Behind 'The Lord of the Rings'

It is perhaps the most-anticipated film of the year, and its producers hope it will be among the most honored on Academy Awards night.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the final installment in the epic trilogy that has defied Hollywood naysayers by enthralling fans and critics alike — and setting box office records in the process.

In an exclusive Primetime Thursday report, Jay Schadler goes on the set and behind the scenes for an unprecedented look at how director Peter Jackson has made his incredible vision a reality. Jackson and the stars of the film discuss how the arduous process of making this big-budget movie is the culmination of a true labor of love.

Primetime Thursday airs Thursday, Dec. 4 (10:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network.

Most saw it as a huge gamble — trusting a little-known director with an enormous budget and a series of favorite books that have a very loyal following. Plus, Jackson filmed all three movies at the same time, before anyone knew the first film would be a hit. It could have been the most spectacular failure in film history. Instead, the Lord of the Rings films have been among the highest-grossing of all time.

Primetime Thursday and Schadler were given exclusive access to the New Zealand film sets where Jackson was shooting some of the final scenes of The Return of the King, as well as the workshops where master artisans created costumes, intricate models and the mysterious creatures that give the film its richness. Schadler sees first-hand the obsessive attention to detail that begins with Jackson and pervades the entire production.

Primetime also captures many candid moments with the film's stars, from practical jokes to shared beers at a local pub. The personal bonds between the actors have become so intense, several have even gotten identical secret tattoos. Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Sir Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler and others discuss how this experience has changed their careers and their lives. They also explain why they believe this epic tale of good versus evil continues to resonate with so many people.