Ringer Spy Celebrial got her hands on a copy of the Dec 2003/Jan 2004 issue of CFQ, (formerly Cinefantastique). This edition features a 16-page special on Return of the King. Ian McKellan as Gandalf is on the cover.

In addition to the cover story on ROTK, there are sidebars on:

  • Lost King of Gondor: Viggo Mortensen Returns to Reclaim His Throne
  • Constructing A Kingdom: On Minas Tirith
  • The Voice of Saruman: Interview with Christopher Lee
  • Gamesters of Middle Earth: on the Electronic Arts Games
  • Exposing Middle Earth: on Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie

Coverage will continue with the next edition, Vol 36, #1.

OK, now for SPOILERS from the articles.

“(Production Designer Grant) Major cites King Denethor’s throne room – “the court of the kings” – as the grandest interior set, both in Minas Tirith and the entire trilogy. “We were looking for the biggest space we could possibly find in Wellington for that set, ” Major says, “…we ended up using a big wharfshed on the Wellington dockyards. It was filled almost entirely with that one set…”

Areas on and around an active volcano, Mount Ruapehu, on New Zealand’s north island, served as other parts of Mordor, including the battlefield scene in the prologue to FOTR , the slopes of Mt. Doom, and the Black Gates.

Peter Jackson: “Each film becomes darker as Sauron’s power grows, and they emotionally go places, which is very interesting. By the third film, the Ring of Power is such a burden for Frodo, and he is starting to behave in such a strange way that I think the empathy of the audience will switch over to Sam….To a certain degree, Frodo is becoming like Gollum, so it’s a torturous journey he has to complete.”

Philippa Boyens says some of the best acting in the trilogy occurs during the Pelennor Fields battle. “And that’s just what the whole battle feels like,- it’s the end of all things, it’s so huge and phenomenal. So you have these great, epic movie moments, like Eowyn’s confrontation and slaying of the Witch King – who is riding a flying Fell-beast – as well as some emotional moments like the death of King Theoden.”

Philippa: “We’ve got one of the great endings of all time and we’ve worked hard to make sense of how to achieve it, what it would be and what it means. So during the pick-up shooting, we added a couple of scenes which help those moments and drive the ending along. It helps people understand exactly what is happening at that point in the story. I think if we deliver on that, then it’s going to be an extraordinarily gut-wrenching experience for the audience. What happens is: ir’s not just Sam, Merry, and Pippin who are saying goodbye to Frodo but it’s the audience as well.”

Randall Cook on Shelob: “Tolkien hedged his bets a little and basically said she’s a spider-like thing, so in designing Shelob, the New Zealand tunnel spider was a heavy influence, but I think you’ll find that the animators and designers at WETA have taken it a few steps beyond that to make her an individual creature … Shelob should be equal parts Tolkien, 1950s B movie, Discovery Channel, and nightmare, with heavy emphasis on nightmare.”

“For Jackson, the Grey Havens represents a culmination of the entire story – what it means to give and to lose and all the emotions tied to the opening line of the story: The world is changing.

“The emotional story is where most of the power of ROTK really lies” Jackson says. “Every character that we know in the story, in some form or another, comes out of it different. It is an immensely affecting experience for them, and I hope for the audience as well.”

Ending-Biggest SPOILER: ” For the ending of ROTK…the production has created the kind of overwhelming emotional experience that undoubtedly will leave many viewers in tears.”

“I saw a rough cut of the sequence,” Lesnie says, “with all the bluescreens in the shots, and it was still a staggeringly moving sequence… you’re cutting back and forth between the four hobbits and Galadriel, and everyone is standing on the jetty next to the Elven boat that’s going to sail away. Bilbo’s gone and Gandalf says goodbye, and they summon Frodo, and then the other three hobbits suddenly realize Frodo is going as well…”

Major explains, “(Elves) Their time on earth is coming to a close, and this Elvish migration through the Grey Havens gives the port a great resonance. It has an Elvish architectural style, but there is also a bit of a Mediterranean feeling about it … the tall cypresses, the stonework, the views facing west and a certain emptiness. The Grey Havens don’t open directly to the sea, but are sheltered in ther gulf of Lhun, so there are hills surrounding the wharf – it’s not a big place, but being Elvish, it is really beautiful.”