July 7, 2000
In the Crossfire of Fans
Peter Jackson is under heavy pressure to finish the first
part of the classic LOTR by the end of 2000. Fans on the website demand absolute
originality of the book and make his life miserable by visiting the set to check it out.
Seldom has Hollywood courted the literary public with so much fanfare. Almost 20 months to
the world premiere of the first LOTR film and shooting will take another year. But already
last week a two and a half minute trailer was available on the Internet and 1.7 million
users downloaded it in the first day - 70% more than the Star Wars episodes.
The early start had its reasons. Not only has the Tolkien trilogy sold over 60 million
books, but it also has a huge following due to the fanatical reality of the detailed
description of the historical chronicles and their own language. Thousands of pages have
been published after Tolkien's death and therefore it's very understandable that making
this movie is more important to people than making a movie about the bible.
At first the filming was shrouded in secrecy, but soon the fans became agitated when they
discovered a few changes to the story that was leaked by an extra on the set. The biggest
criticism is directed toward the figure of Princess Arwen, who Tolkien describes as a real
beauty, but PJ seems to portray her as a sword swinging warrior. The biggest
disappointment so far is Liv Tyler, who they do not consider a good choice in their
opinion (too smooth).
However, apart from such irritations there is optimism amongst the fans, they still
believe in PJ's effort to follow the original story. As far the visuals are concerned, he
has hired specialists Alan Lee and John Howe; and he has followed up on his promise to
hire unknown actors - who ever heard of Dominic Monaghan, who plays Hobbits Merry or
Orlando Bloom playing Legolas. Even more prominent names as Elijah Wood (Frodo) or Sean
Bean (Boromir) aren't exactly on the Hollywood A-list.
As far as the expenses are concerned, the three movies - which are being filmed entirely
in New Zealand, measure up to a US big-time production. New Line Pictures increased the
original 130 million dollar budget by 60 million dollars. Producer Barrie Osborne
("The Matrix") compares the organizational dimensions to the movie
"Apocalypse Now" which is also worked on.
The fascination of this project is so big that in NZ, where all three movies are shot
simultaneously, a kind of spy tourism has developed. Fan scouts search for various
shooting locations to get a glimpse of the sets and the filming. Just recently a TV team
of TV3 surprised a tramper with secretly filmed material for which $20,000 was offered.
This is why the trailer - with more to follow - is trying to quell this kind of activity.
Tolkien himself was very pragmatic about his epic being filmed. In a letter to Terence
Tiller, the producer of a radio adaptation of LOTR he wrote: Could such a story ever be
produced if a certain freedom is not given or taken?