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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 00:15 GMT 01:15 UK
A glimpse behind the Rings magic

By Stephen Dowling
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Lawrence Makoare and kids
Lawrence Makoare was a hit in his Uruk-hai finery
Props, costumes, models - and behind the scenes secrets - from the Lord of the Rings trilogy have been unveiled at a new exhibition at the Science Museum in London.

They will take the many fans of the series on an adventure into how JRR Tolkien's fantasy epic made it from written word to silver screen, all through the imagination and effort of a untried, largely virgin film-making crew in New Zealand.

The exhibition, which has already proved a massive hit at the Te Papa Tongarewa national museum in Wellington, New Zealand, opens on Tuesday.

It shows how the film-makers managed to put Elijah Wood (Frodo) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf,) who are not so dissimilar in height, in the same shot and make Wood look realistically hobbit-sized.

Sure, you might be able to find the secrets on the featurettes of one of the DVDs - but it would not let you act it out yourself, in a specially-built set with monitors to check you have shrunk yourself to Frodo's height.

War factory

Take a peek at the Science Museum's exhibition

Nor could you pick up an orc scimitar and test it out for size - or feel its surprisingly light weight.

There is orc and Ringwraith armour standing eerily empty, and a giant model of what Frodo sees fleetingly in the mirror of Galadriel - the mill at Hobbiton turned into an orc war factory.

And visitors can try to resist the allure of the ring for themselves, with special effects from the film adding to the experience.

The behind-the-scenes look at Peter Jackson's ambitious trilogy was launched by Richard Taylor, the head of the Weta Workshops effects house, which built models and handled special effects for all three films.

Orc armour
More than 48,000 pieces of armour were made for the film
Lawrence Makoare, the man who donned elaborate make-up, prosthetics and fearsome fake fangs as the Uruk-hai chieftain Lurtz at the end of the Fellowship of the Ring, was also on hand to answer questions about the exhibition.

Impressively, Makoare was at the press conference dressed in full Uruk-hai regalia - mask included.

It is quite something to behold an orc chieftain chuckling politely and answering questions from the press, when it looks like he should be leaping into the first row and ripping off heads.

It was, however, in keeping with the aim of the exhibition - which is to get behind what the fans see on the screen, and give them an understanding of how the trilogy made it to screens in the first place.

Massive battle

Special effects guru Richard Taylor was ecstatic at the opportunity, giving journalists the ins-and-outs on Massive, the New Zealand-created computer system that allowed the film-makers to create artificially-intelligent armies to do battle with.

"They had a pre-taught repertoire of military moves and understood them, knew how to fight on different terrain. Once a battle started, we did not have the ability to choose who won or who lost.

"Unfortunately, when we first started running it, every time the armies insisted on running away," he said.

Elf swords
There are swords to pick up
Massive eventually got back to a warlike footing. For the last, apocalyptic battle in Return of the King, it has created hundreds of thousands of soldiers to do battle.

"It's brilliant to be able to bring this exhibition to the Science Museum," the enthusiastic Mr Taylor told BBC News Online.

"And especially because it's a place my grandfather took me to when I was 11, to explore all the machinery. It has made it quite emotional," he said.

"It's lovely the Science Museum will celebrate film technology. And that we are able to bring and celebrate what these mostly young New Zealanders have achieved."

The exhibit will run until January 2004, before visiting Singapore, Boston in the US and Sydney. And Richard Taylor, the man who has helped make all these models and costumes and effects come to life, has only one thing troubling him.

"My only regret is that we haven't been able to turn this into a permanent exhibit in Wellington," he said. "All this deserves to have its own space."

The BBC's Brenda Emmanus
"Hundreds of props from the movie, alongside cutting edge technology, bring the exhibition to life"

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