nazgul screech off towards the mountain, and for a brief moment his army falls silent.

When the Ring is destroyed we see Sauron die... though how that will appear has yet to be nailed down. There are several versions in the works, and one of them is an exact "duplication" of his explosion during the Prologue.

RoTK or FoTR prologue reports?

Finally, further reports that TORn has received from spies include two key reports from some two years ago, courtesy of Ringer Spy Sylvesterpasemester which describe how when working an extra on the set, he saw "a huge guy with black armour and a huge kind of battleaxe or a hammer, who was standing in the front of a giant bluescreen and there were nine, I repeat !!NINE!! smaller guys with crowns around him..." [More]

The followup report reappraised this figure to EIGHT smaller guys. Now, there is obviously the chance (or even more than a chance) that this was an abandoned shot from the FoTR Prologue.

But the mention of "Around him there lay tons of dead human bodies and a great corps[?]" hints perhaps even at the infamous RoTK Oliphaunt Set? We sure didn't see this in FoTR, though...

"The field was covered with dead people and orcs. We were lined up and then a giant steps in. He's huge and has spiky armour and dark helmet, he looks very scary After him follows 8 or 9 mystic figures in a strange armour. Our assignment was to run [my emphasis] in terror from this guy."

And in the same story, Sylvesterpasemester updated his original report - giving details of the armour of the troops on set. But - although he mention spiky elflike ears - he also mentions three distinct sets of armour. Elves at the Morannon, anyone?

Is it the Last Alliance (complete with Nazguls who never made it to the final cuts) - or the Last Battle before the Black Gate of Mordor? Decide for yourselves ...

Sauron's Palantir scenes

Update: Apart from physical appearances, there's also two other opportunities for the audience to see Sauron in Return of the King. I refer, of course, to Pippin's and Aragorn's use of the Palantir of Orthanc. Here's the little we know about both these scenes:

"Pippin does indeed look into the palantir. Apparently it was the most difficult piece of acting for Billy Boyd in the entire shoot. As I said, I cannot reveal whether this came from Billy Boyd or not." Via The Lidless Eye from Tolkien Online.

Further circumstantial evidence that this scene occurs is the shots we have of Gandalf riding to Minas Tirith with Pippin from the E3 EA RoTK footage.

As for Aragorn, this AICN set report places his ethereal confrontation with Sauron in Minas Tirith rather than the Hornburg.

"In the Tower Hall inside the Aragorn looks into the palantir and reveals himself unto the lord of Mordor… Sauron, and the chess pieces are firmly in place..

The first scene is a two shot of Gandalf and Aragorn… The scene lays out the situation… Things are dark, and the progress of Frodo and Sam are completely unknown. The feeling is that Sauron hasn’t yet captured the ring, they feel that Frodo and Sam may still have a chance, but not with an Army of orcs between Frodo and Mt Doom….

Thus the ruse is conceived by Aragorn. Gandalf says, "Sauron will suspect a trap and not take the bait." To which Aragorn says, "Oh… I think he will." I believe in this scene we Eomer, Aragorn, Legolas and Gandalf the White. Here is where much blood and the next stage of the story takes flight… the final play of events is all birthed from this moment…

Watching Viggo here, I am watching a King in Strider’s clothes… You can tell there is a nobility and certainty to his movements. His lines are delivered with a purpose that only the son of Arathorn would possess. When he says, "Then we empty Sauron’s lands… gather all our strength, March on Mordor, and draw his army to the Black Gates."

The look in Viggo’s eye… there is a spark, whether it be some bit of reflected light or an inherent spark from within I can not say… but I feel a shiver… That line carries much sacrifice for such a small fellow, but is the absolute necessary move in order for Frodo to succeed. At this moment, Frodo and Sam have a Smeagol/Gollum with them… and times are toughening for them. Yet here, in this clean pure hall in Minas Tirith…. This is the moment where the good of the many is placed in peril for the fewest of few… two hobbits.

They nailed it….. That was the last shot of GANDALF THE WHITE….. "Sauron will suspect a trap and not take the trap!"

Aragorn reveals his presence to Sauron… reveals Narsil reforged into Anduril before him… and inflames the anger of the dark lord through the Palantir….

The look on Viggo’s face is that of one gazing upon an insanity of evil…. I do not know what he is imagining to get this expression… but whatever private demon Viggo has summoned, it looks to me as though he is staring into the flaming eye of Sauron, whether or not we ever see that.

I’ve just seen a take where Viggo hit a moment of dispair that was a GREAT shot…. After he says his peace to Sauron…. Sauron shows him… well, you know, and it strikes fear into him like nothing you can imagine… Looking into Sauron, I take it, is not a healthy move."

But we've already seen what Sauron look like in these sorts of shots - "a great lidless eye, wreathed in flame", as Saruman describes it. To be honest, I would have thought that presenting a physical manifestation of Sauron in such a confronatation would be uneccesarily confusing to the audience. In any case, it's a giant leap in faith away from what we've seen previously in Fellowship and Towers.

And if I can leap up on my soapbox for a moment ... Although the inner purist in me likes the idea of there not being a physical manifestation of Sauron - simply because Tolkien never depicts him throughout LoTR - I do think that having Sauron appear at the final confrontation at the Morannon has a lot of natural appeal.

It closes a circle, with the heir of Isildur visibly finishing Isildur's unfinished business. Not necessarily through a one-on-one confrontation, I think an Aragorn v Sauron battle would (and should) be a horribly unbalanced affair. But Sauron waving forth his forces from the battlements could definitely work for me.

Eight (Nazgul) is enough?

Finally, just harking back to Ringer Spy Sylvesterpasemester's report. If it wasn't clear from earlier - eight smaller guys around Sauron seems a pretty good indication that this scene is after the destruction of the Witch King. But whether we'll see it in the final cut appears totally up in the air right now.


Anduril Handover Evidence?
Demosthenes @ 2:06 am EST
The New Line Cinema photo of Aragorn with Anduril has seen a fair bit of analysis lately. Here's some more from Ringer Spy Saruman - trying to pin down exactly where the shot location is supposed to be.

Aragorn And Anduril

For some reason, I always assumed that the location couldn't be nailed down, but Saruman did a little detective work, matching the background motifs in the shot with similar motifs in an old tents photo of taken way back in November 2000.

Camping Out

We now believe this old photo - taken by a New Zealand paper - shows the Muster of Rohan at the Dunharrow encampment. You can read all about that report, here.

Anduril Handover Evidence?

From the picture above, you'll note the motifs match pretty closely. Additionally, in the left corner of the New Line photo, there appears to be a reddish curtain which could match the gatefold cloth entrance to the tents.

The suit of armour certainly appears to have the nasal bar on the helmet that we've come to associate with the Rohirrim, but I don't think that alone can be regarded as conclusive. The armour hanging off a stand is something you could expect to see in a portable setting such as an encampment. Unfortunately, it's too fuzzy to nail it down as belonging to a specific character - such as Theoden.

So, if the photo of Aragorn with Anduril is him receiving the reforged sword - and I think that it is - from either Elrond or Arwen, then this is more circumstantial evidence that the scene may well occur in Rohan before he takes the Paths of the Dead.

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