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A Lord of the Rings Review: 10 Obscure Facts That Only Diehard Fans Would Know

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • August 11, 2022

The Rings of Power is Amazon's new Lord of the Rings series premiering on September 22 (watch the trailer here). It's a prequel, set thousands of years earlier than the central story depicted in J.R.R. Tolkien's series and drawing on the elaborate lore that Tolkien built as a backdrop for his stories. So, in preparation to watch, we've been nerding out a bit: rereading the source material, rewatching Peter Jackson's groundbreaking films, and combing the internet for everything we can find about the creation of both. Along the way, we've learned a lot of interesting things that only superfans would know. Here are ten little-known facts we've uncovered.

1. Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf because he didn't understand the script.

Sean Connery was considered for the role of the great wizard, but he eventually turned it down and commented, "I never understood it. I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don't understand it." Connery may have regretted this decision seeing as how his compensation for the job would have included a substantial percentage of the profits of the films which went on to rake in a bazillion dollars.

2. Alternately, actor Christopher Lee had read the LotR books every year for 40 years before landing the role of Saruman.

Talk about a superfan! Lee, who died in 2015, commented that, for decades, he had dreamt of playing Gandalf. But by the time the films were made, he was well into his seventies and too old for the physical demands of the role. Still, he was delighted to be involved at all. And his role as Saruman marked the beginning of a major career revival that continued with George Lucas's Star Wars movies, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, as well as Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy. Lee also had the distinction of being the only cast member to have ever met the esteemed author.

3. Aragorn and Arwen are cousins. (63 times removed!)

Basically Aragorn is a descendant of Elros, Elrond's brother. They were part of a race called "halfelves" who get to choose between elven and human existence. As we all know, Elrond opted for an immortal life in Rivendell, while Elros chose to be human. This is probably why (many, many generations later) Elrond allowed his nephew to move into the elven enclave where Aragorn got very friendly with Elrond's daughter. It's also why Aragorn lives so much longer than other men.

4. Gandalf, Sauron, and the Balrog are all part of the same race.

They may not look anything alike, but they all belong to an ancient race of beings called Maiar, who can change forms. They were created to help the godlike Valar race shape the world. But when the Valar broke up into warring factions, Sauron and the Balrog ended up on the side of evil, while Gandalf stuck with the virtuous Valar.

5. There was no love lost between Tolkien's son and Peter Jackson.

The late Christopher Tolkien, who died in 2020, was quite involved in his father's work having drawn the original maps that appeared in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. He also edited many of his father's posthumously published volumes like The Silmarillion, a collection of tales and legends that sets the stage for all of Tolkien's other writing. Christopher slammed Jackson in the press saying that the movies "eviscerated the book." It has even been suggested that the Tolkien estate nixed Jackson's involvement in the new Amazon series. Nonetheless, Jackson isn't holding any grudges and said, "I'll be watching it."

6. In early drafts of the books, Merry was named Marmaduke.

In a manuscript of The Fellowship of the Ring, Merry (full name Meriadoc Brandybuck) had the name Marmaduke Brandybuck. If that had stuck, what might his nickname have been? Marmy? Duke? Bucky?

7. The Beatles tried to make their own LotR movie.

In his documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, Jackson revealed this tidbit. The fab four read (and loved!) LotR in the late '60s and decided to make a feature film of their own, with Paul McCartney as Frodo, John Lennon as Gollum, George Harrison as Gandalf, and Ringo Starr as Sam. They hoped to get director Stanley Kubrick on board. But ultimately, they couldn't get the rights from Tolkien who wasn't keen on a pop group doing his story. (We just might agree with this decision.)

8. Tolkien didn't choose the title for the final book in the trilogy.

Tolkien felt like The Return of the King revealed too much about the plot of his final book. He wanted to call it The War of the Ring but his publisher prevailed in selecting their preferred title. Which one do you like best?

9. Viggo Mortenson was not Jackson's first choice to play Aragorn.

It's hard to imagine the LotR movies without the wonderful Mortensen as our hero, but he was actually Jackson's fourth choice! After both Nicolas Cage and Daniel Day-Lewis turned down the role, Jackson offered it to Stuart Townsend who accepted. But at only 27, Townsend was eventually deemed too young to play the nearly century-old Númenórean. During pre-production, concerns mounted about his youthful appearance and Jackson ended up replacing him with the 41-year-old Mortensen just one day before production began.

10. The fight scenes in the movies were choreographed by an Olympic fencer.

Bob Anderson, who died in 2012, was a stunt double who specialized in swordplay after having fenced in the Olympics for Britain and served as the country's national fencing coach. He was known for his work in many high-profile films, whether training actors, choreographing fights, or performing the action himself. Some of his most notable gigs include wielding the lightsaber as Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He also choreographed the spectacular fight between Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride. But he was particularly proud of Viggo Mortensen whom he described as "the best swordsman I've ever trained."

How many of these facts did you know? Are you a true fan? In any case, get ready for a new LotR adventure with The Rings of Power.

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