The Dominion
October 15, 1999

Hey Shortie -- Don't I Know You?
Alan Samson

Valuable clues to spotting hobbits were given by Lord of the Rings movie trilogy producer Barrie M. Osborne in his first interview in Wellington yesterday.

Stars like Elijah Wood (quest leader, Frodo), Sir Ian Holm (Bilbo) and the other starring hobbits might be easily recognisable if you bump into them in central Wellington. But the others?

Osborne, world-renowned producer of the recent Face/Off and The Matrix, but with credits also including The Godfather Part II, All the President's Men, Apocalypse Now, The Big Chill, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Three Men and a Baby, Good Morning Vietnam, Dick Tracy and The Cotton Club, has let out a secret.

Hobbit screen doubles!

Apart from tricks of the trade such as computer shrinking, high-rig filming and altering scale ratios, the production team is using a small, elite group of film substitutes each matched to a main actor.

Each has a rare hormonal growth deficiency--not dwarfism--of a sort that can now be corrected by drugs if caught in childhood.

"The doubles are pretty special," Osborne said. "There are four or five of them, from around the world, two from India, from England and Thailand... they were very hard to find."

All the hobbits, with the help of "prosthetics" crews, will have big ears, big feet, curly hair "and friendly smiles".

With filming on the town belt above Mt. Victoria interrupted at times yesterday by driving rain, osborne also had time to discuss director Peter Jackson's commitment to stick as closely as possible to JRR Tolkien's story.

Another secret revealed: the hobbits in Mt. Victoria have just left Hobbiton and are on their way to Bree, site of the merry old pub where the real adventure begins.

"The interior of the pub is a set, the exterior is in the Wellington area," was all Osborne would let on.

Filming would be all over New Zealand and would continue till Christmas next year, he said.

The Wellington production crew of about 400 was ready to travel and extras were being told to come to their first filming (understood to be from next week) "committed" -- clear of any requirements to be home.

Osborne slips in one last thing to watch out for: orcs and Uruk-hai could be at large next week.