Part of the magic of the Lord of the Rings franchise is its ability to really put us in the fantasy, and a lot of that has to do with the spectacular job the makeup artists and costume designers did with transforming plain ol’ humans into mythical monsters and species. While it’s super entertaining for us watching through a screen, it’s apparently not always fun for the actors underneath all that makeup and prosthetics. In fact, Lord of the Rings alum Stephen Ure, who played one of the Orcs with speaking lines, had a silent panic attack during a scene due to all the heavy prosthetics he was wearing on his face.
Lord of the Rings’ Stephen Ure recently recalled a moment of panic in between shots where he felt suffocated by the prosthetics that turned him into one of the orcs we see on screen. It sounds pretty terrifying even second hand, let alone if you are actually the person it is happening to! Here it is in his own words to Thrillist:
As Grishnakh, we were just in between shots, and I suddenly lost my swallow mechanism. That made me a bit panicky and then I sort of hyperventilated a little bit. The more the panic is coming the worst that it is. I'd never really experienced a panic like that. Iwas maybe three seconds away from ripping the face off so I could breathe, I thought I couldn't breathe.
Getting into character on a movie set can, in many cases, take hours, and that was surely the case for a lot of actors on set of Lord of the Rings. In the same interview, Stephen Ure says he pretty much had to suffer under all of the weight on his face and keep himself from ripping the heavy prosthetics off. I’m sure producers are grateful the actor chose not to do this one for specific reason as well. This is what Ure had to say on the matter:
No one can tell because I'm under all that stuff. Suddenly, I just could swallow again. Nobody knew anything. That was my own little episode. I was completely freaked out for a minute. That could have been terrible. If I had ripped that face off then that's the day gone. That would have cost tens of thousands of dollars.
In the 20 years since Stephen Ure’s portrayal of an orc in one of the most well-known franchises in history, you would hope that the use of prosthetics has become a little easier on actors. Hopefully, time has eliminated the panic attack-triggering effects heavy prosthetics can have. Some films do use CGI and other digital means to transform actors but, sometimes, getting the very real effect of prosthetics is worth it. Yet as I mentioned before, you have to remember that fans aren’t the ones wearing them.
To suffer in silence like that in the name of saving time and money on the production is just pure professionalism. He likely is not alone in his experience, either, because a ton of movies use heavy prosthetics on the faces of actors - it takes a lot of talent to work under those circumstances! I never thought it’d be thanking one of the Lord of the Rings baddies, and an orc for that matter, but your sacrifice is very appreciated by this fan, Stephen Ure!