Twenty years ago Sunday — December 19, 2021 — director Peter Jackson brought us the first installment of the eagerly anticipated Lord of the Rings trilogy, as The Fellowship of the Ring opened in the U.S.  It set global box office records when it first opened, and today, following re-releases, it’s estimated to have grossed just under $900 million worldwide.

Here are a few fascinating facts about this epic film:

David Bowie was considered for the role of Elrond, the Elven-king of Rivendell, but his past role as the Goblin King in the movie Labyrinth apparently torpedoed his chances.  The role went to Hugo Weaving.

Jake Gyllenhaal auditioned — very unsuccessfully — for the role of Frodo, because he didn’t know he was supposed to do the part with a British accent. Elijah Wood won the role. 

–Others who were considered for various roles: Vin Diesel, Russell Crowe, Uma Thurman and Liam Neeson.

–Before filming started in October of 1999, the main stars trained for six weeks in sword fighting and horse riding, and learned how to pronounce author J.R.R. Tolkien‘s words properly.  The cast ended up feeling so bonded that at the end of the shoot, they all got matching tattoos: the word “nine” in Elvish, for the nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring.

–The script was constantly being revised — so often, the actors sometimes didn’t have time to learn their lines. In the Council of Elrond scene where Sean Bean‘s Boromir makes his famous “one does not simply walk into Mordor” speech, he’s seen looking down because the script was taped to his knee.

–In 2002, The Fellowship of the Ring was nominated for 13 Oscars and won four, for Cinematography, Visual Effects, Makeup and Original Score. The second installment, The Two Towers, won two Oscars. The third installment, 2003’s The Return of the King, won all 11 Oscars for which it was nominated, including Best Picture.

–This year, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

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