Feature by: Jack Foley
LORD of the Rings director, Peter Jackson, has likened the process
of bringing JRR Tolkiens timeless trilogy to the big screen
as a journey every bit as challenging and exhausting as that of
his central protagonist, Frodo Baggins.
It has taken seven years for him to complete the process, during
which there has not been much sleep, no time for a normal
life and days when we all wondered if we would make it to the
The ensuing years have involved two of pre-production, 274 days
of principal production, and three years of post-production, as
well as innumerable challenges, in terms of bringing such a visually
demanding project to the screen.
Jackson confesses that he recalls asking himself, whenever things
got particularly hard, whether he would rather be doing something
else - but the answer was always no.
"This is because I have been lucky enough to work with some
of the most talented cast and crew any filmmaker could wish for,
anywhere in the world," he explained, with trademark grace
"Through the long years of production, it was apparent that
we all had one thing in common: a great and enduring love of the
books, which, in turn, resulted in an unfailing commitment to
do our best work on these films.
"I will always be grateful to New Line Cinema for giving
me the opportunity to bring my version of The Lord of the Rings
to the screen."
In terms of audience perception, he is also happy with the results
of his labours, and is continually surprised by the depth of warm
feelings that are reserved for him at any one of the movies
"I am happy to let these films go off into the world, and
for them to become whatever this generation, or future generations,
make of them," he states.
"Whether my contribution is ultimately judged dainty
or undainty, it has been made.
"And the trilogy is truly out of my hands now and in the
hands of those for whom these films were made; the people who
love these books and who have always loved film."
In terms of the Return of the King, itself, which represents
the final film in the trilogy, Jackson declares that all
of the storylines we have followed, the journeys that these characters
are taking - what they care about, what theyve been fighting
for, even what some of their friends have died for - lead to this
"None of these characters is going to come out of this story
unchanged. Theyll never be the same again. The Return of
the King is the most emotional of the three films."
And its true, there shouldnt be a dry eye in the
cinema by the time Frodo, Sam, Aragorn and co complete their epic
journey, and the full extent of the sacrifices have been realised.
"There is an emotional resolution to each and every character
whom weve grown to know and love throughout the telling
of these stories," comments producer, Barrie M Osborne. "Will
they succeed, or will it end in tragedy? I think it will bring
people to tears and joy, both."
For the cast, too, the conclusion of the journey marks the end
of a remarkable experience; one which has changed their lives
completely, and one which they are all grateful to have been a
Sir Ian McKellen, especially, is under no illusion as to why
the films have been so successful; and so widely embraced by generations
"I cant be the only one of my generation that was
born in 1939 to think that here was some sort of parable of the
real world, politically and militarily, that Tolkien was living
in," he explained.
"Tolkien had, himself, served in the First World War and
wrote The Lord of the Rings during the Second World War while
his son was fighting in northern France.
"I dont think there are any Saurons around today,
but in 1939, there was one. Sitting in the middle of Europe; a
spider who wanted to control it, and the world joined together
in a mighty coalition to defeat him."
He continues: "It was about inner courage and about close
friendships and about the possibility of wisdom somewhere in the
world, by defeating the forces of stupidity and evil. I think
the story goes on being relevant, not necessarily because of its
subject matter, but simply because of the brilliance by which
it is told.
"And Peter Jacksons film is also the work of a brilliant
storyteller. Thats why these films are as popular as the
books have been and continue to be."
Viggo Mortensen, who plays Aragorn, the heir to the throne, is
also fully aware of the significance his character plays for anyone
seeking to apply it on a world stage.
"A person such as Aragorn, much like King Arthur or Moses,
for example, is raised by non-blood relatives, hidden until he
is ready to learn of his true identity and the great responsibility
that is his birthright.
"Aragorn, who was brought up by the elves in Rivendell and
tutored by Elrond, must eventually fulfil a destiny that requires
him to understand the complex and tragic history of Middle Earth,
and to ensure a future born of hope and justice for all beings
of that world.
"There is not an easy or permanent answer to the troubles
of today or tomorrow," he continues. "A sword is a sword,
nothing more. Hope, compassion and wisdom, borne of experience,
are, for Middle-earth as for our world, the mightiest weapons