All characters property of J.R.R. Tolkien.
“The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the sand. I smell it in the salty air. Much that once was is now lost, for none now sail who remember it.
“It began with the forging of the great liferings. Three were given to the elves, immortal, wisest, and most buoyant of all beings. Seven to the Dwarf Lords, great miners who wouldn’t know the ocean from their aunt Nimli’s bathtub. And nine, nine rings were given to the race of men, who above all can’t swim without an instructor and years of intensive training. For within these liferings were bound…”
“Cut! Cut!” screamed Gríma Wormtongue, forgetting that the bullhorn he held magically amplified his voice many times. The resultant blast of sound had everybody clutching at their ears. One grip, a young orc named Bolg, was so startled he knocked the lighting rig he was adjusting into the ocean with a soft splash, where it promptly fizzed itself into oblivion.
Wormtongue winced, trying to calm the ringing in his own ears. “Sorry, sorry, everybody,” he said, more softly. “Stop the scene. And take better care of that equipment!” he barked at Bolg – half-heartedly, since he knew he was at fault. Moving the bullhorn aside, he shouted up at the lighthouse which loomed large above them all, in a far more deferential and nervous tone than before.
“What is it, my lord?” In response, a blinding beam of light shone down from the lighthouse, centering on Cate Blanchett, who lowered her script and shielded her eyes with a cloth-draped forearm. “Galadriel, lord?” The beam gestured angrily, jerking insistently and repeatedly to the left of where Cate stood, towards the waterline.
“Cate, go stand to the left a bit! That’s right, where the Dark Lord is pointing,” Wormtongue said. “Gorgol, how we doing on that lighting?”
“Not bad, boss,” Gorgol replied. “I think this is probably about the right time of day – the sun’s just filtering through the Master’s stormclouds.” The veteran orc, who bore scars from a hundred shoots and more, squinted up at the grimy sun hidden behind roiling darkness, then back down to the hi-tech preview monitor wired to the camera. “At the very least, we’ll be getting a little cinematic light striation through those bad boys.” Gorgol whistled appreciatively, angling the monitor for a better view.
“I’m sure the Master will be pleased to hear it!” Wormtongue said, though he didn’t seem sure. Bracing himself, he allowed his gaze to scale the scorched and pitted lighthouse situated on a promontory a few hundred meters away. His eyes wandered over the familiar vines, the weathered stone, the strange narrow ledge about halfway up where evil seagulls roosted… until eventually he reached the top, where the lighthouse’s lantern would usually be.
Here, rather than a glowing electric bulb, the glass lamphouse was filled with a single monstrous, flaming eye – the lidless eye of Sauron, the Abhorred Dread; Lord of Barad-dûr; he who is also known as Garthaur the Cruel, Deceiver and Enemy of the Free People of Middle Earth; Executive Director of the New and True Story of the Liferings of Power – and Wormtongue’s fearsome master. Right now, he didn’t seem too pleased, his fiery stare fixed on his apprehensive minion, who threw his arms wide in desperate supplication.
“My lord! What troubles you? But say the word and your faithful servants will rush to fix it.” The flaming eye narrowed, and the dark, twisted tongue of Mordor filled Wormtongue’s head with a screeching discord. “Of course, my lord, of course! It will be done at once. We live only to serve!” Wormtongue pulled up his bullhorn and addressed the film crew, who were frozen, waiting for orders from the dark lord of the tower.
“Alright, take five, everybody. Gorgol, keep working on that picture. Cate and Steve, get over here! You too, Elijah.” Cate Blanchett sighed theatrically, drifting over with the other two actors Wormtongue had summoned. He watched Elijah slap the sand with his large, hairy hobbit feet, leaving oversized footprints in his wake. Next to Elijah strode Steve Buscemi, nervously fiddling with the Dúnedain ranger’s sword at his belt. Wormtongue eyed Steve critically – they’d had to cast him as Aragorn when Viggo Mortensen had turned down the part, saying he refused to work with the literal embodiment of evil, no matter what the pay. Steve wasn’t perfect, but he’d been all they could get on short notice.
“What is it, Gríma?” asked Cate, sitting down in his folding director’s chair. “Was I not standing far enough to the left?” Wormtongue looked at her sharply, but quailed at the withering indifference upon her face.
“The Master has spoken!” he declared. “He wants the whole opening scene changed. Right now, he thinks it’s far too Peter Jackson – and you know how litigious New Line Cinema can be.” Even Cate nodded grimly at this – the Dark Lord, Hand of the East, he who bound the Seven and the Nine, Holder of Really Great Beach Rave Parties, wasn’t beyond an intellectual property claim. Copyright violation suits far surpassed dark sorcery in nastiness.
“So what’s the plan then, Wormtongue?” asked Elijah, folding his arms. Wormtongue nearly jumped – it was always so disconcerting how tall Elijah was in real life. He backed away a fraction, grinding his heel into the sand.
“Cate, we’re going to need to shoot this whole scene in the shallows. This is the Lord of the Liferings, after all, not that land-locked garbage Jackson shot. The Master wants us to really embrace the aquatic aspect of this motion picture – a lot more wetwork, if you catch my drift.”
“Catch my driftwood!” joked Steve, and Wormtongue glared. “Oh… sorry, sorry,” Steve apologized. “I forgot you weren’t so hot on the ocean puns. My bad.” Wormtongue sighed the long-suffering sigh of a martyr, going so far as to cast his eyes heavenwards.
“Steve, we’ve talked about this. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of levity, but this is serious time. The Master is expecting a blockbuster, and if we don’t deliver, we’re going to be Gollum in the third movie, capiche? Lots of fire, and lots of screaming.” Steve looked a bit uncomfortable, swinging the Dúnedain sword back and forth in its scabbard. I should never have cast him, thought Wormtongue. I should have stuck with Adam Sandler.
“Now, I’ll get Flesh-Ripper to re-write the script some, but this is mostly a superficial shift. All the scenes we were going to shoot on land, we’re shooting in the water. Obviously, all the heroes from the Jackson films need to look like the bad guys, and we really need to work hard to frame the Dark Lord’s minions as the brave heroes. I’m imagining Ring Wraiths pulling off their helmets, long hair trailing beads of water in slow motion. I’m envisaging Saruman in skin-tight robes, twirling his staff like a bawdy entertainer at the Green Dragon. I want ideas, people, ideas!” Steve started to open his mouth, but Wormtongue interrupted.
“Not from you, Steve. Alright! Let’s go.” Through the bullhorn he shouted: “Positions, people!”
From up atop the lighthouse, Sauron, the Nameless, Dark Power of Mirkwood, he that is known as Necromancer and Corrupter, Incidental Averter of Accidents at Sea, glared down upon the movie set, brooding, thoughtful, plotting the demise of the forces of Hollywood.