How do you share your love of all things Lord of the Rings? You could gently entice your friends and loved ones to watch the films with you, or read aloud the books. You could schedule cozy marathons with friends who are already hooked on the story of Frodo Baggins and the One Ring.
But even then … how will you ever know that they’re enjoying the movies on the same level that you are? Will they know how much Sean Bean hated helicopters? Will they know how long it took to film the scene where all the hobbits say goodbye? I ask you, will they know that Viggo Mortensen really broke his real toe kicking that helmet for real?
2021 marks The Lord of the Rings movies’ 20th anniversary, and we couldn’t imagine exploring the trilogy in just one story. So each Wednesday throughout the year, we’ll go there and back again, examining how and why the films have endured as modern classics. This is Polygon’s Year of the Ring.
They will if you are constantly spouting facts about the movies during their runtime. This is Polygon’s Guide to being a very annoying person to watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy with, compiled by Polygon’s Toussaint Egan, Austen Goslin, and Susana Polo, all of whom admit to occasionally being very annoying to watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy with.
We’ve arranged our facts in the order they come up in the movies, and even provided suggestions of things to say for maximum annoyance. Frankly, we annoyed even ourselves putting this together, and we’re not proud. This article is a cursed object, and should be handled with care.
In conclusion: If this is how you watch the Lord of the Rings, that’s fine. But you should probably only watch it with people who are also like this.
People like us.
Fellowship of the Ring
“They did this scene with forced perspective.”
The first good example is Frodo sitting on the cart with Gandalf, but you can bring up this up almost anytime a short-looking person is on screen with a tall-looking person.
“Hey those are Peter Jackson’s kids!”
Those are Peter Jackson’s kids.
“Watch, Gandalf hits his head on Bilbo’s ceiling beam.”
Ian McKellen actually hit his head on the ceiling beam
“Christopher Lee was a huge Lord of the Rings nerd.”
Christopher Lee was the only member of the cast who had personally met J.R.R. Tolkien, and he could recite the Ring poem from memory in the Black Speech of Mordor, just so you know.
“That’s Peter Jackson.”
The guy in streets of Bree with the carrot is Peter Jackson.
“Daniel Day Lewis was the first choice to play Aragorn.”
When Aragorn shows up in the Prancing Pony, well that could have been Daniel Day Lewis.
“Viggo Mortensen actually threw that apple.”
Viggo was actually the one throwing apples at Billy Boyd’s head.
“Can you believe this is the first scene Viggo Mortensen filmed?”
The Weathertop Battle against the the Ringwraiths was the first thing Viggo filmed.
“Arwen’s double actually owns that horse now.”
Arwen’s riding double loved that horse so much that Viggo Mortensen bought him for her at the end of production so she could keep him. Liv Tyler also accidentally stabbed herself during this scene in one of the outtakes.
“John Rhys Davies is actually that much taller than the hobbit actors.”
John Rhys Davis is so tall and all the hobbit actors are so short that they didn’t need size doubles or CGI in shots of Gimli and the hobbits.
“Hey, that’s the name of the movie.”
Elrond says “the Fellowship of the Ring.”
“Howard Shore used a lot of leitmotif.”
Leitmotif, or the use of specific musical phrases to accompany recurring characters or themes, was popularized by the composer Wagner, which is ironic because Tolkien hated Wagner for Nazi-ing up one of his favorite subjects, Norse mythology.
“Look, Legolas is walking on the snow.”
When they’re crossing the Pass of Caradhras, Legolas walks on top of the snow while everyone else is in it.
“Did you know that Sean Bean hates helicopters?”
Sean Bean hated riding in a helicopter so much that he would get up extra early to go through makeup and costuming and then hike to mountain locations every day in his full Boromir getup.
“Look really closely at Galadriel’s eyes, though.”
They set up a special light rig just for Cate Blanchett’s closeups to give her the appearance of having stars reflected in her eyes.
“Gosh, this scene is so sad, but did you know they had to break for lunch in the middle?”
Viggo Mortensen and Sean Bean filmed Bean’s death scene twice, to catch each side of their closeups, with a lunch break in between.
“Viggo Mortenson is really good with swords.”
The knife that Lurtz throws at Viggo is real and Viggo really deflected it with his sword. Viggo wore his sword with him everywhere during filming and was apparently one of the best people the movie’s sword master ever trained.
The Two Towers
“Every single actor in this scene is injured.”
When they filmed the shots of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli chasing the orc company, Orlando Bloom had a broken rib, Viggo Mortenson had a broken toe, and Gimli’s size double Brett Beattie had chronic knee problems.
“Brad Dourif had to shave his eyebrows to be Wormtongue and he hated it.”
Brad Dourif had to shave his eyebrows and he hated it.
“Heh, most of the ‘men’ of Rohan are actually women.”
When the production put out a call for extras who could bring their own horses, the majority of the applicants they got were women, so most of the Rohirrim in any given scene are actually ladies with spirit gum beards.
“Did you know that Viggo Mortensen broke his toe here?”
Viggo Mortensen broke his toe filming this scene. Peter Jackson wanted him to kick the helmet close to the camera, but he kept missing. In the final shot he kicked a real metal helmet instead of the prop one and fell over screaming. Peter Jackson was like Wow, Viggo really got into that one but he’d actually broken his toe. The shot was so good they kept it in the movie. We just watched Viggo Mortensen break his toe for real.
“If you think Aragorn’s age is weird look up Frodo!”
Bring up a character’s age that isn’t stated in the movie. Denethor is only one year older than Aragorn. Boromir is 41. Frodo is 51, Sam is 39, and Merry is 37. Hobbits come of age at 33, so Pippin, at 29, is technically a teenager. Gimli is 140. Eomer and Eowyn are 28 and 24 respectively.
“They had to use CGI to put Legolas on that horse because Orlando Bloom was injured.”
Orlando Bloom fell off a horse and cracked a rib, and was unable to perform a stunt of leaping onto a running horse, so the production substituted a CGI double doing a bizarre flip.
“Treebeard and Gimli are played by the same guy.”
“That’s screenwriter Philippa Boyens’ kid.”
When Aragorn tells that blonde kid that he has a good sword? That’s Philippa Boyens’ kid.
“Did you know it was originally going to be Arwen, here?
Arwen was originally going to lead the elf forces at Helm’s Deep, not Haldir.
“That’s Peter Jackson’s kid.”
That kid in the Helm’s Deep caves who looks just like one of those hobbits played by Peter Jackson’s kids? That’s Peter Jackson’s kid.
The Return of the King
“Christopher Lee knew what it sounded like when you stab someone in the lungs.”
Peter Jackson asked Christopher Lee to yell when Wormtongue stabbed him, and Lee explained that when you stab a man in the lungs he cannot scream.
“That’s Jed Brophy’s son.”
When Arwen has a vision of her and Aragorn’s son, he’s played by the kid of orc-stuntman (and the dwarf Nori in the Hobbit films) Jed Brophy.
“Those are Peter Jackson’s kids.”
The sad kids watching Faramir leave who look just like the hobbit kids in Fellowship are Peter Jackson’s kids.
“That’s Peter Jackson.”
The pirate that Legolas shoots is Peter Jackson.
“Did you know that Peter Jackson is terrified of spiders?”
Peter Jackson is terrified of spiders and disliked having to design Shelob.
“The design of the destruction of Barad-dûr was influenced by 9/11.”
The destruction of Barad-dûr, the sick-lookin’ fortress of the dark lord Sauron with the giant honkin’ fireball eye at the top, was deliberately designed to not invoke comparisons to 9/11, going so far as to have the tower being destroyed by a magical shockwave from the middle of the tower instead from the top down and simulating the sound of the tower’s destruction with broken glass.
“Viggo Mortensen composed this melody himself.”
The lyrics are a quote from Elendil, the first king of Gondor, that Tolkien wrote in The Lord of the Rings, but Mortensen set it to music himself for Aragorn’s coronation scene.
“The hobbit actors had to cry for three days for this scene.”
Because of on-set accidents (cameras going unfocused for a whole shoot and Sean Astin forgetting to put his waistcoat back on after a lunch break), the hobbit actors had to film their entire goodbye scene three times — three straight days of crying for the camera.
“That’s Sean Astin’s daughter.”
Sam and Rosie’s oldest kid is played by Sean Astin’s daughter.