Many Cultures of the Ring: the Cast and
From New Line Cinema press release,
(Webmaster's note: while this
section contains no direct costume descriptions, it does contain information
important to the costumes. Clothing does not exist in a vacuum, it is
a product of it's culture.)
"The Lord of the Rings required a commitment from our cast to learn
how to swordfight, horseback ride, canoe, learn Elvish, climb mountain
peaks and at the same time bring the magic and magnetism of Tolkien's
characters to the screen. They were up to the task."
- Barrie M. Osborne, producer
At the core of the story in The Fellowship of the Ring are the cultures
that make up Middle-earth: Hobbits, Dwarves, Humans, Elves, Wizards, Orcs,
Ringwraiths and Uruk-Hai.
Each culture has its own rich way of life, its own customs, myths, ways of
dress and even style of fighting. Each is fully developed in The Fellowship
of the Ring, creating the essence of a living, breathing world just beyond
our own history.
For example, Hobbits are gentle and close to nature, an almost child-like
group who live off the land. With an average height of 3'6", the
furry-footed creatures dwell deep in furnished holes on the sides of hills.
They love the simple things in life: smoking pipes, eating, and, of course,
storytelling. They live to around 100 years old, with the age of 33 marking
the start of adulthood, and the age of Frodo at the start of The Lord of the
Elves, on the other hand, are noble, elegant, magical beings whose time is
running out and who seem to possess a bittersweet sense that they are now
about to pass into myth. Although they could be slain or die of grief, Elves
are immortal in that they are not subject to age or disease.
Dwarves are short but very tough, with a strong, ancient sense of justice
and an abiding love of all things beautiful. Small in stature, they live to
be about 250 years old.
Wizards are supremely powerful but can use that power for good or for evil,
depending on where their hearts lie.
Humans in The Fellowship of the Ring are a fledgling race just coming into
their own. They are warriors, unafraid to defend their heartfelt cause.
Other creatures populating Tolkien's world are the misshapen Orcs fighting
for Saruman; the sinister, black-cloaked Ringwraiths which are neither
living nor dead but cursed to live in the twilight world of Sauron; and
Uruk-Hai, which are birthed under the watchful eye of Sauron with only one
mission: to get the One Ring no matter what the cost.
To bring these remarkably diverse beings to life would require a cast of
true versatility - and also a cast willing to spend months in the deep
heartland of New Zealand bringing life to a literary legend. It would
require a group of actors who could carry their characters through three
chapters of climactic changes.
In the first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring, the actors get a
chance to introduce their characters and their individual quests. At the
center of it all is the story's 3'6" hero - Frodo Baggins, the forthright
Hobbit who assumes the responsibility for destroying the One Ring. Despite
the help of the Fellowship, it is Frodo who must bear the burden of the One
Ring and resist its constant temptations of evil. For the actor to play
Frodo, the filmmakers chose 20-year-old Elijah Wood for his energy and
"Elijah has a sincerity of purpose that just makes him a natural in the
role," observes Barrie M. Osborne. "He is capable of taking the character
through a real transformation, which begins with The Fellowship of the
Wood describes Frodo as "a very curious adventurer. Frodo lives in a time
when most of his fellow Hobbits want to stay with their own kind, but Frodo
is very different in that he wants to leave and see the rest of the world
and all its wonders."
As Frodo begins his journey, Wood was struck by how real the Hobbit felt.
"He became alive for me," he admits. "The way we shot the movie, everything
was so authentic that we all believed that Frodo and the others really
existed in history. Once I had on my prosthetic ears and feet for the first
time, I knew what it was to feel like a Hobbit. It sounds bizarre, but it
felt the same as playing a historical character, as if Hobbits had actually
once been alive."
One of Frodo's closest allies in his plight to destroy the One Ring is the
powerful Wizard Gandalf, who begins to demonstrate his true purpose and
abilities in The Fellowship of the Ring. Gandalf is played by renowned
screen and stage star Ian McKellen, who was thrilled to take on such a
"I see Gandalf as the archetypal wizard," says McKellen. "I think in the
creation of Gandalf, Tolkien was playing with ideas about wizards from
stories and classic tales throughout time. Gandalf is related to Merlin, and
maybe even Shakespeare's Prospero, but he also is very much his own man."
"When the story heats up and the journey begins and great things are at
stake, he makes a real contribution to the Fellowship," he continues. "He
shows his stuff as a warrior." Notes producer Barrie M. Osborne: "Ian
McKellen has the stature to make you truly believe in Gandalf's power and
Frodo's quest to destroy the One Ring begins with his cousin, Bilbo Baggins,
an aged Hobbit with a history of bravery played by Ian Holm. Holm says that
"Bilbo is not unlike me. He's quite grumpy on the outside but basically he
has a heart of gold. He is a little fellow who things seem to happen to -
but when he's put to the test, he comes up trumps more than most people."
A longtime fan of Tolkien's novels, Holm likens playing such a renowned
character to another character noted for its many interpretations. "I think
playing Bilbo is a lot like playing Hamlet," he says. "I mean, this is my
version of Bilbo, just as it would be my version of Hamlet. He's an eternal
character but as an actor you play it as you see it in front of you and
trust in that."
Says Barrie M. Osborne of the choice of Holm: "He brings out all the nuances
in Bilbo's character - he gets the crustiness of the Hobbit, but more
importantly, he reveals what lies underneath."
Three Hobbit friends also join Frodo on his journey: Sam, Merry and Pippin,
played by Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd. True friends, the
Hobbits' loyalty and bravery are put to the ultimate test on their quest.
Astin plays the poignant character of Samwise Gamgee, who seems quite
ordinary but turns out to be the most extraordinary of friends to Frodo.
"Sean Astin is a wonderful choice for Sam because he brings a real joviality
to the role, as well as an empathy for Sam's struggles," says Osborne. "I
think it's also a real bonus that he and Elijah Wood are such good friends -
that closeness really shows in the relationship that develops between their
Astin was drawn to a character that seems to define the best of Hobbit-hood.
"To me, he personifies decency, simplicity, honesty and loyalty, the
ultimate Hobbit," says Astin. "Most of all, he has an undying friendship
with Frodo that is so strong, he's willing to face the adventure of the
unknown to help him."
Astin also sees Sam as a man of the land. "I look at him as this kind of
pastoral figure, a farmer whose hands are always in the soil," he comments.
"He's not the most sophisticated being in the Fellowship, but he makes up
for it with his earnest steadiness."
Dominic Monaghan, a British actor who comes to the fore in The Lord of the
Rings, brings out the quick-witted cleverness and fun-loving spirit of the
Hobbit Merry, formally known as Meriadoc Brandybuck, another of Frodo's
closest friends. "Like most Hobbits, Merry always looks on the bright side
of life," says Monaghan, "but I don't think even he realizes at first how
brave he can actually be. As situations arise at the beginning of their
journey, he starts to become pretty important."
Monaghan continues: "The main thing I wanted to get across in the beginning,
with The Fellowship of the Ring, is that Merry is just this very sharp,
sarcastic and funny boy who hasn't grown up yet. But he's about to go
through incredible experiences and adventures that will change him into a
For the comical Hobbit Pippin, or Peregrin Took, the filmmakers chose rising
Scottish actor Billy Boyd. Boyd was amused by his character's "knack for
doing the wrong thing at the wrong time" but also moved by Pippin's
transformation throughout the odyssey. "One thing about Pippin right from
the beginning is that his whole life revolves around friendship," points out
Boyd. "He loves his friends in the Shire more than anything."
But when Pippin embarks on the journey to destroy the One Ring with Frodo
and the rest of the Fellowship, he discovers a world unlike anything he's
ever imagined. "Suddenly, things turn very serious and dark for Pippin. He's
falling in marshes and meeting strange creatures and he'd rather be back at
the pub chatting with the ladies!" admits Boyd. "But that's what makes him
so dynamic a character. He tunes into the fun and beautiful side of life,
even in the middle of a war."
Two Humans join the Fellowship. One, the mysterious warrior Aragorn (or
Strider) is played with trademark intensity by Viggo Mortensen, whose
affinity for the role sparked rumors that he was living in the forest in
Aragorn's torn, mud-stained clothes. Says Peter Jackson: "Viggo embraced the
character so completely it's difficult to imagine the two being separate
now." Adds Barrie M. Osborne: "Viggo is the perfect actor to play a man who
is struggling to redeem himself from his ancestry and his heritage. He's
incredibly dedicated. He's the kind of an actor who one day had his tooth
knocked out by a sword and actually asked if they could superglue it back on
so he could finish the scene. He became Aragorn, and he brings a real power
to the role."
Mortensen felt a strong personal connection to the project: "I'm Celtic and
Scandinavian, so I was raised on the myths that inspired Tolkien," he says.
"It's part of my heritage." The actor was also intrigued by Aragorn's
primal, self-reliant brand of heroism. "He can survive in nature, live from
it, read its signs and live happily, not needing anyone, not relying on
anything but his own knowledge and discoveries," he observes. "But now he
has to take on more responsibility, and it's not clear where it will lead
Also joining the Fellowship is Boromir, a valiant warrior who lacks respect
for the One Ring's devastating power. Boromir is portrayed by Sean Bean, who
feels that the character "brings the human element into the Fellowship.
Boromir has the human qualities of being honorable and brave but also having
a very clear opinion about everything." "In the beginning," he continues,
"he sees the Ring simply as a solution to the problems of his people. But he
finds out that it isn't quite so clear-cut, especially as he becomes
susceptible to its powers."
An Elf and a Dwarf round out the Fellowship: Legolas, the keen archer son of
an Elf king, played by Orlando Bloom; and Gimli, the stout-hearted axe-man
who comes to represent the Khazad, the Dwarves of Middle-earth, played by
John Rhys-Davies. The disparity of their natures proves to be a constant
source of both strife and amusement. Orlando Bloom explains: "Elves see
Dwarves as these muddy creatures who steal from the earth without giving
back. But Legolas and Gimli grow to respect one another's differences. They
learn to rely on each other in battle - and to laugh together."
Rhys-Davies relished the notion that The Fellowship of the Ring kicks off
something many people haven't experienced in a long-time - an epic, serial
adventure: "I think today there is an enormous hunger for adventure and a
dynamic life that can only be met in the imagination . . . or in movies like
this one. Tolkien feeds that hunger, because in our hearts we want to be
part of a heroic civilization like the Elves, Hobbits, Dwarves and men of
Facing off against the Fellowship is the evil Saruman, once the head of the
Council of the Wise, who has since succumbed to the dark temptations of
Sauron's power. Saruman wants Frodo's ring and is willing to use his
specially bred Uruk-Hai - grotesque, savage creatures -- to get it. Perhaps
no one could embody Saruman better than film legend Christopher Lee.
One of film's great embodiments of Dracula, Lee approached The Lord of the
Rings with considerable reverence. "This is the outright creation of an
entire world," he says. "It brings together history and languages and
cultures and makes a dreamscape come true."
"People will always crave power and Saruman wants Sauron's power," Lee
continues. "To me, he is not just the physical force of evil personified, he
is also very real."
Two of the major female characters in The Lord of the Rings are also
introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring: the brave Elf Arwen, who falls in
love with Aragorn, played by the luminous Liv Tyler; and the powerful,
soul-probing Elf Queen Galadriel, played by Academy Award nominee Cate
Tyler was drawn to Arwen, the immortal Elven princess. "To me, Arwen brings
a real touch of femininity to the tale of Middle-earth," says Tyler. "In the
midst of a war, she has fallen in love, and become the backbone and
motivation for Aragorn's fight."
Cate Blanchett was also drawn to her character's fascinating strength. "I
loved playing Galadriel because she is so iconic. She is the one in The
Fellowship of the Ring who truly tests Frodo," says Blanchett. "I also think
she has a profound message to give about taking responsibility for ourselves
and our actions. And, yes, I have to admit I have always wanted to have
Blanchett was astonished by how completely the world of Middle-earth and its
many cultures had been explored by the filmmakers. "By the time I started
working, there was such a strong and real-life sense of the various
cultures, their histories and their hopes for the future," she notes. "It
was really like becoming part of a whole different universe. I've never
experienced anything like it before."
Hugo Weaving portrays Elrond, an Elf of great powers, father to Arwen, whose
knowledge of the One Ring proves invaluable to the Fellowship. Weaving
adored playing such a wise yet wistful hero. "Elrond is so wise, so good, so
noble and yet he also has, for a lack of a better word, a real humanity to
him. There is a side of him that has been made desperate by the perpetual
state of war. He has a real sense of how hard it is for people to get out
from under evil," Weaving says.
The entire cast underwent intensive training in ancient arts and languages
for their roles. This included studying sword fighting with veteran sword
master Bob Anderson; learning horsemanship with head wrangler Dave Johnson;
and practicing the Elvish language with dialect and creative language
coaches Andrew Jack and Roísin Carty.
Jack and Carty developed a unique accent and cadence for Elvish, based in
part on Celtic, yet entirely unique in the world. In also training the
actors in other dialects, they gave exercises during which the actors stood
in front of a mirror, making curious noises and faces, learning to use their
facial muscles in completely new ways. The result was that the actors found
their own accents spontaneously. Jack and Carty taught the actors as if they
were learning a language from scratch, not simply memorizing script lines.
In addition to the technical training, every actor involved in The Lord of
the Rings had to be in top physical condition - not just because the
Fellowship scales mountains, fords streams and fights physically intense
battles throughout the trilogy, but because they had to withstand the
274-day shooting schedule. Says Dominic Monaghan, who plays the Hobbit
Merry: "We all started fitness programs well before production began and we
worked with physical trainers throughout. Not only was the shoot physically
challenging, with huge leaps and big battles and stuff like that, but the
hours alone required physical conditioning and fitness. Anybody out of shape
wouldn't have made it!"
Summarizes Peter Jackson: "For me the project really came to life when the
cast came on board and brought their individual interpretations to the
roles. They made it so much more realistic than I had ever imagined."
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