by Sinead O’Hanlon
LONDON (Reuters) – When the first film in the much hyped Lord of the Rings trilogy has its world premiere in London on Monday, it will be the culmination of one of the most ambitious film projects ever undertaken.
Director Peter Jackson and his 2,400 strong cast and crew spent almost two years in New Zealand adapting J.R.R Tolkien’s epic books into three films, all shot at once and out of sequence — an unprecedented process which the actors say made it impossible to have any idea of the final vision.
“When I finally saw the film, I was floored because it was more than I even expected it would be, and I already had very high expectations,” American actress Liv Tyler, who plays the elf princess Arwen, told journalists during a promotional tour in London on Sunday.
On the eve of the premiere of the first film Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the film’s stars were unanimous in their praise of Jackson, saying only his vision and drive kept them going through a punishing filming schedule.
Orlando Bloom, who plays woodland elf Legolas, said the project was a labor of love for everyone involved but there were times when the cast struggled to stay motivated.
At these times, Jackson would cobble together a few scenes and screen it to the cast and crew so everyone could see what he was trying to achieve.
“Through seeing these moments, it refocused you and everyone would attack it with a new vigor and a new energy because you could see what he was trying to do,” Bloom said.
Published in the 1950s, The Lord of the Rings is an epic struggle between good and evil played out by a cast of hobbits, elves, wizards, dwarfs, humans and orcs.
FILMMAKERS WARY OF TACKLING TOLKIEN
Until now, filmmakers have shied away from tackling Tolkien’s tales — apart from an animated version in 1978.
Everyone involved in the $270 million project was aware that it was being heavily scrutinized, not only by the film industry waiting to see whether they could pull off such an ambitious undertaking, but by Tolkien’s legions of fans.
The actors said that although the books were always on set, and constantly referred to, it was impossible to be completely faithful to the text and still translate the magic and mystery of the story onto the screen.
“Jackson made it clear from the beginning that he was just making a version, his version of the book,” said British actor Sean Bean, who plays the human Boromir.
“He made it a very calm, very family-oriented environment so we didn’t get that feeling of being under pressure to make a big film.”
Viggo Mortensen, who plays Prince Aragorn, said patience was the main requirement for the cast and crew.
“There were a lot of hard times, people were ill or injured, but the fact that people really cared about (the project) made it bearable,” Mortensen said.
Bloom agreed, saying all the actors felt they were involved in something special.
“Everyone gave Peter time and respect and had belief in him. If you weren’t prepared to buy into his vision, then you wouldn’t have been able to get through the process.”
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring will open in cinemas around the world on December 19. Two further installments, The Two Towers and The Return of the King will follow at the end of 2002 and 2003.
Uh, “Prince” Aragorn?