'Lord of the Rings' Orc actor recalls having a panic attack while unable to breath under heavy prosthetics

Zac Ntim
·3 min read
Lord of the Rings
Stephen Ure as the Orc Grishnakh in "The Lord of the Rings." New Line
  • Stephen Ure played one of the Orcs in "The Lord of the Rings."

  • The actor said he once had a panic attack on the set while under heavy prosthetics.

  • Ure said it would have cost the film tens of thousands of dollars if he removed his prosthetics.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The actor behind one of the Orcs in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" franchise gave a recent interview with Thrillist in which he revealed a frightening moment during production when he had a brief panic attack while under heavy prosthetics.

Orcs are one of the many fictional creatures featured in "The Lord of the Rings." They appear as goblin-esque monsters, which, of course, required extensive prosthetics to be applied to actors.

The Australian actor Stephen Ure, who played one such Orc, recalled a day on set. He said the crew took a short break in between shooting a fight scene when he suddenly had trouble swallowing.

"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," he said.

"I was maybe three seconds away from ripping the face off so I could breathe - I thought I couldn't breathe. 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."

Lord of the rings
Elijah Wood in the famous scene from "The Lord of the Rings." New Line Cinema

The huge scope of prosthetics used on "The Lord of the Rings" has been widely reported in the past. Masks and makeup were molded precisely to the features of actors so much so that Ure said he had to constantly work his facial expressions under his makeup or people would think he was unhappy.

"That Grishnakh character if I wasn't working my face underneath trying to push through all the makeup when I was just in resting-bitch-face mode, he looked very sad," he said. "He looked very forlorn. People kept coming up to me, going, 'You OK? Can I get you something?' I went, 'Yeah, I'm fine, just leave me alone.' 'You just look like you're a bit bummed out.'"

All three "LOTR" films were shot concurrently, and later during the interview, Ure said he spent so much time under heavy makeup that many of his cast members and crewmates who had now known him for many years did not recognize him without makeup on.

"At the wrap party for 'Lord of the Rings,' I'd been working on all three films, and I knew people, I found myself just standing there in the corner alone because nobody knew who I was," he said. "At the time it took 4 1/2 hours to put the makeup on. I'd have to go in at 2 a.m. By the time I was halfway through at half past five when people started arriving, I was already unrecognizable."

Earlier this year, it was announced that production on a new "Lord of the Rings" television series had begun production. The show is being produced by Amazon and is reportedly the most expensive television show in history, with an estimated budget of over $1 billion.

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