anything you can imagine

It might sound hyperbolic, but Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings trilogy is something of a minor miracle. Jackson and company were able to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy series into three massive, all-encompassing, emotionally-driven and wholly exciting movies. The original film trilogy would end in massive box office returns, Oscar glory, and an ever-lasting legacy.

Ian Nathan‘s wonderful new book Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-earth takes readers on a journey through the films – from inception, to creation, and beyond (even the less-than-fantastic Hobbit movies are covered). We take a look at the book below, and include an exclusive excerpt.

The making of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is well-documented. The Blu-ray releases of the films, particularly the Extended Editions, provide hours and hours of behind-the-scenes footage, as well as making-of featurettes. With this in mind, it might seem like there’s nothing new to learn about Jackson’s Middle-earth adventures. But Ian Nathan’s Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-earth proves that just isn’t true. For close to 600 pages, Nathan digs deep into the films, revealing fascinating tidbits about the productions. This book truly is the definitive history of the Lord of the Rings films. Nearly every single element of the productions is covered here, from writing, to shooting, to Oscar-night jitters. Nathan’s prose does exactly what you want from a book like this: it makes you feel as if you’re really there, right beside Jackson and company as they pull off the seemingly impossible feat of turning Tolkien’s books into an incredible film series.

It’s difficult to cherry-pick particular information from such a sprawling book, but here is a snippet of interesting details revealed in Nathan’s book. This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, though.

John Boorman Almost Made a Sex-Filled Adaptation 

While Peter Jackson eventually won the battle to bring Lord of the Rings to the screen, he was the last in a long-line of other filmmakers attempting to get productions off the ground. In 1969, United Artists – who owned the Lord of the Rings rights at the time – asked John Boorman, who would eventually make Deliverance and more, to helm an adaptation. Boorman had gone to UA with hopes of turning the Arthurian legend into a big, sweeping film. UA countered by saying that they owned the LOTR rights already, and Boorman should take a crack at that instead. Boorman accepted the challenge, and proceeded to script a significantly different adaptation than the books – an adaptation full of sex, including a moment when “Aragorn revives Éowyn with a magical orgasm.” Needless to say, this adaptation never happened. Boorman would eventually make his Arthurian tale in the form of Excalibur


Tarantino Lord of the Rings

Peter Jackson Was Almost Replaced by Quentin Tarantino  

Quentin Tarantino‘s Lord of the Rings? It could’ve happened! Maybe. The early days of turning Lord of the Rings into a film series saw Jackson frequently butting heads with the infamous Weinstein Brothers, who originally had the rights to distribute. At one point, Harvey Weinstein insisted Jackson turn the three books into one movie, and Jackson said it couldn’t be done – and even if it could, he didn’t want to do it. Apoplectic, Weinstein demanded Jackson do as he say, or he would be fired – and replaced by Tarantino. “You’re either doing this or you’re not. You’re out. And I got Quentin [Tarantino] ready to direct,” Weinstein apparently said. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed, and the distribution rights later ended up in the hands of New Line Cinema. There’s no way to know if Weinstein was being serious about Tarantino taking over, or if this was just a bluff. 


Sean Astin Had Problems With The Return of the King

In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Sean Astin delivered a highly memorable performance as the loyal Samwise Gamgee. Astin considered his Return of the King performance the best work he had ever done – and even saw potential Academy Award recognition in his future. Astin’s happiness with his performance was “confirmed when he had wept his way through a rough cut during his ADR sessions in London.” Afterward, Astin went as far as to tell his agent: “You know what? I think I might get nominated.” Things changed, however, when he saw the final cut, and realized many of his favorite scenes had been cut out of the movie completely. Astin was so bothered by this that he gave an interview saying he felt “only twenty percent of his performance is on the screen.” He immediately regretted the comment, and eventually came around to liking the film. But his reaction might have hurt his award chances – he was not nominated.


vin diesel

Vin Diesel Wanted to Play Aragorn

It’s hard to imagine anyone else other than Viggo Mortensen playing Aragorn, and it’s even harder to picture Vin Diesel in the role. But the actor really wanted to play the part. So much so that he sent in a homemade tape of himself auditioning to play Aragorn. “He was a big fan,” Jackson says in Anything You Can Imagine, “but at that point we didn’t know who he was, and he didn’t fit our concept of the character.” Yeah, I bet. 


Tarantino Star Trek Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart Wanted to Play Aragorn, Too

While he may look to be middle-aged, Aragorn is actually 87-years-old in Lord of the Rings. Still, the character doesn’t look his age, which meant Jackson and company were looking for a younger actor to play the part. But Patrick Stewart didn’t get that memo, and was very interested in playing the ranger. Jackson heard that Stewart wanted a part in the movie, and grew excited. He thought that Stewart was hoping to play Theoden (a part later played by Bernard Hill). With this in mind, Jackson met with Stewart, and during the course of the meeting, it became clear that the part Stewart actually wanted was Aragorn. Awkward. 


Peter Jackson - Amazon Lord of the Rings TV Show

Peter Jackson Prefers the Theatrical Cuts to the Extended Editions 

In my humble opinion, the Blu-ray Extended Editions of the trilogy are the superior versions. I don’t even like to watch the theatrical cuts anymore, because I feel like I’m missing something. Peter Jackson, however, things the theatrical cuts reign supreme. “The unknown factor that you can never really know is would the extended cuts have gone down so well if they were the theatrical releases,” Jackson says, “and you had people sitting in the cinema for three hours forty minutes instead of three hours. Who knows? I don’t really regard them as the definitive versions of the movies, but I’m happy… every time I see a review where someone says, ‘Oh, this is better than the theatrical version.’ I’m happy because they like the DVD version. That’s a nice thing to read. But I’m too close to it. I don’t really know.”

Continue Reading for an Exclusive Excerpt from the Book >>

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