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The Two Towers' Battle of Helm's Deep Was So Miserable to Film, They Gave Out Funny T-Shirts
"I survived a brutal orc assault on my castle and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
You know that hackneyed T-shirt slogan: "I survived [insert experience here] and all I got was this lousy T-shirt"?
It's fun for amusement park rollercoasters and other death-defying experiences, including the unforgiving battlefields of Middle-earth. Yep, this tacky fashion statement climbed over the ramparts of J.R.R Tolkien's fantasy mythos during production of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (airing on SYFY today and tomorrow).
In a 2022 oral history of The Battle of Helm's Deep compiled by Inverse, Wētā Workshop co-founder and creative director Richard Taylor revealed that the 120-day shoot was so grueling and intense, that the crew received commemorative shirts at the end of the schedule. In fact, things got so difficult, that a number of on-set individuals appropriately dubbed the filming "Hell's Deep."
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers crew members earned a funny T-shirt after filming The Battle of Helm's Deep
"I even have the 'I survived Helm’s Deep/Hell’s Deep' T-shirt!" Taylor said. "Because of how hard it was, there was an incredible camaraderie on set, especially among the Uruk-hai extras who wore bulky armor and were mostly Polynesian due to their size. They brought guitars on set and sang when they were sitting in tents, soaked to the bone but happy. At times, you could see their breath in the air because it was so cold."
"Having a beer at the end of the night shoots while sitting back on the Deeping Wall and looking out over the quarry at sunrise was incredible," added second unit cinematographer John Cavill. "We weren’t just a crew on Helm’s Deep, there was a real camaraderie forged through hardship. There was no big wrap party for Helm’s Deep, but there were a few beers shared as the sun rose."
All of their hard work paid off, with the 40-minute sequence being universally hailed as one of the greatest battles ever committed to film, regardless of genre. And by the way, that sentiment has not wavered over the last two decades, with nearly every medieval-style skirmish (like the ones featured in Game of Thrones) often held up in comparison to the mastery of Helm's Deep.
"We did the absolute maximum on Helm’s Deep — that’s an important lesson for any young filmmaker. You never get another go at it," Taylor concluded. "If you don’t strive to do the absolute maximum that you can to make something as good as it can be, you're never going to get another go at it. All filmmaking is a compromise. You pursue perfection, but you might have to settle for excellence."
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers airs on SYFY tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET and tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. ET. Click here for more scheduling info!
Need more epic fantasy in your life? Head over to Peacock for the complete Harry Potter saga!