Jeffrey Overstreet, December 5th 2003
On Wednesday, Dec. 5th, Jeffrey Overstreet joined several other privileged film
critics, including Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films), Andrew Coffin (World), Steve
Beard (Thunderstruck), and Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) to talk with members of
the cast and crew for the year's most ambitious, exhausting, and gloriously realized
You guys were the rock stars of the whole trilogy. That's how [teenagers] look at
Peter Jackson really didn't know how to handle the elves. He certainly didn't know
about Arwen, or what they were going to do with [her character.]
As far as Legolas goes, I did all this work on the physicality. At the beginning we
did all of this movement training.
It's hard to find 'the look' for them.
Tolkien created them as red-blooded fighting machines as well as angelic spirits
that are god-like, androgynous, zen-like warriors. So I certainly didn't want
Legolas to be like a fairy at the bottom of a garden.
So, Peter wasn't really sure. As the film went on, in terms of 'Leggy,'.
They found something more realistic. Originally, the elves were really weird.
They were really fairy-ish.
They were almost like aliens.
They were very pretty and. not real. But you wanted them to be real and accessible
and cool. And Pete got that. All that stuff with Leggy running up on top of the cave
troll and sliding down the stairs on an Uruk-hai shield in the second movie, and
hopping onto the horse, and, obviously, that oliphaunt scene. That was all Pete,
because he just started to get it.
You don't want them to look too precious, you know?
The way he shot Liv was particular. Arwen and Galadriel were shot very differently
than Miranda Otto's character [Eowyn], who was one of the humans. 'Leggy' fell in
with the Fellowship. [The elves all had] a kind of mysticism.
They kind of airbrushed a glow around us.
There are moments in the movie where, watching it with 'Hair and Makeup' [crew], and
with Pete and Fran, they cringe at the look of the elves . [regarding their] hair
and makeup and costumes. for Elrond. for all of us that were elves. We were trying
to figure out the look. There was a time we were doing something weird with the
eyebrows. We looked like Spock!
Bloom: (to Tyler):
So many of those elven extras just got sliced [out], didn't they? You remember in
Rivendell. there were hundreds of extras in Rivendell, because Rivendell is the
place of the elves, and they were all peppered all over the place. all of these
It looked a bit weird.
They're sort of an unusual race. I remember having to go out and teach them how to
walk. I'd been working on the movement, but I hadn't even been [filmed] yet. I got a
call from Pete, and he said, would I go down to the set and teach these guys how I
was walking? Because they were all just prancing through the forest.
You know how with ballet dancers, you can't help but marvel at their physicality.
the way their legs are ripped. They can move. They've got this composure, like
gymnasts. They've got that kind of strength that comes from the core. That was what
we were trying to go with with the elves. Although they're incredibly graceful,
they've got that kind of strength that you just marvel [at].
As you probably know, Tolkien believed that humankind is ultimately unable to resist
the forces of evil. And yet there is hope in the story, suggested by these hints of
a higher power, a higher author of the story. The elves are portrayed as having a
more significant connection to that power. to that otherworldly reality that he
believed in. Does that belief, that suggestion of a higher influence, resonate with
you and your beliefs regarding where we are in the world today and the hope that we
might have? Did you think about that sort of issue while you were playing the elves?
I think as you get older, you tend to lose that voice that you have when you are a
child. I don't know that 'God' is the right word. When you're younger you fell more
connected. I think it's so easy to lose that as you get older. I try really hard in
my life to be connected to myself, and to listen to my own voice of reason, in a
How do you go about that?
I don't know. I don't know how to answer that.
Press (to Tyler):
How much has your dad been a voice of reason for you?
[Note: Tyler's father is Steven Tyler, the lead singer of the rock band Aerosmith.]
I don't always listen to my dad! [laughing] I love him, but. I've learned more, in
regard to all that stuff, from my mother. She really taught me. At a very young age,
she was my manager. She really wizened me up and protected me. I really grew up
quite quickly and I got the chance to see the mistakes that people had made. In a
way, I wanted to do everything to not make those mistakes myself. And now that I'm
an adult, I've relaxed about that, and I [can say] "It's okay to make mistakes."
During the whole course of the experience of The Lord of the Rings, did you learn a
life lesson that you think would be valuable to pass on to teenagers today?
[smiling at Tyler] We'll probably answer the same thing.
[smiling back] Don't steal mine. I'll kill you.
[laughter all around the table]
(to the press) Well, that's one thing we didn't learn!!
(to Tyler) You answer first. You're a lady.
Reflecting back, I really learned a lot about patience and trust.
It was such a long experience. So much of it was. it was great material, but
sometimes, it wasn't clear. Sometimes, we would shoot a scene, and then they would
change it, and shoot a scene with other characters and give them those same words. I
learned how to be patient in that and to trust Peter. to give over to the experience
of working on this movie, and to know that he would use the best material and do
what was right.
It's hard to always trust somebody that much. I think that's something that can be
relevant in school with a teacher. You sort of think you have all the answers
I felt, a couple of times, that I made mistakes, and I wish I had listened to Peter
more. This has definitely made me more aware of that in myself.
There are so many themes and messages that run through this movie. Friendship, the
fellowship of strangers, mixed races, putting aside their differences to come
together and make a difference. Legolas and Gimli couldn't be further apart, but
then they say, "What about standing side by side with a friend?" There's something
about having the passion, the wisdom, and the courage to live life with integrity.
All of those characters in The Lord of the Rings . not one of them doesn't act with
integrity. The message to the kids. one of the messages. is one of courage and
humility and integrity.
And that's the message of the film as well, that came down from the top from Peter.
It was a real ensemble. There were no egos. We were all treated very much the same.
We all went into it with that energy. That's a good message for kids, isn't it?
Had you all read the books before? How much did you let that inform what you did?
It was a great tool for us. Legolas is a character who speaks through action.
Actions speak louder than words. He's a very strong presence within the book, but
it's in what he does as opposed to what he says. I just had this overwhelming
feeling that wherever he was, you could feel his presence and there was a watchful
eye to make sure things turned out alright. He wasn't going to let anything slip
through the net.
He was the protector.
We all used the book as a way of finding the world of The Lord of the Rings. Bits
from the book came out, and others went in. But it was all to forward the movie and
make it accessible for a movie audience today.
Part of the reason I ask that question is that not only is the book about the
fantasy of The Lord of the Rings, but there there is the whole religious worldview
behind it. Did you connect with that? Did you think about that as you were trying to
realize your character?
In terms of the religious elements? In terms of that, we were all very much aware of
the energy and the spirit in which Tolkien had created this story and these books.
How would you define that? How would you describe that spirit?
It's a very positive. I answered that in an earlier question. There's a group of
strangers, of mixed races, putting aside all of their beliefs, all of their
differences, to come together. in terms of the wisdom that is within that alone, I
think there is a great message.
And in New Zealand, for us, which is very much outwardly a sort of classless society
in many respects. we were all treated with equality. That had a big influence on us.
And nature. So much of this movie is about the landscape, and about the way that it
is shot. We were all affected by the landscape around us. The environment is very
important to us now. Future Forest which is a company. I know Dom's wearing the
t-shirt. that is about being "carbon neutral." Coldplay, and a lot of musicians and
actors are coming together to be involved in this company [that suggests] if you
drive a big car or fly around the world in airplanes, you can plant enough trees to
make what you do to negatively impact the world cancel out. so that you're carbon
neutral. That's a great message as well.