Ossus Library Index Non-Fiction Index


By Brian Sibley (2001, Harper Collins)

A behind-the-scenes look at the cast, and methods of adapting The Lord of the Rings to the movie screen.



3 stars

Read July 1st to 30th, 2002  
    Hit-and-miss, but I suppose that's to be expected.

I've always enjoyed behind-the-scenes looks at movies, but that's a difficult thing in a book. It's a difficult thing even for a video special, since it has to predict what people will want to see. And so it will rarely impress everybody at all times.

For me, the driest part of the book comes in introducing the cast. All of the major cast members are given a one-page biography, and this necessitates listing their filmography, as well, or at least a selected chunk of it. The best parts of these mini-biographies come in the form of small quotes from the actors, their reactions and ambitions for the character they play in up to three movies.

I was awe-struck concerning some other events, though. I can't believe they used the actors themselves, along with stunt doubles, horse doubles, and little-people doubles for the hobbits. I still don't understand why they didn't hire little-people for the roles. There are some terrific actors that would have shined in these roles, and made life easier for the production team. Instead, they had to have, for example, a set of clothing for each of these doubles, to scale!

The second half of the book is divided into short chapters, but they rarely stick to a topic. I could have used more on models and tricks than descriptions of CG creature sizes. Learning about the artists was neat, but some of the facts involving Tolkien's world were just plain wrong.

But there were some really neat stories included here, which were the best moments. They, too, however, were too short. I love stories from the set, and probably could have used a whole book on them! I was intrigued about another actor being hired to play Aragorn, but who left after a day of filming. Who, and why? I was also amazed that so few of the cast members had actually read the trilogy. But I suppose that can be expected, since they are busy being actors, reading scripts, and so on.

The book had some nice pictures, but they could have been better. I am at a loss to explain the two page spreads of things like the Uruk-hai soldier. There were plenty of really cool pictures from the movie, however. I just wanted more!

Talk of adapting the book was kept short, unfortunately. I would have liked to know why certain scenes were cut. In dealing with this, we hear nothing about Tom Bombadil, for example. I certainly understand that some of it has to be random, simply because of time-constraints. The beginning of the Lord of the Rings is definitely slow-moving, when you consider the speed of the rest of the book.

And, of course, the book has to be necessarily vague about The Two Towers and Return of the King. I am interested to learn that Gollum will be completely computer generated. But I wonder why that decision was made. Surely he could have been an actor? This is an unfortunate but understandable shortcoming of the book, but I expect to see a second and third editions in the next couple of years, as the movies are released.


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