The Press Online
December 2, 1999

Fiordland Flooding Maroons Lord of the Rings Film Crew
Sue Fea

The producers of the $360 million Lord of the Rings film trilogy faced losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars after flooding and heavy rain in the southern lakes, producer Tim Sanders said yesterday.

They were working through substantial losses with their insurance company yesterday and it could take months to sort out, he said. "A week is a very expensive affair for us - we're talking about 400 people's wages, equipment hire, accommodation and rental vehicles. It'll be hundreds of thousands of dollars," Mr Sanders said.

Floodwaters had washed away a Lord of the Rings film set beside the Kawarau River, near Queenstown. "It's a drag, but it's not a catastrophe," Mr Sanders said, "It wasn't a huge set, but we had some ruins for one of our scenes along the Kawarau River, built on a beach setting."

The beach, the ruins and the whole area were suddenly 5m under water, Mr Sanders said. Flooding, snow and slips had trapped crew in Te Anau and Wanaka last week.

"The great irony in all of this is that we had a set built in a studio in Queenstown for wet weather purposes. We couldn't reach it because we were cut off in Te Anau," Mr Sanders said.

Between 200 and 250 main crew finally made it to Queenstown on Saturday. They were forced to film inside yesterday despite fine weather. "It's a lovely blue sky day, but it's all we had available to us - the levels at the Kawarau are too high and all our lake locations are flooded," he said.

Although Mr Sanders would not confirm the location of the set, it is believed to be a stone-cliff setting built in a large stadium- conference space at Quality Resort Alpine Lodge, at Arthurs Point.

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson was now based at the Queenstown location overseeing all of his crews, either directly or via satellite, Mr Sanders said.

The film's second unit sat through days of rain in Wanaka last week waiting to film a dry weather scene. It finally gave up and helped with local sand bagging. It is now filming in the Tarras area. About nine crew had to be evacuated from their Wanaka hotel rooms during the flooding.

Meanwhile, producers of American movie The Vertical Limit, also based in Queenstown, said the flooding had been "a little inconvenient" and had a minimal impact on filming. Producer Lloyd Phillips said only one day of filming was affected when crew were forced to finish early because of road closures.

Some had to be flown by helicopter from the company's studio and set beneath the Remarkables to get home on Thursday. The set includes a massive high altitude base camp covered in man-made snow. Mr Phillips confirmed that some days had been lost through bad weather, not just flooding.

The movie's American studio, Columbia Pictures, is reported to be extremely pleased with the first early scenes viewed. "The studio does love the material," Mr Phillips said. The Vertical Limit is set for release in the United States in mid- 2000.