Were ‘The Lord of the Rings’ orcs inspired by Harvey Weinstein?
We’re coming up on the twenty-year anniversary from the release date of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the first film of the J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired trilogy that would go on to become one of the most beloved series of films of all time. Lord of the Rings of course became a cultural phenomenon that paved the way for many fantasy epics, including the likes of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Today, as we reflect on The Lord of the Rings and all of its massive achievements, from the music, to the acting, to the costumes and makeup, we can’t help but to think about those disgusting orcs, the sort of gangly and grotesque trolls that did much of the violent bidding for the dark lord Sauron as well as the white wizard Saruman. But were these creatures designed to embody the once famed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein?
Earlier this week, actor Elijah Wood, who played the role of Frodo Baggins in the trilogy stopped by Dax Shepard’s The Armchair Expert podcast, where the pair discussed the trilogy in full detail, even to the point where they brought up how Miramax, once ran by Weinstein, put roadblocks in front of Jackson and his production team so that it would be difficult to shop the trilogy elsewhere. Just how did Jackson retaliate? Let’s see.
Weinstein the orc
Miramax acquired the rights to the J.R.R. Tolkien properties in the mid-1990s, but once Peter Jackson and producer Fran Walsh realized that the project was never going to get off the ground, they asked Weinstein if they could shop Lord of the Rings around other studios, which it sounds like Weinstein wasn’t the biggest fan of.
“And Miramax said, ‘We will only give it back to you in turnaround, but two things have to happen. One: You have to go get it set up this weekend. And two: Whoever agrees has to agree to make all three at once,’” Shepard said, relating the story as best he knew it, which Wood said was accurate.
Lucky for Peter Jackson, New Line Cinema backed the visionary director and his creative endeavors, understanding his grand scheme to make all three books into a proper trilogy, whereas most studios required Jackson to tell The Lord of the Rings in one story, or movie. However, Wood dropped a funny story to highlight how Jackson never quite forgot how difficult a time Weinstein gave him.
“It’s funny, this was recently spoken about because Dom (Monaghan) and Bill (Boyd, who played Hobbits Merry and Pippin in the trilogy) have a podcast, The Friendship Onion. They were talking to Sean Astin (Samwise) about his first memory of getting to New Zealand,” recalled Wood. “He had seen these orc masks. And one of the orc masks — and I remember this vividly — was designed to look like Harvey Weinstein as a sort of a f$%& you.”
Wood added, while all three were laughing at the reveal, “I think that is OK to talk about now, the guy is fucking incarcerated. f%&# him.”
Lord of the Rings’ legacy
J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was first published in the mid-1950s, telling the story of Frodo Baggins and his band of hobbits, all led by the wizard Gandalf as well as a collective bunch made up of men, elves, and dwarves, all seeking to destroy the ring of power to prevent the inevitable rise of the Dark Lord Sauron and save Middle Earth.
All three books, including the Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King were all made into feature-length films from 2001 to 2003, with the final film, The Return of the King, going on to win eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, tying the likes of Ben-Hur and Titanic for most Oscars.
In fact, nearly a decade later, the studio went ahead and moved forward with The Hobbit, another work of JRR Tolkien that serves as a prequel story leading into Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson, after a hectic pre-production, would inevitably return to the director’s chair, breaking up the book into three films that would be released from 2012 to 2014.