10 Things to Look For When Watching ‘Lord of the Rings’

The Hobbit has been welcomed into cinemas almost a full decade after the original trilogy was brought to life, and in that time we’ve re-watched it many, many times and know practically every line and beat of action. The movies are packed with detail and over the years of production a few in-jokes and oddities were slipped in. Find out if there’s anything you missed…

#10 – The Burning Cake

That’s not a metaphor. The massive number of candles adorning Bilbo’s cake during his party leads to the entire prop going up in flames. Watch out for it in the background while Bilbo is making his speech. Ian Holm was doing such a good job they didn’t want to stop him. Also watch for Merry on stage with the band at random points during the party as Dominic Monaghan took it upon himself to play some music during filming. Meanwhile, Billy Boyd’s shrieking when the dragon firework ignites was not directed but was the result of the actor not knowing that it was actually going to go off.

Finally, during Bilbo’s speech is a shot of a member of the Proudfoot family shouting “Proudfeet!”. This shot is a recreation of the same shot in the animated version of the story.

Animated Proudfoot

#9 – The First and Last Shots

The first shot filmed was in Fellowship of the Ring and is the wide shot of the four Hobbits are hiding under a tree root while the Nazgul rides above them. The final shot is in the extended cut of Return of the King and occurs during the sequence of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in the Path of the Dead. As they escape an avalanche of skulls pours down on them ending with a close up of a single skull coming to a stop. This shot was filmed after Peter Jackson collected his Oscar for the film.

Lord of the Rings First Shot

#8 – Birth of a Meme

During the meeting of Elrond the viewers who spend their time on the internet will note Sean Bean’s delivery of his now famous line: “One does not simply walk into Mordor”. Eagle eyed viewers may notice that the image used in that meme does not synchronize with that line of dialogue. Also enjoyable is a moment later in the scene when everyone is on their feet arguing – watch for Gandalf apparently telling Boromir to ‘take a hike’.

One does not simply

Keep an eye out during the meeting for Brett McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords, who plays an elf sitting near Gandalf. The character, dubbed Figwit, developed a cult following after being noticed by female fans.


#7 – Viggo’s Awesome Reflexes

During the final confrontation with the Uruk-Hai at the end of Fellowship the menacing Lurtz hurls a dagger at Aragorn. Viggo Mortensen deflected the prop-dagger with his (real) sword in the first take!

#6 – Forgotten Silver Cameos

If you haven’t seen Peter Jackson’s infamous mockumentary Forgotten Silver do yourself a favor and track down a copy. It is pure brilliance. Then rewatch Lord of the Rings and keep an eye out for Colin McKenzie himself (Thomas Robbins in reality) playing Deagol in Return of the King. Peter ‘Stan the Man’ Corrigan appears as Otho in the extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring. Finally there’s May Belle (Sarah McLeod) who plays Rosie Cotton at the beginning and the end of the trilogy.

#5 – Gollum’s Evolution

Gollum only makes shadowy appearances in Fellowship but a comparison between the character in this film and how he looks in The Two Towers reveals some changes to his design. When it was decided that the character would be motion captured rather than continue with the prosthetic and puppets used in the first movie, they reworked his face to match Andy Serkis’ performance even though this meant restarting design work that had been in progress for three years. In the new design Gollum is missing part of his left ear lobe – this was the result of an air bubble being caught in the plaster when a model was made. It was eventually decided that it would be left to add some character.

When Gollum is heard screaming “my precious” in the prologue the voice was performed by Dominic Monaghan.


#4 – That Guy With One Eye

You know what I’m talking about. Aragorn gives the order to fire arrows on the army outside of Helm’s Deep and the order is relayed by a man who turns to the camera to reveal an empty eye socket. A somewhat shocking moment that feels quite random. When an extra arrived on set wearing an eye patch Peter Jackson politely asked to see what was underneath and thought it would make a strong image on film. He asked the extra if he’d mind showing it in the film but the extra was reluctant having been extremely self-conscious of the injury. He later agreed and later said that the scene has made him more confident and comfortable with his missing eye.

#3 – The World’s Biggest Prop

The trilogy has it’s share of giant props, costumes and models – including the 15ft tall tower build for Isengard. The record breaking prop produced by Weta was the oliphuant carcass that is left on the battlefield after being taken down by Legolas. Peter Jackson feels that it could’ve been bigger.

Oliphant carcass

#2 – On-Screen Injuries

With a film shoot on this scale with the number of action shots needed there are going to be a few bumps and scrapes, and a few serious injuries make it to the final product. Viggo Mortensen did himself the biggest mischief in The Two Towers when he kicked away an Orcish helmet and let out an anguished cry. The cry was quite realistic on account of Mortensen breaking his foot. Mortensen then filmed the running scenes from the beginning of the film alongside Orlando Bloom, who had a cracked rib from falling off a horse, and dwarf stuntman Brett Beatty who was sporting a dislocated knee. Mortensen followed this up with nearly drowning during the scene in which he is washed down a river.

Aragorn breaks toe

One the first day of filming one of the Hobbit stuntmen dislocated their shoulder while tumbling down the hill to escape from Farmer Maggot. Less serious but more amusing is Sir Ian McKellen’s impressive headbutting of the doorframe in Bag End. McKellen kept in character in spite of the pain and the take remained in the film.

#1 – Peter Jackson and Family

Director cameos are something of a tradition. Some directors overplay their hand, trying to make them the stand-out moment of the scene (I’m looking at you Shyamalan) but directors like Peter Jackson prefer to blend into the scenery. Jackson turns up in all three of the films. Watch for him clutching a carrot (the planned pipe made him feel sick) in the village of Bree, hurling a spear from Helm’s Deep and beating the drum on a slaver ship. To round out the third cameo the slaves on the oars are members of Jackson’s production team…quite apt.

Very much the family man Jackson often had his children visiting the set, and they pop up in all three films credited as ‘Cute Hobbit Children’, ‘Cute Rohan Children’ and ‘Cute Gondor Children’ – which to be fair is a pretty apt description. Spot them front row of the children listening to Bilbo’s story, hiding under Helm’s Deep and watching Faramir leave Gondor. Also worth noting, Jackson’s son is the only actor in the entire trilogy who appeared on screen without a wig, having natural Hobbit hair.

Cute Hobbit Children

Finally there’s Fran Walsh, Jackson’s wife and co-writer. Instead of appearing on camera Walsh provides the screeching noise made by the Nazgul! You can, however, see portraits of both Jackson and Walsh above Bilbo’s mantle.