WELLINGTON, New Zealand –Viggo Mortensen has 30 minutes left before he has to return to the set to reshoot a scene for “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” which will be in theaters next month. Dressed in character as Aragorn, he is muddied, tired and looking forward to digging into the food he’s carrying on a tray. But first, he searches the make-shift cafeteria for his son Henry.
As he walks past the cast and crew, bystanders aren’t sure whether to look away or bow to the oddly regal actor.
Though the entire trilogy was filmed almost two years ago, Mortensen had little problems getting back into character for a few pickup scenes over the summer.
“It’s pretty easy to step back into character since it’s the same cast and crew and everything,” he says. “Plus, when you do something for that long, it’s pretty easy for it to all come back to you.”
The next evening, at a screening for the 3-1/2-hour extended version of “The Lord of Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”–out today on DVD–the handsome actor looks more modern, but still not of this decade. He has on faded jeans, a matching jean jacket, a floppy “Billy Jack” hat and no shoes, though it is 40 degrees outside. Along with fellow cast members Ian McKellen and John Rhys-Davies and director Peter Jackson, Mortensen sees how the film flows with the 30 extra minutes of footage.
For Mortensen, that half hour is integral to the storytelling.
“I wish this is how they had released the film originally,” he says. “It just makes so much more sense with the extra footage. I don’t think it makes the movie feel any longer, really, because it explains things so well. People who read the book will know why so-and-so speaks Elvish and what the relationship is to all the characters and that Sam is in a different Hobbit class than Frodo (Elijah Wood). But for others who just wanted to see a good movie, there were some holes that the extended version clears up.”
In the theatrical release, we see Galadriel bestow a magic vial (and a kiss) to Frodo, which shows up later in the film. But we’re left wondering where the Fellowship obtained the cloaks, boats, jewelry, weapons, magical rope and food. The extended version shows the entire gift-giving scene, which clarifies things for the viewer.
Aragorn’s own history is better explained as he visits his mother’s grave in Rivendell. He also sings an Elvish ballad that sets up the love story between him and Arwen.
Though Arwen is barely mentioned in the first book, she shows major Middle-earth grrrl power rescuing Frodo. This is fine with Liv Tyler, who portrays her. Nursing a cold, she searches for a cup of tea before heading back to the hotel.
“I haven’t had a chance to see this extended version yet and will catch it on DVD like everyone else,” Tyler says. “I’m curious to see how different the story is with the extra scenes, too. I think it’ll be perfect for a cold night in.”
And this, filmmakers say, is why they have high hopes for this extended DVD, which follows the August release of the original theatrical version on DVD.
“People pace themselves for watching a film differently when they’re in a theater than at home,” executive producer Mark Ordesky says. “That’s why we decided to make the theatrical version shorter. Peter chose everything for the extended cut, and it turned out great. He was right–everything makes so much sense this way.”
* Liv Tyler, who plays Aragorn’s love interest Arwen, doesn’t collect “Lord of the Rings” merchandise. She opts instead for “Star Wars” and Smurfs memorabilia.
* Director Peter Jackson’s favorite film in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is the last: next year’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” which he’s already filmed.
* Tyler’s couture gowns cost as much as $25,000.
* Jackson’s two young children appear as Hobbits in “The Fellowship of the Ring.”
* The principal actors went through 135 wigs.
* New Line is considering giving a theatrical release to the expanded film on this DVD–after the third installment of the trilogy makes it big-screen debut next June.
Now, Even Longer!
If you thought the 3-hour film version was too long and drawn out, then this extended feature will just be torture. But if you’re one of the many fans who were mesmerized by the gorgeous sets, swashbuckling action and, of course, fantasy storyline, you’ll barely notice that this version lasts half an hour longer.
Seamlessly edited into to the original theatrical release, the additions range from the minute (Hobbits dancing atop a bar) to the obvious (Bilbo Baggins’ journal entry, which serves as a mini history of the Hobbits). Because of its length, the movie is divided onto two DVDs, which takes away from the movie theater experience of sitting all the way through it. But, on the other hand, it also serves as a nice time to take a bathroom and snack break.
As for the two disks of extras, there’s plenty on there to keep any Ring geek in viewing heaven. The documentary about how difficult it was segueing from book to film is a bore. But the sections devoted to building Middle-earth are fascinating, as is the “Day in the Life of a Hobbit” vignette.
4 stars; New Line Home Entertainment, $39.99