Lord of the Rings - creating the impossible

Sir Peter Jackson's blockbuster trilogy – The Lord of the Rings – put Wellington on the map as a major film making destination.

Wellington was the production base for all three of the Lord of the Rings films. It was the first time anyone had embarked on such an audacious project: filming three major films simultaneously.

The third and final film – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King – won 11 (11!) Oscars® at the 2004 Academy Awards®. It joined landmark films Ben Hur and Titanic for the most awards won by a film.

For three years, Wellington played host to hobbits, elves, and orcs, to live-action shooting and green screens for the latest special effects.

The visual effects realised at the local facilities in Miramar showed off Wellywood's technical and production capabilities. New techniques were developed for the trilogy in both digital effects and model making.

The filmmakers also had access to incredible locations on their doorstep, filming a number of key scenes in Wellington.

Plus being only 10 minutes from Wellington International Airport, the production could easily film in the stunning landscapes throughout New Zealand and also have ready access to Los Angeles.

On location in Wellington

Production and post-production were based in Miramar, Wellington, where the world-class sister facilities Stone Street Studios, Wētā Workshop, Weta Digital, and Park Road Post Production are based.

  • While these facilities enabled many studio scenes - the Rohan city of Edoras, Helm's Deep, and Fangorn Forest - the diversity of land around Wellington enabled many others to be shot on location but within close proximity of Miramar.
  • Just a few minutes from the CBD, Mount Victoria played host to key scenes including the hobbits hiding from the Nazgûl shortly after leaving Hobbiton.
  • Close-up shots for the Dunharrow (Rohirrim camp) scenes made use of Mount Victoria’s disused quarry.
  • Close to Miramar, on Wellington's south coast, a cliff face in Lyall Bay was also used for Dunharrow, and further along, the coast at Red Rocks is where Frodo, Sam, and Gollum reached the Black Gate.
  • Miramar Peninsula served as the outskirts of Bree, and the Prancing Pony and village of Bree were built around army barracks at Fort Dorset, in Seatoun.
  • Other spectacular sets built around the region included Helms Deep at Dry Creek Quarry just north of Wellington city and Rivendell at Kaitoke Regional Park.
  • To help create the sound of 10,000 chanting Uruk-hai orcs during the Battle of Helm's Deep for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, director Sir Peter Jackson recorded 30,000 fans chanting in the Black Speech (the language of Mordor) during the lunch break of a cricket match at Westpac Stadium.

I feel incredibly proud that this country, and especially this town, is responsible for what we have done

Peter Jackson

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