Nov 092010

Philip Hartshorn as Dior; Juan Carlos Tapia as Celegorm

A lot goes into writing a fight scene – sometimes.  Our challenges for the fight scene in this film came in many forms, the first of which was the source material’s ambiguity concerning the situation surrounding it.  The following is Tolkien’s text in The Silmarillion concerning the final outcome of the Sacking of Doriath.

“…Celegorm stirred up his brothers to prepare an assault upon Doriath.  They came at unawares in the middle of winter, and fought with Dior in the Thousand Caves; and so befell the second slaying of Elf by Elf.  There fell Celegorm by Dior’s hand, and there fell Curufin, and dark Caranthir; but Dior was slain also, and Nimloth his wife, and the cruel servants of Celegorm seized Dior’s young sons and left them in the forest to starve…” -Tolkien, 242

This book in particular is written in a similar fashion (stylistically) to the Norse Myths (Kevin Crossley Holland’s translations come to mind).  The story of Dior is expanded in The Book of Lost Tales 2, but this draft was very clearly “un-canonized” by Tolkien before his revisions of the former book, so the above is all we had to work with.  I interpreted the scene into the screenplay as a confrontation between Dior and the three brothers as Dior is attempting to get his family (namely his daughter) out of the burning city.

The text from my first draft of the script concerning this scene was equally vague.  I scrawled out something about Dior killing Curufin and Caranthir, then dueling Celegorm.  I knew this wasn’t exactly how I wanted it, but I was afraid to go further, for the reasons of A) I knew I was going to let my brother choreograph the movements, and B) How was all of this going to happen?  Where is Nimloth, and how can I incorporate what happens to her?

I decided to write the death of Nimloth as a separate scene, which gave attention to the characters involved and built up the tension and relationships – both sympathetic and antagonistic- of surviving characters before the end.  This worked very well in terms of sets, locations and the focus of the actors.

Take a look at this video, which concerns my brother(our fight choreographer)’s enthusiastic efforts to materialize this scene.

Production Report: The First Stages of Fight Choreography

Putting this thing together was a tall order.  The above video was filmed in the later parts of summer when we were brainstorming just how the hell we were going to pull off any of this.  As our final weekend of shooting ended this past Sunday, the fight has been done and awaits the cutting room in a currently-crowded lobby.  Here are a few sneak peek photos (I’m keeping the fight relatively under wraps) of what came out of the final product.  Please note that these photos are captured from the raw footage of the film: nothing has been added or edited (yes, the sparks are real).

What we’ve got is a high-risk, quick-paced, colorful, 360-degree spectacle involving real swords, acrobatics, drama, and gorgeous mountains below.  At least, that’s what we’ll have after a few good days at the editing desk.

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