The Boston Globe
December 22, 2000

Three -- 'Rings' Circus
Mark Feeney

A year from today, there's a good chance you or someone you know - or, at the very least, someone who knows someone you know - will be buying a ticket to see the first installment of what is already being called the biggest project in movie history.

J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy, ''The Lord of the Rings,'' is coming to the screen. On Dec. 19, 2001, the film version of the first book, ''The Fellowship of the Ring,'' is scheduled to open. A year later will come ''The Two Towers,'' and a year after that, the trilogy concludes with ''The Return of the King.''

''It's a genuine cinematic first,'' says Mark Ordesky, the film's production executive and president of Fine Line Features, the art house subsidiary of New Line Cinema, which is producing ''Lord of the Rings.'' ''At no time in the history of film has anyone made a commitment to a simultaneous filming of a trilogy of films.''

That commitment is to the tune of a reported $270 million. The production, which is being shot in New Zealand, has 77 speaking parts, a 2,500-member crew, and a 438-day shooting schedule. Principal photography concludes Friday. ''It'll be a helluva wrap party,'' chuckles Ordesky, who plans to be there.

The director and coscenarist is Peter Jackson, best known for ''Heavenly Creatures'' (1994). The cast includes Ian Holm as Bilbo, Elijah Wood as Frodo, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn, and Liv Tyler as Arwen.

Nine-thousand miles from New Zealand, in Boston, the opening of ''The Fellowship of the Ring'' is keenly anticipated at Houghton Mifflin Co., Tolkien's US publisher. With 50 different editions of Tolkien's works in print, Houghton Mifflin has a vested interest in the success of the films. It's seen sales of the trilogy triple over the past three years, thanks in no small part to publicity about the movies.

The opening is even more eagerly anticipated in New York, where New Line's owner, Time Warner Inc., has its headquarters. The studio is hoping the Tolkien movies will help it recover from a string of costly flops, the most recent being the Adam Sandler vehicle ''Little Nicky.''

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