What's it like for a self-professed "huge fan of special edition DVDs" to be able to craft one of his own? Peter Jackson sits down to discuss the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring. Along the way, the director reveals some of the hard choices he faced, provides new insight into Aragorn and breaks out the lembas bread.
"These scenes enhance the characters and fill in the background of the story."
Was it always part of your master plan to create an extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring for release on DVD?
It was an idea of mine that only developed during post-production on Fellowship, early in 2001. No one else had seen the film edit, and I knew we'd have to cut some perfectly good scenes to get down to a safe length for a theatrical release. I suggested that we put the deleted scenes back into the DVD.
What's your philosophy when it comes to selecting additional scenes for the DVD?
You don't just look at every scene you cut and put it back in. [The extended DVD] should have a decent pace and each scene should achieve something--develop the characters or give you some more information about the narrative. The extended version should be a good alternative to the theatrical cut.
You must be pleased to have some of these scenes back in the mix, because they add even more depth to the film.
They were scenes we felt very conflicted about removing from the theatrical release. You don't absolutely need them, because the theatrical version worked fine without them. But, we think there is a market, especially among the Tolkien fans, who will appreciate having an extended version available. These scenes enhance the characters and fill in the background of the story and Middle-earth.
Most of the extra scenes seem to be character driven, rather than plot based.
They give you a richer sense of the characters, especially for Aragorn's background and for his relationship with Arwen. It gives an audience a richer appreciation of the characters in time for The Two Towers.
What should people be aware of as they sit down to watch the extended version?
I've been having some fun with the extended DVD and breaking some rules as I stitch this epic canvas together.
Can you give some examples?
In the theatrical version of The Fellowship of the Ring, the Fellowship leaving Rivendell is a hard cut. In the extended cut, there's a scene with Aragorn at his mother's memorial statue, and Elrond has a conversation with him about his kingly responsibilities. Then you go to a moment by the gate where Arwen and Aragorn exchange a poignant look.
And do those moments pay off in later films?
When you see The Two Towers, you will see Aragorn and Elrond continuing that conversation. You'll also hear a conversation with Arwen and Aragorn that makes complete sense of that look they gave each other. So, the people who see the extended version will have special knowledge about those scenes.
There are scenes like Galadriel's gift-giving ceremony, which is restored in full and sets up some plot details later. Are you going to revisit these things in The Two Towers?
No. We don't try and double-up on information, regardless of whether a scene appears only in the extended DVD version. So the DVD is your only chance to find out about how Merry and Pippin got their daggers, or what lembas bread is, and so on. I'm enjoying weaving this web!
Can you discuss the "Concerning Hobbits" section in the Prologue? Why was that not included in the theatrical cut of Fellowship?
It was a pacing decision. We started Fellowship with a seven-minute prologue with Galadriel narrating the history of the Ring. And then to go into another prologue on hobbits with Bilbo narrating seemed a little odd. It also seemed like too big a risk, especially as there was so much riding on the success of Fellowship. Some scenes from the hobbit prologue were used in the Hobbiton scenes, though.
When you were compiling the special features for the DVD, how did you strike a balance between revealing your secrets and retaining some mystery?
We have enough confidence in the movies themselves that if you see how a visual effects shot was made, you won't get distracted when you see a similar shot in The Two Towers. Everyone knows that Elijah Wood isn't four feet tall, so there must be a scale trick happening. We don't think showing the tricks will prevent audiences from being caught up in the narrative.
Do you have any favorite special effects that get the featured treatment on the disc?
You'll see a computer program we developed called MASSIVE. It's a way in which every little computer-generated figure has their own brain. They aren't animated in the traditional sense. They mass in armies, we press a button and they go and fight themselves. We used this program to some degree in the Fellowship's Prologue, but in The Two Towers, it really comes full force when 10,000 MASSIVE-driven, computer-generated Uruk-hai are marching down the valley towards the castle at Helm's Deep.
It must be nice to give the production team their 15 minutes of fame.
Absolutely. The movie publicity machine is very director and actor oriented. The press likes to give the director the sole authorship of the film and the stars get the magazine covers. The reality is that people like Richard Taylor, Philippa Boyens and all the different departments, have been working on these films for as long as I did and were critically important in getting it made.
The scope of the project certainly comes across in the behind-the-scenes documentaries and other features on these discs.
A DVD lets us show the army of people and skills coming together, and working hard. When you watch the interviews on the DVD, you can see the passion these people felt about their work, which is reflected in the spirit of the film.