New Zealand Herald
November 12, 2000
Jackson and 'Lord of
the Rings' Come Out of Hiding
The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and 12 members of the cast of the trilogy faced New Zealand media at a press conference yesterday to mark the first anniversary of the epic shoot - albeit a month late and with six weeks more to shoot before heading into post production.
The first film The Fellowship of the Ring will be released Christmas next year with and The Return of the King following in 2002 and 2003.
Here's what Jackson had to say ...
How do you keep three movies in your head?
I'm about to go insane. It's about to all break down. We just think of it as one long story. Obviously any movie you shoot, you shoot out of sequence and what we have done is have three movies shooting out of sequence completely.
The concentration was on getting film one done but at the end of the day we were shooting last year scenes for two and three. It is one epic story. It has a beginning a middle and an end as a three part story.
One of the greatly unique things about making three films in a row, which no one has ever done before, is it does give you a chance to tell a story in three parts, and that one day when you see it all together, it will be great the day we can sit down and watch all three films in one big hit.
It will feel like a continuous story which will be great because normally obviously films, if they are successful they have a sequel and then they have another sequel.
The sequels in themselves, they don't have a flow so this is an opportunity to tell one great story.
Basically it's dictated by the subject. If you set out to make The Lord of The Rings it's impossible to do in one film and so anybody seeing the first movie is obviously aware that they are not going to see the whole story.
The story is ultimately Frodo Baggins having to take this ring to destroy the ring and I'm sure people won't be expecting to see the ring destroyed at the end of the first film. But we have structured the movies so they do come to an end of sorts and they also have a cliff hanger aspect to them.
How much have you departed from the original text to make them movie-shaped?
We haven't created false endings or cliff hangers that weren't in the book. The breakdown of the three movies reasonably coincides with the breakdown in the three books.
Has it been hard to adapt the story to a script?
It's been very very difficult. We've been writing it for two or three years and we still are writing it. It's such a complicated work and it's actually interesting because over the course of the time we've been writing, we've been revising. It's just the way we like to work, to consistently try and improve it right the way through the shoot. And we find ourselves going back closer and closer to the books.
Way back at the beginning we thought there is quite a bit of this we are going to have to alter or change, do things to turn the book into a film but the more we got into it and the more we really started to know the books in great detail, it would be fair to say we've gone further and further back to the books again.
So a lot of our so called clever ideas at the beginning we've long since abandoned and Tolkien hopefully has a fairly clear voice in the film.
Was there anything from the books that was just too hard to replicate?
It's the psychological aspects of the story that are always hard to dramatise. A very small ring that contains great evil and its psychological pressure on the people that come near this ring, that is down to the performances of the actors to portray that, as a film maker I can't show evil or I can't show what this ring does in a visual way but obviously the actors can see it which they have been doing incredibly well.
Is it looking the way you imagined it would?
What I think one of the unique privileges of doing this film is that it's a book that you grew up with and the characters that you imagine in your mind - obviously the book paints an incredibly vivid picture of what these places look like - but for the last year especially, there are moments that come to me when I am standing on the set. I am having a quiet moment in the corner while I am waiting for the camera to be set up and it just dawns on me from time to time that here I am in Bag End or here I am in Helm's Deep and there is Aragorn there and there's Gandalf and here's Frodo.
There are moments when do feel you are physically transported into the book which is amazing. You put the technology to one side and that's incredibly unique.
Everybody will be able to share the movie when it comes out on screen but it's a real privilege for the few of us that we are physically there, standing in the same room as these characters, being able to walk through doorways and look around corners that people in the movie won't see.
There's bits of Helm's Deep that will never be in the movie. We all walked around it "wow this is Helm's Deep". It's a really weird experience.
That is where I have the most fun in a movie like this. I am trying to do this movie exactly like I imagined it. To do anything else would be silly. You don't always succeed obviously for various reasons.
When I imagine Bag End I have incredibly clever conceptual artists that I explain what it looks like. Sometimes their ideas are better than mine but eventually we all come up with this result which in my mind anyway is the ultimate Bag End so I am the lucky guy. I'm the guy who actually gets his fantasy on screen.
These films are not official Lord of The Rings films. The Tolkien estate is not involved. Professor Tolkien has passed away. These are not like the official authorised movies. These are an interpretation and they are our interpretation collectively of these characters in this story.
How have you coped with the intense scrutiny of Tolkien scholars and fans?
We've had good relationships with most people. I've had Tolkien experts actually help us on the movies. We've taken a great deal of care with the names, the languages. So we have tried to get things right.
You know, ultimately it always has to be an interpretation. It can't be a film made by committee. Though you listen to everybody's ideas but you eventually have to go with what you feel is right. But people have been supportive. I guess people haven't seen the films and there will be time for controversy and that will be when they come out. We're trying our best.
Do you have Hobbit-populated nightmares?
Every time I make a movie I have recurring dreams that I am on the set and things are going incredibly wrong. I don't get any rest. You work how ever many hours a day you work, and you get home to sleep and think you are going to get some rest.
But all night long I am having huge problems on the set. It is a relief to come to work where the problems are a little bit smaller. It's weird I am tormented by it at night and quite enjoy myself during the daytime.
Is making three movies three times the stress?
It's longer yeah. These dreams, and this is true yeah, these dreams usually begin when I start shooting and stop when I stop shooting. So I've had them for a year now.
What's your reaction to the New Zealand reaction of having this huge production in our midst. Have we been blase about it?
I think New Zealand has been incredibly supportive. Everybody has been very helpful in all the small towns we have been to, this huge army kind of invades a town and everybody is just very helpful. It's an experience where I think the whole country has been behind it. It has that sort of feeling about it.
Will each film be 120 minutes long?
Ah well no. They will probably be a little bit longer than that. Obviously without having cut anything together yet it's a little hard to say. I imagine between 7 and 8 hours will be the complete running time for all three.
Is the filming running behind schedule?
No, we always planned to complete photography on December 22 and that's six weeks away now. We are bang on target. We've been working on shots for most of this year obviously before any computer shots could actually be done they need the cut footage.
So we've got film one cut and most of film one is being put through the works now. Films two and three won't be cut until next year. We will have finished part one so it can be released at the end of next year and then the other two will be one year apart but we will get into a weird situation where we will have finished and given New Line the third film before they've released the second. So there is basically two years of production and three years of releases.
But in the meantime won't the computer technology and software still be improving and won't people be expecting progressively better special effects over the three years?
Perhaps. It's not really about software though. We are just telling the story of and so I don't think it is about the technology. Ultimately the technology exists today to tell the story perfectly incredibly well.
There is nothing we are waiting to be invented before we can actually do it. I think so much of the computer effects stuff that is exciting is in the way that the software is used. It's in the way you design the shots and the way you design the creatures. If a monster looks great it's not because it's good piece of computer work it's because it's a great design and so I am sure it will be fine.
Come the first movie's release date, will you be nervous?
Probably very nervous.You always are. It's like putting your baby out on the stage, just hoping that everything that you have thought and tried to achieve is shared by other people. That they actually get it. That's the scary part. Doing the three films is kind of weird, there is a movie coming out at the end of next year and that's fine, you can relate to that.
But we were on the set today - Andy and Sean, Elijah and I we were filming something today for the third movie and you sit there thinking "no one is going to see this for three and a half years". The scenes we shot today, it will just beold. We will have completely forgotten. It will be great.
After this, are you going to stay and work in New Zealand?
I mean it's impossible to say there's nothing magical or anything about this, I live here. I've got a house here. My kids go to school here and I make movies. I'll try to make movies here because that is where I live but if I wanted to make a film that was set in Los Angeles I would have to go to Los Angeles and shoot it because you couldn't shoot it here.
It is going to ultimately depend on what the subject matter of the film is. This one is fantastic for New Zealand because of the landscape it requires. But if I make a film that is set around Big Ben or the Houses of Parliament in London I will have to go there to shoot it. Subject matter is going to dictate what the appropriate location is to make the film. I always assumed I would be based here in one way or another.
*Full coverage of the Lord of the Rings press conference will appear in Mondays New Zealand Herald.