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Lord of the Rings Actor Had a Major Brush With Danger During This Iconic Scene People Love

2 minute read

The final installment in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy may have come out nearly 15 years ago, but fans are still being treated to new behind-the-scenes tidbits from the beloved movies.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Ian Nathan’s forthcoming book Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-Earth—billed as a “definitive history of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth saga”—reveals that one of the most iconic scenes in The Return of the King was an actual life-and-death situation for star Viggo Mortensen.

Apparently, the sequence in which Aragorn delivers his rousing speech outside the Black Gate of Mordor was filmed in a section of the Rangipo Desert that was once used by the New Zealand military for training and was therefore covered in unexploded artillery shells. The film had designated a safe area away from the bombs prior to the shoot, but an improvising Mortensen rode outside this zone while filming, sufficiently freaking Jackson out.

“Jackson remembers waiting for the explosion,” Nathan writes in the book. “Having found their perfect Aragorn, they were going to watch him get blown up by an unexploded New Zealand bomb.”

Jackson’s latest project, a WWI archive movie called They Shall Not Grow Old, opened at the London Film Festival on Tuesday.

Watch the Return of the King clip below.

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Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com