'The Two Towers' turns 15: Sean Astin reveals the real-world origins of Sam's big speech

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Elijah Wood, left, and Sean Astin in The Two Towers. (Photo: New Line/Courtesy Everett Collection)

As the fan debate continues to rage over whether Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a bold new entry in an ongoing saga or a betrayal over what has come before, let’s take some time to celebrate the anniversary of one of the best middle chapters in any cinematic trilogy: The Two Towers. Released in theaters on Dec. 18, 2002, the film marked the halfway point in Peter Jackson’s three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s towering work of fantasy, The Lord of the Rings. Much like The Last Jedi today, at the time of its release, The Two Towers received some criticism for juggling too many plot threads and keeping its core cast separated. Watched again 15 years later, though, the film is clearly the entry with the series’ best battle scene (Helm’s Deep), most impactful effects work (Andy Serkis’s motion-capture performance as Gollum), and slimiest villain (Brad Dourif’s Wormtongue).

The Two Towers also houses that speech. You know the one: with the weight of bearing the One Ring threatening to drown him in trauma, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) looks to his friend and companion, Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), to raise his spirits back up again as they continue their journey to Mordor. “It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered,” the humble hobbit gardener says, quoting text adapted by Jackson and his co-writers, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Stephen Sinclair from Tolkien’s novel. “Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. … But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.” Heck, why are we typing it out for you? Watch the whole sequence below, and try not to tear up.

Superior to any and all of the multiple finales crammed into The Return of the King one year later, Sam’s stirring speech in The Two Towers is arguably the most frequently quoted scene from any one of Jackson’s films. As Astin revealed to Yahoo Entertainment recently, it’s a speech that almost didn’t exist. “That scene was not written in the original script,” the actor says, explaining that Jackson decided to insert it into the film as a direct response to the Sept. 11 attacks, which had overshadowed the release of The Fellowship of the Ring the previous year. (In fact, in the run-up to the release of The Two Towers, there were a handful of online petitions requesting that the title be changed.) “The writers went back to the book, found that speech, and we went back and filmed it,” Astin remembers. “In the middle of a billion-dollar [franchise] and all that comes with that, Peter Jackson was able to navigate that space in a way that was really heartfelt and meaningful.”

Peter Jackson, left, and Astin on the set of The Return of the King. (Photo: New Line/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Even though that scene was written in the wake of 9/11, Astin feels that Sam’s words still reverberate today in the wake of tragic events. The actor posted the speech to his Facebook page in the summer of 2016 after the Orlando nightclub shooting. The clip was also widely circulated in the wake of Donald Trump’s election win. “We’ve gotten to a place in the development of society where people are afraid more than they’re brave, in my estimation,” says Astin, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump on Twitter. “Violence and natural disasters — there are calamities all around the world. I’m so grateful that I get to be a part of something that, when any of these things happen, people can turn to them for a couple of hours and exist in a space where that speech feeds into [bravery].” Asked whether he had hoped to return for Jackson’s less well-received Hobbit trilogy, Astin confesses that he did have a specific role in mind. “I wanted to play Hamfast Gamgee, Sam’s father and Bilbo’s gardener, but they just didn’t do it.” Now we’ll always be left wondering whether Ham is as beautiful an orator as Sam.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is available to rent or purchase on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube.

Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:

  • Ayda Field's mum Gwen looks unrecognisable after hair transformation
    News
    Hello!

    Ayda Field's mum Gwen looks unrecognisable after hair transformation

    Ayda Field was visited at work on the X Factor over the weekend by her mum Gwen, who wasted no time in settling in to her daughter's dressing room! Robbie Williams' wife shared a hilarious photograph of her mum relaxing in the X Factor studios dressed up in her daughter's long, blonde wig. Gwen, who often wears her short hair down styled straight, looked almost unrecognisbale at first glance with her new look. Gwen features regularly on both Ayda and Robbie's Instagram accounts, and is known for her brilliant sense of humour.

  • The Harry and Meghan show is a right royal turn-off
    News
    The Guardian

    The Harry and Meghan show is a right royal turn-off

    Hey everybody, did you realise that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were touring Australia? Is this a royal tour or a Disney animation – why aren’t bluebirds circling their heads? If you knew a couple who were constantly making you look at their holiday snaps and videos, you’d be crawling under windowsills to pretend that you weren’t home or answering the phone in a Swedish accent.

  • Farage 'happy to have another referendum in 20 years'
    News
    Sky News

    Farage 'happy to have another referendum in 20 years'

    Brexit supporters have reiterated their "Leave Means Leave" message at a counter-rally to the "People's Vote" march in central London. Supporters of leaving the EU were addressed by Nigel Farage, and MPs Kate Hoey and Nigel Owen Paterson in a rally that pledged to "rescue Brexit" and express "support for the Brexit Britain voted for". The event, run by Leave Means Leave and thought to be attended by around 1,200 people in Harrogate, has branded the campaign for a second referendum a "losers' vote".

  • Cars Plow Through Flooded Streets in Greater Doha
    Storyful

    Cars Plow Through Flooded Streets in Greater Doha

    Doha received nearly a year’s worth of rain on October 20, leading to flooding on roads and in buildings throughout the city. This footage shows cars moving through the flooded streets of Ain Khaled, an area southwest of Doha’s center. According to an Agence France-Presse report, Doha received an estimated 2.4 inches of rain that day, which is close to the annual average of three inches. Credit: @jincejoseph989 via Storyful

  • Strictly week 5: Everyone loves Carlton, but Seann and Katya are still the centre of attention
    News
    Yahoo Celebrity UK

    Strictly week 5: Everyone loves Carlton, but Seann and Katya are still the centre of attention

    Carlton from The Fresh Prince! Joe and Dianne's romantic waltz! Charles's killer street dance! Neil's Death Stare! – All of the scores and highlights from Strictly Come Dancing Week 5.

  • Meghan And Harry Will Not Seek Official Royal Title For Their Child - Reports
    News
    HuffPost UK

    Meghan And Harry Will Not Seek Official Royal Title For Their Child - Reports

    The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not seek a royal title for their child,

  • Strictly fans are all saying this about Seann's guitar
    News
    Digital Spy

    Strictly fans are all saying this about Seann's guitar

    "Anything to keep them apart"

  • Emmerdale hints at double exit in 30 new spoiler pics
    Digital Spy

    Emmerdale hints at double exit in 30 new spoiler pics

    Are two characters about to leave? From Digital Spy

  • 8 myths about gut health debunked by an expert
    News
    Evening Standard

    8 myths about gut health debunked by an expert

    Gut health is a trending topic right now. The state of your gut can affect your overall health in a number of ways, from your digestive function, to your immune system and weight management. The gut contains good – or "friendly" – and bad bacteria, and according to the American Nutrition Association, a healthy balance between the two is around 85 per cent good and 15 per cent bad.

  • Almost 700,000 march to demand ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit deal
    News
    The Guardian

    Almost 700,000 march to demand ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit deal

    Protesters march through London to demand a people’s vote on Brexit on 20 October. The centre of London ground to a halt as an estimated 700,000 people from all over the UK marched peacefully on parliament to demand a second referendum on Brexit. Addressing the crowds, which included dozens of MPs from all political parties, the TV personality and food writer Delia Smith said Brexit threatened to cause “unmitigated chaos”.

  • People might actually like you more than you think, and it's to do with the 'liking gap' – here's what that is
    News
    Evening Standard

    People might actually like you more than you think, and it's to do with the 'liking gap' – here's what that is

    "It's basically our finding that after a conversation with someone new, your conversation partner might like you more than you realise," Boothby explains. Subjects were harsher on themselves about their own first impression, suggesting they may have higher standards for themselves than for others, possibly, Boothby points out, because they know they could have done better.

  • ‘Beautiful movement’ draws record crowd from across the UK to demand Final Say
    News
    The Independent

    ‘Beautiful movement’ draws record crowd from across the UK to demand Final Say

    Looking out from the stage at an estimated half a million people crammed into Parliament Square, Caroline Lucas summed things up. “What a beautiful sight you are,” the former Green Party leader beamed. This was the climax of Saturday’s People’s Vote march: Some 670,000 people from across the UK – young and old, men and women, Delia Smith – gathered on a beautiful day in London to ask for just one thing: to be asked again.

  • UK firms near point of no return for Brexit contingency plans, CBI warns
    News
    Reuters

    UK firms near point of no return for Brexit contingency plans, CBI warns

    Most British companies will implement their plans for coping with a disruptive Brexit by December if there is no clarity by then on how Britain will leave the European Union, a survey by a major employers group showed. The Confederation of British Industry said its findings showed how the lack of a breakthrough in negotiations between London and Brussels was endangering British jobs, investment and economic growth. "Businesses have displayed remarkable resilience since the referendum, but patience is now threadbare," CBI Director General Carolyn Fairbairn said.

  • UK Brexit minister Raab says open-minded on extending post-Brexit transition
    News
    Business Insider UK

    UK Brexit minister Raab says open-minded on extending post-Brexit transition

    Britain is open-minded about extending the post-Brexit transition period if it means the European Union drops its proposals for the so-called Irish backstop, Brexit minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday. "If we need a bridge from the end of the implementation period to the future relationship ... I am open minded about using a short extension of the implementation period," Raab told BBC TV. Raab also said he thought a deal needed to be done by the end of November in order to get the legislation through the UK parliament in time.

  • New Kia Soul and Soul EV to be revealed in Los Angeles next month
    News
    motor1

    New Kia Soul and Soul EV to be revealed in Los Angeles next month

    Sales scheduled to kick off in Q2 of 2019.

  • X Factor suffers huge live blunder as wrong singer is announced
    News
    Evening Standard

    X Factor suffers huge live blunder as wrong singer is announced

    The X Factor suffered a huge blunder live on air as Danny Tetley had to restart his performance because the wrong singer was announced.

  • Brother of Manchester Arena attack victim slams 'small' EDL protest for ‘wasting valuable police time’
    News
    Evening Standard

    Brother of Manchester Arena attack victim slams 'small' EDL protest for ‘wasting valuable police time’

    The brother a Manchester Arena terrorist attack victim has slammed the English Defence League (EDL) for their "small" protest in Manchester, accusing them of wasting valuable police time. Dan Hett, whose brother Martyn Hett died in the May 2017 attack, criticised the far-right group, arguing that fighting extremism cannot be done by “standing in the street and drinking cans of larger while wasting valuable police time”. A protest and march by the EDL took place in Manchester peacefully on Saturday, the same day as a People’s Vote march in London.

  • News
    Business Insider UK

    Workers take dive into deep doo to unclog sewer pumps

    Divers spent two days deep inside a South Carolina sewer, pulling out huge balls of oily, black used wet wipes and baby wipes that had clogged intake pumps. The Charleston Water System posted pictures of the masses of wipes on its Twitter account. The cloth wipes, which have rapidly become popular, need to be thrown away because they are woven and don't break down in water.

  • News
    Business Insider UK

    A timeline of Saudi statements on the killing of Khashoggi

    The official Saudi statements on the fate of journalist Jamal Khashoggi have changed several times since he mysteriously disappeared after entering his country's consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. The latest announcement on Saturday, declaring that Khashoggi had died in a "fistfight" with officials that came to see him there, increased criticism over Saudi's handling of the case and concern over the kingdom's possible complicity in the killing of the prominent Washington Post columnist. Here is a look at the Saudi narrative regarding Khashoggi, as it developed.

  • Summer camps falling out of favour amid rise of 'helicopter parenting', charity boss says 
    News
    The Telegraph

    Summer camps falling out of favour amid rise of 'helicopter parenting', charity boss says 

    Summer camps are falling out of fashion because British parents are too scared “to let children out of their sight”, a charity boss has said.

  • Budget supermarket Lidl launches Oxford University scholarship for students to study German
    News
    The Telegraph

    Budget supermarket Lidl launches Oxford University scholarship for students to study German

    Lidl has launched a new scholarship for Oxford University students to study German. 

  • News
    Business Insider UK

    Warren ancestry highlights how tribes decide membership

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The clash between Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and President Donald Trump over her Native American heritage highlights the varying methods tribes use to decide who belongs.

  • People's Vote march: Sadiq Khan, Delia Smith and Dragon's Den host join forces to address thousands of attendees of People's Vote march
    News
    Evening Standard

    People's Vote march: Sadiq Khan, Delia Smith and Dragon's Den host join forces to address thousands of attendees of People's Vote march

    TV chef Delia Smith opened up the addresses on stage and described the current Brexit situation as "unmitigated chaos". Following this, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan took to the microphone. "This government is leading us towards a bad deal Brexit deal or even worse no deal at all.

  • Nicola Sturgeon quits BBC event over Steve Bannon invitation
    News
    The Guardian

    Nicola Sturgeon quits BBC event over Steve Bannon invitation

    Nicola Sturgeon said inclusion of Steve Bannon risked ‘legitimising or normalising far-right, racist views’. Nicola Sturgeon has pulled out of a conference being jointly hosted by the BBC next month after learning that Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon had been invited to take part. Scotland’s first minister said that allowing Bannon to freely express his opinions risked “legitimising or normalising far-right, racist views”.

  • Hamleys reaches endgame under ownership of China's C.banner
    News
    Sky News

    Hamleys reaches endgame under ownership of China's C.banner

    The Chinese owner of Hamleys, the world's most famous toy retailer,‎ has begun exploring a sale of the company just days after reporting multimillion-pound losses. Sky News has learnt that C.banner International, which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, has launched a strategic review of Hamleys, which it bought three years ago. News of C.banner's‎ decision to explore options for Hamleys throws the future ownership of the toy retailing giant into doubt just before its crucial Christmas trading period gets under way.