The Southland Times
August 26, 1998

South Gets Movie Slice
Meaghan Miller

QUEENSTOWN -- A substantial chunk of a $264 million New Zealand movie project, announced yesterday, will feature the Southern Lakes and Otago.

New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson said yesterday he planned to make a big-budget trilogy of films based on the J R R Tolkien classic, The Lord of the Rings.

The books feature the perilous journey of mythical hobbit Frodo Baggins who, along with an elf, a wizard and some dwarves, must save the world from evil. The adventure across the "Middle-Earth" takes the band through ancient forests and across mountainous vistas.

Project co-producer Tim Sanders said yesterday a substantial part of the outdoor scenes for the movies would be filmed on location in Central Otago and the Southern Lakes. That included Queenstown, Glenorchy, Alexandra and Te Anau.

A few days of filming would be done in the Coromandel and Ruapehu but the majority was scheduled for Central Otago.

Mr. Sanders said the movies' American backers had visited the area and liked what they had seen.

"We have been scouting already."

Mr. Jackson said about half the film would be shot in the studio and half on location. Casting would be done later this year, with at least 50 of the 65 speaking roles to go to New Zealand actors.

Filming was scheduled to start after May.

Mr. Sanders estimated filming in the Central Otago area would bring 300 cast and crew into the region for about 10 weeks. The filming could be done in one or more blocks according to the time of year.

Mr. Sanders said some extras and back- up crew would be required from the area.

"There are a lot of people (crew) based there (Queenstown) now," Mr. Sanders, who is based in Wanaka, said.

The next step was to begin negotiating to use different locations in the Southern Lakes area.

Jackson's previous films have included Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners.

Lord of the Rings executive producer will be Saul Zaentz, whose films include The English Patient, Amadeus and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

The first of the three films, The Fellowship of the Ring, is scheduled for release at Christmas in 2000. The two sequels would then be released four to six months apart.