The Lord of the Rings movies feature these terrifying dragony creatures called fell beasts—whose name we had to look up just to write this article. Based on the movies, we’d have sworn they were called Nazgûl, and cast and crew even sometimes refer to them that way. But no, the Nazgûl are the men who ride them, the Ring wraiths, while the animals are Fell beasts or Nazgûl-birds.

The Fell beasts screech, and each time that happens, characters contort in pain and cover their ears with their hands. It’s a setup just begging for comedians to come in and insert a punchline. “I haven’t heard anything like it since I caught Celine Dion’s Vegas show!” says one character in MAD Magazine’s spoof of Return of the King. Or, you might imagine that character quipping, “Blecch! Sounds like last girlfriend!”

In fact, that sound effect was provided by Peter Jackson’s girlfriend, Fran Walsh. Walsh made “all the ghost shouts,” said Jackson. The beast’s cry was the product of her coming in one day with a sore throat, though it naturally next went through a fair bit of special effects processing. 

Fran Walsh’s role in the trilogy extended far beyond that, though. She wrote all three movies (along with Jackson, Philippa Boyens, and Stephen Sinclair, with each screenplay crediting her first). She’s one of the four producers behind the trilogy. She also wrote songs for the movies, including “Into The West” that plays over the final credits, which brings the total number of Oscars she won for Lord of the Rings to three. She’s still a very low-profile figure, almost never giving interviews and not showing her face anywhere in the movies’ extensive DVD extras that feature hundreds of different people. 

She and Jackson have been partners for almost 30 years, both romantically (they have two children) and professionally: She cowrote his last dozen movies. For the Fell beast screech, Philippa Boyens joked that they told her Jackson was adapting The Silmarillion next and then recorded her anguished reaction. In reality, Jackson went on to adapt The Hobbit into three films. Whether or not she felt anguished, Walsh was fully complicit in all the atrocities that followed. 

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Top image: New Line Cinema

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