3 Bizarre Behind-the-Scenes Pranks From the ‘Lord of the Rings’ Franchise
Peter Jackson and company have banked more than 20 hours of Lord of the Rings content. Out of the untold thousands of hours it took to conceive of and produce these films, people seem to have room in their brains for but a single, hackneyed behind-the-scenes fact: “Did you know Viggo Mortensen actually broke his foot when he kicked that helmet?”
We’re here to remind you that there were much more impressive — and much weirder — things going on behind the scenes. These productions were packed with pranks and capers. Read below to learn about some of the cleverest (and most deranged) on-set jokes, and watch our latest episode of CanonBall — “3 Human Sacrifices Made to Bring You Lord of the Rings” — for a few more sacrifices made in service of LoTR (that weren’t Mortensen’s foot).
Sean Bean Got Pranked So Hard, He Became an Alpinist
Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, who played Merry and Pippin, decided to bring their on-screen impishness into the real world. The whole cast and crew had to be ferried up to their mountaintop set via helicopter, and one of the pilots recently revealed how the two nearly made Boromir soil his velvet pants. On their first trip up, they told the pilot that Sean Bean was a huge fan of aerobatics, and that the pilot should “treat” him to some badass aerial maneuvers.
The pilot obliged — but Bean is not, in fact, a fan of helicopter stunts. Bean actually had a crippling fear of flying. So after the horrifying ordeal, he tracked down Peter Jackson and informed him that he would no longer be taking a helicopter to work.
But it’s not like Jackson could just call him an Uber; they were filming on a New Zealand mountaintop. So every single morning, Bean would wake up extra early, don his Boromir costume, and climb a damn mountain. It was a three-part journey: he’d climb for a half hour, take a ski lift and finish it up with a half-mile hike. Jackson confirmed that cast and crew could indeed see an intrepid Boromir clomping up a mountainside from the comfort of their high-altitude death traps.
John Rhys-Davies’ Horribly Mangled Finger
Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli, once ran up to Jackson, clutching a bloody finger in his fist, frantically yelling, “Boss, boss, I’ve had an accident!” He produced the bloody appendage — and proceeded to frantically rip it clean off, with blood spurting everywhere. Jackson, understandably freaked out, and started trying to track down a medic.
Technically speaking, it was all a prank. But in a very real way, it was a dramatic reenactment. As a teen, Rhys-Davies lost a finger in gory fashion when he was screwing around with the engine of a van. On set, he teamed up with a practical effects artist to make a temporary prosthetic out of gelatin, and pump the thing full of fake blood. They nicked it open with a knife, and Rhys-Davies ripped the whole thing off to scare the shit out of his boss.
Two Propmasters Took a ‘Hostage’
One company, Weta Workshops, provided about 48,000 props for the franchise — the four main Hobbits alone blew through 1,800 pairs of knobby, hairy feet prosthetics. And they spared no expense on the titular ring, with 40 versions of varying sizes for different shots.
Most labor-intensive, though, had to be the chainmail — they sliced up seven miles of PVC piping like it was deli meat to make over 80 million individual ringlets. And these revolutionary suits were largely assembled by two quirky dudes who slowly lost their minds.
In a behind-the-scenes documentary, chainmail technicians Christopher Smith and Carl Payne explained that a single suit of Orc chainmail consisted of 13,000 rings, and took about three days to complete. They picked up some bizarre hobbies to keep them busy during their two-year-long, mind- and finger-numbing task. During one interview, they pointed the documentary crew toward what they called, ominously, The Hostage. The camera cuts to a filthy Smurf, tied up in chains, with duct tape over his eyes. One of them remarks that “he still hasn’t coughed up his secrets” in a jovial New Zealand accent, before casually returning to his chainmail. These guys also referred to themselves as “mad as a meataxe,” which, yeah, that’s hard to argue with.
Again, watch “3 Human Sacrifices Made To Bring You Lord of the Rings” for more details on these bizarre stunts, and more behind-the-scenes LoTR hijinks.