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‘Lord of the Rings’ Orc Actor Tells the Story of His Panic Attack Under Prosthetics During Filming

If actor Stephen Ure ripped off his prosthetics, it could have cost the production over $10,000 in filming delays.

Stephen Ure as Grishnakh

Stephen Ure as Grishnakh

New Line/courtesy Everett Collection

Having a panic attack is never good, but it sounds especially complicated when you’re suffering one under so many pounds of prosthetic makeup that no one around you even noticed. Such was the case for actor Stephen Ure during the making of “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” Ure starred as the Orc named Grishnakh in Peter Jackson’s trilogy. In a recent conversation with Thrillist, the actor remembered losing his swallowing mechanism during the filming of a fight scene between the Orcs and Uruk-hai. Losing his swallowing mechanism resulted in Ure getting “a bit panicky” and starting to “hyperventilate a little bit.”

“The more the panic is coming the worst that it is,” Ure said. “I’d never really experienced a panic like that. I was maybe three seconds away from ripping the face off so I could breathe, I thought I couldn’t breathe. No one can tell because I’m under all that stuff. Suddenly, I just could swallow again. Nobody knew anything. That was my own little episode. I was completely freaked out for a minute. That could have been terrible. If I had ripped that face off then that’s the day gone. That would have cost tens of thousands of dollars.”

Ure said he had to work his facial expressions hard in order for Grishnakh to look like he was emoting properly. “When I was just in resting bitchface mode, [the character] looked very sad,” the actor remembered. “He looked very forlorn. People kept coming up to me, going, ‘You okay? Can I get you something?’ I went, ‘Yeah, I’m fine, just leave me alone.’ ‘You just look like you’re a bit bummed out.'”

The character of Grishnakh marked Ure’s most high profile creature role in Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The actor started his work on the franchise playing a difference Orc in “The Fellowship of the Ring.” According to Thrillist, one of Ure’s most memorable set experiences occurred when he “accidentally whipped the late, great Christopher Lee in the face.” The prosthetic work for Grishnakh was so well done that no one on “The Lord of the Rings” set knew what the actual Ure looked like.

“At the wrap party for ‘Lord of the Rings,’ I’d been working on all three films, and I knew people, I found myself just standing there in the corner alone because nobody knew who I was,” Ure said. “At the time it took four and half hours to put the makeup on. I’d have to go in at 2am. By the time I was halfway through at half past five when people started arriving, I was already unrecognizable.”

Head over to Thrillist’s website to read more recent interviews with the actors who starred as Orc and Uruk-hai characters in “The Lord of the Rings.”

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