DEADLINE: Six movies and almost two decades later, here we are at the end. James Cameron seems ready to play in the Avatar sandbox forever, and he can because he created it. You brought to life JRR Tolkien’s creation. It’s his, but haven’t you earned the right to stake your own creative residence claim, and keep telling stories from Middle Earth, even original stories? It’s a world many people will be sad to see you leave.
JACKSON: I don’t think that legally we’ve earned that right. Because of Tolkien’s rights, that is unfortunately an impossibility. The reality today is, the professor JRR Tolkien sold the rights to both The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings when he was an old man in his late 60s. They both went to UA. This was after The Beatles went after them…
DEADLINE: The Beatles?
JACKSON: Really. The Beatles once approached Stanley Kubrick to do The Lord Of The Rings. This was before Tolkien sold the rights. They approached him and he said no. I actually spoke about this with Paul McCartney. He confirmed it. I’d heard rumors that it was going to be their next film after Help. John Lennon was going to play Gollum. Paul was going to play Frodo. George Harrison was going to play Gandalf, and Ringo Starr was going to play Sam. And a lot of other people were going to play other roles. Paul was very gracious; he said, it was a good job we never made ours because then you wouldn’t have made yours and it was great to see yours. I said, it’s the songs I feel badly about; you guys would have banged out a few good tunes for this. You were The Beatles, after all. It’s a shame we missed out. Tolkien sold the rights to UA in 1968 or 69, the only work of his he sold. After he died, his son Christopher Tolkien rummaged through all his father’s archives and found all this material he thought was worthy of publication. The one everybody knows is The Silmarillion, which his father wrote in pieces, some while he sat in the trenches of the first World War.
DEADLINE: It was harder to read than the other books, I recall.
JACKSON: Well, I wouldn’t talk about that, but they got published by Christopher and he did other books as well. The Tolkien estate has hung onto those film rights, and shown no desire for anyone to do it. That’s the current situation. There’s no amount of money that Warner Bros could pay the estate for any film rights. No, no no. And I’m sure they’ve offered any amount of money for those film rights. Until that situation changes…
DEADLINE: What’s most gratifying?
JACKSON: I damn sure wasn’t going to spend five years of my life miserable, wishing somebody else had directed it. I was going to have fun and make some great movies. I had more confidence than the first time around. We shot these three more or less in sequence. I really like the third movie, I feel like we’ve gotten up a full head of steam up. I don’t want to regret anything in life, and I don’t. We made a lot of new friends. The Lord Of The Rings was this legendary experience where we bonded with so many people. I was interested to see if that could happen again, and it has. Some of The Hobbit cast are very close friends of ours, and will always be. I will walk away with a new confidence that I want to bring to new movies. I want to put everything I think I’ve learned about filmmaking and storytelling, and put it to the test in other areas.
DEADLINE: Twice now, you shot a trilogy of films consecutively. What kind of changes did you make as you watched early installments unfold? The stakes in The Desolation of Smaug seemed much higher than in the first film and you’ve titled the finale The Battle Of The Five Armies. That sounds like high stakes.
JACKSON: The Battle Of The Five Armies is the result of what the dwarves did at the end of the last film. You had a mountain full of gold and a dragon protecting it and stopping people from going in. By the dwarves releasing that dragon, they’ve set in motion a whole stream of things. The climax, the last three minutes of the last movie, really provides us with a helluva propellant into the beginning of this film. That’s fun, not needing any time for backstory, just getting right into it and keeping a thriller pace going all the way through.
DEADLINE: What do you most love about your filmmaking life, and life in general, that you owe to this Middle Earth experience? How have you, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens grown as filmmakers and enablers of large canvas storytelling?
JACKSON: Every time you make movies, you hope you will grow. The Hobbit was interesting in that we took so much material from the appendices of The Lord Of The Rings and tried to weave it in. We had to really create character arcs that weren’t really in a book that was written as a bedtime story. It was literally, let’s not stop to develop character here, we’re reading a story to five year old, trying to get them to go to bed. That is how Tolkien wrote it. To actually have to create all that framework of The Hobbit was quite an exercise. It’s hard to say what you learn but I do feel a confidence. Nothing you do is perfect, but I feel I understand more about storytelling and character development than before. I don’t know whether that would have happened had we made other movies instead of these. If it was Meet The Feebles, 4, 5 and 6, Brain Dead or whatever, we would have kept on going and making films in New Zealand whether or not we were lucky enough to make Lord Of The Rings. We would have learned, but this has been a powerhouse education. What was the first part of that question?
DEADLINE: What this experience provided you…
JACKSON: I’ll tell you what it provided us. The thing I will be forever grateful to Professor Tolkien for is providing me the chance to recreate first World War aircraft from the original drawings and be able to hire people, set up a factory and be able to make WWI planes, which was always my hobby. I was able to push that hobby to the ultimate level because of the income. We also have set up an infrastructure in New Zealand, built our production and post-operation. Every time I set foot in that building, I say, thank you, Lord of the Rings.
DEADLINE: Those three years when LOTR began hitting the screen every December were my favorite period in covering the movie business. And then you put out those extended DVDs, and in Two Towers I could see the orcs and Uruk-Hai fleeing into the forest after losing the battle of Helm’s Deep and seeing them get devoured by the trees. I was giddy. So many discoveries in those DVDs. So anything you can add to the experience here, even if it makes the movies longer…
JACKSON: The Smaug movie, we’ve got 25 or 26 minutes of pretty good stuff for that DVD. The first one, there wasn’t that much we left on the cutting room floor and it wasn’t earth shattering. But this is worthwhile stuff that you haven’t seen before.
Monday, July 28, 2014
SDCC: Peter Jackson Interview On Beginning of His Middle-Earth Journey
Deadline during Comic-Con, Peter Jackson discussed The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies from the very beginning of it all about 18 or so years ago all the way to the present with a tidbit that the extended edition of Desolation of Smaug will have 25 minutes of added footage. Below are key highlights but I recommend reading the entire interview including how Jackson got to walk the convention floor dressed as an evil jester.