It really was the best of times. Not just the opening night of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (or whenever you saw the film for the first time). What about when you first found out that Lord of the Rings films were being made? Maybe, like staffer Garfeimao, it prompted you to start searching the internet and you found TORn. Perhaps, like staffer Magpie, you had been longing for something different and/or better than the animated movies (no matter how sentimental and quaint they seem now). Perhaps you were a lifelong fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, and had misgivings like deej and JPB. For me, it was all of the above!
Please enjoy reading the memories and impressions of some of our core staff, and share your own memories of how you learned of the LOTR movie, how you found TheOneRing.net and/or what your first impressions of FOTR were, either in the comments section, or on our Lord of the Rings Movie discussion forum.
Garfeimao – I grew up on a street named Gondor, so I was always meant to be a Tolkien fan, there was no getting around that. I first found TORn shortly after seeing that first teaser trailer and wondering who was in the film, who was directing it and any sort of detail I could glean. As months went by and little stories began to leak out of filming locations, casting updates and the like, I went into the 2001 San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) hopeful but not overly enthusiastic yet about FOTR. That is, not until I saw TORn’s sneak panel with special guest Richard Taylor of WETA. He talked about the endless hours of work everyone was doing, that they all knew how special this was, were fans themselves and wanted to put 150% of themselves into the project. From that day forward, I was not only sold on FOTR and the rest, I wanted to be a cheerleader for the films.
Immediately upon returning home from SDCC I emailed Spymaster@TheOneRing.net and asked if they had any plans for movie meetups for fans. I called them Moots, but as it turns out, TORn was working on what would soon become the Line Parties so many of us gathered at over the years. I immediately formed a Line Party event for the Irvine Spectrum, in Southern California after having spoken with the local Theater manager and promotions people. I wanted to make sure I understood the rules about costumes at this large shopping center (no weapons), how long they would let people line up (they preferred no overnights, but when the Star Wars fans began joining our lines for ROTK, that rule vanished) and what activities I could do. I invited someone from Decipher to come down and do a Card Game demo and keep people entertained. I did trivia questions and had a small costume contest, but all of this actually came after I had already seen the movie.
Turns out that the AFI (American Film Institute) was hosting a Hollywood Premiere for FOTR the weekend before it opened to the public, as a fundraiser. I was a supporting member of AFI and was able to purchase tickets to the premiere, which was held at the Egyptian Theater just down the street from the more famous Chinese theater. Anyhow, we ended up sitting up top, but that did not matter. It’s a beautiful theater, the bulk of the cast and crew were there, and yet I was transfixed by the film. Hobbiton had my jaw on the floor, it was so perfect. I’m pretty sure my mouth hung open for most of the film, both from the music as well as the images on the screen. I just couldn’t believe how closely it matched what I hoped I would see, and exceeded expectations in many places, especially with some of the casting and the filming locations. Oh, and that music, oh my goodness that music.
Later at the premiere, I was able to meet most of the cast, but nearly bowed to Peter Jackson when he approached, I really had to pinch myself not to kowtow. The theater manager from the theater I was hosting my Line Party at later that week had asked me to invite Liv Tyler to our event, and I actually did. She couldn’t come, but she signed a little bookmark I had brought in with Arwen on it. You should have seen the look on his face when I reported that I had actually invited her, and she sent this signed bookmark in her stead.
That whole night was just one of the coolest nights ever, and I had to make sure I kept as many secrets as possible on the night of our Line Party. The theater was full, but only about 75 people were from my Line Party. Of course, as everyone waited to go in, and played games and won trivia prizes, I grew that number so that by the time we got to ROTK there were over 300 people signed up for the Irvine Spectrum Line Parties. I believe MrCere holds the record for the largest Line Parties. I know friendships were made, and still remain strong, from those early days with Line Parties and various other activities surrounding FOTR, be it book signings, or our Oscar party.
Which brings me to Awards season and the fact that FOTR was nominated for 13 Academy Awards in 2002, only winning 4, but that was the beginning of Hollywood taking Fantasy films more seriously. It was also all these nominations for Golden Globes, Oscars and all the Guild Awards that led TORn to decide to host a Fan Oscar Party. That, and the need for a new server. At the time and to be polite, we invited cast and crew, but you all have to understand we never expected any of them to actually show up, and show up in force they did. For any of you lucky enough to have attended that first Oscar Party, you all know exactly how lucky you were, and the magic in the air that night. It wasn’t quite the same as the party for ROTK, for obvious reasons relating to 11 golden statuettes, but the random nature of PJ, Fran, Phillipa, Sir Ian and the rest all showing up, it was the topping on the cake to a wonderful few months of Tolkien geekiness that was rare then, and is still rare now.
JPB – I remember I had both hope and fear leading up to the release. I hoped it would be good – and some photography of scenery from TheOneRing.net gave me hope. But I feared that they wouldn’t “get” Tolkien or that the result would be cringe-worthy. Listening to the soundtrack a few weeks before the release, I started hoping it would be great and not just good. In the theater, when I saw the first view of Hobbiton, with the sunlit Bag End and the party tree in the distance, I knew I was home. I was giddy with happiness for the rest of the film. Nothing in cinema has affected me as strongly as that brief moment.
grammaboodawg – After reading LotR at least once a year since 1971, I was very nervous about the film. When I saw FotR for the first time, I was overwhelmed! I vividly remember the stunned effort of trying to leave my seat, walking disoriented within the electrified crowd moving out of the theatre and getting into my car. I sat there transported and dazed as I sobbed unable to move. I’m in tears once again thinking about it, but still filled with that awe I felt in 2001. The magic is still there and will never fade!! Jackson’s film captured the story and characters exactly as I always imagined them! Just as meaningful for me, it brought TORn into my world.
Magpie – I had fallen in love with LOTR in the late 60s. I hadn’t reread them in the following decades although I’d given the books to my kids in the 80s. There seem to be lots of worries about making the Harry Potter books into a movie but I was more worried about LOTR. I frankly hated everything about the cartoons that had come out and I was worried about mediocre special effects supplanting the more magical images in my head. But our family was always up for a movie on Christmas Day and LOTR was the only choice for our geek household. I sat through the prologue. When Gandalf and Bilbo had their smoke ring moment, I thought ‘cool’. Then at the party, when the fireworks let loose, magic filled my heart and I turned to my son and said, “I’m going to like this movie alot.” I saw it in the theaters in 2001-2 a total of 9 times. I was motivated to reread the books again and feel truly, madly, deeply back in love with them.. I developed a deep affection for the soundtrack, and somehow found myself online with a large group of like minded people, many of whom I count as dear friends to this day. Simply put, the movies, the books, the music, the fellowship of Tolkien friends… changed my life.
greendragon – Fifteen years ago?! What the what…?! Not possible, surely! I wasn’t on TORn in the run up to the release of FotR. I’d been a Tolkien fan since I was little; I was about five when my Dad read LotR to my brothers, and I insisted on listening in. Then I was a huge fan of the Rankin Bass Hobbit cartoon – but was scared by the Bakshi LotR! So when I heard the LotR films were being made in New Zealand, I was intrigued – but wasn’t a big internet user in those days in the year before the release. I remember being very skeptical when I first saw the teaser poster of Frodo holding the Ring in the palm of his hand; I felt Elijah Wood was far too ethereal and handsome for a hobbit! (Of course he totally won me over, once I saw the film!) That December, I went with my Dad – the man who first got me into Tolkien – to see FotR, and instantly LOVED it. I remember going again when I got back to Boston after the Christmas holidays – and going again, and again, so long as the film was being shown in cinemas ANYWHERE near me, right through into the following summer! (I still jump at the chance to see the trilogy on the big screen; that opening New Line logo gives me chills every time.) And then, one night, sitting in my apartment and obsessing over the film, unable to shake off this new vision of Middle-earth, which had so got under my skin, I decided to go online and see if anyone else was out there, to keep me company in my crazed fandom! I stumbled across a website called TheOneRing.net; and without announcing myself as a ‘newbie’, I just jumped in and started posted on the message boards. So began my own Unexpected Journey, as a devoted fan, then staffer, then senior staffer, at TORn. What a joy! What a Fellowship! Happy birthday, FotR!
deej -How can it possibly be 15 years since ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ was released in theaters? It was just last week that I saw the teaser trailer for it over Christmas 2000, and then last night seeing the first midnight screening! Like a lot of Tolkien fans, I had my misgivings about a film adaptation of my favorite book. And directed by the guy who made ‘Meet the Feebles’? Errr… But seeing Middle-earth up there on the screen (just as I had pictured it), hearing Howard Shore’s incredible score, and seeing all of my beloved characters (okay, Elijah Wood’s Frodo was a little younger than I pictured…) – all fears were gone! It was a great start to what has been an incredible journey around the world, meeting many other Tolkien fans and making lifelong friends.
Altaira – the excitement leading up to seeing FOTR (midnight showing, of course) is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before or am likely to experience again. Watching the trailers, endlessly discussing rumors, and meeting other fans was magical. I was literally numb after my first viewing of FOTR. There was just too much to process. 21 viewings later (obsessed? moi?), I was in love and desperately waiting for the next installment. Those were the best of times.
Elessar – As has been said it’s hard to believe that fifteen years has passed. For me my journey to the movie starts with my Mom and Mark Whalberg. I know a mom makes sense but Mark Whalberg is a bit odd. It was due to one of the trailers being attached to his remake of Planet of the Apes that we had decided to see as a family the perfect storm came together. While the trailer was playing I’m just thinking this looks amazing, and that my friends who read the books during High School were right. My mom said that The Fellowship of the Ring was the one book she read cover to cover in High School (I have her book and it was the one I used for my first reading). She seemed excited about the films so I told her then we needed to go see them together. We did that December and it became our tradition for the next three years. That suffering of Planet of the Apes was all worth it for giving me such a great memory with my mom, and the path it lead me down finding a love of Tolkien. It also lead me to making lifelong friends outside of TORn and of course within. I’ve truly been blessed by Middle-earth.