Peter Jackson, the director of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, used a little trick to make Gandalf appear taller on screen than the hobbit Frodo Baggins.
At the start of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf arrives in the Shire with his cart filled with fireworks and crosses Frodo in the middle of nature. Immediately, the difference in size between the two characters is obvious to the viewer. In the audio commentary for the long version of the film, lhe director Peter Jackson unveils the little trick that allows you to see nothing but fire, and it’s very clever!
“The meeting scene at the start was crucial, because it’s the first time you’ve seen the size of a hobbit compared to that of a human like Gandalf.”, says the New Zealand filmmaker. “The trick is very simple, no need to use special effects.”
“Our Gandalf is called Paul and he is over 2m30, and Frodo is called Kiran and he is 1m20”Jackson continues. “We see at one point a shot where Ian is holding Kiran in his arms, then another with Paul hugging Elijah. It is therefore by playing with the real actors and their backings that we were able to create this illusion. Nothing’s easier !”
The director then evokes the problems of scale during the scene, which follows shortly after, between Frodo and Bilbo in Cul-de-Sac. “They were solved by complicated means”, he says. “I wanted to spend some time on the precise shot where Ian McKellen and Ian Holm are together in the lobby. Ian was filmed separately against a blue background.”
“The hardest part was when Bilbo took the hat. It took hats, sticks of different sizes before putting everything together on the computer.”, he continues. “If we bothered to shoot these complicated shots, the size issue would be settled for the rest of the film.”
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