E! Online
October 14, 1999

Starting Bell Sounds for "Lord of the Rings"
Julie Keller

Anal-retentive Star Wars fanatics may have met their match. Followers of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings fantasy novels are getting closer to their shot at scrutinizing every minute detail of a big-screen trilogy adaptation of their beloved stories.

Principal photography for the New Line Cinema's trio of films started today in Wellington, New Zealand.

And director Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creatures, The Frighteners) claims he is up to the task. "My team and I have poured our hearts into this project for the past three years, so it's a great thrill to begin actual photography," he said in a statement.

"Filming three films at once has never been done before, in addition to which the project features state-of-the art special effects, so it was essential to plan everything down to the last detail. We owe Professor Tolkien and his legion of fans worldwide our very best efforts to make these films with the integrity they deserve."

Elizabeth's Cate Blanchett, Armageddon's Liv Tyler, Deep Impact's Elijah Wood, Gods and Monsters' Ian McKellen and Goonies lead Sean Astin are among the minions enlisted to help Jackson accomplish his task.

Wood plays Frodo Baggins, the young hobbit at the center of the story. Austin is Sam Gamgee, Frodo's faithful friend. Blanchett stars as Galadriel, the elf queen of Lorien, and Tyler will bat her baby blues as Arwen, a young elf warrior and princess. McKellen's been cast as Gandalf, Frodo's wise wizard mentor.

The three-part movie series marks New Line's most ambitious film project ever. The studio reportedly devoted nearly $150 million to the project and has enlisted an army of distinguished crew members, ultra state-of-the-art special effects gurus and artists renowned for their Tolkien illustrations. Experts from The Matrix, Contact, The Fifth Element and Xena: Warrior Princess will all be on hand.

The three novels (The Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, The Return of the King) that make up Lord of the Rings have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide in 25 different languages, so the studio's devotion to the project is hardly unfounded.

"The Lord of the Rings is among the greatest adventures ever written, and making this film is proving to be a wonderful adventure in its own right," says Michael DeLuca, president and CEO of New Line Productions. "Like Frodo, the hero of this sage, we're on a film quest."

Fans are eagerly and cautiously anticipating the trilogy--one Tolkien site showed over 2,000 comments posted from meticulous fans about the film's casting alone. "This is sounding very promising indeed, hopefully the final product is as good as its cast," says a cyberchatterer on the alt.fan.tolkien newsgroup.

Perhaps the first in what's guaranteed to be an onslaught of Rings products, book publisher Houghton Mifflin is already cashing in on the predicted fan phenomenon. Starting today, they're publishing a onetime-only millennium edition of the Rings saga--presenting a boxed set of seven hard-cover volumes of the six-part series.

Filming is scheduled to last approximately one year. A release date has not been set for the first installment of the series, but New Line officials say the film will not hit theaters before the 2001 holiday season.