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Viggo Mortensen Filmed an Iconic ‘Lord of the Rings’ Scene Surrounded by Old Bombs, and Peter Jackson Feared for His Life

The new book, "Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-Earth," goes behind the scenes of the director's landmark fantasy trilogy.

"The Lord of the Rings"

“The Lord of the Rings”

New Line Cinema

Aragorn rallying soldiers from Gondor at the foot of the Black Gate of Mordor is one of the most iconic scenes in “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” but it turns out filming the moment wasn’t a walk in the park for Peter Jackson. Ian Nathan’s upcoming book, “Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-Earth,” includes never-before-known tidbits from the making of Jackson’s epic trilogy, one of which explains how Viggo Mortensen filmed the Black Gate scene surrounded by unexploded bombs (via Entertainment Weekly).

Jackson filmed Aragon’s speech at the Black Gate in a section of the Rangipo Desert once used by the New Zealand military, and the land was covered in unexploded artillery shells as a result. Prior to the film shoot, the New Zealand army designated a safe area away from the bombs where Jackson could film Mortensen and the hundreds of extras, but that didn’t stop Mortensen from improvising in the moment as Aragon and riding on horseback outside of the safe zone.

“Jackson remembers waiting for the explosion,” Nathan writes in the book. “Having found their perfect Aragorn, they were going to watch him get blown up by an unexploded New Zealand bomb.”

Mortensen ultimately rode back into the safe area for the rest of the scene, calming Jackson down. Mortensen didn’t go full Method on set to play Aragon, but he did get into character by taking his sword with him everywhere and sleeping out under the stars each night. “The Return of the King” ended up winning Jackson the Oscar for best director and best picture.

Next up for Jackson is the WWI documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old,” which world premieres at the London Film Festival. Jackson produces and serves as co-writer of the December tentpole “Mortal Engines.” Mortensen, meanwhile, is expected to factor into the awards race in the lead role of Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book,” in theaters November 21.

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