sexta-feira, 25 de junho de 2010

Peter Jackson Answers THE GEEKS!!! 20 Questions About Lord Of The Rings!!!

Sunday, August 30, 1998

Well this will spur discussion for the next 3 months. Here's the answers to the questions you all sent in. Many of the questions are blendings of several questions into long-winded multi-part questions. Why'd I do this? Well, I received over 14,000 questions. You may have noticed Father Geek doing a lot of updating recently... well this was to facilitate me editing, blending and trying to get in front of Peter the most questions within a 20 question format. When I sent it to him, a response came back almost immediately with... "Jesus... give me a day or two." I really have enjoyed this little experiment of Peter's, and I'm sure that most of you out there would agree we should do it again. Also, with the 2 to 3 month intervals... well that allows Peter the time to get the scripts written, more work at the art department level, a production manager to begin mapping out the process, the hiring of crew members, talks with actors, etc etc.. So next time we'll learn even more. Thanks to Peter for sitting still for this, though it was his suggestion, now Peter enough questions go make our kick ass movies!!!

Before I get started, I'd like to thank all the folk who sent questions in. If the 20 that Harry has picked are representative, then you have thought hard about the difficulties of adapting this book. A lot of the concerns you raise focus on the same areas that we are currently grappling with.

I also must thank Harry for allowing me to commandeer his site. It's a bit like a scene in a war movie when a French family gets booted out of their farm house because the Allied Forces need to set up a command post! Using Harry's site was the only way I could imagine reaching all of you in an efficient way. I very much appreciate his co-operation and hard work in compiling 20 questions from the 14,000 he received.

After this brief warm shower together, Harry and I return to our different sides of the line - us trying to maintain secrecy ... and he using his low-life methods to publish it all on the net.

I hope this Q&A addresses some of your immediate questions and concerns, but please don't send Harry any more questions. I have to go to ground and do some writing. If you want to do this again, and Harry agrees to it, then it will be in 2 or 3 months time and I am sure you'll get plenty of warning.

Here we go ...

1. It seems that a ton of readers are concerned about the physical portrayal of the main characters within the ‘Fellowship’. Specifically the following: The use or lack of use of ‘small people’ to accomplish Hobbits, and the decision to use CGI to shrink folks. Then there is the ‘pointy eared’ elf thing. Not to mention whatever Gandalf is, how you plan to deliver dwarves. Basically the question is how do you plan on delivering the different types that make up the ‘company’? And why you decided to go in that direction, and is it ‘faithful’ to the look that’s been established by the cartoons, illustrators, etc?

As everyone has read, we have made a decision to portray hobbits by reducing "normal" sized actors. This decision was made for several reasons:

1/ It seems to be what Tolkien had in his mind, from the way he described hobbits.

2/ It gives us the greatest pool of actors to choose from.

3/ The hobbits are our chief heroes, who we must totally connect with over the course of 3 movies. That ruled out the use of CGI hobbits as I felt any artificial method of creating a character would be an impediment to our bonding with them. They would be a gimmick, rather than a real character.

Dwarfs like Gimli will either be a real little person, or a normal height actor reduced like the hobbits. A decision has yet to be made. Elves will be actors, but with a certain "Elven" look.

Hobbits, Dwarfs and Elves will probably all have subtle prosthetics, but these tests have not yet been done. I know that battle rages over pointy ears. We have yet to decide on the final looks for all these different races.

I do want to make them "real" ... not too fantasy-like or cartoony. They must be believable. My favourite illustration of a hobbit is in the edition of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING with Alan Lee's illustrations. Look at the picture of Frodo and Gandalf sitting in Bag End. That's not just a good guide for how I imagine a hobbit - it's also a good reference for the tone or atmosphere I'm aiming for in the films.

2. Another major question that fans have had, has to do with the decision to make “THE LORD OF THE RINGS” prior to “THE HOBBIT”. Describe what made you decide to go with the trilogy first, what made you step over ‘THE HOBBIT’ and do you think that after your filmic journeys into Middle Earth with this trilogy, do you think you will want to visit Bilbo and his adventures from the first book?

United Artists have owned the US distribution rights to THE HOBBIT for many years (but not the right to actually make it). I know that Miramax approached UA a couple of years ago about doing some kind of partnership, but was not successful. That made up Miramax's mind to do THE LORD OF THE RINGS first.

I am happy to be doing the trilogy first, since it is much more complex and interesting than THE HOBBIT. THE HOBBIT has a very simple story with very little character development. It would actually be harder to adapt into a satisfying movie than THE LORD OF THE RINGS (and that has not been easy!).

New Line Cinema have the right to make THE HOBBIT (UA still owns the distribution rights), and have every intention of doing it following the trilogy. I don't know if I would be involved. It depends on my mental condition in 3 years!

3. There seems to be quite a bit of doubt about ‘only’ having $130 million to make the trilogy. How do you plan to stretch that money out, while still giving these films the rich world that Tolkien envisioned? I.E... Cite examples of enhancing New Zealand locales with CGI, How much practical effects work vs CGI, and what will you try to do practical and what will you try to do CGI?

This is a very understandable concern. Let me explain:

Dollar for dollar, New Zealand is a cheaper place to make movies than the US. A camera that costs US$3000 per week to rent in the States may only cost NZ$2000 here. Add to that, the exchange rate savings ($US1 = $NZ2) and that camera in New Zealand only costs $US1000 to rent - a third of the price. Following me?

It basically means that the $US130m will buy 3 movies that have the screen value of closer to $350m. It is only this economy that has made THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy affordable. Believe me, nobody in Hollywood would commit $350m to make 3 movies back-to-back. It would never happen. These books have been "unfilmable" for 45 years, and would continue to be unfilmable.

But please don't be concerned about the "quality" of these movies. It is enough money to make 3 mind-blowing films! There will be money on screen to compare to anything that has ever been made.

4. This one comes from Julian of Sydney... Though he plays a massive underlying role in the books (he is the Lord of the Rings after all...), the character of Sauron's appearance (the Dark Lord) is never described in any detail (except for his catlike, yellow eyes [windows into nothingness] and his burning hot, black skin - black as in not african american black, but jet black). Also there is no direct dialogue with Sauron in the book, only flashbacks to historical events ie. his interrogation of Gollum, his fight with Isildur when the One Ring is taken along with his mind-communication through the Isenguard Palantir orb. So, my question is - how will Peter depict Sauron visually in the movie, and what will his voice sound like? I think part of the reason why Sauron was so intriguing and impressive as a character in the books, was very much because his presence was always felt, rather than personified as one being - the reader was left pretty much to imagine what he may have looked like. I can see that Peter will probably have to portray him in the movies, but I just hope he doesn't make him into a stereotypical cinematic villain. After all Sauron's power and historical descent from goodness to hellish evil, makes Satan look like a cute little puppy dog... And remember one of the biggest and most powerful cinematic scenes will inevitably be the party's confrontation with the Balrog in Moria - but the Balrog was a mere servant of Morgoth and then Sauron.

This is a great question, and one that we have been grappling with for 18 months. We still don't have a definitive answer. The Sauron of the books is sketchy at best, which makes it hard to turn him into a screen villain to carry 3 movies. Imagine not really seeing Darth Vader for all 3 Star Wars films. You just can't do it.

We obviously have Sauron's various emissaries to represent him, but just how Sauron himself appears is still a puzzle we are trying to solve. I agree that you can't reduce him to being a big guy striding around in black armour - but he cannot be limited to a flaming eye either. It's tough. We'll keep working on it.

5. Lots of people wrote in with this one, so I’ll summarize it on up. You mentioned in your statement that you want to make movies that you think Professor Tolkien would be proud of. What about the Tolkien estate? How closely are you working with Christopher Tolkien and what is your relationship with him going to be during this project? If you have talked with him about the project, what has he thought thus far?

We are dealing with the "estate", rather than Christopher personally. They have made their position very clear: While they are in no way opposed to a film(s) being made, they do not want to be involved.

The reason is basically simple: if they had any involvement, then the films would become "official" - in other words, they would be seen as being endorsed by the estate. This is a situation that the estate does not want, as they consider themselves to be protectors of Tolkien's written word, not film makers. I don't think the estate will be reading scripts or commenting on the movies. We keep them informed on progress, which they appreciate, but they want their involvement to be very arms length.

I said something here in NZ in an interview, which is worth repeating: You shouldn't think of these movies as being "THE LORD OF THE RINGS". THE LORD OF THE RINGS is, and always will be, a wonderful book - one of the greatest ever written. Any films will only ever be an INTERPRETATION of the book. In this case my interpretation. The Tolkien estate has no reason to want to get involved in somebody else's interpretation of the Professor's work.

6. Here’s one of the chief fears from fans, and lots of them are curious about what you think. Fantasy film has been with us straight from the beginning. It has been mined by Korda, Fairbanks, Harryhausen, Pal, etc. At that time their films were quite successful. But in the last twenty years the fantasy film has nose-dived into granite. What is wrong with the modern fantasy film, what is missing, and how is this going to be any different from the parade of fantasy duds that have been kicking sand in the face of fantasy lovers for a generation now?

One of my chief reasons for wanting to spend nearly 5 years of my life making these films has been that I don't think that fantasy has been well served by cinema. So I agree with your comments. I can't get into a deep debate about the last 20 years of fantasy, but I have been disappointed by the films as well. Either the style has been wrong, or often the scripts have been terrible. Starting out with strong scripts (and we are obviously dealing with great material) will put us ahead of a lot of other fantasy films. Not making the movies self-consciously fantasy will help too.

7. This comes in from Chyren, and is echoed by a good 40 others.

“Given that the books in LOTR are long and deeply indebted to Tolkien's technique of creating 'Literary Depth' by having a complex backstory, how can this be even slightly presented in a film version? In other words, LOTR was the end-tale of a huge three-millennium history of Middle-Earth. How can you allude to this on screen without just creating another Sword & Sorcery style crappy Willow film that is just plain confusing?

A good comment, and one that we feel strongly about too. As we have written drafts of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, we have layered in more and more depth with each subsequent draft. Some of it is important to the story (Isildur, Elendil, etc) and some is not. However, it creates the feeling of a real world. No movie can ever go into the depth than Tolkien did obviously, but we are going to use prologues, flashbacks and narration to paint a picture of Middle-earth that will hopefully be more than superficial.

Not being confusing is vital. That has been a fault of many fantasy films. We have to make movies that both readers and non-readers can enjoy and understand (I know the concept of having to cater to non-readers is frustrating, but it is important. Don't worry - we won't allow it to "dumb-down" the material). There are ways of doing that, and I am confident we will get there, without compromising the integrity of the work too much. It's a huge help to have 3 films to work with.

"AND..the books themselves are not structured to easily equate to a screenplay. Most of the first book is a gentle stretch of journey and masses of exposition (which occurs mainly when the Hobbits reach Elrond's House). There not much full-on action or even interesting stuff until the end of the second and third books. How much junk are you going to have to cut out? How much of the books will ACTUALLY reach the screen?”

It is true that most of the cuts will come out of the first book. We have to reach Rivendell a little quicker than the book does, as that is the point that the story picks up. I don't agree that there's not much interesting stuff in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, but it does lack a urgency. That is one of the biggest problems with adapting the books - Tolkien gave his characters a fairly leisurely journey - I don't mean the length of the journey, but rather the lack of dramatic tension, especially pre-Rivendell. For the movies, we will have to make motivations a little tighter and more urgent. We have to focus on The Ring, Sauron and the threat to Middle-earth. There is not much room for other stuff that is not directly connected to this narrative spine.

“Chyren comments: I realize that movie making is totally different from the art of a book, and that books can't be translated onto the screen totally. That's me, I know these things. You do realize, don't you, that whatever you do, some percentage of rabid Tolkien fans are always gonna attack you for 'butchering' their bible?

I'm in no doubt about that. Remember ... it's just my interpretation.

God, I wouldn't be in your shoes for quids, mate! Still, as long as it's better than that Ralph Bakshi debacle, I personally don't mind what you do!”

Making it better than the Bakshi version would be good.

8. Probably the most asked question, even though you asked not to ask about it, is about Casting. So this question won’t be “Who is Gandalf” “Who is Aragorn?” Instead I’m going to try to weasel some info out of you that will stir the debate pot a bit. What is your casting philosophy going to be with this series of films. For example, while I was on THE FACULTY set, Elijah Wood often talked to me about this project. He cited over and over about how much he loved the books, and how he’d love to be anything in it. This is most likely a feeling that a lot of talent in Hollywood will have. Will you, if talent lowers it’s wages, cast big name actors in smaller parts? (ie Sam Jackson in Star Wars Episode One) Or do you plan on avoiding the Where’s Waldo style of casting?

The basic philosophy is to cast unknowns as the hobbits and use better known actors for the smaller roles, i.e. Elrond, Theoden, Denethor, etc. I would be happy casting unknowns for all roles, as fresh faces will bring a sense of reality to the films, however I'm sure New Line will want some names. We won't be able to afford huge stars. Sean Connery won't be Gandalf (one of the most enduring pieces of net mythology). We couldn't afford him, he wouldn't live in NZ for a year, and I don't think he's right for the role. I love Connery, but I want Gandalf to be fresher than that. I like the Patrick McGoohan idea somebody mentioned ... that type of thinking is the right way to go. We have a couple of other strong ideas for Gandalf (I won't say who, but I've never seen their names on the net). We will no doubt audition a 100 actors to find the ideal Gandalf.

The idea of "stars" stepping forward and declaring themselves Tolkien fans is interesting ... let's see what happens.

Depending on the answer, is this because of a sound you want to the dialogue? And speaking of dialogue will it be in Tolkien’s tongue?

We have written the scripts in a reasonable "Tolkien" style ... on occasions using his dialogue verbatim. The older characters, i.e. Gandalf, Theoden, Denethor are pure Tolkien in their dialogue style. The younger hobbit characters slightly less so, but still not hip or modern. Sam will be pure Sam, and Gollum will be pure Gollum in style.

We will use other languages, particularly Elvish, on occasion, with English sub-titles.

9. Another major vein of curiosity has been the scale of these films. Using terms that will light our imagination and paint a picture for us, how big will these films be? This involves the scale of battles, vistas, creatures.

They will be very epic in scale - but one of the great things about THE LORD OF THE RINGS is the fact that they are very grounded in character and relationship. So imagine a tight personal, very emotional story set against sweeping vistas, huge cities and vast armies.

The battles will be the biggest you have ever seen (I promise).

We have two wonderful artists working for us on conceptual designs ... Alan Lee and John Howe. Both have done many Tolkien paintings before, and I loved their interpretation of the characters and places. We are creating original designs, not copying their earlier art, but a look at the previous work of Alan and John's will give you a strong sense of the visual style I am aiming for.

It also deals with the texture of the film, the aspect ratio and the score. What are your thoughts on how you’ll bring this to screen?

We will shoot in Super 35, giving us a 2.35 ratio. We have flirted with the idea of 70mm, but the problems with CG effects at that resolution are too daunting.

The score will be classical sounding. I'd like a create a Celtic feel without being Celtic if you get what I mean ... something non-cliched. No composers have been considered yet. There are no plans to use any of the existing Tolkien-inspired music.

10. Jason out of Australia had this question for ya: “Will any of the poetry/songs in Tolkien’s work be kept in the films?” And to follow up on it, if you do keep them how will you portray them?

There will be a little of it, but not much. A little on screen, a little on the soundtrack. It's a difficult thing to work into a dramatic telling of the story.

11. Given the massive following these books have, and the fact that this is the number one most inquired question, and the fact you’ve stated that you’ll need 15,000 extras for certain scenes, I’ve chosen Mike of Finland to ask the question. “Where and when will the casting take place?

It will start in October in LA, London, Australia and New Zealand.

What should I do to appear in the film?

You would need to audition and be the very best person for that particular role, out of the 100 - 200 actors that we will test for each character.

Do I need an agent to be considered for a speaking role? Do you hire only professionals for the major parts or do qualified amateurs have a chance as well?

There are no rules, but you would have to connect your nearest casting director and convince them you were good enough.

What requirements do you have for the extras?” Of course I have to admit that just about everyone I know wants to be an orc, it’s akin to being a stormtrooper. The surest way to increase tourism to New Zealand is to announce a desire for extras, and there will be fans booking flights instantly.

We will find our extras in the New Year. They will be cast in New Zealand and will have to be precise physical types depending on if it's for Orcs, Elves, Men, etc. It is possible that we may approach the army for most of our extras.

12. This question comes from Ryan of New Zealand: “A lot of things are not described explicitly in the books, but hinted at or told second hand, and I'd like to know how you will go about showing us show us those things.

Some of the "second hand" stories will be told on-screen in a more straightforward chronology. Others will be left as narration. You will definitely be seeing a lot of things dramatised on film that Tolkien related as expositionary dialogue.

Please tell me whether the Balrog will be a solid creature or a shadowy one, and whether it will be winged,

We are still working on the Balrog designs. He will be a real creature, but we will try very hard to capture the feel that Tolkien describes in this sequence. Our designs have wings at the moment, but that can be changed if it is not correct.

whether Legolas - who is never really described - will have blond hair and pointy ears like all those Dungeons and Dragons freaks out there picture him,

Don't know yet. It will start with casting an actor and working from there on his final look.

and whether we will get to see - perhaps in a flashback - the combat of Gandalf and the Balrog after they fall from the bridge in Moria,

I don't think so.

and likewise if there will be visual flashbacks of the ent's storming of Isengard,

Yes, that will be seen.

and of the history of Middle-earth as related in various parts of the story by Gandalf, Elrond, and Aragorn?

Most of the Middle-earth history we show will be related to events important to our immediate story, i.e. Isildur's death, defeat of Sauron during the Second Age and the history of Gollum and the Ring.

We will be detailing some of the Elven history as well as a sense of the Numenorians and the rise, and decline, of Gondor. That will mostly be in narration and not on-screen.

13. This comes from Sir Etch-a-Sketch: “Describe the tone that you will be using to tell this story. You’ve stated that you don’t see it as a Fantasy Film, but as telling a true story. What do you mean by that, and cite examples.”

It might be clearer if I described it as an historical film. Something very different to Dark Crystal or Labyrinth. Imagine something like BRAVEHEART, but with a little of the visual magic of LEGEND. (LEGEND had a lackluster script in my view. It looked great, but the visual style was too unreal, overwhelming and not suitable for this story).

It should have the historical authority of BRAVEHEART, rather than the meaningless fantasy mumbo-jumbo of WILLOW.

14. Jacob of W. Virginia asked this one, which is echoed by about 20 others. “What types departures will you be taking with the telling of the story and how did they come about?”

This is the 64 thousand dollar question I guess!

I'm not going to answer this in huge detail, as we are still working on the scripts. We have about 300 pages written as 2 long movies. We now have to convert them into 3 scripts of maybe 110 pages each - so we do have a little more room to explore new ideas.

Our philosophy is simple. We don't want to make any radical changes to the basic events or characters in the books. So Sam will NOT become a girl (another piece of rumour-mill bullshit that's been floating around for a year), or have a gay relationship with Frodo, or anything silly like that.

We will have to remove certain events or characters, but they will be clean lifts. As somebody pointed out earlier, THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING will need the greatest pruning.

Any changes that we do make will be centered on developing characters or events in the spirit that Tolkien created them, but maybe taking them further than he did. For example, the Aragorn/Arwen romance is a lovely part of the story ... but if it was filmed exactly as Tolkien wrote it, they would have maybe 10 minutes screentime together over 6 hours of film. So we have to find a way to include Arwen in more of the story, to have a chance at creating a meaningful screen romance. However, we won't do anything radical like adding her to the Fellowship, as that would be departing too much from what we all know and love. It's a fine line that we walk.

15. To gore or not to gore. There are gigantic battles in this film, how will you film these and what is the threshold of gore for the films?

These films will be PG13, but I would like them to be a hard PG13. The battles can't be BRAVEHEART violent, but we could maybe think about a slightly "harder" version for laserdisc release.

16. In getting New Line to sign on the dotted line, it has been said that their faith came from the script and the reel of tests that you and WETA showed them. What was on this reel, and what work has Weta and the 50 some odd people that have been laboring away come up with?

When we talked to studios about getting involved, we screened a 36 minute video documentary we made very quickly before we left. This documentary style video had interviews with key crew and design people and lots of footage of design paintings, models, armour and CG tests.

Cool stuff included on the tape: An Uruk-Hai in full armour and prosthetics, and Orc make-up test, models of Helm's Deep and Rivendell, marquettes of Elven armour and weapons, Gollum marquettes, a Cave Troll and a Balrog concept. CG tests included a CG Troll and a couple of huge Helm's Deep battle shots using a piece of WETA software called MASSIVE that has been developed over the last 2 years expressly to achieve huge battle scenes for THE LORD OF THE RINGS. MASSIVE allows us to have 200,000 CG extras that we don't animate, but they use a complex form of Artificial Intelligence to fight each other. You basically press a button, sit back and watch these huge battles unfold before your eyes. It's amazing and a little frightening as it ushers in a new era in CG effects.

Bob Shaye watched the tape in total silence and then declared that he wanted to make 3 movies. Bob deserves the credit for making a trilogy ... it was his idea.

The 36 min tape would be a great addition on a laserdisc box set.

17. What made you go, “Peter Jackson needs to make THE LORD OF THE RINGS”? What are you most excited about this project?

It gives me a chance to break new ground in the movies. Every film genre has been done well over the last 100 years, but not this type of fantasy story. If we get it right, it will be the first time. No film maker could ask for a greater challenge than that.

18. How open will this project be? Meaning what types of things will you be showing us fans in the years leading up to this film.

It will be like the SW Trilogy I suppose. Expect the same level of secrecy/revelations. I will try and kept a steady stream of information flowing. I know how frustrating it is.

How quickly do we get to see designs, models, sketches, stills, trailers, toys, a rough cut, etc...

I don't know the answers to that ... a trailer? That seems a million years away to me right now. New Line will control all of this and our relationship with them is only just beginning.

19. Richard of New York asks: "Will the films be titled “Fellowship of the Rings” “Two Towers” and “Return of the King” or will you go with LOTR1, LOTR 2, LOTR 3? What do you theorize the running time to be?"

I assume that we will use the book titles, probably with THE LORD OF THE RINGS kinda of a wrap around title, like STAR WARS.

For those who are interested, when we were making 2 movies with Miramax, we were thinking of calling them THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and THE WAR OF THE RING.

I imagine the films will have an approx 6 hour running time.

20. What gets you shaking like a kid on Christmas Morning on this project? In otherwords, when you look at the films, what are you dying to capture on film, and how will you do it?

These types of intangible questions are the toughest. I guess I'm lucky to have only one!

I want to take movie-goers into Middle-earth, in a way that is believable and powerful.

Imagine this: 7000 years has gone by. We take a filmcrew to Helm's Deep ... it's now looking a little older, but still impresses as a mighty fortress. The Art Dept set to work, patching up holes and removing tourist signs. The current owner strikes a hard bargain, but New Line money finally gets us permission to film there for 6 weeks. Rohan heraldry is studied and faithfully reproduced. Theoden's original saddle is in a museum - far too valuable to use in the movie, but an exact copy is made. Archeological expeditions have unearthed an incredibly preserved mummified Uruk-hai carcass. We make exact prothestic copies of these viscous killers ... use CG to give us a 10,000 strong army. We have cast actors who look like Aragorn and Theoden. In an amazing casting coup, Legolas has agreed to return from Valinor with Gimli to recreate their part in this cinematic retelling of the events at the end of the Third Age. They stand on the battlements of the Deeping Wall, wind blowing in their hair, leading a group of extras proudly portraying the brave garrison of Rohan soldiers ... Uruk drums roll up the valley ... huge lighting rigs flash simulated lightening ... rain towers send gallons of water into the air ... on an assistant director's signal, twenty 35mm cameras start rolling simultaneously ... the battle of Helm's Deep is about to be captured on film.

Sure, it's not really THE LORD OF THE RINGS ... but it could still be a pretty damn cool movie.

Cheers, Peter J

Peter Jackson Answers THE GEEKS!!! 20 Questions About Lord Of The Rings!!!

Sunday, August 30, 1998

Harry here, with the results of the 2nd Peter Jackson Q & A about THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Peter and you fans did a wonderful job with this, and well.... I am sure you will be pleased with the results you will see below. Peter will be in RED and the questions will be in BLACK, to make it as plain as possible. When you click on the TALK BACK function, your TALK BACK will be posted to the first page you clicked on, to see this Q & A. That way we won’t be crowding this already stuffed page.

Without further ado, here’s that guy that will be bringing us THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeter Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaacksonnnnnnnn....
PJ: Here we go again! Before I launch into the questions, let me bring you up to speed with where my brain is at. As most of you know, we had developed LotR as two films for Miramax, and we're now reworking the material as three movies for New Line.

As a result, we are in the process of rethinking the structure and narrative, and making some quite substantial changes to what we had done before. I mention this simply to put my answers in context: we have written one draft of The Fellowship of the Ring, we're half way through The Two Towers and haven't even started The Return of the King. Therefore, I'm doing my best to address these questions before the trilogy is actually written. We will be doing several more drafts of all three scripts before any shooting begins, so please understand that while I will give you accurate information based on what I know today, things will continue to change and develop over the next few months.

1. Alright, let’s kick this Q & A off with a good ol intelligent concern. For me, this question really gets down to the tone and seriousness of the film as Denethor is... well... an amazingly tragic character, and his sons are even more so. But Bonny here gets to it far better than I....

“I am very concerned about the way Denethor is going to be portrayed. In the Rankin/Bass production, he only appeared in one scene--the scene where he incinerates himself--and he is portrayed as a one-dimensional madman. (And Faramir is nowhere to be seen.) However, I always felt there were more dimensions to the character that needed to be explored, I saw him as a very tragic character under the circumstances: the death of his older son Boromir, the conditions of his office, his eminent removal, the assault on his city, and the seemingly inevitable death of his younger son Faramir. So the question is this: Will Denethor be portrayed as a madman, or will he be given the full dimensions he has in the novel?

PJ: I agree with you. In our old two film screenplay, Denethor is probably a little one dimensional and I think we can do a lot better when we write The Return of the King, which we will start in a few weeks. It is easy to portray him simply as a mad villain, but layering a tragic subtext throughout his scenes will be far more interesting.

The way that we often write (not just this project, but others) is to provide different layers over subsequent drafts ... i.e write the villain in one draft; get that working, then go back over the scenes and humanise him in the next draft. It makes it much easier when you're dealing with a huge volume of material.

By the way, I've never seen the Rankin/Bass "RotK", so if anyone can tell me where I can get it, I'd be very grateful. I am curious.

Also at the beginning of The Two Towers, when Boromir is killed, are you going to do it like the book, beginning with Aragorn and having him find that Boromir has been shot, or will you actually show him being shot with arrows?”

PJ: We are running that sequence in real time, actually showing him defending Merry and Pippin and getting shot. We're also sliding that sequence into the end of the first movie.

2. Bonny had this second paragraph of questions, that really gets into the structure of the storytelling, and whether or not it will mirror the non-linear story telling of the dear Professor’s. Here’s Bonny again....

“The Fellowship of the Ring is told in a very linear format, but The Two Towers and The Return of the King jump around in time a bit. (ROTK begins at Minas Tirith, then jumps back to the previous day, according to the time lines in the back.) They also split the novels into two halves: one half devoted solely to the battles in the west involving Merry and Pippin, the other half devoted to Frodo and Sam. Will the films follow this format, or tell the stories sequentially, integrating the two halves?"

PJ: We will not be following the "Book Three, Book Four" type format. We will be intercutting between the various storylines. In fact, we are grappling with intercutting between Frodo & Sam, and the events at Edoras and Helm's Deep right now in our work on The Two Towers.

"I suppose I should include this also: the two productions I have seen (okay, one was radio) both include Gandalf's capture by Saruman. Will this be seen as part of the first half of the film, or be told, as in the book, as a flashback during the Council of Elrond?"

PJ: At the moment, we have the best of both worlds: we are showing Gandalf's capture by Saruman in "real time", but showing his escape as flashback during the Rivendell council.

"Also, will you be including Tom Bombadil? The Ralph Bakshi production cut it out, as did the BBC radio drama.”

PJ: At this point in time Bombadil is out. The main reason is not just time or pace, but one of simple narrative focus ... the Bombadil sequence has so little to do with Sauron or the Ring, it is difficult to justify the screen time. It simply doesn't give us any vital new information. A very simplest rule of thumb that I use in movie storytelling is to try and further the story with each new scene.

I'm flicking through our Fellowship script ... it is 138 pages long. The Hobbits leave Hobbiton on page 30, and arrive at Rivendell on page 63. Even that 33 pages on the road feels a little long and will probably get trimmed in our next draft.

3. Alright, now we move on to the accents. Leah E. had the following to say...

“I'm really curious to know whether there is going to be any consistency in the accents of the characters, and if so what accents they are going to use. In (my) ideal world, Frodo, Bilbo, Pippin, and Merry would speak English Country Squire and Sam would speak English Country Bumpkin--it seems important since the hobbit world is so closely linked to the idealized English countryside. Then if the other species had accents peculiar to themselves, that would be pretty cool. Or failing that, it would be GREAT if no one spoke with an American accent as that often seems to bring fantasy worlds crashing down. I am American, by the way. I just don't think it would suit Tolkien. Thanks! Leah E.”

PJ: My preference is to use English accents as I think an American accent would feel as out of place in Middle-earth. If you are making Braveheart or Rob Roy, a King Arthur, or Robin Hood movie, then a basic asthetic sense says that American accents are not appropriate (as in Costner's Robin Hood). The Lord of the Rings is a classic English story. However, I think that New Line are concerned that having no American accents will alienate a US audience, so that debate has yet to be resolved. There may be a way of figuring something out.

4. Alrighty, here comes the ‘casting’ question out of the group. The following comes from Ivenshang:

“You have said repeatedly that you want unknowns for the Hobbits and would tolerate more famous (but inexpensive) people for the supporting cast. Define famous (Sean Connery is obviously famous, but would Jeremy Northam qualify?)"

PJ: With apologises to Jeremy Northam, I would not define him as famous! Not today at any rate.

"define unknown: are these hobbits-to-be newcomers with little experience (hence dicey prospects for the heavy duty acting required later in the saga) or simply professional actors who haven't gotten a big break before?"

PJ: Both of those would apply. I like working with "unknowns". It can be dicey, but also hugely satisfying and exciting. Kate Winslet had never been in a film before Heavenly Creatures, and who had ever seen Ralph Fiennes before Schindler's List? These people are out there ... somewhere in the world is the perfect Frodo and perfect Sam ... and we will find them!

"and also can you confirm or deny the following casting rumors: Patrick Magoohan as Gandalf; Kate Winslet as Arwen or Eowyn; Christopher Lee as Gandalf, Saruman or Denethor; Charlton Heston as Denethor, Gandalf or Theoden; Sam Neill as Aragorn?”

PJ: None of those rumours are true. At this point in time, NO RUMOURS ARE TRUE! If you hear rumours, then you can safely assume they are 100% FALSE!

No "name" actors, or their agents have been approached in anyway. That's not to say that any of the above actors would not be great for the trilogy. Several of them we would seriously consider ... it just hasn't happened yet.

We started casting in Dublin and London before Christmas and will ramp up first thing in the new year, with casting spreading into LA, Australia and New Zealand. At this stage, we are auditioning lessor known actors for all the major roles. In March we will review the results and then strategise with New Line about where to place "name" actors ... and who those actors might be. So assume any "rumours" between now and March to be hogwash.

And from Harlequin will you be working or casting any past Peter Jackson cast folk like “Jake Busey (my favorite for Legolas: agree or disagree?), Clive Merrison, Jed Brophy, Peter Dobson, Timothy Balme?”

PJ: I would love to work with any of those actors again. The Lord of the Rings has to be the ultimate example of the saying "the right actor for the right role" and that's the philosophy we will follow. We will find and cast the right actors for the very specific roles that LotR requires. Whether I have worked with them before, is a secondary consideration. So the answer at this stage: I don't know.

Also Peter, I’ve been being deluged with e-mail about casting for a long long time. And perhaps the question that most came to my mind about it is this. When George Lucas was casting STAR WARS, he assembled multiple ‘groups’ of actors to see how the chemistry was between them. As they went through various readings the pool was narrowed down to the group we finally got on screen. How are you assembling your final ‘group’?

PJ: That is sound thinking, especially for an "ensemble" cast - which the Fellowship obviously is. Geography might go against us ... if we have a favourite Frodo in London, a Sam in Sydney, a Merry in LA and a Pippin in NZ, then it will be hard to get them together during the auditioning. We will see. On Heavenly Creatures we got around that by having Kate read a scene in London and Mel read a scene in NZ and then we cut the two performances together on video to get a sense of what they were like as a couple.

5. Now we move on to the weapons and armor of LORD OF THE RINGS....

“Do you intend to have your people research bladed-weapon fighting so that the swordfighting, axe hacking etc looks believable, or are you just going for the Phantom Empire approach (ie let the actors do their own thing with the weapons)"

PJ: We will make it look believable. One of our artists, John Howe is a member of one of Europe's most authentic medieval reinactment groups ... and he is making sure that the weapons and equipment have a very realistic quality, whilst still looking original in terms of design.

We have had various workshops with sword masters, both European and oriental. We have also had workshops with one of the only guys in NZ skilled at firing an authentic English longbow. We are working hard at establishing unique fighting styles for the different races of Middle-earth.

"also how much stuntwork is required for the major characters"

PJ: A difficult question to answer now. Obviously the stuntwork will be dictated by the final scripts and fight choreography.

"and how do you intend to handle the Race of the three Hunters?”

PJ: I assume you're referring to the sequence where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli pursue Merry and Pippin? It pretty much follows the book.

And then Joe Piela of Lonely Mountain Forge asks this:

“How is the Weta Workshop handling the enormous job of producing huge amounts of chainmail, other armor, and weapons to equip the thousands of extras appearing in the movies?”

PJ: The armor making is well underway. "Hero" suits are being made in steel, with background suits in fibreglass. They is no better way to make steel armour and weapons than the way it was done 600 years ago ... we have a foundry set up at Weta. Steel is heated red-hot and beaten on anvils! It looks very authentic!

Our hero chainmail is being manufactured in India of all places. There is a company there that can make square-section mail very quickly and cheaply (Amnesty International have assured us they are not using child labour).

For the background suits of mail we are using the old knitted string technique. A wonderful Wellington Knitting Club is producing about one suit per person per day (all these ladies are over 70 years old!)

Background and fighting weapons are being cast in a strong, rigid rubber material, that will not wobble (did anyone see the wobbling axe in the last shot of Braveheart?)

6. Heh heh heh.... The geeks are doing pretty good thus far, so let us continue. The almighty Andy came in with this question about Sam and Frodo’s journey....

“How do you intend to show Frodo and Sams journey from the Breaking of the fellowship right through to the ascent to the pass of Cirith Ungol. In the Novel this particular part of the journey was given quite alot of time to develop indeed it was given a complete book in the Two Towers. The reason I ask this is because this entire section is a slow build up of tension were Tolkien tried to slowly increase the horrors and power of Mordor which is fine in the context of a novel but quite simply there is not enough action or excitement for a would be a shame to see the first part of frodo and sams journey brushed over to make way for the more epic events that happen to their fellow friends in the Two towers".

PJ: This is the stuff we are currently writing , so we are aware of the problems that you point out. There is much more action with the events in Rohan, so in a way that becomes the "A Story" or driving narrative of the 2nd movie.

We are developing the Frodo and Sam story in two ways: We are putting a lot of emphasis on the Gollum/Smeagol schizoid personality split and how that impacts on Frodo and Sam, and also making their capture by the Faramir's troops as tense as possible. It's interesting that in the Two Towers, the greatest threat to the Ring comes not from the Orcs but from Man ... and we want to really strengthen that drama.

Our experience here is a good example of what we are discovering during this writing process. Everything is in the books to one extent or another ... we have little need to make things up, but we do need to be selective in what we emphasis. In some areas we are taking things that Tolkien brushed over and developing them more, because it supports the narrative drive of the film ... and deleting some things entirely because they don't support what we're doing with the film at that point.

"Also will you show the 3 assault's upon lorien and the siege of Dale and Erebor in the Return of the king or will you merely refer to them in passing conversation between characters?”

PJ: At this stage, they are neither shown or referred to in our old scripts, but as we have yet to write The Return of the King, anything could happen. Showing the assaults on Lorien could be great. We are definitely finding that as we now have more screen time with the trilogy, we are able to include much more of this type of detail. Keep your fingers crossed!

7. Here is a question from Doug about the whole “Children’s film” mark that he fears will be stamped on these films. So tell us Peter... How many Ewoks will you put in this movie and will you tear them up or let them kill the orcs?

“This question probably is asked a lot, but, What measure are taken to keep people from immediately thinking that this might be a children's film? Some people (and studio executives) might have some negative feelings, seeing the main characters being short people with curly hair and hairy feet. I had this fear after Entertainment Weekly said that it was a very shaky decision to give Peter Jackson 140 Million dollars to make a "Hobbit" trilogy.”

Your question really falls into the marketing domain. I know from experience that people who haven't read LotR think it is a children's book - getting mixed up with The Hobbit, no doubt. It is the job of the New Line marketing department to educate film goers as to exactly the type of movie they should expect. That is helped by having a great trailer and poster, of course.

The films we are making will be PG13. However, let me assure you that there is no pressure from New Line to gear them towards a children's audience. They are smart enough to know that The Lord of the Rings was huge in the sixties, and most of those readers are now 50 years old. The intention is to make it neither childish, nor overly dark ... a good solid action adventure with intelligence and depth.

I was talking with a New Line executive the other day, and we were saying that the battle scenes should push the PG13 envelope, not in terms of violence, but shear intensity. I also wouldn't rule out the possibility of "extra battle footage", unsuitable for a PG13, for future video releases either.

“One last thing, I would like to thank both Harry and Peter Jackson, If I did not read what people felt about the books, I would never have picked them up, and I would have never realized Tolkien's great work.”

8. I’ve been inundated with query after query about Gollum. Will he be a fishy, froggy thing. How will evil twist and turn a Hobbit into a Gollum? Will he be an actor in a costume, a puppet, a cgi thing? However the best person to ask all of this stuff was our dear man Cliff, and here’s what he had to say...

“I submit the $0.64 question: Rumor has it that all main characters will be live actors except one: which will be a completely CGI creature. This must be Gollum, then? One would assume you would not create a "Yoda"-type Gollum that was a fancy electronic hand-puppet".

PJ: Gollum will be completely CGI. His performance has to be spectacular - way beyond anything we have yet seen in CGI land. WETA are developing vast amounts of new code to deal with this. New modelling codes, new skinning code, new bone and muscle code - muscle that actually acts the same as the real organic tissue. His performance will be based largely on motion capture - an under used, under rated technique that if done badly can be terrible, but if used well is amazingly life-like.

The Gollum design is finished and approved. How do I describe him? Not too fishy or froggy - a little I guess, but we took a great deal of care to make him believable. You have to accept that he was once like Frodo, but that the power of the Ring has kept him alive way beyond his years. We were very careful to give him a range of expressions from the evil of Gollum to the sympathy of Smeagol. His design is based on a sculpture created by the WETA workshop guys. This has been scanned into the computer used a NZ invented scanner that reproduces all the detail of the original sculpture - he doesn't look in the slightest like a CG model.

Throw out any thoughts or concerns you have about CG creatures you've seen .. this is gonna be different. Gollum's going to be cool!

"And if you do make Gollum as completely CGI, the biggest question is what will you look for in his Voice? Clearly the voice-actor must make Gollum suitably wretched and vile, but at the same time pitiful, as his relationship with the Hobbits in the latter part of the story is so important. A whole generation of Tolkien fans have a strong impression of the Gollum that Brother Theodore voiced for the Rankin/Bass television movies. Will your Gollum have this guttural, twisted monster voice or will he sound like a Hobbit (which he is, ostensibly)?”

PJ: We have yet to cast Gollum's voice, but I would imagine it should reflect the same twisted deterioration that has happened to his body.

9. Alot of people are curious about your research for writing with Fran Walsh the 3 scripts for the films. Did you consult the Professors various notes, The Silmarillion, or Tolkien scholars works? Here’s what Josh was curious about...

“Are there any (at least possibly tentative) plans to feature references to Tolkien's *other* masterwork, "The Silmarillion", in dialogue, or perhaps, in flashback (such as Aragorn's recounting of the Beren and Luthien tale in "Fellowship"?

PJ: We have a vast library of every book we can find that has been written by and about Tolkien and Middle-earth. I can't claim to have read them all cover-to-cover, but we consult them when nessacary.

The Silmarillion is obviously very useful, but it does not feature in our trilogy. There is cross-over material that appears in both, like the history of the Rings and Sauron, and the Last Alliance, Elendil and Isildur. Like I said earlier, material that does not have direct bearing on our story is difficult to fit in. However, there are many references to the early Ages in our dialogue.

10. I know you have been seen buying butt-loads of model kits at modeling shows and shops. Undoubtedly this comes from being a geek. Give us your impressions, as a geek, of the modeling work that is being done on the film. Which ‘kit’ is going to be the one we’ll all die for?

PJ: The model kit analogy is very apt, since all of our creature and armour designing is based on resin or garage kit techniques. After doing a series of drawings, we start marquetting the designs as small (12") sculptures, using Super-sculpty and casting in resin. Richard Taylor's team must have produced nearly 300 such sculptures already, with many more to go. There are about 50 Uruk-Hai marquettes, dozens of Orcs and Gollums, Rohan and Gondorian soldiers. Just before Christmas they finished a series of design marquettes of Dwarves in full battle armour. They looked great! Any one would make a great kit.

WETA has a team of about 6 main sculptors who do beautiful work. This stuff is great, just as I thought their Kong dinosaurs where the best I'd ever seen.

Don't worry ... we're shooting miles of video footage of all this stuff for the "Special Edition" laser and DVD supplements!

"Will you beat NEW LINE into setting up the toy license with McFarlane toys? Ok ok ok, yeah I know... this is all stuff that is so far away you don’t want to even think about it, but when you walk into the Weta studios and you see the work that’s being done.... describe how it makes you feel as a lifelong geek..."

PJ: It feels amazing ... it's an honour and privilege to be working on a project like this. It transcends film making and becomes something you love doing every second of the day. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

11. Once again I’m being deluged with questions about scoring, but I don’t want to waste a question with it, because that’s a decision you’ll probably make in a couple of years, but if you have any thoughts comment on em, otherwise get on to question eleven which is really from Underdog:

“Peter, first I want to thank you for being human enough to get down in the mud and play with us. I’m curious. From what I have read, you started off 4 months ago with two scripts based on a 3 book series. You said that they were titled “The Fellowship of the Ring” and “The War of the Ring”. You also said that you were going to basically add 30 pages to the total page length of the scripts when converting from 2 to 3 scripts. What I’m curious about is the breaks. Obviously when you had it structured as a 2 film story, you felt like you had a great breaking point. How was it originally going to be broken down, and how has that changed?"

PJ: The first film in the 2 film version climaxed with the battle of Helm's Deep.

"Is it now going to be broken up as they were in the books? What was the most daunting task in turning the 2 scripts into 3?”

PJ: Yes. it's pretty much following the books now, which is actually a good thing. Ever since we starting working on the trilogy, it has felt like a much more natural way to tell the story. We also can include most of the key characters and events in a way that just wasn't possible with the two films.

The most daunting thing is to shape an ending for "The Fellowship of the Ring". Our original Part One had the advantage of a victorious battle to end with, but The Fellowship obviously ends in a very "up in the air" kinda way. We are not changing anything in the book, but we are trying to pitch it in a positive way, so it doesn't feel like too much of a bummer. A lot of this has to do with Frodo's character, and the way we are developing him.

Apart from that, nothing else is daunting about going from 2 films to 3 - it's a wonderful thing!

12. Ok, here we have a fella that’s willing to let you not show EVERY character mentioned in the three books, but.... Well Greg, wants to know...

“You've hinted that the first film may move quickly to the Council of Elrond, showing very little of the hobbit adventures in reaching Rivendell..which would be fine with me.”

PJ: There's more than you think. The actual council doesn't start until page 72.

“as a fan of the books, I think I’d prefer the approach, where possible, of moving a favorite character or scene or relationship "off screen" rather than watering it down or creating composite characters. In other words, maybe your film doesn't show me Prince Imrahil...but don't tell me there IS NO Prince Imrahil.”

PJ: I agree with that. The same goes for Bombadil ... when the hobbits arrive at Bree without us seeing the Bombadil episode, it doesn't mean it didn't happen ... it just wasn't shown in the film. You are certainly welcome to imagine that they have had that experience, and we do nothing to prevent that.

“As you've whittled away at the characters and storylines to complete your script, were there any characters or storylines set aside whole, to an extent that they might themselves serve as a framework for sequel/prequel/parralelquels for yourself or another film maker if these 3 films prove to be a wild success.”

PJ: Not really. The key events and characters are all there - at least in my mind. Of course the depth of Middle-earth is so great that there are many imaginative ways to create sequels (beyond the obvious Hobbit prequel).

One idea I've got (if the trilogy is successful) would be to gather the cast together again and shoot another couple of hours worth of scenes to flesh out The Lord of the Rings as a more complete "Special Edition". In other words, we would write and shoot the Tom Bombadil stuff, or scenes involving Gandalf and Aragorn hunting Gollum, and his capture by Orcs ... and any number of other bits of business that we can't fit into the 6 hour version. That would be a really cool way of creating a "sequel" - expanding the existing The Lord of the Rings from 6 to 8 or 9 hours! It would be the first time that has ever been done (except for CE3K perhaps).

Anyway - one step at a time!

“for an example..Frodo's adventure reaching Rivendell, Bilbo's HOBBIT story of course, and Aragorn's adventures in his youth.”

PJ: New Line will definitely make The Hobbit if LotR is a success.

13. Amongst all the cries and whimpers and screams about Lord of the Rings, there was a single brave soul that was curious about... Another film.


Well, shucks, just to show the voice and question of a single type matters... well, here ya go Yakkel:

“What's happening with King Kong?”

PJ: Universal sees KING KONG as a valuable future franchise to feed into their theme parks, etc, so I'm sure at some point they will remake King Kong.

My involvement? That's entirely up to Universal. If they asked me to jump back onto Kong after The Lord of the Rings, I would say "yes!" in a nanosecond. It's my favourite movie, and I liked the direction we were taking our script. WETA have great designs and CG tests that Universal have never even seen. Whether Universal will ask is the big unknown. Did Godzilla or Mighty Joe Young do the type of business to inspire a Kong remake? Maybe ... just. I think it's a safe bet that they will wait and see how The Lord of the Rings turns out before talking to me about Kong. That's the way the system works.

I'd love to do it ... let's wait and see.

14. Ahhhhh, the sweet locations of New Zealand. So Peter, where on those beautiful isles of yours will you be shooting? And if someone were to fly down there... how different will the locations be that their eyes would see in reality from the filmed versions? Will you use exclusively digital matte paintings, or will there be any... real Albert Whitlock style matte paintings?

PJ: We are slowly nailing down our locations ... a process that will stretch on for a few more months. We will have some matte paintings, but they will be used for subtle enhancements, rather than creating an entire landscape. We have such great real locations, we don't need to struggle too much to create Middle-earth.

One interesting approach we are exploring is to digitise the ENTIRE movie into the computer - every frame - which would allow us to "fiddle" with all of our shots in some way or another. This would have great impact on the landscapes, since we could change cloud formations, add sunsets, or forests, or waterfalls wherever we wanted. It would help enormously to make all those exterior scenes a little more magical. It has never been done before on the live action film, and would require a huge data storage system. We are currently exploring the options.

“Have you settled on sites for principal photography yet? If so, can you reveal what they might be? This may be of interest mostly to Kiwis or (like me) those who have visited or lived in Godzone, but it might also give us an idea of the kind of scenery and look to expect from LOTR. “

PJ: We have a few key locations nailed down. I'm not going to be specific because I don't want to see photographs appearing on the net! It's no secret that we will be using elements of the region known as the "Volcanic Plateau" for Mordor. We have found a great Hobbiton location ... somewhere in the North Island. We've got a great Weathertop in the Waikato ... a gorgeous Edoras location in Canterbury. It's looking good ... no cause for panic!

15. Here is an essay question about loyal book readers, vs the heathens that have never read the books, this one from Steve in Pheonix, Arizona....

“Question for Peter Jackson: Is this movie going to be good? No just kidding, I have an actual question, but it comes with a bit of background, so here goes... I was first introduced to these wonderful books when I was in 4th grade. (I am 28 now) I loved being able to envision all of the awesome places and people that this story creates. When I first heard about these movies being made, I was both ecstatic, and worried, as I would assume are many fans of TLOTR. Do you think that these movies will be able to pull in non fans of the written word? I mean these are great books, but I am unsure of their potential for the big screen. There are times (blasphemy I know) when the books tend to drag somewhat. Are you afraid of alienating hard-core fans at the expense of trying to make these films more accessible to the non-literary fans? I realize that this is probably the "real trick" in making these movies, but I am curious as to how you are planning on pulling it off. I know the logical answer is "Wait and see," but I figured if we had this opportunity for questions, I may as well ask the one that seems most pertinent. Sorry for the essay. I can get a bit wordy at times.... Thank you and good luck. Here is at least 2 tickets you can count as being sold. ( I will be taking my young son, who I hope to introduce to the wonderful world of Middle Earth)”

PJ: It's a good question and the answer really boils down to the tricky tightrope I have to walk. I need to balance the expectations of the book's fans with making a movie for people that have never read the book. I have responsibility to both and I don't think it's quite as hard as you might imagine. We simply don't have time to include everything ... which helps with your pace concerns. The bottom line is that the characters and storylines are so wonderful that it should amaze, surprise and delight people that have never read the books.

Harper Collins told me that they usually sell about 100 copies of The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand per month ... since the trilogy was announced, sales have risen to 1000 copies per month! At the end of the day, a half-decent movie has got to inspire many new readers. It can't do anything else.

16. I really like this question from Brooke, so here ya go PJ:

“Lord of the Rings is a hugely complicated, sophisticated story. Even in three parts, there's no way that every detail could appear. I imagine that Jackson will follow some of the themes of the trilogy more strongly than others. Well, what are the most important themes to him? When all is said and done, and we can finally see all three films back-to-back (assuming we're all still *alive* then), what does he want us to come away with (other than awe at the effects and such, which is inevitable)? What *meaning* will he give the films, and what themes will he emphasize to do so?”

PJ: Getting to the end of this alive is something that concerns me too!

I'm interested in themes about friendship and self-sacrifice. That Hobbits would go into hell with little chance of survival is touching, especially since their sacrifice actually paves the way for the ascent of Mankind. The fact that The Lord of the Rings actually tells the story of how Humans became the dominant species on Earth (over Hobbits, Dwarves, Orcs, etc) is an interesting angle that is easily overlooked.

Questions about Mortality vs Immortality, seen through Aragorn and Arwen's eyes is intriguing. We are also making use of Tolkien's favourite Nature vs Machine themes.

“PS -- one quick question, not worth wasting one of your real ones on: Do people call him "PJ"? Somehow, it's hard to imagine.”

PJ: I don't get called PJ in conversation very often, but it is always used for written shorthand ... "PJ to attend design meeting at 3pm".

17. I’m pretty sure I know the answer to this question, but I know a lot of people that are voicing it. It’s a genuine fear that many readers of this site have given the onslaught of stupidity by Warner Brothers execs and Universal’s marketing department and... well you all know the guilty.

PJ: The guilty at Universal no longer work there!

Here’s the fear as voiced by Trevor...

“PJ, are you absolutely certain that New Line is going to back your vision all the way to the end?"

PJ: No ... I'm sure there will be disagreements. There always is.

"Do you have it in black and white on a contract that the editors aren't going to have a heyday with your film and make some butchered Bakshi-like piece of shit that has a total running time of a little under 3 hours?"

PJ: No, I don't have that in my contract, but ultimately contracts are worthless. New Line is spending so much money that it will do what it feels it needs to do to protect it's investment ... contract or no contract.

I have a feeling New Line would be making a big mistake by doing that, but never underestimate the stupidity of the head up the ass execs that exist in the entertainment industry. Just remember to stand firm on what you know will be good and tell the naysayers to go to hell.”

PJ: So much of this business is about trust. New Line are trusting us to make this book into an expensive trilogy of films ... and we are trusting New Line not to deluge us with bad ideas. The trust factor in this relationship feels pretty good. Remember that it was Bob Shaye's idea to make a trilogy - we didn't promote that. The two New Line guys working closely with us are Mike De Luca and Mark Ordesky - both are huge fans of the book. We were at a story meeting when Mark starting quoting passages from the book verbatim. Fran's jaw dropped open in amazement! And I was at a party when Mark's mother told me how he used to draw Middle-earth maps and make models when he was a kid. De Luca and Ordesky are the closest thing you get to genuine geeks in the studio system ... they simply want what all of us do - to see a great Lord of the Rings trilogy made. There is no other agenda.

Sure, they'll be disagreements ... we will probably yell at each other before this is over, because there's a lot at stake ... but I truly believe that New Line has it's heart in the right place.

18. Alright, Peter has already stated that Sam and Frodo will not be gay lovers, and Sam won’t be a woman, but some people still fear the ever-present platonic love these characters shared as best of friends. Here’s the question from John...

“How do you plan to handle the relationship between Frodo and Samwise? It seems to me that filming Sam's attitude toward Frodo exactly as in the books would be fairly risky, at least for the U.S. audience. For example, times that Sam holds a weakened Frodo in his arms, stroking his hand and saying how he loves him, is likely to get more public exposure from intolerant folks than you really want.”

PJ: We don't have the hand-stroking stuff, but the relationship is very close to how it is in the book. It's a story of great friendship ... nothing to be embarrassed about.

19. I’ve had tons of people ask about the look of the films, the cinematographer, the style, the feel, etc. But what concerns me is this. You say there will be 5 separate units filming all at the same time for months on end in and around New Zealand. Have you chosen a DP (director of photography) and how would he and you really over see all of that filming?

PJ: We haven't chosen a DP yet, but we are looking at very high tech telecommunication systems. The different units will have direct access to me via high definition live satellite feeds. I can talk to crew ... direct actors ... look at camera angles and check takes as if I was actually physically there. It shouldn't be a problem.

"How do you keep this from looking TV mini-series-ish? If you haven’t chosen a DP, who are you looking at? I presume every frame is being planned before you ever set out with your 50 Panavision cameras."

PJ: If we digitise the entire film as I mentioned earlier, then a lot of the "look" of the movies can be created in post-production, with lighting and mood adjustments being made on an Inferno suite. It doesn't minimise the work of a DP, but provides an extra tool to give the films a very special look. I'm talking subtle here ... nothing that detracts from the reality feel that I want to create.

20. Alright, here we are at the last question. This will be an easy one Peter. It’s been 4 months since our last chat. What has happened in regards to THE LORD OF THE RINGS in the last 4 months? Still on schedule, what is that schedule?

PJ: Things have progressed very smoothly ... the calmest, most controlled period in the 22 months that I have been working on the project. New Line have been very supportive and receptive to our ideas. They love our designs and were pleased with the first draft of The Fellowship that we delivered.

WETA Workshop are continuing to pump out great designs and huge piles of weapons and armour. WETA Digital are producing tests that are very exciting. We saw some stuff just before Christmas that got everybody worked up!

Alan Lee and John Howe are continuing to produce what I think is their most inspired work. They have now been on the project for a full year and return in a couple of weeks.

We are talking with New Line about extending our prep and design phase to enable us to fully work up the scripts, designs and storyboards. We did talk about shooting in May, but I feel that we would not be fully prepared. I am determined to keep this project under control in a way that rarely happens with big budget FX films. It is all about being prepared, and once we start rolling we are making 3 huge movies in a row. We have to be SO prepared! I would like to have until August or September to fully finish my storyboards and animatics. New Line are thinking about that. Contractually, we have to be filming by October, so don't worry - by this time next year The Fellowship of the Ring at least will be in the can!

I'm off to get some sleep ... I've enjoyed these questions and I hope my answers have been useful. If there's anything you want to tell me, fire away - I will read all of the comments following this.

Let's do it again!


Peter J