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The Return of the King - The trilogy is truly out of my hands now and in the hands of those for whom these films were made...



Feature by: Jack Foley

LORD of the Rings director, Peter Jackson, has likened the process of bringing JRR Tolkien’s 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 end’.

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 and humility.

"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 movie’s premieres.

"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 they’ve been fighting for, even what some of their friends have died for - lead to this film’.

 

"None of these characters is going to come out of this story unchanged. They’ll never be the same again. The Return of the King is the most emotional of the three films."

And it’s true, there shouldn’t 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 we’ve 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 part of.

Sir Ian McKellen, especially, is under no illusion as to why the films have been so successful; and so widely embraced by generations of movie-goers.

"I can’t 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 don’t 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 Jackson’s film is also the work of a brilliant storyteller. That’s 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 at hand."

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