Ringer Spy Bellerophon alerted us to some interesting discussion of arms and armour over on Council of Elrond‘s forums that gives just a few snippets about how Sauron might appear in RoTK. We’ve reproduced the information here, since the last time we deeplinked to CoE we managed to break their site.

In answer to a question from a CoE reader about United Cutlery’s plans for Sauron merchandise, Kit Rae had the following response:

“We have been hlding [sic] off on Sauron because there was word that PJ wanted to totally change his look for ROTK. Latest is that he will not make a physical appearance in ROTK now, which he never did in the book anyhow.

I have [a] wicked prototype of his gauntlet already, which will include the “Sauron size” one ring and a display case. The gauntlet will be fully functional armor with the etched intaglio surface and a leather inner glove, exactly as seen in the film. We hope to have this out around Spring of 04, but nothing is confirmed yet. We have not proceeded with Sauron’s helm or mace yet. They should be mid to late next year.

These will be very limited, probably no more than 3000 pieces because they are basically hand made armor. The cost will likely have to be more than the swords but it will be worth it.”

Kit Rae
Art Director/Product Designer
United Cutlery

He later clarified:

“My info came from New Line, but it was vague. I can tell you the rumours about Sauron appearing with a sword in the next film were wrong. They were based on a photo that was actually from the first film, showing Sauron with a dagger, not a sword. The scenes with the dagger were not used in FOTR. Everything I have read or been told suggests that Sauron will only appear as the lidless “eye”, in ROTK, like the book. Of course, nothing is definte until we actually see the film.”

Kit Rae
Art Director/Product Designer
United Cutlery

Sauron Rumours Backround

What do we know of Sauron’s appearance, and what has been rumoured? First and easiest are Jackson’s and Boyen’s own words.

Back in 1998, Jackson answered 20 questions for AICN. He had this to say in response to a question about Sauron:

“This is a great question, and one that we have been grappling with for 18 months. We still don’t have a definitive answer. The Sauron of the books is sketchy at best, which makes it hard to turn him into a screen villain to carry 3 movies. Imagine not really seeing Darth Vader for all 3 Star Wars films. You just can’t do it.

We obviously have Sauron’s various emissaries to represent him, but just how Sauron himself appears is still a puzzle we are trying to solve. I agree that you can’t reduce him to being a big guy striding around in black armour – but he cannot be limited to a flaming eye either. It’s tough. We’ll keep working on it.”

Creative Screenwriting Magazine

Philippa Boyens has also made made some comments about Sauron, notably in Creative Screenwriting Magazine. This snippet from From Vol.8 No.2 on page 6:

“Speaking of Sauron, Boyens says the Dark Wizard manifests in three ways only: the Eye, the Dark Tower, and the ring which he created. ‘He never assumes phsical appearance in the books except when the ring is cut from his finger. As screenwriters, we totally agree Sauron is far more fascinating as a force of evil than as an actual presence. What they can do now with digital imagery is amazing. The couple of moments when Sauron presents himself are incredible.'”

I can’t recall if Fran Walsh has made any comments in a similar type of magazine. I vaguely recall something, but I can’t seem to track it down right now.

Alleged Trailer Report

Recent rumours include this alleged – and probably spurious – Trailer Spy Report that we posted back in March. In part it read:

“But the coolest thing of all is SAURON COMES BACK IN PHYSICAL FORM … unless it was some weird flashback, which I doubt, in the final battle before the black gates, Sauron is back, decked out in the same armor he was wearing in the flashback sequence in FOTR, and he goes after Aragorn — so it would seem … Sauron is bashing his way through, they cut to Aragorn fighting off a bunch of orcs, they cut back to a shot of Sauron, and they cut to a shot of Legolas, shouting Aragorn’s name, as if to say, “Hey Aragorn, look out, there’s a huge %$^#$^&^ with a mace about to pound your skull in!”

Considering we’ve gone two months without sight of a Teaser Trailer – and will in all probability have to wait till September to see something – I think we can discard this report as false. Additionally – and more significantly – the leaked EA RoTK footage contained nothing remotely like that.

Also, fishing around on Tolkien Online, I discovered this spy report from Leonides* …

5. Sauron… Any dialogue, sightings, or actions?

Sauron returns to human form at the climax of the film. Just before the Battle of Morannon commences, he arrives — looking very similar to how he appeared in the prologue. He stares over the Lords of the West, and his “eyes” meet with Aragorn’s. He then (silently) orders his great army to attack with a wave of his mace.

As the battle rages Sauron simply looks on. When Frodo claims the Ring (this will all be intercut for dramatic effect), Sauron turns and peers at Mount Doom. His Nazgul screech off towards the mountain, and for a brief moment his army falls silent.

When the Ring is destroyed we see Sauron die… though how that will appear has yet to be nailed down. There are several versions in the works, and one of them is an exact “duplication” of his explosion during the Prologue.

RoTK or FoTR prologue reports?

Finally, further reports that TORn has received from spies include two key reports from some two years ago, courtesy of Ringer Spy Sylvesterpasemester which describe how when working an extra on the set, he saw “a huge guy with black armour and a huge kind of battleaxe or a hammer, who was standing in the front of a giant bluescreen and there were nine, I repeat !!NINE!! smaller guys with crowns around him…” [More]

The followup report reappraised this figure to EIGHT smaller guys. Now, there is obviously the chance (or even more than a chance) that this was an abandoned shot from the FoTR Prologue.

But the mention of “Around him there lay tons of dead human bodies and a great corps[?]” hints perhaps even at the infamous RoTK Oliphaunt Set? We sure didn’t see this in FoTR, though…

“The field was covered with dead people and orcs. We were lined up and then a giant steps in. He’s huge and has spiky armour and dark helmet, he looks very scary After him follows 8 or 9 mystic figures in a strange armour. Our assignment was to run [my emphasis] in terror from this guy.”

And in the same story, Sylvesterpasemester updated his original report – giving details of the armour of the troops on set. But – although he mention spiky elflike ears – he also mentions three distinct sets of armour. Elves at the Morannon, anyone?

Is it the Last Alliance (complete with Nazguls who never made it to the final cuts) – or the Last Battle before the Black Gate of Mordor? Decide for yourselves …

Sauron’s Palantir scenes

Update: Apart from physical appearances, there’s also two other opportunities for the audience to see Sauron in Return of the King. I refer, of course, to Pippin’s and Aragorn’s use of the Palantir of Orthanc. Here’s the little we know about both these scenes:

“Pippin does indeed look into the palantir. Apparently it was the most difficult piece of acting for Billy Boyd in the entire shoot. As I said, I cannot reveal whether this came from Billy Boyd or not.” Via The Lidless Eye from Tolkien Online.

Further circumstantial evidence that this scene occurs is the shots we have of Gandalf riding to Minas Tirith with Pippin from the E3 EA RoTK footage.

As for Aragorn, this AICN set report places his ethereal confrontation with Sauron in Minas Tirith rather than the Hornburg.

“In the Tower Hall inside the Aragorn looks into the palantir and reveals himself unto the lord of Mordor… Sauron, and the chess pieces are firmly in place..

The first scene is a two shot of Gandalf and Aragorn… The scene lays out the situation… Things are dark, and the progress of Frodo and Sam are completely unknown. The feeling is that Sauron hasn’t yet captured the ring, they feel that Frodo and Sam may still have a chance, but not with an Army of orcs between Frodo and Mt Doom….

Thus the ruse is conceived by Aragorn. Gandalf says, “Sauron will suspect a trap and not take the bait.” To which Aragorn says, “Oh… I think he will.” I believe in this scene we Eomer, Aragorn, Legolas and Gandalf the White. Here is where much blood and the next stage of the story takes flight… the final play of events is all birthed from this moment…

Watching Viggo here, I am watching a King in Strider’s clothes… You can tell there is a nobility and certainty to his movements. His lines are delivered with a purpose that only the son of Arathorn would possess. When he says, “Then we empty Sauron’s lands… gather all our strength, March on Mordor, and draw his army to the Black Gates.”

The look in Viggo’s eye… there is a spark, whether it be some bit of reflected light or an inherent spark from within I can not say… but I feel a shiver… That line carries much sacrifice for such a small fellow, but is the absolute necessary move in order for Frodo to succeed. At this moment, Frodo and Sam have a Smeagol/Gollum with them… and times are toughening for them. Yet here, in this clean pure hall in Minas Tirith…. This is the moment where the good of the many is placed in peril for the fewest of few… two hobbits.

They nailed it….. That was the last shot of GANDALF THE WHITE….. “Sauron will suspect a trap and not take the trap!”

Aragorn reveals his presence to Sauron… reveals Narsil reforged into Anduril before him… and inflames the anger of the dark lord through the Palantir….

The look on Viggo’s face is that of one gazing upon an insanity of evil…. I do not know what he is imagining to get this expression… but whatever private demon Viggo has summoned, it looks to me as though he is staring into the flaming eye of Sauron, whether or not we ever see that.

I’ve just seen a take where Viggo hit a moment of dispair that was a GREAT shot…. After he says his peace to Sauron…. Sauron shows him… well, you know, and it strikes fear into him like nothing you can imagine… Looking into Sauron, I take it, is not a healthy move.”

But we’ve already seen what Sauron look like in these sorts of shots – “a great lidless eye, wreathed in flame”, as Saruman describes it. To be honest, I would have thought that presenting a physical manifestation of Sauron in such a confronatation would be uneccesarily confusing to the audience. In any case, it’s a giant leap in faith away from what we’ve seen previously in Fellowship and Towers.

And if I can leap up on my soapbox for a moment … Although the inner purist in me likes the idea of there not being a physical manifestation of Sauron – simply because Tolkien never depicts him throughout LoTR – I do think that having Sauron appear at the final confrontation at the Morannon has a lot of natural appeal.

It closes a circle, with the heir of Isildur visibly finishing Isildur’s unfinished business. Not necessarily through a one-on-one confrontation, I think an Aragorn v Sauron battle would (and should) be a horribly unbalanced affair. But Sauron waving forth his forces from the battlements could definitely work for me.

Eight (Nazgul) is enough?

Finally, just harking back to Ringer Spy Sylvesterpasemester’s report. If it wasn’t clear from earlier – eight smaller guys around Sauron seems a pretty good indication that this scene is after the destruction of the Witch King. But whether we’ll see it in the final cut appears totally up in the air right now.