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Animator Ralph Bakshi did manage to make a 'Lord of the Rings' feature in 1978, but his cartoon told only the first half of the story, and he never got to make a sequel, though Rankin-Bass (the team behind all those stop-motion animated Christmas TV specials) more or less finished the story with a made-for-TV cartoon version of 'The Return of the King' in 1980.2.Before 'Lord of the Rings,' Peter Jackson was a New Zealand puppeteer and filmmaker who'd made his name on such cult hits as 'Meet the Feebles' (a sort of R-rated Muppet parody) and 'Dead Alive' (a gory zombie comedy).

Plus, it turned the whole world into Middle-earth fantasy geeks for at least three years as we watched the installments come out every December.

Still, as celebrated as Peter Jackson's magnum opus has been, there's still a lot you may not know about how the three-part epic was made, from how the movie almost became a low-budget condensed version of Tolkien's massive saga, to the risqué ways the hobbits spent their downtime, to the real-life collision of Tolkien's universe with George Lucas' 'Star Wars' cosmos.1.

There had been many attempts to make a live-action version of 'Lord of the Rings' dating back to the 1950s, when monster-magazine mogul Forrest J. In the 1960s, the Beatles wanted to star in a version (it would have featured John Lennon as Gollum, Paul Mc Cartney as Frodo, George Harrison as Gandalf, and Ringo Starr as Sam), and they approached Stanley Kubrick to direct, but he decided the project was too daunting.

Director John Boorman consulted with Tolkien to develop a live-action version in the 1970s, but the project was deemed too expensive, and Boorman went on to make the similarly-themed Arthurian saga 'Excalibur' instead.

Christopher Lee, who ended up being the only member of the cast who'd actually met Tolkien, also wanted to play Gandalf. At the time, she was the biggest Hollywood name in the cast.8. Four days into filming however, Jackson realized that the 28-year-old was too young and lacking in gravitas.

In his correspondence with the author (who died in 1973), the actor had discussed the idea of playing the good wizard. " Wood made a costume and enlisted his friend, 'Swimming With Sharks' director George Huang, to shoot his audition video, which the actor sent to Jackson. Viggo Mortensen, then 40, got the call and was at first reluctant to say yes because the shoot would have meant a long time away from his young son, Henry.He'd earned some acclaim for the drama 'Heavenly Creatures' (which launched Kate Winslet's career) and 'The Frighteners,' his first Hollywood-financed film, an expensive horror/comedy with Michael J. Still, he had a first-look deal with Miramax, so when he proposed making 'The Lord of the Rings,' it was relatively easy for the indie studio to obtain the rights from their then-holder, producer Saul Zaentz, with whom Miramax had just made 'The English Patient.'3.Miramax, however, belonged to Disney, which capped the studio's spending on any project at million.Peter Jackson thought it best for both the Tolkien estate and the production that the two parties should have no contact.That way, he wouldn't feel pressure to alter the film to please Tolkien's heirs, and they wouldn't have to endorse it if they didn't like the finished product.10.The cast would hang out during downtime at a make-up trailer they had defaced and renamed the Cuntybago.