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LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING

Adapting The Novel
His favorite book in Tolkien's 1,000-page epic, Jackson calls The Return of the King the most filmable of the three. "It's the culmination of everything that we've set up," says Jackson. "All the different stories lead to this film. This is really, in a sense, climactic from beginning to end."

For over a half-century, J.R.R. Tolkien's works have continued to have a profound effect on generations of readers. Revived and re-appreciated throughout the decades, the books have garnered new life since the release of the first film, vaulting back onto bestseller lists and driving a new generation of young readers to bookstores and libraries. With Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship comes a message that even the smallest person can change the course of the world, and the revelation that friendship and individual courage may hold at bay even the most devastating forces of darkness.

Five years ago, Jackson and his co-writers Frances Walsh and Philippa Boyens set pen to paper for the first time in their attempt to adapt a sprawling work of imaginative fiction into a film narrative structure. For the writers, the visual spectacle of the third film never eclipsed the need to focus most intensely on the emotional resolution to each individual character's quest. "We've tried to be faithful to the spirit of the end of the story," comments Boyens. "The final passage of this incredible story is one of the gifts, I think, to all readers in literature." "Nobody comes out of this story unchanged," Jackson adds. "They'll never be the same again."

One of the most pivotal guiding forces behind The Lord of the Rings has been conceptual artist Alan Lee, who created the seminal illustrations of Middle-earth for Harper Collins' award-winning illustrated edition of The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps more than anyone in the production, Lee understood the challenges Jackson and his co-screenwriters would face in adapting Tolkien. "If you're not accustomed to the book, that form of storytelling and language could seem a little odd," the conceptual designer notes. "But they have thrown themselves into this world. I think they have done quite courageous writing. They're putting poetry into an epic, spectacular movie."

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