September 25, 2001
Lord of the Big
New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson calls J.R.R. Tolkien's
fantasy classic The Lord Of The Rings "one of the greatest books ever written."
Now he is trying to forge one of the greatest movie trilogies ever made despite struggling
with what he says is "both the joy and the curse" of filming one of English
literature's cultural icons.
The pressure is especially acute because animator Ralph Bakshi tried to do The Lord Of The
Rings in 1978 and failed miserably.
Jackson already has one of the greatest hype machines ever manufactured by Hollywood in
full-bore operation. It began with the Internet release, on Apr. 7, 2000, of a teaser
trailer that was downloaded 1.6 million times in the first 24 hours.
The hype was further propelled by the debut of 26 minutes of spectacular footage from the
trilogy at the Cannes Film Festival last May. There are also dozens of Internet fan sites
So the first instalment of the trilogy, The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring,
is now the most anticipated movie of 2001 -- eat your heart out, Harry Potter.
The Fellowship Of The Ring is due on Dec. 19, with the two sequels following over the next
two years. The Two Towers will be released in December 2002 and The Return Of The King a
year later. In an industry first, the three films were shot simultaneously in New Zealand
over the past two years, the key to mastering what had been considered "an unfilmable
book," Jackson says.
The trilogy required an astonishing US$270 million investment by the U.S. mini-studio New
Line Cinema and their partners. But executive producer Mark Ordesky has downplayed the
risk, saying at Cannes: "If you look at it in the context of a Hollywood event movie,
it is not a particularly huge sum. We really see this essentially as launching a brand,
launching a franchise."
That's money talking. The enchantment factor comes from Jackson -- "I think it would
be a mistake to put too much of my brain there," he says of the pressures of the
budget -- and from most of the actors, a diverse lot of Americans, Britons, Irish, New
Zealanders, Australians and others.
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