QUESTIONS WITH PETER JACKSON- PART 2
IT COOL NEWS
Peter Jackson Answers THE GEEKS!!! 20 Questions About Lord
Of The Rings!!!
Harry here, with the results of the 2nd Peter Jackson Q
& A about THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Peter and you fans did a wonderful job with this, and
well.... I am sure you will be pleased with the results you will see below. Peter will be
in RED and the questions will be in BLACK, to make it as plain as possible. When you click
on the TALK BACK function, your TALK BACK will be posted to the first page you clicked on,
to see this Q & A. That way we wont be crowding this already stuffed page.
Without further ado, heres that guy that will be
bringing us THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeter
PJ: Here we go again! Before I launch
into the questions, let me bring you up to speed with where my brain is at. As most of you
know, we had developed LotR as two films for Miramax, and we're now reworking the material
as three movies for New Line.
As a result, we are in the process of
rethinking the structure and narrative, and making some quite substantial changes to what
we had done before. I mention this simply to put my answers in context: we have written
one draft of The Fellowship of the Ring, we're half way through The Two Towers and haven't
even started The Return of the King. Therefore, I'm doing my best to address these
questions before the trilogy is actually written. We will be doing several more drafts of
all three scripts before any shooting begins, so please understand that while I will give
you accurate information based on what I know today, things will continue to change and
develop over the next few months.
1. Alright, lets kick this Q
& A off with a good ol intelligent concern. For me, this question really gets down to
the tone and seriousness of the film as Denethor is... well... an amazingly tragic
character, and his sons are even more so. But Bonny here gets to it far better than I....
I am very concerned about the
way Denethor is going to be portrayed. In the Rankin/Bass production, he only appeared in
one scene--the scene where he incinerates himself--and he is portrayed as a
one-dimensional madman. (And Faramir is nowhere to be seen.) However, I always felt there
were more dimensions to the character that needed to be explored, I saw him as a very
tragic character under the circumstances: the death of his older son Boromir, the
conditions of his office, his eminent removal, the assault on his city, and the seemingly
inevitable death of his younger son Faramir. So the question is this: Will Denethor be
portrayed as a madman, or will he be given the full dimensions he has in the novel?
PJ: I agree with you. In our old two film
screenplay, Denethor is probably a little one dimensional and I think we can do a lot
better when we write The Return of the King, which we will start in a few weeks. It is
easy to portray him simply as a mad villain, but layering a tragic subtext throughout his
scenes will be far more interesting.
The way that we often write (not just
this project, but others) is to provide different layers over subsequent drafts ... i.e
write the villain in one draft; get that working, then go back over the scenes and
humanise him in the next draft. It makes it much easier when you're dealing with a huge
volume of material.
By the way, I've never seen the
Rankin/Bass "RotK", so if anyone can tell me where I can get it, I'd be very
grateful. I am curious.
Also at the beginning of The Two
Towers, when Boromir is killed, are you going to do it like the book, beginning with
Aragorn and having him find that Boromir has been shot, or will you actually show him
being shot with arrows?
PJ: We are running that sequence in real
time, actually showing him defending Merry and Pippin and getting shot. We're also sliding
that sequence into the end of the first movie.
2. Bonny had this second
paragraph of questions, that really gets into the structure of the storytelling, and
whether or not it will mirror the non-linear story telling of the dear Professors.
Heres Bonny again....
The Fellowship of the Ring
is told in a very linear format, but The Two Towers and The Return of the King jump around
in time a bit. (ROTK begins at Minas Tirith, then jumps back to the previous day,
according to the time lines in the back.) They also split the novels into two halves: one
half devoted solely to the battles in the west involving Merry and Pippin, the other half
devoted to Frodo and Sam. Will the films follow this format, or tell the stories
sequentially, integrating the two halves?"
PJ: We will not be
following the "Book Three, Book Four" type format. We will be intercutting
between the various storylines. In fact, we are grappling with intercutting between Frodo
& Sam, and the events at Edoras and Helm's Deep right now in our work on The Two
"I suppose I should include
this also: the two productions I have seen (okay, one was radio) both include Gandalf's
capture by Saruman. Will this be seen as part of the first half of the film, or be told,
as in the book, as a flashback during the Council of Elrond?"
PJ: At the moment, we have the
best of both worlds: we are showing Gandalf's capture by Saruman in "real time",
but showing his escape as flashback during the Rivendell council.
"Also, will you be including
Tom Bombadil? The Ralph Bakshi production cut it out, as did the BBC radio drama.
PJ: At this point
in time Bombadil is out. The main reason is not just time or pace, but one of simple
narrative focus ... the Bombadil sequence has so little to do with Sauron or the Ring, it
is difficult to justify the screen time. It simply doesn't give us any vital new
information. A very simplest rule of thumb that I use in movie storytelling is to try and
further the story with each new scene.
I'm flicking through our
Fellowship script ... it is 138 pages long. The Hobbits leave Hobbiton on page 30, and
arrive at Rivendell on page 63. Even that 33 pages on the road feels a little long and
will probably get trimmed in our next draft.
3. Alright, now we
move on to the accents. Leah E. had the following to say...
I'm really curious to
know whether there is going to be any consistency in the accents of the characters, and if
so what accents they are going to use. In (my) ideal world, Frodo, Bilbo, Pippin, and
Merry would speak English Country Squire and Sam would speak English Country Bumpkin--it
seems important since the hobbit world is so closely linked to the idealized English
countryside. Then if the other species had accents peculiar to themselves, that would be
pretty cool. Or failing that, it would be GREAT if no one spoke with an American accent as
that often seems to bring fantasy worlds crashing down. I am American, by the way. I just
don't think it would suit Tolkien. Thanks! Leah E.
PJ: My preference is to use
English accents as I think an American accent would feel as out of place in Middle-earth.
If you are making Braveheart or Rob Roy, a King Arthur, or Robin Hood movie, then a basic
asthetic sense says that American accents are not appropriate (as in Costner's Robin
Hood). The Lord of the Rings is a classic English story. However, I think that New Line
are concerned that having no American accents will alienate a US audience, so that debate
has yet to be resolved. There may be a way of figuring something out.
4. Alrighty, here
comes the casting question out of the group. The following comes from
You have said repeatedly
that you want unknowns for the Hobbits and would tolerate more famous (but inexpensive)
people for the supporting cast. Define famous (Sean Connery is obviously famous, but would
Jeremy Northam qualify?)"
PJ: With apologises to Jeremy
Northam, I would not define him as famous! Not today at any rate.
"define unknown: are these
hobbits-to-be newcomers with little experience (hence dicey prospects for the heavy duty
acting required later in the saga) or simply professional actors who haven't gotten a big
PJ: Both of those would apply. I like
working with "unknowns". It can be dicey, but also hugely satisfying and
exciting. Kate Winslet had never been in a film before Heavenly Creatures, and who had
ever seen Ralph Fiennes before Schindler's List? These people are out there ... somewhere
in the world is the perfect Frodo and perfect Sam ... and we will find them!
"and also can you confirm or deny
the following casting rumors: Patrick Magoohan as Gandalf; Kate Winslet as Arwen or Eowyn;
Christopher Lee as Gandalf, Saruman or Denethor; Charlton Heston as Denethor, Gandalf or
Theoden; Sam Neill as Aragorn?
PJ: None of those rumours are true. At
this point in time, NO RUMOURS ARE TRUE! If you hear rumours, then you can safely assume
they are 100% FALSE!
No "name" actors, or their
agents have been approached in anyway. That's not to say that any of the above actors
would not be great for the trilogy. Several of them we would seriously consider ... it
just hasn't happened yet.
We started casting in Dublin and London
before Christmas and will ramp up first thing in the new year, with casting spreading into
LA, Australia and New Zealand. At this stage, we are auditioning lessor known actors for
all the major roles. In March we will review the results and then strategise with New Line
about where to place "name" actors ... and who those actors might be. So assume
any "rumours" between now and March to be hogwash.
And from Harlequin will you be
working or casting any past Peter Jackson cast folk like Jake Busey (my favorite for
Legolas: agree or disagree?), Clive Merrison, Jed Brophy, Peter Dobson, Timothy
PJ: I would love to work with any of
those actors again. The Lord of the Rings has to be the ultimate example of the saying
"the right actor for the right role" and that's the philosophy we will follow.
We will find and cast the right actors for the very specific roles that LotR requires.
Whether I have worked with them before, is a secondary consideration. So the answer at
this stage: I don't know.
Also Peter, Ive been being
deluged with e-mail about casting for a long long time. And perhaps the question that most
came to my mind about it is this. When George Lucas was casting STAR WARS, he assembled
multiple groups of actors to see how the chemistry was between them. As they
went through various readings the pool was narrowed down to the group we finally got on
screen. How are you assembling your final group?
PJ: That is sound thinking, especially
for an "ensemble" cast - which the Fellowship obviously is. Geography might go
against us ... if we have a favourite Frodo in London, a Sam in Sydney, a Merry in LA and
a Pippin in NZ, then it will be hard to get them together during the auditioning. We will
see. On Heavenly Creatures we got around that by having Kate read a scene in London and
Mel read a scene in NZ and then we cut the two performances together on video to get a
sense of what they were like as a couple.
5. Now we move on to the weapons and armor of LORD OF THE RINGS....
Do you intend to have
your people research bladed-weapon fighting so that the swordfighting, axe hacking etc
looks believable, or are you just going for the Phantom Empire approach (ie let the actors
do their own thing with the weapons)"
will make it look believable. One of our artists, John Howe is a member of one of Europe's
most authentic medieval reinactment groups ... and he is making sure that the weapons and
equipment have a very realistic quality, whilst still looking original in terms of design.
We have had various workshops with
sword masters, both European and oriental. We have also had workshops with one of the only
guys in NZ skilled at firing an authentic English longbow. We are working hard at
establishing unique fighting styles for the different races of Middle-earth.
"also how much stuntwork
is required for the major characters"
PJ: A difficult question to answer
now. Obviously the stuntwork will be dictated by the final scripts and fight choreography.
"and how do you intend to
handle the Race of the three Hunters?
PJ: I assume you're referring to
the sequence where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli pursue Merry and Pippin? It pretty much
follows the book.
And then Joe Piela asks this:
How is the Weta Workshop
handling the enormous job of producing huge amounts of chainmail, other armor, and weapons
to equip the thousands of extras appearing in the movies?
armor making is well underway. "Hero" suits are being made in steel, with
background suits in fibreglass. They is no better way to make steel armour and weapons
than the way it was done 600 years ago ... we have a foundry set up at Weta. Steel is
heated red-hot and beaten on anvils! It looks very authentic!
Our hero chainmail is being
manufactured in India of all places. There is a company there that can make square-section
mail very quickly and cheaply (Amnesty International have assured us they are not using
For the background suits of mail
we are using the old knitted string technique. A wonderful Wellington Knitting Club is
producing about one suit per person per day (all these ladies are over 70 years old!)
Background and fighting weapons
are being cast in a strong, rigid rubber material, that will not wobble (did anyone see
the wobbling axe in the last shot of Braveheart?)
Heh heh heh.... The geeks are doing pretty good thus far, so let us continue. The almighty
Andy came in with this question about Sam and Frodos journey....
How do you intend to
show Frodo and Sams journey from the Breaking of the fellowship right through to the
ascent to the pass of Cirith Ungol. In the Novel this particular part of the journey was
given quite alot of time to develop indeed it was given a complete book in the Two Towers.
The reason I ask this is because this entire section is a slow build up of tension were
Tolkien tried to slowly increase the horrors and power of Mordor which is fine in the
context of a novel but quite simply there is not enough action or excitement for a film.it
would be a shame to see the first part of frodo and sams journey brushed over to make way
for the more epic events that happen to their fellow friends in the Two towers".
PJ: This is the stuff we are
currently writing , so we are aware of the problems that you point out. There is much more
action with the events in Rohan, so in a way that becomes the "A Story" or
driving narrative of the 2nd movie.
We are developing the Frodo and
Sam story in two ways: We are putting a lot of emphasis on the Gollum/Smeagol schizoid
personality split and how that impacts on Frodo and Sam, and also making their capture by
the Faramir's troops as tense as possible. It's interesting that in the Two Towers, the
greatest threat to the Ring comes not from the Orcs but from Man ... and we want to really
strengthen that drama.
Our experience here is a good
example of what we are discovering during this writing process. Everything is in the books
to one extent or another ... we have little need to make things up, but we do need to be
selective in what we emphasis. In some areas we are taking things that Tolkien brushed
over and developing them more, because it supports the narrative drive of the film ... and
deleting some things entirely because they don't support what we're doing with the film at
"Also will you show the 3
assault's upon lorien and the siege of Dale and Erebor in the Return of the king or will
you merely refer to them in passing conversation between characters?
PJ: At this stage, they are
neither shown or referred to in our old scripts, but as we have yet to write The Return of
the King, anything could happen. Showing the assaults on Lorien could be great. We are
definitely finding that as we now have more screen time with the trilogy, we are able to
include much more of this type of detail. Keep your fingers crossed!
7. Here is a question from
Doug about the whole Childrens film mark that he fears will be stamped
on these films. So tell us Peter... How many Ewoks will you put in this movie and will you
tear them up or let them kill the orcs?
This question probably
is asked a lot, but, What measure are taken to keep people from immediately thinking that
this might be a children's film? Some people (and studio executives) might have some
negative feelings, seeing the main characters being short people with curly hair and hairy
feet. I had this fear after Entertainment Weekly said that it was a very shaky decision to
give Peter Jackson 140 Million dollars to make a "Hobbit" trilogy.
Your question really falls into
the marketing domain. I know from experience that people who haven't read LotR think it is
a children's book - getting mixed up with The Hobbit, no doubt. It is the job of the New
Line marketing department to educate film goers as to exactly the type of movie they
should expect. That is helped by having a great trailer and poster, of course.
The films we are making will be
PG13. However, let me assure you that there is no pressure from New Line to gear them
towards a children's audience. They are smart enough to know that The Lord of the Rings
was huge in the sixties, and most of those readers are now 50 years old. The intention is
to make it neither childish, nor overly dark ... a good solid action adventure with
intelligence and depth.
I was talking with a New Line
executive the other day, and we were saying that the battle scenes should push the PG13
envelope, not in terms of violence, but shear intensity. I also wouldn't rule out the
possibility of "extra battle footage", unsuitable for a PG13, for future video
One last thing, I would
like to thank both Harry and Peter Jackson, If I did not read what people felt about the
books, I would never have picked them up, and I would have never realized Tolkien's great
8. Ive been inundated
with query after query about Gollum. Will he be a fishy, froggy thing. How will evil twist
and turn a Hobbit into a Gollum? Will he be an actor in a costume, a puppet, a cgi thing?
However the best person to ask all of this stuff was our dear man Cliff, and heres
what he had to say...
I submit the $0.64
question: Rumor has it that all main characters will be live actors except one: which will
be a completely CGI creature. This must be Gollum, then? One would assume you would not
create a "Yoda"-type Gollum that was a fancy electronic hand-puppet".
PJ: Gollum will be completely CGI.
His performance has to be spectacular - way beyond anything we have yet seen in CGI land.
WETA are developing vast amounts of new code to deal with this. New modelling codes, new
skinning code, new bone and muscle code - muscle that actually acts the same as the real
organic tissue. His performance will be based largely on motion capture - an under used,
under rated technique that if done badly can be terrible, but if used well is amazingly
The Gollum design is finished and
approved. How do I describe him? Not too fishy or froggy - a little I guess, but we took a
great deal of care to make him believable. You have to accept that he was once like Frodo,
but that the power of the Ring has kept him alive way beyond his years. We were very
careful to give him a range of expressions from the evil of Gollum to the sympathy of
Smeagol. His design is based on a sculpture created by the WETA workshop guys. This has
been scanned into the computer used a NZ invented scanner that reproduces all the detail
of the original sculpture - he doesn't look in the slightest like a CG model.
Throw out any thoughts or concerns
you have about CG creatures you've seen .. this is gonna be different. Gollum's going to
"And if you do make Gollum as
completely CGI, the biggest question is what will you look for in his Voice? Clearly the
voice-actor must make Gollum suitably wretched and vile, but at the same time pitiful, as
his relationship with the Hobbits in the latter part of the story is so important. A whole
generation of Tolkien fans have a strong impression of the Gollum that Brother Theodore
voiced for the Rankin/Bass television movies. Will your Gollum have this guttural, twisted
monster voice or will he sound like a Hobbit (which he is, ostensibly)?
PJ: We have yet to cast Gollum's
voice, but I would imagine it should reflect the same twisted deterioration that has
happened to his body.
9. Alot of people are curious
about your research for writing with Fran Walsh the 3 scripts for the films. Did you
consult the Professors various notes, The Silmarillion, or Tolkien scholars works?
Heres what Josh was curious about...
Are there any (at least
possibly tentative) plans to feature references to Tolkien's *other* masterwork, "The
Silmarillion", in dialogue, or perhaps, in flashback (such as Aragorn's recounting of
the Beren and Luthien tale in "Fellowship"?
PJ: We have a vast library of
every book we can find that has been written by and about Tolkien and Middle-earth. I
can't claim to have read them all cover-to-cover, but we consult them when nessacary.
The Silmarillion is obviously very
useful, but it does not feature in our trilogy. There is cross-over material that appears
in both, like the history of the Rings and Sauron, and the Last Alliance, Elendil and
Isildur. Like I said earlier, material that does not have direct bearing on our story is
difficult to fit in. However, there are many references to the early Ages in our dialogue.
10. I know you have been seen
buying butt-loads of model kits at modeling shows and shops. Undoubtedly this comes from
being a geek. Give us your impressions, as a geek, of the modeling work that is being done
on the film. Which kit is going to be the one well all die for?
PJ: The model kit analogy is very
apt, since all of our creature and armour designing is based on resin or garage kit
techniques. After doing a series of drawings, we start marquetting the designs as small
(12") sculptures, using Super-sculpty and casting in resin. Richard Taylor's team
must have produced nearly 300 such sculptures already, with many more to go. There are
about 50 Uruk-Hai marquettes, dozens of Orcs and Gollums, Rohan and Gondorian soldiers.
Just before Christmas they finished a series of design marquettes of Dwarves in full
battle armour. They looked great! Any one would make a great kit.
WETA has a team of about 6 main
sculptors who do beautiful work. This stuff is great, just as I thought their Kong
dinosaurs where the best I'd ever seen.
Don't worry ... we're shooting
miles of video footage of all this stuff for the "Special Edition" laser and DVD
"Will you beat NEW LINE
into setting up the toy license with McFarlane toys? Ok ok ok, yeah I know... this is all
stuff that is so far away you dont want to even think about it, but when you walk
into the Weta studios and you see the work thats being done.... describe how it
makes you feel as a lifelong geek..."
PJ: It feels amazing ... it's an
honour and privilege to be working on a project like this. It transcends film making and
becomes something you love doing every second of the day. It is a once-in-a-lifetime
11. Once again Im being
deluged with questions about scoring, but I dont want to waste a question with it,
because thats a decision youll probably make in a couple of years, but if you
have any thoughts comment on em, otherwise get on to question eleven which is really from
Peter, first I want to
thank you for being human enough to get down in the mud and play with us. Im
curious. From what I have read, you started off 4 months ago with two scripts based on a 3
book series. You said that they were titled The Fellowship of the Ring and
The War of the Ring. You also said that you were going to basically add 30
pages to the total page length of the scripts when converting from 2 to 3 scripts. What
Im curious about is the breaks. Obviously when you had it structured as a 2 film
story, you felt like you had a great breaking point. How was it originally going to be
broken down, and how has that changed?"
PJ: The first film in the 2 film
version climaxed with the battle of Helm's Deep.
"Is it now going to be
broken up as they were in the books? What was the most daunting task in turning the 2
scripts into 3?
PJ: Yes. it's pretty much
following the books now, which is actually a good thing. Ever since we starting working on
the trilogy, it has felt like a much more natural way to tell the story. We also can
include most of the key characters and events in a way that just wasn't possible with the
The most daunting thing is to
shape an ending for "The Fellowship of the Ring". Our original Part One had the
advantage of a victorious battle to end with, but The Fellowship obviously ends in a very
"up in the air" kinda way. We are not changing anything in the book, but we are
trying to pitch it in a positive way, so it doesn't feel like too much of a bummer. A lot
of this has to do with Frodo's character, and the way we are developing him.
Apart from that, nothing else is
daunting about going from 2 films to 3 - it's a wonderful thing!
12. Ok, here we have a fella
thats willing to let you not show EVERY character mentioned in the three books,
but.... Well Greg, wants to know...
You've hinted that the
first film may move quickly to the Council of Elrond, showing very little of the hobbit
adventures in reaching Rivendell..which would be fine with me.
PJ: There's more than you think.
The actual council doesn't start until page 72.
as a fan of the books, I
think Id prefer the approach, where possible, of moving a favorite character or
scene or relationship "off screen" rather than watering it down or creating
composite characters. In other words, maybe your film doesn't show me Prince Imrahil...but
don't tell me there IS NO Prince Imrahil.
PJ: I agree with that. The same
goes for Bombadil ... when the hobbits arrive at Bree without us seeing the Bombadil
episode, it doesn't mean it didn't happen ... it just wasn't shown in the film. You are
certainly welcome to imagine that they have had that experience, and we do nothing to
As you've whittled away
at the characters and storylines to complete your script, were there any characters or
storylines set aside whole, to an extent that they might themselves serve as a framework
for sequel/prequel/parralelquels for yourself or another film maker if these 3 films prove
to be a wild success.
PJ: Not really. The key events and
characters are all there - at least in my mind. Of course the depth of Middle-earth is so
great that there are many imaginative ways to create sequels (beyond the obvious Hobbit
One idea I've got (if the trilogy
is successful) would be to gather the cast together again and shoot another couple of
hours worth of scenes to flesh out The Lord of the Rings as a more complete "Special
Edition". In other words, we would write and shoot the Tom Bombadil stuff, or scenes
involving Gandalf and Aragorn hunting Gollum, and his capture by Orcs ... and any number
of other bits of business that we can't fit into the 6 hour version. That would be a
really cool way of creating a "sequel" - expanding the existing The Lord of the
Rings from 6 to 8 or 9 hours! It would be the first time that has ever been done (except
for CE3K perhaps).
Anyway - one step at a time!
for an example..Frodo's
adventure reaching Rivendell, Bilbo's HOBBIT story of course, and Aragorn's adventures in
PJ: New Line will definitely make
The Hobbit if LotR is a success.
13. Amongst all the cries and
whimpers and screams about Lord of the Rings, there was a single brave soul that was
curious about... Another film.
WHAT? HOW DARE HE!!!
Well, shucks, just to show the
voice and question of a single type matters... well, here ya go Yakkel:
What's happening with
PJ: Universal sees KING KONG as a
valuable future franchise to feed into their theme parks, etc, so I'm sure at some point
they will remake King Kong.
My involvement? That's entirely up
to Universal. If they asked me to jump back onto Kong after The Lord of the Rings, I would
say "yes!" in a nanosecond. It's my favourite movie, and I liked the direction
we were taking our script. WETA have great designs and CG tests that Universal have never
even seen. Whether Universal will ask is the big unknown. Did Godzilla or Mighty Joe Young
do the type of business to inspire a Kong remake? Maybe ... just. I think it's a safe bet
that they will wait and see how The Lord of the Rings turns out before talking to me about
Kong. That's the way the system works.
I'd love to do it ... let's wait
14. Ahhhhh, the sweet
locations of New Zealand. So Peter, where on those beautiful isles of yours will you be
shooting? And if someone were to fly down there... how different will the locations be
that their eyes would see in reality from the filmed versions? Will you use exclusively
digital matte paintings, or will there be any... real Albert Whitlock style matte
PJ: We are slowly nailing down our
locations ... a process that will stretch on for a few more months. We will have some
matte paintings, but they will be used for subtle enhancements, rather than creating an
entire landscape. We have such great real locations, we don't need to struggle too much to
One interesting approach we are
exploring is to digitise the ENTIRE movie into the computer - every frame - which would
allow us to "fiddle" with all of our shots in some way or another. This would
have great impact on the landscapes, since we could change cloud formations, add sunsets,
or forests, or waterfalls wherever we wanted. It would help enormously to make all those
exterior scenes a little more magical. It has never been done before on the live action
film, and would require a huge data storage system. We are currently exploring the
Have you settled on
sites for principal photography yet? If so, can you reveal what they might be? This may be
of interest mostly to Kiwis or (like me) those who have visited or lived in Godzone, but
it might also give us an idea of the kind of scenery and look to expect from LOTR.
PJ: We have a few key locations
nailed down. I'm not going to be specific because I don't want to see photographs
appearing on the net! It's no secret that we will be using elements of the region known as
the "Volcanic Plateau" for Mordor. We have found a great Hobbiton location ...
somewhere in the North Island. We've got a great Weathertop in the Waikato ... a gorgeous
Edoras location in Canterbury. It's looking good ... no cause for panic!
15. Here is an essay question
about loyal book readers, vs the heathens that have never read the books, this one from
Steve in Pheonix, Arizona....
Question for Peter
Jackson: Is this movie going to be good? No just kidding, I have an actual question, but
it comes with a bit of background, so here goes... I was first introduced to these
wonderful books when I was in 4th grade. (I am 28 now) I loved being able to envision all
of the awesome places and people that this story creates. When I first heard about these
movies being made, I was both ecstatic, and worried, as I would assume are many fans of
TLOTR. Do you think that these movies will be able to pull in non fans of the written
word? I mean these are great books, but I am unsure of their potential for the big screen.
There are times (blasphemy I know) when the books tend to drag somewhat. Are you afraid of
alienating hard-core fans at the expense of trying to make these films more accessible to
the non-literary fans? I realize that this is probably the "real trick" in
making these movies, but I am curious as to how you are planning on pulling it off. I know
the logical answer is "Wait and see," but I figured if we had this opportunity
for questions, I may as well ask the one that seems most pertinent. Sorry for the essay. I
can get a bit wordy at times.... Thank you and good luck. Here is at least 2 tickets you
can count as being sold. ( I will be taking my young son, who I hope to introduce to the
wonderful world of Middle Earth)
PJ: It's a good question and the
answer really boils down to the tricky tightrope I have to walk. I need to balance the
expectations of the book's fans with making a movie for people that have never read the
book. I have responsibility to both and I don't think it's quite as hard as you might
imagine. We simply don't have time to include everything ... which helps with your pace
concerns. The bottom line is that the characters and storylines are so wonderful that it
should amaze, surprise and delight people that have never read the books.
Harper Collins told me that they
usually sell about 100 copies of The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand per month ... since
the trilogy was announced, sales have risen to 1000 copies per month! At the end of the
day, a half-decent movie has got to inspire many new readers. It can't do anything else.
16. I really like this
question from Brooke, so here ya go PJ:
Lord of the Rings is a
hugely complicated, sophisticated story. Even in three parts, there's no way that every
detail could appear. I imagine that Jackson will follow some of the themes of the trilogy
more strongly than others. Well, what are the most important themes to him? When all is
said and done, and we can finally see all three films back-to-back (assuming we're all
still *alive* then), what does he want us to come away with (other than awe at the effects
and such, which is inevitable)? What *meaning* will he give the films, and what themes
will he emphasize to do so?
PJ: Getting to the end of this
alive is something that concerns me too!
I'm interested in themes about
friendship and self-sacrifice. That Hobbits would go into hell with little chance of
survival is touching, especially since their sacrifice actually paves the way for the
ascent of Mankind. The fact that The Lord of the Rings actually tells the story of how
Humans became the dominant species on Earth (over Hobbits, Dwarves, Orcs, etc) is an
interesting angle that is easily overlooked.
Questions about Mortality vs
Immortality, seen through Aragorn and Arwen's eyes is intriguing. We are also making use
of Tolkien's favourite Nature vs Machine themes.
PS -- one quick
question, not worth wasting one of your real ones on: Do people call him "PJ"?
Somehow, it's hard to imagine.
PJ: I don't get called PJ in
conversation very often, but it is always used for written shorthand ... "PJ to
attend design meeting at 3pm".
17. Im pretty sure I
know the answer to this question, but I know a lot of people that are voicing it.
Its a genuine fear that many readers of this site have given the onslaught of
stupidity by Warner Brothers execs and Universals marketing department and... well
you all know the guilty.
PJ: The guilty at Universal no
longer work there!
Heres the fear as voiced
PJ, are you absolutely
certain that New Line is going to back your vision all the way to the end?"
PJ: No ... I'm sure there will be
disagreements. There always is.
"Do you have it in black
and white on a contract that the editors aren't going to have a heyday with your film and
make some butchered Bakshi-like piece of shit that has a total running time of a little
under 3 hours?"
PJ: No, I don't have that in my
contract, but ultimately contracts are worthless. New Line is spending so much money that
it will do what it feels it needs to do to protect it's investment ... contract or no
I have a feeling New Line
would be making a big mistake by doing that, but never underestimate the stupidity of the
head up the ass execs that exist in the entertainment industry. Just remember to stand
firm on what you know will be good and tell the naysayers to go to hell.
PJ: So much of this business is
about trust. New Line are trusting us to make this book into an expensive trilogy of films
... and we are trusting New Line not to deluge us with bad ideas. The trust factor in this
relationship feels pretty good. Remember that it was Bob Shaye's idea to make a trilogy -
we didn't promote that. The two New Line guys working closely with us are Mike De Luca and
Mark Ordesky - both are huge fans of the book. We were at a story meeting when Mark
starting quoting passages from the book verbatim. Fran's jaw dropped open in amazement!
And I was at a party when Mark's mother told me how he used to draw Middle-earth maps and
make models when he was a kid. De Luca and Ordesky are the closest thing you get to
genuine geeks in the studio system ... they simply want what all of us do - to see a great
Lord of the Rings trilogy made. There is no other agenda.
Sure, they'll be disagreements ...
we will probably yell at each other before this is over, because there's a lot at stake
... but I truly believe that New Line has it's heart in the right place.
18. Alright, Peter has already
stated that Sam and Frodo will not be gay lovers, and Sam wont be a woman, but some
people still fear the ever-present platonic love these characters shared as best of
friends. Heres the question from John...
How do you plan to
handle the relationship between Frodo and Samwise? It seems to me that filming Sam's
attitude toward Frodo exactly as in the books would be fairly risky, at least for the U.S.
audience. For example, times that Sam holds a weakened Frodo in his arms, stroking his
hand and saying how he loves him, is likely to get more public exposure from intolerant
folks than you really want.
PJ: We don't have the
hand-stroking stuff, but the relationship is very close to how it is in the book. It's a
story of great friendship ... nothing to be embarrassed about.
19. Ive had tons of
people ask about the look of the films, the cinematographer, the style, the feel, etc. But
what concerns me is this. You say there will be 5 separate units filming all at the same
time for months on end in and around New Zealand. Have you chosen a DP (director of
photography) and how would he and you really over see all of that filming?
PJ: We haven't chosen a DP yet,
but we are looking at very high tech telecommunication systems. The different units will
have direct access to me via high definition live satellite feeds. I can talk to crew ...
direct actors ... look at camera angles and check takes as if I was actually physically
there. It shouldn't be a problem.
"How do you keep this
from looking TV mini-series-ish? If you havent chosen a DP, who are you looking at?
I presume every frame is being planned before you ever set out with your 50 Panavision
PJ: If we digitise the entire film
as I mentioned earlier, then a lot of the "look" of the movies can be created in
post-production, with lighting and mood adjustments being made on an Inferno suite. It
doesn't minimise the work of a DP, but provides an extra tool to give the films a very
special look. I'm talking subtle here ... nothing that detracts from the reality feel that
I want to create.
20. Alright, here we are at
the last question. This will be an easy one Peter. Its been 4 months since our last
chat. What has happened in regards to THE LORD OF THE RINGS in the last 4 months? Still on
schedule, what is that schedule?
PJ: Things have progressed very
smoothly ... the calmest, most controlled period in the 22 months that I have been working
on the project. New Line have been very supportive and receptive to our ideas. They love
our designs and were pleased with the first draft of The Fellowship that we delivered.
WETA Workshop are continuing to
pump out great designs and huge piles of weapons and armour. WETA Digital are producing
tests that are very exciting. We saw some stuff just before Christmas that got everybody
Alan Lee and John Howe are
continuing to produce what I think is their most inspired work. They have now been on the
project for a full year and return in a couple of weeks.
We are talking with New Line about
extending our prep and design phase to enable us to fully work up the scripts, designs and
storyboards. We did talk about shooting in May, but I feel that we would not be fully
prepared. I am determined to keep this project under control in a way that rarely happens
with big budget FX films. It is all about being prepared, and once we start rolling we are
making 3 huge movies in a row. We have to be SO prepared! I would like to have until
August or September to fully finish my storyboards and animatics. New Line are thinking
about that. Contractually, we have to be filming by October, so don't worry - by this time
next year The Fellowship of the Ring at least will be in the can!
I'm off to get some sleep ... I've
enjoyed these questions and I hope my answers have been useful. If there's anything you
want to tell me, fire away - I will read all of the comments following this.
Let's do it again!