Australian actress Miranda Otto carries a heavy load in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Otto's Eowyn is one of the strongest female characters in the epic, mentally and physically. Here, Otto discusses Eowyn's struggles and triumphs as well as her own adventures in swordplay.
The big action piece in The Return of the King is the Battle at Pelennor Fields. How does it compare to the battle at Helm's Deep in The Two Towers?
This battle's bigger. I believe it was 10,000 Uruk-Hai at Helm's Deep and this is going to be 200,000 new and improved Orcs at Pelennor Fields. The new Orcs are a bit taller and more scary. There are also huge amounts of horses and stuff that we hadn't really seen before. I've seen bits of it, and it's fantastic.
Oh, it was great fun. The guys on the stunt team are really fantastic. It's really funny, because for all the aggression they have to display on screen, they're actually really happy, good- natured people. When we were shooting, they just said to me, 'You know, it doesn't really look like you're slashing him there. You'll really have to hit him.' They had armor, but it still hurts. But they didn't seem to mind, evidently they laughed about it afterwards.
The fight scenes must have been tiring to film.
My costume weighed between eight and 10 kilos (22 lbs) with the chain mail and everything. It's really quite heavy and it really takes the energy out of you. It's like carrying around four heavy shopping bags while doing all this physical activity.
How much preparation did you do beforehand?
I started with a trainer for three weeks before I went to New Zealand just to get some fitness. And then I came to New Zealand three weeks before shooting to work with the stunt guys on choreographing the fight and the basic moves, and to work on horse riding.
In some ways, Eowyn is Tolkien's most realized character. How did you approach her?
I went back to the books continually and photocopied every page she was in. I cut it all out, every line of dialogue or description or movement. Then I did another thing about how other people saw her or felt about her. I just wanted to know everything about how Tolkien perceived her.
Yeah, but she's also a woman, if you know what I mean. Part of me really wanted to show that tough side, but it was important when there are so few female characters to see a femininity and a vulnerability as well.
How would you describe Eowyn's struggle in the third film?
She's had a lot of passion and words and talk and high ideals. Now she'll get to see what she's really made of. She's believed she's capable of certain things and should be valued equally as a man and should be allowed to go war. She also has to face unrequited love and the realization that part of her destiny isn't what she thought. But there are better things ahead for her.
Any extraordinary memories that you'll take away from The Lord of the Rings?
The first day I arrived at Edoras was really memorable. We had an hour and a half drive to the set, and we came over the hill to see the Golden Hall built in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by these white covered mountains, exactly as described in the book. To feel as an actor that you had so much to work with was really exciting. It was like being a child thinking about being a princess and having a palace and then you wake up one morning and there it is.