Rendering Gollum would often take six hours for one shot, so WETA would leave the shot to render over night and check the results in the morning. Every now and again a computer glitch would occur, for instance, one morning the team woke up to find every hair on Gollum's head standing upright in a sort of punk looking afro, or his eyes would pop in and out of his head as he spoke.
As the Orcs have black blood, it was only natural that the inside of their mouths should not be pink but black as well. To achieve this, the Orc actors had to swill a liquorice-based mouthwash prior to each of their scenes.
John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) had lost the tip of his left middle finger in a farm accident when he was younger, so special prosthetic fingertips were made from a cast of his right middle finger. During shooting he decided to pull a prank on Peter Jackson. He cut the tip off the prosthetic finger and filled it with fake blood, then went up to Jackson and said "boss, I had an accident."
When Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are in Osgiliath, Sam says, "By rights, we shouldn't even be here." This was a nod to the deviation the screenplay had taken from the book's storyline. In the book, Sam and Frodo never passed through Osgiliath at all.
When Legolas is talking to Aragorn before the Battle of Helm's Deep, he refers to 300 against 10,000. It is a reference to Thermopolyae where 300 Spartans killed 10,000 Persians. David Wenham would later go on to star in the action biopic 300 (2006) about the event.
Andy Serkis was pitched the role of Gollum by his agent, who rang him up and asked him if he wanted to do three weeks' voiceover work in New Zealand. However, Peter Jackson was so blown away by Serkis' audition that he decided to have him perform the movements for Gollum as well.
Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan spent so much time up the tree (TreeBeard) during the making of the the film that they spent their time between takes writing a screenplay. Additionally, it was so difficult to get up and down to their "perches" that they were left there during breaks while the rest of the crew went off to eat, though someone was kind enough to pass theirs up to them.
The Gollum that is briefly glimpsed in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) is an entirely different creation than the one that appears in this film. It was during the filming of the second movie that Peter Jackson realized that Andy Serkis' physical performance would have to be employed in the digital creation of Gollum. So Weta Digital had to alter the design of one of the lead characters in the film, scanning Serkis' face so that they would be able to incorporate some of his facial characteristics (the fact that Jackson had also filmed a flashback to be included in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) with Serkis playing the original Smeagol only cemented this decision). This ultimately meant, however, that Weta Digital had only 2-1/2 months to redo two years' work. Serkis himself thought that the final result looked like a combination of his father and his newborn baby.
Peter Jackson and producer Barrie M. Osborne actively campaigned for Andy Serkis to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Gollum. Academy regulations, however, forbid an actor to be nominated when he is not physically to be seen on screen, despite Serkis' active input into the role.
Originally Liv Tyler's character Arwen (and love interest for Aragorn) was to be included in the fighting force of Elves who join the men in the battle of Helms Deep. This was a relic of the script treatment for Miramax, which condensed all three books into two films, and met with fan fury on the internet with its free-and-easy approach to J.R.R. Tolkien's work. Tyler had even trained with swordfighters in preparation for her scenes, when the decision to remove her was made by the writers, who realized that this approach wasn't working. Arwen, who doesn't appear in the book of "The Two Towers", was ultimately reworked into the story by lifting elements from the Appendices at the back of the novel, utilizing flashbacks to her and Aragorn at Rivendell. It took the writers about a year to come up with this solution.
The location for Edoras was in the midst of a national park. The Conservation Society of New Zealand gave them permission to film there on the proviso that they left it in exactly the same condition that they found it. This meant lifting most of the natural vegetation and grasses up and storing them in a purpose-built nursery, as filming in the location would last approximately 18 months.
The Orc battle cries for the Helm's Deep battle sequence were provided by a stadium of 25,000 cricket fans, who screamed the war chants, spelled out on the Diamond Vision screen, with Peter Jackson himself leading the crowd.
Gollum/Smeagol is a CGI character, but Peter Jackson wanted the character to be performer-oriented, so actor Andy Serkis, the voice of Gollum, played the character in a motion capture suit. Serkis also played scenes with Elijah Wood (Frodo) and Sean Astin (Sam) on set to give the actors a focal point. On those occasions when Serkis was actually in shot Gollum was composited over him in post production.
On the wall of Helm's Deep during the battle, a one-eyed warrior turns to the camera, revealing his scarred empty socket. The performer who played him showed up as an extra, wearing an eye patch; director Peter Jackson politely asked to see what was under the patch, and then inquired if the gentleman would be interested in appearing in the film sans eye patch. The gentleman was reluctant at first and quite self-conscious, but afterward said the experience had made him more comfortable with his condition.
In the Extended Edition, Pippin tells Merry about a dream he had in which they smoked a large amount of pipeweed, and then Merry got sick. During filming, Dominic Monaghan, who played Merry, did indeed get sick when he tried to smoke.
Viggo Mortensen broke two toes while kicking the steel helmet by the orc pyre, and that take is the one that actually appears in the movie. Peter Jackson said that he was really impressed with the shout of pain Aragorn cried out for the fate of the two hobbits, realizing only later that it was real pain for his toes. He was also impressed by the fact that Mortensen continued acting even while so seriously injured. Mortensen later remarked that the only reason it was even mentioned on the DVD release was because he was an actor and that the stunt crew were injured far worse and pushed through it.
To increase the number of Rohirrim riders, many of the "men" were actually women with beards glued on. Peter Jackson and others have noted that in many cases they were more skilled riders than the men.
Gollum's pupils signal his frame of mind. "Treacherous Gollum" has narrow pupils; "friendly Gollum" has slightly wider pupils. This is most obvious in the scene when the two sides of his personality struggle with each other.
Sean Bean had finished shooting his scenes and had returned to England, when he was asked to return to New Zealand to film an elaborate flashback scene. Unfortunately, this scene did not make it into the theatrical cut of the movie, although it is included in the Extended Edition.
When Merry and Pippin are being carried off on the back of the Uruk'hai, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan are in reality being carried on the backs of two stuntmen wearing oversized costumes and a false enormous head to give the impression of height disparity.
When Miranda Otto arrived on set, she was introduced first to the people she'd be working with the most. When she met Viggo Mortensen, she commented about her character falling in love with his: "It's going to be SO easy to fall in love with this man!"
Sean Astin suffered two injuries in rapid succession. First, he impaled his foot on a piece of glass underwater, while filming the scene in which Sam rushed out to Frodo's boat. Literally the day after that scene wrapped, he filmed the scene in this film where Gollum leads Frodo and Sam to the Black Gate. During that scene, Gollum grabs Frodo and Sam to stop them from rushing towards the Gate. Andy Serkis grabbed Astin by the hair, and pulled so hard that it yanked the wig right off his head, causing him considerable pain.
In each film in the trilogy, the subtitle of the film is incorporated as dialogue. In this instance- Saruman: "Who now has the strength to stand against the armies of Isengard and Mordor, and the union of the two towers?"
In the wide shots of Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli running after the Orcs, all three performers are running injured. Orlando Bloom had a couple of broken ribs (from a fall off a horse); Viggo Mortensen had a broken toe (from kicking the helmet in the Orcs funeral pyre scene); and Brett Beattie (Gimli's stunt double) had a knee injury. Peter Jackson said that all three were very dedicated and continued to film the scene, often yelling "ouch" or "ow" after "cut" was called.
Forced perspective was just one of the tricks used on the Helm's Deep "bigiature" to make it look like the real thing. Parts of the set that were far away from camera were built to a smaller scale, to make them look further away. The shots were also always made in smoke to increase the sense of atmospheric distance. During the design process, parts of the model were filled with Action Man dolls to provide a scale reference.
When arriving upon the set to film the scene in which Andy Serkis (Gollum) has to catch a fish, they discovered that it had snowed overnight. Peter Jackson had the snow cleared on the set (which included defrosting the river as well as the land surrounding it) by 1:00 PM.
The role of Eowyn, the White Lady of Rohan, was first offered to Irish actress Alison Doody in December 1999, who had to decline the part because she had just given birth to her second daughter. Miranda Otto then auditioned for the same role.
The Warg attack against the Rohirrim was originally supposed to be set at night, and at Edoras. After working on the Edoras set during the day, Peter Jackson decided that it was too windy and too cold to bring cast and crew back for a night scene, so the scene was re-written to happen during daylight.
The Main Door of Helm's Deep was built so heavily and so well that the real battering ram that was built to knock down the gates failed to do so until the door was weakened. Someone had built the door a little bit too well and Peter Jackson can heard on the Extended Edition DVD commenting that if they had to defend a castle, he would want the WETA workshop guys to build the door.
Between takes, Brad Dourif stayed in character by continuing to speak with an English accent until all his footage had been completed. This was so convincing that, at the end, when he spoke with his normal voice again, Bernard Hill thought that his English accent was real and that his American accent must be fake.
For one shot where Gollum is crawling and splashing down a river after a fish, Andy Serkis was actually in the water. It had been snowing the previous night, and the snow had melted, but the water was still freezing cold. Peter Jackson was worried that Serkis would forget about the cliff due to the cold and would fall off so he put two crew members near the edge to stop him in the event that he got too close.
There were so many extras used in the sequences at Helms Deep, and the filming went on for so many months that almost all the extras and principal actors got t-shirts reading "I survived Helms Deep". There were so many of these shirts that extras would often meet other extras in New Zealand's main cities because they would recognize the shirts.
General release prints of the film were made from a digital master that has been digitally noise and grain reduced. As a result there is less grain but also digital noise reduction artifacts in the form of smearing of textures (the worst case is in a shot shortly after Aragorn falls off the cliff).
The scene where Gamling (Bruce Hopkins) and Theoden (Bernard Hill) get ready for the battle (speech from Gamling), Hopkins' sons, Tom Hopkins and Joe Hopkins, are sitting at the entrance of the room, their backs to the camera, as refugees.
EASTER EGG: In the extended DVD version on the first movie disc, go to chapter 29-30 under the scene selection. Press down under chapter 30 and a gold ring will appear. It's a hidden extra of the MTV awards for Andy Serkis receiving best virtual performance.
The scene with the Uruk-hai before the Battle for Helms Deep starts, where they stomp their spears into the ground, was inspired by the same act the stuntmen would do between takes to pass time. After seeing it, Peter Jackson liked it, and put it in the movie.
The dawn shot of Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas pursuing the orcs came about when Viggo Mortensen persuaded the second unit team to camp out on location. Mortenson's efforts in organizing the overnight trip were so effective that actors and crew from the other film units, including Miranda Otto, came out to join him.
Viggo Mortensen broke a tooth during the shoot. He immediately wanted to continue filming and requested super glue to reattach the broken tooth so he could use the pain for his character. Producer Barrie M. Osborne told him that they were taking him to a dentist and that they would finish filming afterwards.
A new technique for creating realistic translucent materials was developed for the creation of Gollum. The so-called technique called "subsurface scattering", allowed the 3D-artists at Weta Digital, to simulate light casting into objects and bouncing around underneath the surface and casted back out again. This has been used ever since in the vfx production to create realistic skin.
Bernard Hill would spend up to nine hours in make-up to become the aged Theoden. He wore contact lenses to give his eyes the milky look that very old people can have, but it wasn't sufficiently successful so his eyes were later tinkered with digitally.
One time while Bernard Hill was in England, a woman came up to him and told him about how one of her children had died shortly before then, and that parents shouldn't have to bury their child. His confrontation with this woman affected him so much that he asked to have a line put in about it.
About 200-300 horses were used in the trilogy. Because most of the scenes involving horses are intense battle scenes where the horses could likely be harmed, a horse and rider were fitted with the same type of suit that Andy Serkis wore for his role, and were filmed in the studio doing typical "battle" things, like galloping and rearing up, so the footage could be inserted digitally into the battle scenes. In that way, no horses were hurt.
Peter Jackson's first two choices for the role of Aragorn were Daniel Day-Lewis and Russell Crowe. Crowe was excited about the prospect of being involved with a major motion picture in New Zealand, but couldn't commit due to scheduling conflicts in America.
When Grima Wormtongue sees Saruman's army of 10,000, he is so shocked that a tear falls from one of his eyes. This wasn't in the script; it's something that Brad Dourif can do at will, and he and the filmmakers decided that it would work well for the scene.
The eponymous Two Towers in the book are the Tower of Orthanc in the city of Isengard and the Tower of the Moon in the enemy-occupied city of Minas Morgul. However, the eponymous Two Towers in the movie are the Tower of Orthanc and the Barad-dur (the Dark Tower) in Mordor.
Although Wargs in the novel are described merely as looking like wolves, the filmmakers decided to add in elements of hyenas (which are not members of the wolf/dog family) to their build, to create a uniquely fearsome appearance.
When Aragorn kicks the helmet after he thinks Merry and Pippin are dead he lets out a scream. This scream is genuine. Peter Jackson wanted Viggo Mortensen to kick the helmet as close to the camera as possible, but on the fourth attempt he breaks two toes. He lets out the scream in response to the pain but doesn't tell them to cut, so the scream you hear is real.
Originally, while Faramir's group is approaching Osgilliath, the city of Minas Tirith would have been just visible in the background (lying against the rocks in the far distance). However, Peter Jackson was afraid that people would confuse it with Helms Deep, and had the effect removed from the theatrical version. He did include it in the Extended Edition, though.
During one of the takes for the scene in which Gollum (Andy Serkis) pulls Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) back before they run towards the Black Gate, Serkis accidentally pulled Astin's wig off his head. Astin immediately stormed off the set in considerable pain to get the wig re-attached. Serkis thought Astin was angry with him and became angry in response. Later that day they both made up and Astin later remarked that "it was embarrassing" that the incident would be discussed on the DVD release.
The sounds of the Orcs were in part recordings of elephant seal pups at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA, a marine mammal hospital that rescues, rehabilitates and releases sick and injured seals, sea lions, whales, and dolphins.
Early in pre-production Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke were set to play Eowyn and Faramir. Scheduling conflicts prevented this, but it meant that these two parts were finally cast relatively late into production.
Prior to Emiliana Torrini, Björk was approached several times to both co-write and sing "Gollum's Song". She refused them all due to her pregnancy. Although she was not officially involved, producers did pick three artists with a similar sound, and asked her to choose. Her pick didn't work out, and after approaching her one final time to sing, the song went to Torrini.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The first appearance of the White Wizard in Fangorn Forest was made intentionally confusing, by compositing the eyes of Christopher Lee into the face of Ian McKellen; the voices of both actors were also mixed in alternating intensity to add to the confusion.
It was clear to the writers from the very beginning that the entire final sequence of the novel (Frodo and Sam's encounter with Shelob) would be part of the third film, not this one. Also, the confrontation with a defeated Saruman at Isengard was deemed to be too anti-climactic, and was therefore moved to the third film as well. This tactical move meant the battle for Helm's Deep became this film's natural climax.
Another problem faced by the writers was that - unlike "The Fellowship of the Ring" - no major characters die in the course of "The Two Towers", something which could have easily provided them with an emotional climax.
During one take while filming the scene when Aragorn is floating down the river, Viggo Mortensen was dragged under water for many seconds. He managed to kick himself back up off a rock, perhaps saving his life. A safety team then rescued him and took him to shore.
In the scene where Aragorn has washed up on the shore of the river that he fell in when the Warg dragged him off the cliff and Arwen comes to him in a dream to revive him, the dialogue was originally in English. But Liv Tyler was entranced by the Elvish language, and since both characters and actors knew how to speak it, she talked Peter Jackson into letting them translate the script for that scene. Everyone agreed that it turned out much better her way than the way it had been originally planned.
Gandalf's line near the end declaring that "The Battle of Helm's Deep is over; the Battle of Middle Earth is about to begin" is paraphrased from part of one of Winston Churchill's most famous speeches of the Second World War, of June 18th 1940: "...the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin."
Though this is the film that carries the title of the middle volume, scenes from the book "The Two Towers" are actually spread across all three films. Boromir's death scene and funeral, and the beginning of Aragorn's pursuit of the Orcs, made up the first chapter of the book, but were used at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). Scenes after the Battle of the Hornburg (Helm's Deep), up to the part where Gandalf sets out with Pippin towards Minas Tirith, were moved to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), as were all scenes involving Frodo and Sam up to the part where Frodo is captured by Orcs.
Peter Jackson felt that in the book, Faramir's casual refusal to seek the Ring was anticlimactic, and inconsistent with the Ring's maddening temptation of other characters such as the Nazgul, Gollum, and Boromir. For this reason he added the now-controversial subplot involving Faramir's hubris and the captivity of Frodo and Sam in Osgiliath.