After filming on the Lord of the Rings movies wrapped, the Fellowship cast got matching tattoos to commemorate the experience. Adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic novel of the same name, Peter Jackson’s Lord of Rings series is considered one of the greatest film trilogies of all time. The trilogy was a hit with critics and was nominated for a total of 30 Academy Awards, winning 17. Lord of the Rings’ final film The Return of the King was awarded eleven of those Oscars which tied it with Ben-Hur and Titanic as the most Academy Awards won by a single movie.
Making the trilogy was an ambitious production with each movie filmed back-to-back on location in New Zealand over the course of 438 days between October 1999 and December 2000. Photos from behind the scenes are proof of how much the cast and crew bonded over that time, but a few cast members chose to take that bond to another level with a Lord of the Rings tattoo. It’s actually not an unusual thing for a movie cast to do. More recently, five of the six original Avengers took a cue from the Lords of the Rings cast and got matching tattoos themselves.
According to Dominic Monaghan, who played Merry Brandybuck, he and his Fellowship cast members wanted to do something to remember the grueling Lord of the Rings shoot and the friendships they formed while making it. After deciding a tattoo was perfect, they toyed with several designs including the One Ring and the word ‘fellowship’.
Eventually, they settled on getting the word ‘nine’ tattooed in Elvish script – a fictional language invented by Tolkien – at the suggestion of Weta Workshop designer Daniel Falconer. The tattoo is particularly fitting as it refers to the nine actors that played the Fellowship – Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Boromir (Sean Bean), Merry Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan), Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Pippin Took (Billy Boyd) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies).
The Fellowship cast got the same design inked on different parts of their bodies at one of Wellington, New Zealand’s oldest studios Rogers Tattoo Art. One Fellowship actor famously declined to take part in the ritual, however. Gimli star John Rhys-Davies is the sole Fellowship member who didn’t get the Elvish tattoo and instead got his stunt double Brett Beattie to get inked on his behalf. Rhys later jokingly defended his decision to not get the Lord of the Rings tattoo, stating “The elvish tattoo was designed but, as I am a professional actor, whenever there’s anything dangerous or that involves blood, I sent my stunt double to do it.”