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EDITIONS
Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 10:59 GMT
Lording it as an orc
Evan Nattrass, Manawatu Evening Standard photo
Evan Nattrass first read the Tolkien trilogy in school
Evan Nattrass has long loved The Lord of the Rings trilogy, so he jumped at the chance to be an extra in the film version. Here, he reflects on his time on set in New Zealand.

In my time as an extra, I was a Rohan soldier, a Gondorian soldier, an orc. I was alive, I was dead, I was wounded.

Sean Astin, left, and Elijah Wood
The films were shot back-to-back in New Zealand
I'd put my name down well before filming started and early on had been called down to Wellington [director Peter Jackson's base in New Zealand] with lots of other people to be photographed, weighed, measured.

I heard nothing for ages, and then suddenly got a phone call asking me if I was still available. Absolutely! I took leave without pay from my job as a school librarian and went off to be in the movies.

My first scenes were as a Gondorian soldier, defending the ruins of Osgiliath from the orcs.

The ruins were multi-storey stone buildings with balconies and balustrades, and paved city squares with foundations in the middle - all built from painted polystyrene.


To become an orc, first I had to put on a Lycra body suit, then pull on rubber arms and rubber legs to misshape my limbs, and a big rubber head

It was all broken, smashed and destroyed as if by siege engines, blackened with fire, rubble everywhere. It looked so awesomely real.

They filmed us madly firing arrows, running up and down the streets of the city, scouting through the ruins, resting in encampments, strolling around, chatting to guards. Later I played an orc, so I fought on both sides of the same battle.

During filming, there was nobody there to fight. We were just told, 'That's where they're going to be, imagine they're there - we'll merge the films later on.'

I also spent a whole day being a dead Rohan soldier for the battle of Pelennor Fields.

If you imagine the battlefield as a clock face, they filmed us in a sliver at one o'clock, then picked up everything and moved it around to film another sliver. In the computer lab, this footage will be merged to look like a plain littered with thousands of bodies.

Unrecognisable creature

To become an orc, first I had to put on a Lycra body suit, then pull on rubber arms and rubber legs to misshape my limbs, and a big rubber head.

Orc on location in New Zealand
Orc attack: "It was like wearing a wetsuit"
Then I'd be strapped into all manner of armour. It was very hot, very uncomfortable - much like being in a wetsuit.

Someone had the job of throwing mud all over us, to make us look as dirty and bedraggled as possible, just like soldiers who had been out on a campaign for a long time.

I was often on site from about 5.30am, queuing to go through costuming, fitting, make-up and mucking down. Those at the head of the queue could get through in half an hour; otherwise it took a couple of hours. And at the end of the day, everyone had to queue to hand the costumes back.


Going to the toilet was difficult, what with the fake limbs and chain mail

The days were incredibly long - the longest I did was probably 14-and-a-half hours. We started off in the dark before dawn, then worked in the blazing sunshine sweltering in our costumes.

Make-up people came around to dab up our sweat and put drink bottles with squirters in our mouths because we couldn't drink through the masks.

Going to the toilet was difficult, what with the fake limbs and chain mail. Often I had to get somebody to undo a few items for me and then do them up again afterwards.

No fighting, please

There was a lot of time sitting around. The most common book on set was The Lord of the Rings.

Scene from Fellowship of the Ring
Those in battle scenes fought non-existent foes
A lot of people who'd never read it decided that since they were in it, they'd better find out what it was all about. I'd read it years ago when I was at school, when I'd even done Middle Earth war games.

I didn't get to do any fighting in the movie. As a medievalist, I thought they'd want my fighting skills but none of us were allowed to, probably because of health and safety regulations. Only the stunt people were allowed to fight.

But the sad thing about my involvement is that I still have to wait two years to see it - all the parts I shot will be in the third movie.

Photo of Evan Nattrass by Graeme Brown, of the Manawatu Evening Standard.


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03 Dec 01 | Entertainment
28 Nov 01 | Entertainment
16 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
19 Oct 01 | Entertainment
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