The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Cast & Crew
In Middle-earth, an alliance of Humans, Elves, the tree-like Ents and others has defeated the armies of Orcs, Urak-Hais and other evil creatures ruled by the Dark Lord Sauron in two great battles. However, the benevolent beings of Middle-earth are still in danger from the power-hungry Sauron, who searches for the ring of power that will insure his dominion over the world. Still undiscovered by Sauron is the present bearer of the ring, the little Hobbit Frodo Baggins, who is journeying to the Sauron-held land of Mordor with the ring, planning to destroy it in the only way possible, by tossing it into the fires of Mount Doom. Frodo grows weaker from the burden of carrying the ring, whose dark magic physically and mentally weakens its bearer, and so must increasingly rely on the strength of his loyal and caring friend, Hobbit Samwise Gamgee. Guiding them to their destination is Gollum, a former ringbearer who has been twisted by his obsession to repossess it and who is secretly planning to kill them. Although Sam is suspicious of Gollum, Frodo is blinded to the creature's deception. Frodo and Sam are former members of a fellowship of nine who volunteered to destroy the ring. Their compatriots are the Human Aragorn, Legolas the Elf, Gimli the Dwarf, the White Wizard Gandalf and Hobbits Peregrin "Pippin" Took and Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck. The ninth member of their group, the Human Boromir, was killed battling Sauron's evil warriors, called Uraks. Although separated prior to the battles, the remaining six reunite and then join their allies in King Theoden's land of Rohan to mourn their dead and celebrate their victory. There, Pippin becomes curious about the "seeing stone" confiscated by Gandalf from the defeated, corrupt wizard Saruman, who used it to communicate with Sauron. While examining the stone, Pippin becomes entranced by the eye of Sauron that suddenly appears in the stone and must be rescued by Gandalf. Afterward, Pippin tells Gandalf the visions he saw in the stone¿a white tree and a burning city¿and from this, Gandalf realizes that Sauron will soon attack Minas Tirith, the ancient City of Kings, and that Sauron now believes that Pippin is the ringbearer. Riding his white horse Shadowfax, Gandalf takes Pippin to the city because he believes the Hobbit will be safer under his care. Upon arriving in Minas Tirith, Gandalf finds Lord Denethor, the city's steward, mad with grief over the death of his favorite son Boromir. When told of the impending attack, Denethor dementedly suspects that Aragorn, the heir to the throne, seeks to supplant him and refuses to act on Gandalf's warning. Later, Gandalf tells Pippin that he senses Sauron has gathered forces from many places for the attack and tells the Hobbit about the Witchking, who is Sauron's strongest commander. As Sauron's armies march toward Minas Tirith, and the deadly Nazguls, led by the Witchking, fly over them, Gollum urges Frodo and Sam up a steep "secret stair." Resenting Sam, Gollum plants the idea in Frodo's weakening mind that Sam covets the ring. While the Hobbits sleep, Gollum discards their food supply, then accuses Sam of eating it. Later, seeing Frodo struggle with the ring, Sam offers to carry it while he recuperates, but Frodo, whose mind has been poisoned by Gollum's insinuations, orders Sam to leave him. Meanwhile, Aragorn's great love, the Elven princess Arwen, has joined the exodus of Elves leaving Middle-earth for the "undying lands" of the West. Although her father Elrond has claimed to foresee no chance for her future with Aragorn, she envisions her unborn child, the son of Aragorn, and realizes that there is a slim possibility of a life with him. Abandoning the Elven procession, she returns to Elrond, who reluctantly confirms her vision and realizes that, as she has chosen to relinquish her immortality, her fate is now tied to the success of Aragorn's mission to overthrow Sauron. To save her from dying, Elrond has the broken blades of a sword belonging to Aragorn's kingly ancestors reforged, which, according to an old prophecy, might help bring about the victory of the Humans. When Denethor does nothing to prepare for the coming battle in Minas Tirith, Gandalf has Pippin climb the beacon tower to light it, thus initiating the lighting of signal beacons across the land, which alerts the Kingdom of Rohan that Minas Tirith needs help. Theoden orders his nephew Eomer to gather his fighting men, while Eomer's sister, Eowyn, longs to fight for her people, but cannot, because she is a woman. Drawn to Aragorn, she expresses confidence in his leadership. Meanwhile, Denethor's younger son Faramir, whose valiant warriors failed to hold back the invaders at the river, orders his men to Minas Tirith. As they near the city, Nazguls riding flying reptiles called Fell Beasts pursue them. To allow the men to enter the city, Gandalf rides out and with a white light dispatches the Nazguls. Inside, Denethor chides Faramir for his failure and claims that he would have preferred that Faramir died in Boromir's place. To win his father's approval, Faramir leads his men on a suicide mission. As Faramir and his men ride out to certain death, Denethor orders Pippin to sing for him while he eats. At the Rohirrim encampment, Theoden and Aragorn realize that the enemy will seriously outnumber them. Eowyn, sympathetic to Merry's wish to join the fight, makes him an esquire and gives him a sword, despite Eomer's observation that the Hobbit's arms are too short for battle. During the night, Elrond comes to Aragorn with the reforged sword of his people and foretells that more enemy warriors will be coming from the south. He suggests Aragorn's only hope is to recruit the ghosts of warrior soldiers who reside in the mountains. Elrond assures him that, with the sword of his ancestors to prove that he is king, the soldiers will follow him into battle and urges him to become what he was born to be. Eowyn, however, seeing him saddle up, feels that he is abandoning the Rohans on the eve of battle. Sensing that she is attracted to him, Aragorn gently tells her that he is unable to give her what she seeks. Although Theoden places Eowyn in charge of those left behind, she disguises herself as a warrior, and with Merry riding along, leaves for war with the men. Aragorn, accompanied by Legolas and Gimli, rides into the mountain from which no man has been seen to return. Legolas explains to Gimli that the ghost warriors in the mountain have been cursed because they swore, and then reneged on, an allegiance to the last king of Gondor, from whom Aragorn is descended. Upon encountering the threatening ghosts inside the mountain, Aragorn shows his sword and demands that they fight for him in fulfillment of their promise. While the enemy amasses on Pelennor Fields at the base of Minas Tirith, Faramir's horse drags his body to the gate, where it is taken to Denethor. As the Orcs and other enemy creatures attack and the walls of the city collapse, Denethor cries out for all to flee for their lives. With his staff, Gandalf knocks him out and takes command. During the ensuing battle, the soldiers of Minas Tirith fight valiantly and Pippin, despite his diminutive size, saves Gandalf's life. Several miles away, Gollum abandons the unsuspecting Frodo in the tunnel inhabited by Shelob, a giant spider that he hopes will eat the Hobbit so that he can gain possession of the ring. Frodo becomes entangled in the spider's web, but uses an elf light given to him by the Elf Queen Galadriel to hold the arachnid at bay. Upon escaping, Frodo is attacked by Gollum, but manages to fling him over the cliff before fainting. A vision of Galadriel urging him to carry out his task spurs Frodo to consciousness and he continues on, unaware that Shelob stalks him. She stings and wraps him in her webbing, but then must contend with Sam, who has returned and fights her off. Believing Frodo is dead, Sam hides when thugs from Sauron's tower pass by, but is ashamed when they capture Frodo, who was merely poisoned. Sam follows and when the unruly thugs fight among themselves, he rescues Frodo. At Minas Tirith, Pippin realizes that Faramir is still alive and about to be burned on a funeral pyre by the crazed Denethor. With Gandalf's help, Pippin rescues Faramir, but Denethor is killed in the fire. When Theoden and the Rohirrim arrive at Pelennor Fields, they initially succeed in attacking Sauron's armies from behind, but when the Haradrim, a race of Humans from the south appear, riding the elephant-like Mumakil, the men are crushed and scattered by the beasts' tusks. A valiant swordswoman, Eowyn saves Theoden from a deathblow from the Witchking, although Theoden ultimately dies from his wounds. After Merry saves Eowyn's life, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas arrive with the ghost warriors, and defeat Sauron's troops. After the battle, Gandalf worries that Sam and Frodo must cross a great plains, where the enemy is regrouping, before climbing Mount Doom. At Aragorn's suggestion, the fellowship and their allies attack the back gate of Mordor to divert Sauron's attention. In Frodo's name, they charge, and are soon reinforced by eagles called by Gandalf to help. As the fight rages, Frodo and Sam cross the plains in safety and Sam carries the exhausted Frodo up the mountain. Gollum attacks again, but Sam repels him, as Frodo continues climbing. Later, Sam finds Frodo at the Crack of Doom unable to release the ring into the fires. When Frodo slips the ring on his finger and disappears, Gollum finds him by his footprints and struggles with him, finally biting off his finger to get the ring. Gollum and the ring then fall off the precipice into the burning lava. As the ring dissolves below them, Sam pulls Frodo to safety. With the destruction of the ring, the enemy warriors fall and Sauron's tower collapses. When Mount Doom erupts, Frodo and Sam, who have sought refuge on a large boulder as the molten lava flows around them, believe that their end is near, but they are rescued by Gandalf and the eagles and flown to safety. Later, Aragorn's coronation is held at Minas Tirith, Elrond reunites the king with Arwen and the Hobbits are honored for their service to Middle-earth. Thirteen months after setting off on their original journey to Rivendell, the four Hobbits return to their beloved Shire. Although Sam starts a family, Frodo is unable to fit into his old life. While suffering from the wounds and injuries he incurred, he writes about their ordeal in a book started by his elderly uncle, Bilbo, many years before. After four years pass, Bilbo joins Elrond and Galadriel on the last Elf ship to the West. The Hobbits and Gandalf accompany him to the harbor, where Sam, Pippin and Merry are surprised to learn that Frodo and Gandalf are also leaving for the "undying lands." Before the boat departs, Frodo gives Sam the book, in which he has left room for Sam to write his own story. Afterward, the tearful Sam finds solace with his family.
Lisa Moore Alway
Daniel W. Barringer
Mike Hg Bates
Niccola Sanderson Belcher
Andy Buckley R.n.
Stephen A. Buckley
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Costume Design
Best Costume Design
Best Visual Effects
Best Visual Effects
Best Visual Effects
Best Visual Effects
Best Visual Effects
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
It's in keeping with the conservatism of that lifelong classicist and professor of Middle English, Tolkien, with his love of myth, especially of the ancient Nordic kind. His belief in myth's power to connect us to eternal truths and spirituality is what gives Lord of the Rings its weight and heft, even more than his ability to root his high-flying fantasy in the humanity of salt-of-the-earth types as well as heroic icons, and the particulars of human behavior, including idealism. The surprise is that in an age even more given to modernism than the one Tolkien decried, Jackson has been able to connect with the same deep sources that Tolkien has, taking the book apart and reconstituting it according to the laws of film, some of which Jackson wrote along the way, and some of which he certainly expanded. Anyone can tell you to see the nearly eleven hours of Lord of the Rings on as big a screen as you can. Size and scale matter here.
But breadth and depth matter even more. These qualities have been underrated amid the waves of praise for Jackson's ability to overcome the daunting logistical difficulties of making the film with hordes of live bodies and even more pixels of computer enhancements superimposed upon the spectacularly primal and craggy landscapes of Jackson's native New Zealand an under-credited star of the film. Not since fellow New Zealander Vincent Ward's Vigil (1984) have those otherworldly mountains and gorges and deserts been so arrestingly deployed, to say nothing of being overlaid with gothic, medieval and renaissance visuals that suggest a collision between Breughel, Bosch and Leonardo.
Still, what elevates Lord of the Rings from sensational eye candy to electrifying cinematic achievement is Jackson's ability to anchor the sweeping arcs in small, vivid human moments Sean Astin's stalwart Sam suffering as he sees Frodo's will crumble before the seductive potency of the Ring, Miranda Otto's valiant Eowyn set her jaw resolutely before clamping on her head a gender-concealing metal helmet as she rides off to battle beside her uncle, Viggo Mortensen, looking miserable with the weight of office as Aragorn, drained of the fire of his Henry V-like Agincourt pep talk to the troops and invigorating battles won and done, is crowned king, Ian McKellen's Gandalf, taking a moment off from wizardry to advise Billy Boyd's savvy-disadvantaged Hobbit, Pippin, in throwaway style while heading into a prickly audience with the steward of Gondor, "It's better that you don't speak at all."
Tolkien always denied that Lord of the Rings was allegorically rooted in his experiences of both World Wars against Teutonic forces who had appropriated Nordic myths for their own self-aggrandizing ends. He wanted Lord of the Rings to be read more universally, more timelessly, more sexlessly than Wagner's tilling of the same mythic soil. Certainly in his re-imagining of an ancient world 7000 years ago, filtered through Eurocentric romantic medievalism, he emphasized elements Wagner and the Nazis ignored friendship, loyalty, an idealization of the bucolic, pre-industrial life of the Shire. Jackson realized he could project these elements even more readily with images than Tolkien could with words. It reminds us that the whole point of the various battles was to give Frodo, the unlikely little Everyman from the podgy little Shire, time to nullify the evil power of the Ring.
Thus, Elijah Wood's eyes turn ever glassier as the Ring fights back against its destruction by draining him of will, seducing him as it seduced Smeagle in the scene that begins the final film. Smeagle's obsessive quest for the Ring shrivels him into the slimy, treacherous Gollum (a computer-regenerated Andy Serkis), third of a great CGI triumvirate whose first two members on the right side of the good versus evil divide are E.T. and Yoda. Gollum's crazed, hissing mutterings and reptilian clambering almost stole the first two films. But in the third and final triptych, it's Astin's Sam whose purity of heart prevails and carries the day -- not to mention the civilized, or, rather, uncivilized, world. It's only right that one of Astin's perks involved employment for one of his young sons in the final sequence back in the Shire. (Jackson's two small children and Mortensen's son also were awarded cameos!)
The numbers attached to the film are potentially suffocating more than 6 million feet of film shot, 48,000 swords, axes, shields and makeup prosthetics, hundreds of horses, tens of thousands of actors and extras computer-morphed into hundreds of thousands, and so on. Never before had three giant films been shot in the same place at the same time, simultaneously shot in pieces. Tolkien and Jackson had two things in common. Both were phobic about spiders. As a boy growing up in South Africa, Tolkien was bitten by one. The similarly anachrophobic Jackson gave his giant spider, Shelob, the banshee voice of a Tasmanian Devil. The automobile-hating Tolkien got around by bicycle. So did Jackson, a high-energy, roly-poly, hairy field marshal, cycling from unit to unit day after day, keeping tabs on his three giant films shooting out of sequence, piece by piece, seeing to details, yet keeping ever focused on the larger whole into which he knew they had to fuse.
The film took eight years for Jackson and many of his associates, and half as many for the actors, a number of whom were called back for reshoots. The extended DVD edition should keep devotees happy for years to come, from the immensity and detail of Jackson's conceptualizing and execution to the on-set extra doffing his Elephant Man-like Orc mask to chat up a tech crew woman during a tea break. Apart from its eleven Oscars®, the book that planted the flag for the fantasy genre has become the film that has sired a dizzying multiplicity of videos, computer games and graphic novels. We weren't surprised that the final film should have been of a piece with the first two. They were, after all, made at the same time with the same people. Still, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King's ability to end on a rousing yet deeply resonating high note wasn't a given. What could have landed with a deadening thud not only flew, but soared -- and satisfied at the deepest levels the appetite within us that can only be fed by storytelling. This final chapter brings the saga home. Its scale and depth make it a high-stakes gamble that wins big and leaves a footprint for the ages.
Producers: Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson (screenplay), J.R.R. Tolkien (novel)
Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie
Art Direction: Joe Bleakley, Simon Bright, Phil Ivey, and Mark Robins (uncredited)
Music: Howard Shore
Film Editing: Jamie Selkirk
Cast: Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), Boromir (Sean Bean), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Celeborn (Marton Csokas), Bilbo (Iam Holm), Gollum (Andy Serkis).
by Jay Carr
Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Biography Resource Center
Secrets of The King, article by Jeff Giles, Newsweek, Dec. 1, 2003
The Making of an Epic, article by Gillian Flynn, Entertainment Weekly, May 17, 2004
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The Return of the King is the third and final episode of The Lord of the Rings trilogy based on J. R. R. Tolkien's epic of the same name. The three films were released in consecutive Decembers, from 2001 through 2003. For further information about J. R. R. Tolkien, his works, the film trilogy and the first and second episodes, please see the entries above and below for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, respectively.
As in the previous two films of the trilogy, The Return of the King has no opening cast or crew credits. Within the end credits, some cast members are credited twice. In the first appearance, most of the lead performers are credited on individual title cards, with each actor's name superimposed over a line drawing of his or her character. During this sequence, only Andy Serkis' credit provides a corresponding character name; his credit reads: "featuring Andy Serkis as Gollum." The second cast list, which scrolls, begins with the credit: "Featuring VOICE OF THE RING Alan Howard" and then proceeds alphabetically with each actor's name, beginning with Noel Appleby as "Everard Proudfoot" and ending with Elijah Wood as "Frodo." Later, within the crew credits, actors serving as "additional character voices" and "featured orcs" are listed as a group. Also credited here are the appearances of Billy and Katie Jackson, the offspring of producer-director-writer Peter Jackson and producer-screenwriter Fran Walsh, who are listed as "featured children." Alexandra Astin, the daughter of Sean Astin, the actor who portrays "Sam Gamgee" in the trilogy, appears in The Return of the King near the end of the film as Sam's daughter, "Eleanor Gamgee." According to a December 14, 2003 Los Angeles Times article, Royd Tolkien, the great-grandson of J. R. R., and Royd's friend, Justin Nicholls, appear briefly in the film as "Gondorian rangers."
The following information is taken from the studio presskit: End credits include a "personal thanks" from the "Filmmakers" to several individuals and organizations "for their contribution" to the making of the movie, among them, E-Film and various New Zealand governmental agencies. The acknowledgment is followed by a "special thanks," which reads: "to Peter Nelson & Ken Kamins and to the thousands of others who helped make this film a reality." The film's dedication names "Carla Fry, Brian Bansgrove and Brent Robb," and "Joan Jackson and Bill Jackson," for whom the films, The Two Towers and The Fellowship of the Ring were also dedicated, respectively. Before the dedication, the following inscription in the Maori language appears: "Me mahara tonu tātou ngā Uri-āpakura nō tuānuku nei, nō te wāotū, te tu kekēhua ana o ngā Eldarin kua hohoū mai i te Uru-moana." According to a January 2004 New York Times article, the running time of the end credits is nine minutes and thirty-three seconds, possibly a record length. Production crew credits, excluding the cast, number over 1,670 names.
During the film, whenever characters speak in the fictional Elvish language invented by Tolkien, English subtitles appear onscreen. Although many of the character and place names in Tolkien's novels, such as "Barad-dûr," "Théoden" and "Sméagol," appear with diacritical marks, the film's onscreen credits list them without the diacritics. Voice-over narration by various characters is heard intermittently throughout the film. As in the previous productions, the evil "Sauron" is presented as a giant eye and a disembodied, almost whispering male voice. The eye appears in different settings: in a character's mind, in the crystal ball known as "Saruman's" "seeing stone" or atop Sauron's fortress tower at Barad-Dur between spiked pinnacles. Early in the film, when "Pippin" becomes entranced with the seeing stone, it appears to be flaming in his hands. When the power of the infamous ring that Frodo bears is activated, its effect on the character is shown by brief slow-motion shots, and by throbbing pulses enhanced with mechanized, reverberating sounds. Throughout the film, flashes of memory and slow-motion visions are experienced by different characters. The film ends with voice-over by Elijah Wood, as Frodo, telling Sam that his part of the story will go on.
The Return of the King opens with a flashback to Gollum's distant past, when he was a hobbit-like creature known as "Smeagol." During this scene, Smeagol kills his brother Deagol to attain the "ring of power" that is central to the story, and, then, in a montage, Smeagol is shown to deteriorate mentally and physically, over many years, into the wretched creature known as Gollum. During the montage, and as the scene changes to the film's "present," Serkis, who plays "Gollum," is heard speaking in voice-over narration. The opening scene is the only time in the trilogy that Serkis is shown without extensive computer-generated effects. According to a December 2003 Daily Variety article, Weta Digital developed a software tool called subsurface scattering in order to make Gollum look more realistic. To read more about the making of Gollum, which Jackson describes as "probably the most actor-driven digital creature that has ever been used in a film," see the note in the entry below for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
The film contains many computer-generated characters, such as the good Ents, who appeared in the second film, and most of the villainous characters, who have appeared throughout the films. As the Los Angeles Times reviewer quipped, "viewers...have likely seen enough bad-tempered Orcs to last them a lifetime." New to the third film is the character of Shelob, an enormous, digitally rendered spider that was only referred to briefly by Gollum in the second film, and is seen fully in The Return of the King. Studio production notes state that the appearance of the creature is based on New Zealand's tunnel web spider, of which the arachnophobic Jackson was particularly terrified as a child. Shelob appears in Tolkien's book The Two Towers, but was moved by the screenwriters to the third episode. Another CG beast featured in the film is the multi-tusked, elephant-like Mumakil, which not only stomp and crush their opposition, but swing their heads, allowing their tusks to sweep the enemy aside like golf balls. Also new to the third film in the trilogy are the ghost warriors, who are a multitude of green transparent creatures with skull-like features.
As expressed in the Hollywood Reporter review, the screenwriters made "noteworthy departures" from Tolkien's book, including "such crucial moments as what happens when Frodo is finally standing on a ledge over the Crack of Doom...and how Aragorn makes use of the Army of the Dead that only he can command." Although "whole swaths of the book have been condensed," the review reports that Jackson and company "usually realize splendidly whatever they can take on." Referring to the events in the story that happen after the fall of Sauron, several reviews noted that a series of "codas" or endings finished the film, with each showing what happened to the various characters after the war, such as Aragorn's coronation, the Hobbits' return to the Shire and the departure of the last elf ship to the West. After some of these sequences, the screen goes to black before the next begins. While the Los Angeles Times review felt that the film was "unsure of where it ought to end," the Hollywood Reporter review noted that after "the battle...winds down to a sublime denouement, [the film takes] only 20 minutes to wrap up [what] Tolkien took a hundred pages."
The three Lord of the Ring films were shot entirely in New Zealand. According to studio production notes for The Return of the King, the battles at the fictional Pelennor Fields were staged and shot on a sheep farm at Twizel, South Island. Using state-of-the-arts computer-generated effects, Jackson's company, Weta Digital, added most of the 200,000 warriors. The Variety review described the sequence as "the mother of all cinematic battles." Outside of Wellington, the set for Minas Tirith was constructed at the Dry Creek Quarry. Sequences set in the wasteland of Mordor were shot on location in Mount Ruapehu. An exterior set was built in Deerpark Heights, located near Queenstown, for the Paths of the Dead ghost soldier sequence. As in the previous films, miniature and "bigature" facsimiles of the sets were used for various shots and, according to studio notes, most of the miniatures were built on stages at Stone Street Studios, Wellington.
According to various sources, although additional shooting for The Return of the King occurred in 2002 and 2003, principal photography for that film and its predecessors, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, occurred between October 1999 and December 2000. The simultaneous production of the film and its sequels, which appears to be the first in film history, was made possible by the willingness of New Line Cinema, the production company for the films, to invest in the sequels before determining the box office power of the first film. In a December 2003 New York Times article, Jackson described New Line's backing as an "old-fashioned bit of entrepreneurial bravura." According to a December 2003 New York Times article, the first two films earned $1.8 billion worldwide and the Variety review exclaimed that "ancillary benefits from various versions and packaging will issue forth close to forever." Various versions have been released on video and DVD, with extended versions of each film including scenes cut from the theatrical releases. One of the scenes added to the extended DVD version of The Return of the King was the death of Saruman, who does not appear in the theatrical release of the third film.
According to a December 2003 USA Today article, Ballantine's mass-market paperbacks of the Ring trilogy and The Hobbit had recently sold more than sixty-eight million copies, compared to the thirty-two million copies of the four books sold between 1965 and 2001. According to the article, Ballantine`s Colleen B. Lindsay, who is in charge of promoting the books, reported that letters children write the deceased Tolkien via the publisher have increased from "a dozen or so" per year to the hundreds.
The country of New Zealand, which contributed financially to the making of the film, gleaned 23,000 jobs for its citizens. Taking advantage of the "Frodo economy," as it was called in the press, the national tourism department advertised vacation sites with slogans such as "Best Supporting Country in a Motion Picture." According to a December 2003 The Times (London) article, Wellington was locally nicknamed "Wellywood." Commemorating the film, the British Royal Mint minted 50p, £1 and £2 coins depicting the characters from the story as legal tender. Given the honor of staging the world premiere of the final film, the city of Wellington, according to a December 21, 2003 Los Angeles Times article, invested approximately $4.8 million to overhaul the city's classic Embassy Theatre. Approximately 125,000 people attended the event, according to a December 2003 The Times (London) news item, among them, New Zealand's prime minister, Helen Clark. A five-kilometer parade preceded the premiere, led by Jackson and the film's stars, flanked by characters clad in armor and on black horses. Atop the theater, according to the BBC website, was a twenty-meter high model of a Fell Beast and Nazgul rider. The Wellington premiere was followed by openings in London and Los Angeles that were equally successful.
The Time magazine review called the film "an epic with literature's depth and opera's splendor-and one that could only be achieved in the movies." Comparing the Ring cycle to other recent film trilogies, reviews praised The Lord of the Rings as the best, but noted that it had the advantage of being shot all at once and being previously written by an acclaimed author. The Variety review lauded "the literate, generally well-structured overall script, the perfection of the New Zealand locations, the visionary scenic designs, the exceptional visual effects, the costumes, hair and armor and the excellent cast-perhaps the most impressive feat of all has been Jackson's ability to keep it all in his head through the years and deliver a cohesive work with a proper sense of balance and proportion."
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, like its two predecessors, was selected as one of AFI's top ten films of 2003. The film won Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture-Drama, Best Director, Best Original Score-Motion Picture and Best Original Song-Motion Picture for "Into the West." In addition, Jackson, Walsh and Barrie M. Osborne received the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures by the Producers Guild. Jackson also received a Directors Guild of America award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film and was nominated by the Directors Guild of Great Britain for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in International Film. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association named Peter Jackson Best Director and Grant Major Best Production Designer for 2003, while the New York Film Critics Circle named the film the Best Picture of the year. The picture also won the Screen Actors Guild for Best Acting by an Ensemble and from the Art Directors Guild for Best Production Design of a Period or Fantasy Film. The Broadcast Film Critics Association gave Critics' Choice Awards to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Ensemble Cast and Best Composer. The film garnered several BAFTA awards and nominations, among them, Best Film of the Year. In 2005, the song "Into the West" won a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Media.
The Academy Awards named The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as Best Picture of 2003, over its competition, Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River and Seabisuit. Other Academy Awards it received were: Best Art Direction, Costume Design, Film Editing, Makeup, Original Score, Original Song ("Into the West"), Sound, Visual Effects and Adapted Screenplay. In addition, Jackson was named Best Director. Having won a total of eleven Oscars, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King tied with M-G-M's 1959 Ben-Hur and Twentieth Century Fox's 1997 Titanic for the record of winning the most Oscars in the Academy's history. Of the three films, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the only film to win all Oscars for which it was nominated.
In its review of the final film in the trilogy, the Variety review stated that, Jackson, after seven years of work, "has pulled off one of the most ambitious and phenomenally successful dream projects of all time, a complete visual rendering of a 1,000-page literary classic beloved by countless readers internationally, a set of films that satisfied the Tolkien purists and, when all is said and done, will generate well upwards of $3 billion in all markets." After completing his seven-year-long project, Jackson wrote in his studio notes that "the trilogy is truly out of my hands now and in the hands of those for whom these films were made" and that he is "happy to let these films...become whatever this generation, or future generations, make of them."
In March 2006, a $27 million, 3 ½ hour, musical stage adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, written by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus and produced by Kevin Wallace, opened in Toronto, Canada. Although the show was the most expensive theater production to date, and won several local performing arts awards, it opened to mixed critical reviews. Plans to close the show in early September were announced in June 2006; however, Wallace announced that, after some revisions, the show would open in London, "its spiritual home," in June 2007.
Winner of the 2004 Producer's Guild of America (PGA) award for Best Feature.
Voted one of the 10 best films of 2003 by the American Film Institute (AFI).
Winner of four 2003 awards including Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture, Outstanding Character Animation in a Live Action Motion Picture, Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Motion Picture and Outstanding Performance by a Male or Female Actor in an Effects Film (Sean Astin) by the Visual Effects Society (VES).
Winner of the 2003 award for Best Adapted Screenplay by the Writer's Guild of America (WGA).
Winner of the 2003 award for Best Director from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.
Winner of the 2003 award for Best Ensemble Acting from the National Board of Review.
Winner of the 2003 award for Best Film from the New York Film Critics Circle.
Winner of the 2003 award for Excellence in Period/Fantasy Costume Design for Film by the Costume Designers Guild (CDG).
Winner of the 2003 award for Excellence in Production Design for a Period or Fantasy Film by the Art Directors Guild (ADG).
Winner of the 2003 award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film from the Directors Guild of America (DGA).
Winner of the 2003 awards for Best Director and Best Production Design from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
Winner of the 2003 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award (BAFTA) for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Winner of the 2003 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for Best Ensemble Cast.
Winner of two 2003 Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA) awards including: Best Director (Peter Jackson) and a Special Citation for his overall work on the "Rings" trilogy.
Released in United States Winter December 17, 2003
Released in United States on Video May 25, 2004
J.R.R. Tolkien's novel was previously adapted as an animated feature in 1978, directed by Ralph Bakshi.
Sequel to "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (New Zealand, USA/2001), directed by Peter Jackson and starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortenson, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Orlando Bloom, and Cate Blanchett.
The original film and sequels were shot simultaneously.
The combined budget for the trilogy is reportedly $270,000,000, making the estimated individual budget for each film $90,000,000.
Released in United States Winter December 17, 2003
Released in United States on Video May 25, 2004