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Jackson Offers Peek at Extended ‘Return'

11 Dec, 2003 By: Fred Topel


After the success of extended DVD cuts of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, “Lord of the Rings” trilogy director Peter Jackson is already thinking about his eventual extended cut of the third film, The Return of the King.

“There's about an hour's worth of finished cut scenes that we could put into a movie, and we'll put at least half of them into an extended cut,” Jackson said. “There's a sequence with Saruman (Christopher Lee) at Isengard that's about seven minutes long. We shot some quite memorable scenes from the book that aren't in the movie, like when Frodo and Sam are disguised as orcs. There's a section where they actually end up in the orc army for a short period of time.”

Comic relief segments could make a comeback as well, he said.

“There's actually a funny Legolas/Gimli scene where they play a drinking competition to see who can get drunk the quickest,” he said. “That was in the banquet scene near the beginning of the movie, and we just felt that the comedic tone of it wasn't helping us jump in and establish a lot of narrative tension.”

John Rhys-Davies, who plays Gimli, shared his description of the drinking game scene: “That scene has the elf quite innocently inquiring of Gimli, who is into his cups, ‘What are you doing? What's the whole point of this?' [Gimli says,] ‘This is a drinking game.' I think that you will howl with laughter. The humor of that scene, which I think is quite funny and quite rude, would have helped the film relieve the tension.”

When scenes are added to the film for the extended cuts, composer Howard Shore has to adjust the musical score. New material often comes in the middle of existing score, so it is a matter of matching new music to the old and sometimes changing the original music to accommodate the length of new scenes. “I would just find a good in-point where I could go in, where the music matched, and then I'd have to find an out-point,” Shore said. “Then I'd re-record that whole section with the orchestra using a lot of physics techniques. When you're taking a master like Return of the King and opening up and putting new music in it, it all has to match the existing recording, has to sound correct. So we do a lot of scientific stuff like matching of microphones and placement. Everything comes down to millimeters and we use the same orchestra if we can, same engineers, to make it all match.”

“Lord of the Rings” filmmakers disagree over which versions of the films should be considered “definitive.” Jamie Selkirk, co-producer and editor, favors the theatrical cuts. “Although I think [the Two Towers extended version] benefited a huge amount by putting some of the extra scenes in it because it developed the characters a bit more,” Selkirk said. “I felt [the Fellowship extended version] had great extra stuff in Hobbiton which developed that whole process, that whole location a bit more. But I think I prefer the feature versions. I think they're a bit more tight and concise.”

Shore favored the extended cuts, and he felt he spoke for the whole crew. “We think the extended DVDs are the ones that will last for generations,” Shore said. “We think that's the great version of ‘Lord of the Rings' so in a way, we want that to be the great thing about the movie. We think the theatrical versions are good, too, but 10 years from now, we think people will watch the extended ones because they're better films.”

With multiple DVD releases of each film, there are a slew of extra documentaries showing every detail of the filmmaking process. Some might say this gives away all the magic, but Jackson disagreed. “Everybody knows that films aren't

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