Ringer Spy Choice of Lúthien writes: Here’s a very detailed report of a fabulous presentation by Barrie Osborne. While it was all interesting, I think the character farewell montages information may be of particular interest to some.
I attended the Session with Barrie Osborne at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis and it was a fantastic night. Despite having been busy all day, Barrie was wonderful and extremely gracious. His talk focused on some of the major challenges of the project and how they were “solved”.
1) The challenge of bringing a 1200 page novel to the screen. Barrie mentioned that this was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing since there was so much detail there in the books already to guide the filmmakers. The curse was of course the length. He cited the “Council of Elrond” chapter as an example and also talked about how they had to make dramatic liberties.
Barrie also discussed the challenge of LOTR being a fantasy and how they wanted to connect with the audience and “make it real”. An important part of this was making the characters 3 dimensional. For example Gandalf was a wizard, but a wizard who smokes, likes to drink and loves life. Aragorn is aware of how his ancestors failed and fears he could never amount to anything. And for Boromir, important backstory was added to show how he was motivated by the love of his kingdom and his father. He makes a mistake and sacrifices his life to redeem himself.
Barrie also cited how important leadership was and that Viggo and Ian McKellan supplied this to the younger actors. Apparently when Viggo went back to LA for Christmas break, he got permission to take his sword back with him so he could practice! Viggo’s last minute casting was also brought up and Barrie said that Stuart was actually the first one to realize that he was too young to play Aragorn.
2) The challenge of scale. Different techniques were discussed such as forced perspective, motion capture and scale doubles. He talked about the scene in Bag End between Gandalf and Bilbo as one example, and mentioned that Gandalf‘s hat in that scene is CG!
3) The challenge of the long journey. It was a long journey both in terms of the story and of the shooting. Barrie talked about some of the techniques used to show the passage of time in the movies: music, set designs, costumes, digital coloring and even sound design. One scene discussed in particular was the opening of ROTK. Digital coloring had to be used to turn the lake from brown (it had been raining) to blue and to add leaves to the trees (since that scene was filmed in the fall.
4) The challenge of the epic battles. Discussion on this topic was centered around MASSIVE – how it was developed, how it works and how it was used. One thing I did not know was that the two different armies are each assigned a different pitch in the program. There were some very interesting clips shown detailing how a scene was composited using MASSIVE, the different stages in the process. The main scene used was the Rohirrim charging into the orc army outside Minas Tirith.
5) The challenge of CG creatures. Gollum was the main creature discussed. Clips similar to the previous ones were shown, detailed how Andy’s performance was turned into the Gollum we see. There were also some comparison shots of Andy & Gollum from ROTK. Barrie said that Fran and Andy were the heart and soul of Gollum.
6) The challenge of the infrastructure in NZ. There was very limited space at WETA, they had to dub almost all the sound and had to import most of the equipment. Barrie cited the expansion of WETA-at one point during ROTK production there were 2,500 computers being used but 1,000 more were needed and within two weeks! The sattelite system they ended up using in order to meet the challenges associated with filming at rural locations.
He summarized by saying these challenges were met by a clear vision, an understanding of the financial and technical resources, an early recognition of the unknown, open communication and collaboration, a willingness to adjust plans to fit reality and the courage to go on when things got dark and difficult.
Barrie saved the best for last. He said how each actor had a farewell clip made for them on their last day of shooting (the ones we’ve heard so much about) and then proceed to show us the clips for Legolas and Elrond! The clips were fantastic. Each one was a montage of character moments and some bloopers set to several different song clips.
For Legolas: I forget the first song but things really picked up when “Hungry Eyes” started. This of course highlighted many of Legolas‘ looks, carefully chosen to fit the lyrics. The final bit was to “Poison Arrow” (or something like that) and showcased his archery.
For Elrond: The only song I remember was “I will Surive”. Some footage from the prologue battle that didn’t make the cut was shown (some good stuff), a scene in Rivendell I didn’t recognize and clips from all three movies. The second half was titled “Agent Elrond“. A couple of bloopers from a scene where Hugo couldn’t get the dialogue right and kept swearing. Also when he threw back his hood in ROTK (to give Anduril to Aragorn), he was wearing the Agent Smith sunglasses. And from that same scene when Viggo drew the sword he clipped Hugo’s nose. Both of them were way too funny. Barrie wouldn’t show more, saying that they might be showing up on DVD in a few years!
During the Q & A part someone asked him about his most memorable experience. Barrie described 2: the camping out to get the sunset on film that we hear about on the TT EE.
The other one was after they had finished some filming near Nelson and had to go to Queenstown. Apparently PJ decided to drive (instead of flying) and so Andrew Lesnie decided to go with him. At that point Barrie figured he better go with both of them. They left late afternoon/early evening after filming and stopped somewhere for the night. The next morning it was discovered they were almost out of gas. PJ assured them it wasn’t a problem.they would pass lots of farms along the way where they could get a farmer to fill the car up. But as they drove there were no farms so they had to turn around to where they had been staying to the gas station. It was now 6am and the station didn’t open until 8am. PJ mentioned that the owner probably lived in the house behind the station, so why didn’t they go wake them up? As the producer, Barrie was given this task. He knocked on the door and when the owner answered, offered him 100 dollars to fill up the tank. Apparently John Rhys Davies was following behind them and when he stopped at the same gas station later heard a story about some “crazy people”.
Sean Bean and Orlando were also driving. They stopped on the way to do some antique shopping at the request of Orlando. It was raining extremely hard and they ran into a landslide so they had to turn around and go back. But then they ran into another landslide. They ended up staying and some random house for the night and then they had to convince Sean to fly out on a helicopter the next day since he was needed.