The Face of Evil: It's one of the most closely debated and frequently asked questions surrounding LOTR: How will Sauron be represented? Will he be a burning Red Eye, as Tolkien describes him, or something else?
At last, here's the answer--sort of. We were allowed to "see" Sauron on our last set visit, during a scene from the second age. Sauron, played by a stunt actor, was completely encased in shiny, jagged-steel armor and a ragged, dark blue cape. The armor features a poison-ivy motif. Sauron's helmet, which masks his face completely, is like a sheep's skull with six jagged spikes. Think medieval knight meets kitchen appliance.
We can't tell you what Sauron looks like beneath the armor, nor can we tell you what he looks like in the War of the Ring. But we can tell you he's a terrifying presence.
The Reel Deal: If you post it, they will come--especially if it's a first look at LOTR. The trilogy's two-minute-plus promo reel, which earned rave reviews from ShoWest exhibitors when it debuted in March, caused a Net frenzy when it was finally unveiled for the public last month at www.lordofthe rings.net.
Some 1.6 million users downloaded the clip the first day, shattering the record 1 million mark set by the Phantom Menace clip. Among the clip's highlights: interviews with Elijah Wood and Peter Jackson; Uruk-hai warriors charging through a valley amid erupting volcanos; Aragorn hurling a firebrand; Legolas displaying some nifty swordplay; a thoughtful Gandalf; Boromir gazing at the Ring; and the four Hobbits cowering before the Black Riders.
LOTR publicists won't confirm if or when another trailer will be released, but with more than a year and half to go before the first film's release, it's probably a safe bet this won't be the last preview we'll see.
Liv Under Fire: The LOTR Web clip also included footage of Liv Tyler as warrior princess Arwen, which only fueled the controversy about her role on bulletin boards across the Web.
Plus, sources say Tyler is showing signs of strain after two months of strenuous, nearly continuous filming on the Helm's Deep set. She reportedly freaked out when Orc armies charged her. "She just sat on her horse and screamed," the source said. LOTR publicists dismiss the rumors as anti-Liv gossip from those unhappy with the rewriting of her role, saying Liv's performance is fine and the crew is impressed by her efforts and hard work.
Snow Go: The first unit has relocated to Whakapapa National Park, a volcanic platter surrounded by three mountains. The park, normally a ski field, will be home to cast and crew for the next six weeks as they film all over the mountain ranges (and catch up on a little fun in the snow when ski fields open later this month).
But the New Zealand government denied LOTR helicopter access in the area, meaning the crew must use existing access routes to the mountaintop. Cinematographers are also forbidden to film the peaks of mountaintops, which are of special spiritual significance to the local Maori tribe.
Up from Down Under: In a casting shock, it's been confirmed that Australian actor David Wenham will play the coveted role of Faramir. Wenham, who starred in the Australian film The Boys but is largely unknown elsewhere, won the role against heavy competition from Hollywood golden boy (and studio favorite) Ethan Hawke.
Over and Out: After six weeks in front of a blue screen at Three Foot Six's Wellington studios, Ian Holm has wrapped his scenes as Bilbo Baggins and departed for his next film project...Christopher Lee, who impressed cast and crew with his chilling portrayal of wizard-gone-bad Saruman, has also completed filming. Says the 78-year-old Lee, "I hope I'm still around to see the results."
"These things are like boats with toes." —Ian Holm (Bilbo Baggins), on the challenges of working in hobbit feet
by John Forde