When Your Quiet Town Becomes The Set Of ‘Lord Of The Rings’

When Your Quiet Town Becomes The Set Of ‘Lord Of The Rings’


It’s Like A Top-Secret Government Installation Is Being Built Next Door

“It was farms and sheep and cows,” says Myer. “Where the set is now, 20 years ago it was a giant sheep pasture … when this was announced, that some big movie was going to be here, we were all pretty excited. We just thought that after it was all over, we’d get it back the way it was.”

Yeah, it’s easy to underestimate what exactly goes into filming an epic worldwide phenomenon for hundreds of millions of obsessive fans. The sheer scale of what was coming quickly started to sink in. “Some days we saw entire convoys go up. They had to widen the roads … have you seen Stranger Things, where this giant military company is on the outskirts of town, where everything is done in secrecy, and those that work there don’t communicate with anyone locally? That’s what happened. It’s like a part of the countryside was now quarantined.”

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But it wasn’t some unspeakable horror that was making them so guarded; it was the fear of 1999-era film set leaks, most likely coming from a .net site that was found through Ask Jeeves. “They didn’t put a wall around it, but they had security and these huge squares with netting up in places where you could see the town they were making. We would go up there, and this Aussie guard would tell everyone to not stay and to keep going.”

It’s impossible to overstate how much of a culture shock this was for people like Myer. “This was out of the blue for us. This was before September 11, and you could literally wander onto military camps here, and at the time you might get a polite ‘Please get off’ after a few hours. Not so there. New Zealand military secrets? Meh. The news of what Gandalf’s costume would be? STATE SECRET!”

If you think Myer is playing up these comparisons for comedy purposes, the stories he tells say otherwise. “Me and a few friends went onto the farm for fun, and we immediately had Range Rovers coming for us … we were questioned by their security, asked if we had cameras, and then they called the local police to take us. Which they did, saying that next time they wanted jail time … They told us, ‘If you sneak in there again, I don’t know if we can guarantee you coming out like this again. They’re very serious.'”

Meanwhile, the owner of the Alexander farm where the set was built — who had no idea what The Lord Of The Rings was — would get calls from Peter Jackson telling him his sheep were getting into the shot.

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November 8, 2018

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