In order to properly shoot Rohan’s memorable charge against the army of Mordor in “The Return of the King”, the film crew had to face an unexpected threat to say the least.
The majestic army of Théoden charging at full gallop against the forces of Mordor at the foot of Minas Tirith: a moment of legend in The Lord of the Rings, which is without a doubt among the most masterful sequences of the whole trilogy.
250 extras riding at the same time, digitally transformed into 6,000 riders (as in the book by JRR Tolkien), and carried by the legendary Howard Shore soundtrack: the show had something to stay in our memories.
And yet …
Even if it’s hard to imagine it today while admiring such an epic sequence, one small detail of a disconcerting triviality gave a lot of headache for Peter Jackson and his team during the filming. In short: it was neither the Orcs nor the Oliphants that posed the greatest threat to the Horsemen of Rohan, but a colony of … rabbits.
Indeed, as the New Zealand director specifies in the audio commentary of the Return of the King, the scene was shot in an area where the burrows of the rodents in question swarm. An element which may seem trivial at first glance, but which represents a real danger for a horse launched at full speed:
“We used vehicles equipped with rear cameras and traveling at high speed”, thus tells Peter Jackson. “We had to prepare a whole field in Twizel to accommodate the horses, because the major risk during a charge, even if it may seem silly, are the rabbit burrows. South Island [de Nouvelle-Zélande] is infested with rabbits and there are burrows everywhere. And the horses are galloping. A horse that puts a hoof in a burrow can injure itself. “
The risk was therefore multiplied by 250, i.e. the number of horses present during the shooting:
“It’s even more dangerous in the middle of a charge, there is a risk of a massacre”, continues the director. “We had to be very vigilant going through the entire field with a fine comb to make sure that the burrows had all been filled in. It is very dangerous to gallop at such speed.”
A little anecdote that allows us to approach the famous scene from a fairly new angle, hoping, moreover, that the rabbits in question have finally been able to take up residence in a quieter country.
(Re) discover all the details hidden in “The Return of the King” …