In late February the official website came online. That was very exciting for an hour or so. They do have some neat images, if static; they will no doubt come into their own next year in the buildup to the first films release.
In March a snippet came in regarding the Uruk-Hai and their work in the caves beneath Orthanc. Looks like well get a glimpse of how Saruman breeds his armies. Filming went on at Rivendell.
In April, action moved to the volcanic plateau in the middle of the North Island. The flat high desert was used for some of the massed army scenes, and more close-up scenes were filmed right near the ski village of Whakapapa. When theres no snow, its a barren landscape of twisted lava. Tehanu went up there on a day when they were filming scenes for the Battle of the Last Alliance, when Isildur took the Ring from Sauron. This confirmed our guess that quite a lot of the backhistory of LOTR would be shown in flashback. Later Mordor scenes were also filmed, with spies reporting that they saw Aragorn confronting the armies at the Black Gate.
A very determined photographer snapped scenes of Sam and Frodo in Mordor:
In April the big news was the Internet Preview, which was available as a Quicktime movie that you could see from the official site. 1.7 million viewers downloaded this in the first 24 hours, setting a record. The countdown was exciting and the event itself was intense! As the preview came online, we tracked the excitement from the website chatroom, Barliamans. We also did a frame-by-frame analysis of it:
Finally we had a distinct feel for how things were developing. Discussion of the trailer consumed a lot of April. Most viewers felt very good about what they saw.
In May we started to hear about the building of the Methven set in the South Island which became Edoras.
Meanwhile filming was still going on at Helms Deep, somewhat behind schedule.
In June we knew that Cate Blanchett was in town. She didnt appear in the Lothlorien scenes filmed at Paradise, but we think she was at Fernside Lodge, a beautiful property north of Wellington near Featherston. It has gardens, fountains and whatnot, and one of the film crews were there for a few days. They built a huge tree with moorings for canoes built into its root, and it was used for a scene by a lake that posed as, we guess, the Anduin.
Much of Cates work may have been indoors. Wed seen glimpses of elaborate wooden joinery; a lot of the indoors scenes for Lothlorien would have been filmed at the studios.
Elsewhere around Wellington, we heard reports of the scenes of The Paths of the Dead being filmed in yet another fairly ordinary park at Lyall Bay. Spies saw tents, horses, and Aragorn.
Off-set, the police ran a sting operation to catch three people accused of stealing vast quantities of props, swords and videotapes of finished footage, which they were attempting to sell on the Net. Also off-set, Peter Jackson carried the Olympic torch for the last leg of its trot through Wellington. Spy Altariel got the best picture of the director ever:
July brought the wonderful and mysterious scenes at the foot of Orthanc, which were filmed at the outdoors set in Wingate, in Wellington. Spies reported a big blue screen, ruins, and water everywhere. The saw Gandalf and his raggle-taggle train, as Saruman called them, seated on horseback and speaking their lines up to a high camera. Bluescreen will provide the tower later, and parts of it must exist in the soundstages.
We finally found out who would write the music for the films in late July, and it was confirmed in August Canadian Howard Shore, whod done a lot of work with David Cronenberg.
Film schedules got a bit scatty in August, with little bitty sets springing up suddenly here and there. The Hutt River did duty for the Anduin in scenes involving the Fellowship minus Gandalf; some scenes on the slopes of Amon Hen were filmed too. The flooding of Orthanc continued, and the truly bizarre Wizard Kebab picture hit the Net and kept everyone guessing to this day. How it fits in the story, we still dont know:
Then Wingate got turned into a swamp with rushes and pools and drifting smoke; Frodo and Sam were there. Covers over the bluescreens added to the gloomy appearance.
Soon after, the main players moved up to the hills above Takaka, in Golden Bay on the South Island; Sir Ian McKellens photos of it are the best: