Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson

Cast & Crew
Elijah Wood


June 15, 1999

Tom Baker Screen Tests for LOTR

Baker has screen tested for the central role of the powerful wizard, who guides a heroic band of humans and hobbits in their quest to overthrown the evil dark riders terrorising Middle Earth.  Although other actors are being associated with the role, including Liam Neeson and Patrick McGoohan, Jackson has dismissed talk that Entrapment star Sean Connery might play the part. "He's never been approached and I suspect it's not going to happen in this movie." Jackson states, "I can't quite imagine Sean Connery coming down to New Zealand for 18 months."

As casting continues, several actors have been attached to key roles, with Elijah Wood offered the part of Frodo, and British born Babylon 5 stars Robin Atkin Downes and Jason Carter rumoured as contenders for Aragorn. Keanu Reeves recently stated that "I'm petitioning to play Strider, I'd love to work with Peter Jackson.  I'm not sure if it's gonna go through though.  I hope it can."  Meanwhile, Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok from Star Wars) auditioned for
the part of Gimli, but claims that the part ultimately went to Auf Wiedersehen Pet star Timothy Spall.

Several Australian soap stars attended recent auditions in Sydney, including Heartbreak High's Jeremy Taylor.  A mammoth 15 thousand extras will be required for the first film, according to publicist Sian Clement.  Reporting on the ongoing process of selection, Clement says, "we're very happy, we've had a good cross-section, including very tall women and very short women." Christopher Tolkien, son of the famous author, and editor of recent Middle Earth publications, is being tipped to take a cameo role in the film, appearing during the Council of Ellrond, despite his family's past reluctance that the novels be adapted into films.

With the start of principal photography pushed back to allow Jackson more time to prepare his epic $260 million production, funded by New Line Cinema, filming on the first feature, The Fellowship of the Rings, is now due to begin in New Zealand on 19 September.   Sets are currently under construction, with a private farm near the remote town of Hinuera in the Waikato selected as the site for Frodo and Bilbo's home village of Hobitton.

Although handling the largest budget of any films shot in the Southern hemisphere, reports that writer and director Jackson had turned to Star Wars mogul George Lucas for guidance have been dismissed by film representatives. Speaking about the project's scale, Jackson admits "The Lord of the Rings is big but it's such a wonderful property that it's worth spending five years of your life to do," adding, "If it was anything other than Lord of the Rings, I probably wouldn't do it, but it is such an amazing story and an amazing book that's it's an honour and a privilege really."