The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King wins 11 Oscars - HISTORY
Year
2004

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King wins 11 Oscars

Perhaps the most attention-grabbing, trailblazing performer in film in 2003 did not receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor–but he was honored nonetheless. The eerily lifelike quality of Gollum, the computer-generated (CG) creature who simpered and schemed his way through The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, remained one of the most awe-inspiring aspects of the trilogy’s final installment, The Return of the King. At the 76th Academy Awards ceremony, held on this day in 2004, the film won a record-tying 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Peter Jackson) and Best Visual Effects.

In the complicated world of the writer J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Gollum is a formerly human-like hobbit who has developed an all-consuming obsession with the titular ring after he lost it decades earlier to Bilbo Baggins (events chronicled in Tolkien’s earlier book, The Hobbit). Gollum makes a brief appearance in the first installment of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), and becomes a central character in the second two films, The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King. His single-minded pursuit of the ring brings him into cooperation and conflict with the film’s hobbit heroes, including Frodo Baggins (Bilbo’s nephew, played by Elijah Wood) and Sam Gangee (Sean Astin), in their quest to reach the dark kingdom of Mordor and destroy the all-powerful ring in order to bring peace to Middle Earth.

Jackson wanted Gollum to be based on the movements of a real human, the actor Andy Serkis, who also provided the voice of the character (with the help of digital sound mixing). Using a technique known as motion-capture photography, a computer captured Serkis’ movements as he acted out scenes while wearing a special bodysuit. Animators used this information to create an enormously complex computer-generated image with 300 muscles and 250 face shapes. CG imagery (known as CGI) had previously been used to great effect in films such as Jurassic Park (1993) and Toy Story (1995), as well in the later Star Wars movies and the Harry Potter franchise, but Gollum was by far the most life-like example of CGI to date.

In mid-2003, Gollum won in two categories at the MTV Movie Awards: Best Virtual Performance, and co-winner of Best On-Screen Team (with Wood and Astin). Fans even lobbied for the character to receive an Academy Award nomination. Though the efforts failed, The Return of the King reigned triumphant at the 2004 Oscar ceremony, sweeping all of the categories in which it was nominated (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Song, Visual Effects, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Sound Mixing and Editing) and tying Ben-Hur (1960) and Titanic (1997) for most Academy Awards won by a single film.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Deerfield razed in Queen Anne’s War

Deerfield, a frontier settlement in western Massachusetts, is attacked by a French and Native American force. Some 100 men, women, and children were massacred as the town was burned to the ground.The Deerfield raid was the bloodiest event of Queen Anne’s War, a conflict known to ...read more

Kerner Commission Report released

The President’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders—known as the Kerner Commission—releases its report, condemning racism as the primary cause of the recent surge of riots. Headed by Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois, the 11-member commission was appointed by President ...read more

Shaker founder born

Ann Lee, the founder of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, a Christian sect commonly known as the Shakers, is born in Manchester, England.In 1770, “Mother” Ann broke from the Quakers to establish her own religious movement based on celibacy, sexual ...read more

McDaniel wins Oscar

On February 29, 1940, Gone with the Wind is honored with eight Oscars by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. An epic Southern romance set during the hard times of the Civil War, the movie swept the prestigious Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, ...read more

South Korean troops withdrawn

South Korea pulls 11,000 troops out of Vietnam as part of its program to withdraw all of its 48,000 troops from the country.The South Korean contingent had begun arriving in country on February 26, 1965, as part of the Free World Military Forces, an effort by President Lyndon B. ...read more

Hank Aaron record-breaking deal

On February 29, 1972, Hank Aaron signs a three-year deal with the Atlanta Braves that pays him $200,000 per year, making him the highest-paid player in Major League Baseball at the time. Two years later, Aaron became baseball’s home run king when he broke Babe Ruth’s ...read more

“Alfalfa” Murray on cover of Time

One of the most colorful western politicians of his day, William “Alfalfa” Murray makes the cover of Time magazine after announcing his long-shot candidacy for the Presidency.Born in poverty near Toadsuck, Texas, in 1869, Murray dabbled in a ...read more

Earthquake devastates Moroccan city

The city of Agadir in Morocco is reduced to ruins by an earthquake on this day in 1960. Northeastern Africa was not generally an area known for earthquakes, though there had been a deadly tremor in Algeria six years earlier.Agadir, located south of Casablanca on the Atlantic ...read more

Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid splits

Union General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry raiders split into two wings on their way south to Richmond. Colonel Ulrich Dahlgren and 500 troopers swung out further west as Kilpatrick and 3,000 men rode on to the outskirts of Richmond. The raid stalled there, and Dahlgren was ...read more

Two ships sink in North Sea battle

On the afternoon of February 29, 1916, both the British armed merchant ship Alcantara and the German raider Grief sink after engaging each other in a close-range battle on the North Sea.The German raider Grief was in disguise, flying under the Norwegian flag and with Norwegian ...read more