|August 24, 1998
Lord of the Rings Trilogy Set
Line Cinema, in what is being called the biggest project in its history, is set to spend
more than $130 million to make a trilogy of films based J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved and
best-selling The Lord of the Rings series.
Peter Jackson, best known for
helming the 1994 Kate Winslet film Heavenly Creatures, will direct, co-write, and
co-produce the project, with Saul Zaentz (The English Patient) and Miramax heads
Bob and Harvey Weinstein exec producing. Jackson had been working on the project for 18
months at Miramax, which had recently acquired the screen rights from Zaentz. But the
studio reportedly wanted the books compressed into one film, prompting Jackson to take the
In an unprecedented move,
Tolkien's trilogy, which is comprised of The Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers,
and The Return of the King, will be shot back to back in Jackson's native New
Zealand. Production is expected to last a year and is tentatively scheduled to begin in
mid-1999. The studio is apparently considering releasing the first film for Christmas
2000, with the second one due in the summer of 2001, and the third at Christmas 2001.
New Line is taking a big risk on
the ambitious, special effects-laden project, which is being compared to the Star Wars
trilogy. By making the films back to back, the studio, known for low-budget fare such as Teenage
Mutant Ninja Turtles, could take a huge hit if the first installment tanks. (A 1984
animated adaptation by Ralph Bakshi was a cult hit, but a box-office disappointment.) New
Line's most expensive production so far is this year's Lost in Space, which
reportedly cost around $85 million to make.
Tolkien's books, which were
published in the '50s as a sequel to The Hobbit, center on a classic struggle of
good vs. evil, with a young hobbit's quest to destroy a magic ring before the evil Dark
Lord can get ahold of it and destroy humanity. The books have proved immensely popular,
selling more than 50 million copies and getting translated into 25 languages.
Jackson, for his part, seems
unfazed with the enormous task before him. "This is really the first time you could
visualize Tolkien's imagination on film," he tells the Los Angeles Times.
"The technology has really only existed in the past two or three years." The
paper says the main characters will be played by actorsnone of whom have been
castwith many of the creatures and locations to be created by computer.
"It's true that fantasy is
the one cinematic genre that's never been done especially well," Jackson tells the
paper. "After 100 years of cinema, there's not a lot of new ground for storytelling.
We can all point to great musicals or horror films. But no one's really nailed fantasy. So
that's the challengeI want to see if I can pull it off."