Making Films and Friends: Frodo and Sam Get to the End of the Line

LOS ANGELES — While the third and final installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is titled Return of the King, it might just as easily been called “The Continued Journey of Frodo and Sam.”

After abandoning the fellowship at the end of the first film, and hooking up with Gollum in The Two Towers, fans will finally get to see if the two Hobbits will complete their mission of destroying the Ring of Power.

Yet for actors Elijah Wood and Sean Astin, the end of the journey is a little more bittersweet.

“It's funny because when we talk about the end and the leaving process and all that, there are kind of a lot of ends — it has ended many, many times over the past four years,” Elijah Wood tells “The sort of iconic end is when we left New Zealand after principal photography, which was three years ago, and that was a very difficult thing.”

Yet as hard as leaving New Zealand was, re-adjusting to life back in the United States was even tougher.

“Because we were so used to that world in New Zealand, suddenly I didn't quite know what my own life meant anymore,” Wood smiles. “So it was really about trying to reinstate myself into reality and what that meant. It took me about five or six months to come out of hibernation really, to being whole and complete and back in the world again. That sounds pretty dramatic, but it was pretty profound.”

Since coming home, both Wood and Astin have found themselves returning year-after-year to film pick-ups and additional scenes for The Two Towers and Return of the King.

“Shooting the film, it was more of a marathon than wind sprints. The hard part was keeping your mental acuity and your focus over such a long time — over five years, essentially,” says Astin. “There was over a year-and-a-half of principal photography, but then we went back in it for the first pickups, then back into for the second pickups and then back into it for the third pickups.”

For Astin, who had gained weight to play the role of Sam “Samwise” Gamgee, going back to shoot additional scenes also meant having to put some of his Hobbit weight back on again.

“I got really skinny for [the Showtime series] ‘Jeremiah’ and then I got hired for the Adam Sandler movie [‘50 First Dates’]. [Sandler] wanted me lifting weights all the time, so I was pumping iron and I got injured a little bit doing that — I sort of stopped and I had that transition from lifting weights to not. That actually worked for the pickups for the Lord of the Rings because right after the Adam Sandler movie I started to get a little bit heavier again,” laughs Astin. “But I'm ready for the Tilt-a-Whirl to stop and to try to rediscover my balance.”

The two actors have already moved on to other projects. Astin recently completing filming of the science fiction film Slipsteam, while Wood will star next in Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in which he plays a memory technician who manipulates himself into the memories of Kate Winslet.

In the meantime, there's still a lot of work left to be done on Middle Earth.

“At the moment I think we're too in the midst of this particular part of the journey to feel sorrow yet — it doesn't feel over because we still have so far to go in terms of releasing the film and the promotion of it,” says Wood. “I think the real realization that it's over will come at the end once the movie's finished and come out and all the press is finished and we'll then be left to reflect — it will really hit us then.”