December 18, 2008

The Hobbit films

The Hobbit
, based on the novel of the same name by J. R. R. Tolkien, are two films in development for release in December 2011 and December 2012. The films will be directed by Guillermo del Toro, with The Lord of the Rings film trilogy director Peter Jackson serving as executive producer and co-writer. Originally, the first film would have adapted The Hobbit and the second would have carried over into The Lord of the Rings; but the writers decided it was better to cover the novel over both films.


Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh expressed interest in 1995 in filming The Hobbit, which would be part one of a trilogy (the other two would have been based on The Lord of the Rings).[1] Frustration arose when Jackson's producer, Harvey Weinstein, discovered Saul Zaentz had production rights to The Hobbit, but distribution rights still belonged to United Artists. The studio was on the market, so Weinstein's attempts to buy those rights were unsuccessful. Weinstein asked Jackson to press on with adapting The Lord of the Rings.[2] New Line Cinema eventually produced The Lord of the Rings, and their rights to film The Hobbit were set to expire in 2010.[3] In September 2006, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, owner of UA, expressed interest in teaming up with New Line and Jackson to make the prequel.[4]

In March 2005, Jackson launched a lawsuit against New Line, claiming he had lost revenue from merchandising, video, and computer games releases associated with The Fellowship of The Ring.[5] Jackson felt the lawsuit was minor, and that New Line would still let him make the film.[6] New Line co-founder Robert Shaye was annoyed with the lawsuit and said in January 2007 that Jackson would never again direct a film for New Line, accusing him of being greedy.[7] MGM boss Harry Sloan halted development, as he wanted Jackson to be involved.[8] By August, after a string of flops, Shaye was trying to repair his relationship with the director. He said, "I really respect and admire Peter and would love for him to be creatively involved in some way in The Hobbit."[9] The following month, New Line was fined $125,000 for failing to provide requested accounting documents.[3]

On December 18 2007, it was announced that Jackson would be executive producer of The Hobbit and its sequel. New Line and MGM will co-finance the film, and the latter studio will distribute the films outside North America – New Line's first ever such deal with another major studio.[10] Each film is budgeted at an estimated US$150 million,[11] which compares to the US$94 million budget for each of the films in Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. After completion of the merger of New Line Cinema with Warner Bros. in February 2008, the films were announced as scheduled for release in December 2011 and 2012.[8] Producer Mark Ordesky will return to supervise the prequels.[12] Jackson explained he chose not to direct because it would have been unsatisfying to compete with his previous films.[13]

Guillermo del Toro has said he was a fan of Jackson's trilogy and had discussed directing a Halo film with him in 2005. Though that project stalled, they kept in contact.[13] In a 2006 interview Del Toro was quoted saying "I don't like little guys and dragons, hairy feet, hobbits, [...] I hate all that stuff".[14] After he signed on to direct in April 2008,[15] Del Toro posted on forums that he had been enchanted by The Hobbit as a child, but found that Tolkien's other books "contain[ed] geography and genealogy too complex for my prepubescent brain". In taking the job of director, Del Toro was now "reading like a madman to catch up with a whole new land, a continent of sorts – a cosmology created by brilliant philologist turned Shaman". The director also posted that his appreciation of Tolkien was enhanced by his knowledge of the fantasy genre and the folklore research he had undertaken while making his own fantasy films.[13]

Pre-production began around August 2008, with Del Toro, Jackson, Walsh, and Philippa Boyens writing the scripts.[16] Del Toro collaborated with Jackson, Walsh and Boyens via videoconferencing, and flew every three weeks, back and forth from Los Angeles, California (where some of the designs were done)[15] to New Zealand to visit them.[17] Del Toro spent his mornings writing, and afternoons looking at material related to Tolkien to help him understand the writer's work. He watched World War I documentaries and examined Jackson's memorabilia about the war, including working reproductions of planes, tanks, cannons, ships and uniforms. Del Toro felt Tolkien's experiences in that war impacted his stories.[18]

By November 2008, every week Del Toro, Jackson, Walsh and Boyens would realise something new about the story which continually changed the script.[19] The writing hours increased to twelve each day, as they dedicated three weeks to finally deciding the films' structures.[20] Filming will take place throughout 2010 in New Zealand, and Del Toro will renovate the Hobbiton sets in Matamata.[13] On his part, Jackson has kept the Rivendell scale model and the Bag End set (which he has used as a guest house) from the trilogy.[6] During the middle of the shoot, there will be a break which will allow Del Toro to edit The Hobbit while sets are altered for the second film.[21] The director expected the shoot to last 370 days.[22]


Del Toro interprets The Hobbit as being set in a "world that is slightly more golden at the beginning, a very innocent environment" and the film would need to "tak[e] you from a time of more purity to a darker reality throughout the film, but [in a manner] in the spirit of the book".[15] He perceives the main themes as loss of innocence, which he likened to the experience of England after World War I, and greed, which he says Smaug and Thorin Oakenshield represent:[13] Bilbo Baggins reaffirms his personal morality during the story's third act as he encounters Smaug and the Dwarves' greed.[24] He added "The humble, sort of a sturdy moral fibre that Bilbo has very much represents the idea that Tolkien had about the little English man, the average English man",[25] and Thorin and Bilbo's relationship would be the heart of the films.[26] The Elves will also be less solemn.[13]

Del Toro met concept artists John Howe and Alan Lee, Weta Workshop head Richard Taylor and make-up artist Gino Acevedo to keep continuity with the previous films,[15] and he will also hire European comic book artists to complement Howe's and Lee's style on the trilogy.[27] He hopes Mike Mignola and concept artist Wayne Barlowe (whose credits include Harry Potter) can help the project for a few weeks.[22] He has also considered looking at Tolkien's drawings and using elements of those not used in the trilogy.[25] As Tolkien did not intend for the One Ring to be evil, as revealed in The Lord of the Rings, Del Toro will address its different nature in the story, but not so much as to draw away from the story's spirit.[24] Each Dwarf will need to look different from each other.[28] Del Toro will redesign the Goblins and Wargs,[13] while the Mirkwood spiders will look different from Shelob.[24] Del Toro felt the Wargs had to be changed because "the classical incarnation of the demonic wolf in Nordic mythology is not a hyena-shaped creature".[18]

Del Toro also wants the animals to speak so Smaug's speech will not be incongruous, though he explained portraying the talking animals will be more about showing people can understand them.[24] Smaug will not have a "snub Simian [mouth] in order to achieve a dubious lip-synch",[13] and Del Toro notes that such is the attention given to him that he will be the first design begun and the last to be approved.[18] The director, whose Chinese zodiac sign is the Dragon, is fascinated by the mythological species and attempted to include one in Pan's Labyrinth, but was unable to for budget reasons. His favourite cinematic dragons are Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty and Vermithrax Pejorative from Dragonslayer.[13] He has also provided a foreword to John Howe's portfolio book Forging Dragons, where he discussed the dragon's differing symbolism and roles in various cultures and legends.[30]

Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis (who played Gandalf and Gollum, respectively), have met Del Toro,[15] and ideally, he wants every actor (including Ian Holm, who played the old Bilbo in Rings) to reprise their roles,[27] although he acknowledged some may be unable to because of health problems; he would also consider having Holm narrate the films.[25] All thirteen Dwarves and Beorn will appear.[13] Doug Jones – who portrayed various creatures in Hellboy, its sequel and Pan's Labyrinth – was interested in playing Thranduil, King of Mirkwood and Legolas' father, but del Toro said he wanted Jones for a different role.[29] Similarly, Hellboy star Ron Perlman is a person whom del Toro has "something in mind for".[13]

Del Toro and Jackson have a positive working relationship, where they will compromise on disagreements to the benefit of the film.[13] Del Toro believes he will be able to shoot all of the films himself,[31] although Jackson noted he had similar hopes for filming all of his trilogy, and has offered to help as second unit director. Del Toro will shoot the films in the trilogy's 2.35:1 aspect ratio, rather than his signature 1.85:1 ratio.[13] He hopes to collaborate again with cinematographer Guillermo Navarro.[22] Del Toro shares Jackson's passion for scale models and background paintings,[32] though he wants to increase the use of animatronics; "We really want to take the state-of-the-art animatronics and take a leap ten years into the future with the technology we will develop for the creatures in the movie. We have every intention to do for animatronics and special effects what the other films did for virtual reality."[15] Spectral Motion (Hellboy, Fantastic Four) are among those Del Toro wants to work with again.[22] Some characters will be created by mixing computer-generated imagery with animatronics, and some will solely be created with animatronics or animation. Gollum will be entirely digital again, as Del Toro noted "if it ain't broke, why fix it?"[32]

Del Toro considered the sudden introduction to Bard the Bowman and Bilbo being unconscious during the Battle of the Five Armies to be "unorthodox narrative choices" and noted these "should be protected as much as humanly possible since [these] very idiosyncracies are the ones that allow it to retain its unique identity – and that distinguish it from LOTR."[33]

Second film

MGM expressed interest in a second film in 2006, set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.[35] Jackson concurred, stating "one of the drawbacks of The Hobbit is [that] it's relatively lightweight compared to Lord of the Rings... There [are] a lot of sections in which a character like Gandalf disappears for a while. From memory – I mean, I haven't read it for a while now – but I think he references going off to meet with the White Council, who are actually characters like Galadriel and Saruman and people that we see in Lord of the Rings. He mysteriously vanishes for a while and then comes back, but we don't really know what goes on."[6] Jackson was also interested in showing Gollum's journey to Mordor and Aragorn setting a watch on the Shire.[36]

After his hiring in 2008, Del Toro confirmed the sequel would be about "trying to reconcile the facts of the first movie with a slightly different point of view. You would be able to see events that were not witnessed in the first."[27] He also noted the story must be drawn from only what is mentioned in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as they do not have the copyright to The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.[37] Del Toro also added (before writing began) that if they could not find a coherent story for the second film, they would just film The Hobbit, stating "The Hobbit is better contained in a single film and kept brisk and fluid with no artificial 'break point'."[38] By November 2008, he elaborated he felt the book was more detailed and eventful than people may remember.[39] Del Toro was faced with two possible places to split the story,[20] including Smaug's defeat. He noted the second film would need to end by leading directly into The Fellowship of the Ring.[40]

The second film's story would also have depended on how many actors could have reprised their roles.[13] Christopher Lee, who played Saruman, said he would liked to have shown the Wizard's corruption by Sauron,[41] but he would not be comfortable flying to New Zealand at his age.[42]

Source: Wikipedia

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