This week 15 years ago, the first Lord of the Rings was released, with the trilogy combining to win 30 Oscars and gross $2.9 billion worldwide. To this day, it is a landmark series that introduced J.R.R. Tolkien to a new generation. But did you know these fun facts about the film?

  • Peter Jackson almost didn’t get the chance to turn “Lord of the Rings” into a movie series. Back in the 60s, the Beatles wanted to adapt “LOTR” themselves, with Paul McCartney as Frodo, Ringo Starr as Sam, George Harrison as Gandalf, John Lennon as Gollum, and Stanley Kubrick as director. Thankfully, Kubrick declined the project, instead going on to make “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Then Tolkien, who still had the film rights to his books, shut down the project for good.
  • When pitching the film to various studios, Jackson and Fran Walsh presented a screenplay for two movies. At first, only Miramax showed interest, but under the condition that the screenplay be cut to fit the entire “LOTR” story into one movie. As a last attempt, Jackson pitched the film to New Line, who asked for the screenplay to be turned into a trilogy.
  • Christopher Lee is the only member of the cast or crew to have met Tolkien. In fact, Lee mentioned in the extended cut commentary for Fellowship that Tolkien had given him his blessing to play Gandalf in any potential film adaptation of “LOTR.” But when Lee auditioned for Gandalf, he was asked to play Saruman instead, as it was believed he was too old to play Gandalf. Lee accepted the role, but agreed that Ian McKellen was right for Gandalf.
  • Viggo Mortensen initially didn’t have much interest in playing Aragorn, but took the role after his Tolkien-loving son, Henry, pleaded for him to accept the role. After learning more about Aragorn, Mortensen viewed the character’s sword as the key element to his character and carried it with him at all times during filming, even when he was not on set.
  • Being a dwarf, Gimli is the shortest of the warriors in the Fellowship. But his actor, John Rhys-Davies, is over six feet tall. For some wider shots, a body double was used to make sure Gimli didn’t look taller than Legolas or Aragorn.
  • Every role required extensive time in the makeup department, but for the hobbits it was especially tough. Elijah Wood and his fellow halflings had to get up at 5 AM to get fitted for the trademark hairy hobbits’ feet. They were not allowed to sit while the feet were applied because their ankles would bend and cause the prosthetics to warp, so the actors had to stand for over an hour while the feet were applied.
  • If you look closely, you might notice that Legolas’ eyes change color from scene to scene. That’s because the blue contact lenses Orlando Bloom wore would have damaged his eyes if he wore them every day of shooting. The visual effects team was able to digitally change Bloom’s brown eyes for some scenes, but not all of them.
  • The scenes for the Shire were filmed near the small farming town of Matamata in northern New Zealand. A portion of the set was left behind after filming for “LOTR” fans to take tours of, and was rebuilt in greater detail when Jackson returned to direct the “Hobbit” films. Visitors can now even have an ale at a fully-functioning Green Dragon inn.

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