To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Entertainment Weekly, we gathered 12 classic TV and movie casts for the ULTIMATE POP culture get-together. Classic Casts include: Back to the Future, Roots, Lord of the Rings, Pretty in Pink, Will & Grace, Alias, Northern Exposure, The Muppet Show, The West Wing, Gilmore Girls, Married with Children, and Scream.

What do you think about when you think about The Lord of the Rings? A few guesses: Gandalf staring down a fiery Balrog and proclaiming, “You shall not pass!” Legolas firing arrows as he surfs on his shield down the trunk of an Oliphaunt. Sam carrying Frodo to the top of Mount Doom, though he himself barely has the energy to stand. (Sam, if you really think about it, is the coolest character in the movies.) Aragorn being crowned king, then turning to Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin, who have lowered their heads reverently, and telling them, “My friends, you bow to no one.” (Aragorn, if you really think about it, is the coolest character in the movies.)

Those are all great scenes, moments of self-sacrifice and unexpected heroism, which are the twin strands of the trilogy’s DNA. But when the people who actually made The Lord of the Rings think about The Lord of the Rings—and we asked a dozen of them, as they hugged and caught up for the first time in years at photo shoots in Los Angeles, London, and Sydney—they don’t think about any of those scenes. They remember New Zealand, and the most exhausting, exhilarating years of their lives.

They remember surfing; getting tattoos; watching Jackson, on Guy Fawkes Day, run around with fireworks like a giddy kid; going to barbecues at Billy Boyd’s (Pippin) house; hanging around in the demented social club that was the makeup trailer; and having the occasional romance in the seaside city of Wellington (“I do remember some local ladies, yes,” says Boyd).

Jackson remembers shooting on the side of a volcano in a nature preserve where they had to lay down carpet to protect a rare moss: “A carpeted volcano,” says the director. “I mean, that was bizarre.” Orlando Bloom (Legolas) remembers getting a mohawk just because Liv Tyler (Arwen) told him to: “She goes, ‘Orly, you should have a mohawk. You’d look really cute.’ It was Liv Tyler telling me to get a mohawk! I was like, ‘I’ll have a mohawk, please!’ ”