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Archive for April, 1999

40-metres of aspiring hobbits

Casting of extras for the Lord of the Rings got underway in Wellington this weekend.The J.R.R. Tolkien classic is being filmed in New Zealand by Wellington director Peter Jackson, with backing from Hollywood. The film publicist, Sian Clement, says 15 thousand extras will be needed for the movie, and this weekend’s casting session is the first of many.

Aspiring extras lined up in a 40-metre queue and waited for two hours this afternoon to have their photographs and details taken. Hopefuls spoken to said they would take any role they were offered, but many expressed an interest in playing orcs, hobbits or trolls.

The main roles in The Lord of the Rings have not yet been announced.

Posted in LotR Cast News, LotR Movies, Old Main News, Other Cast

North and South Magazine – Lauren Quintance

This is not what you”d expect. Miramar. Solidly working class, rows of compact, pre-World War II bungalows and a smattering of state houses on broad, flat streets that give way to knots of disused factories. Soccer Ñ not rugby Ñ is the game of choice and on winter Saturdays a thick fringe of supporters jostle at the edges of Miramar Park Ñ home of the Miramar Rangers Ñ as planes, climbing from the airport, roar overhead. There is none of the raw sectarian divisions described in Denis Edwards” just-published 1950″s memoir Miramar Dog, just a kind of suburban monotony. Perhaps it is the anonymity of Miramar that suits Peter Jackson. Secrecy surrounding The Lord Of The Rings has reached paranoid levels. Few interviews are granted with Jackson and those that are almost exclusively conducted over the telephone. Those privileged enough to gain entry to Jackson”s Miramar-based special effects company Weta Ñ where the lion”s share of the work on models for The Lord Of The Rings is being done are required to sign a two-page, legally binding non-disclosure agreement. (Which makes our job here a challenge Ð E.) When North & South sought access to those parts of Weta”s inner sanctum not involved in The Lord Of The Rings Ñ including Jackson”s lavish 200-seat private cinema built in the style of early screen palaces permission was refused. Jackson, who has earned a reputation for being difficult (not according to artist John Howe, who described him as quiet, un-pushy, unobstructive, willing to listen, but certain of his decisions.-E.) said that there were some things the public did not need to know about. Instead, to interview Weta”s directors we were ushered to a bare, dimly lit boardroom devoid of any interest. Jackson himself would only be interviewed over the phone, ostensibly to “save time”, and when we protested the one-time photo engraver told us we were lucky to be granted an interview at all. Welcome to Hollywood, Miramar-style. Sequestered behind the tightly shut doors of Miramar”s shabby warehouses is Jackson”s multimillion-dollar film empire. In Para Street, hard up against the hills that divide Miramar from Seatoun, an old homestead that is the headquarters of Jackson”s small production company Wingnut Films can be glimpsed from the street. No sign marks its existence, just a blunt warning: Private Property, No Trespassing. Over the hill are the well-heeled seaside suburbs of Karaka Bay, and Seatoun, favoured residence of much of the film and television industry including Jackson. (So where did we get the idea he lived in Christchurch? Whoops. My money is on Seatoun.- E.) In Weka Street in the suburb”s north, Weta Ñ the crux of the industry spawned by his success Ñ and the Jackson-owned Camperdown Studios are housed in a 65,000 square foot former pharmaceuticals factory. In Stone Street, near the narrow cutting in the hill which shields the suburb from Wellington”s airport, the 1.7 hectare of the former Taubman’s paint factory awaits transformation. The sprawling jumble of empty buildings is the latest addition to Jackson”s portfolio of property in Miramar. “It’s a huge punt,” admits Jamie Selkirk, Jackson”s genial partner and director of Weta and Camperdown Studios. A freelance producer and editor who has worked with Jackson since the 1987 spoof Bad Taste, Selkirk is also a shrewd businessman. He says the $3 to $4 million he estimates has been invested in buildings in Miramar (including the work required to convert them into concrete-lined, sound-proof studios) is unprecedented in Wellington. “Auckland has got no real big studios, it’s got a whole lot of warehouses that Hercules and Xena use but we’re trying to create a purpose-built facility.” The Jackson camp are relying on other Wellington television producers and filmmakers to pick up the slack after filming on the last of The Lord Of The Rings is completed at the end of 2000. “We”re crossing our fingers really,” says Selkirk, “We”re hoping that by doing The Lord Of The Rings it will say to the world that we can make movies down here.” “Wellington, in my opinion, doesn”t have a magic formula about it which makes it the place that you have to make films, I just think it”s a great place to live,” Jackson chirrups down the phone from across town. “This perception that if you”re really serious about making it in the movies you’ve got to go and chase work, you’ve got to go to LA, cos that’s where it all happens Ñ if I”ve done anything it”s simply to say, “Surely you don”t have to do that, surely if I”ve got a good idea for a film and I want to make it then they”re going to be happy enough to come here and make it” and that”s proved to be the case. “You know there are advantages to being in the US,” he continues. “You certainly get access to money and actors of star status and crews that have worked on 50 or 60 movies, you have alot of access to gimmicks and toys that you don”t get here, but the Kiwi attitude to filmmaking is something I prefer. The film industry here is all about working with people you”ve worked with before and it”s really like a group of friends getting together for a few months and making a movie.” According to another local producer Ray Thompson, the depth of talent and “can do” attitude of actors, technicians and filmmakers here is reminiscent of Hollywood in the 1920s. While Jackson has been the lynchpin of Weta, the tenacity of his friends should not be underestimated. Weta was formed in 1993 with Selkirk, prosthetics specialist Richard Taylor, animator and computer technician George Port and the late Jim Booth, to buy a $100,000 computer used to create special effects for Heavenly Creatures. Weta creates puppet-like creatures and computer-generated special effects for films, as well as shows such as Xena and Hercules. In the lead-up to Lord Of The Rings, due to start filming in October, the company is employing 160 people. Weta”s success is rooted in its ability to overcome the tyranny of distance: technology has blurred the gulf between Miramar and Los Angeles.

Posted in LotR Movies, Movie Fellowship of the Ring, Movie Return of the King, Movie The Two Towers, New Zealand, Old Main News, Other production, Richard Taylor, WETA Digital, WETA Workshop

Time for Film Wannabes to Toss Hats in the ring

The official hunt for extras in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings will begin this weekend.”Official [casting calls] will be held shortly.Ads will probably be placed this week,” a WingNut Films spokeswoman said.

The extra’s call will be held at Te Whaea:National Dance and Drama Centre in Newtown, the former Wellington Show buildings, on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 4pm. But she warned that a casting call being run today by AKA Screen Actors in Manners Mall wasn’t official. Unofficial casting calls have been held around the country since Jackson announced the $266 million project last August.

The calls attracted film wannabes in their thousands, prompting the production company to issue numerous warnings that the people recruited had no guarantees they would be considered for the project.The offical hunt for film extras will be run this weekend by Three Foot Six Production company.The spokeswoman said Jackson was still in the process of casting leads. AKA Screen Actors couldn’t be contacted.

Posted in LotR Cast News, LotR Movies, Movie Fellowship of the Ring, Movie Return of the King, Movie The Two Towers, Old Main News, Other Cast

Barad-Dur Model?

Now, we aren’t talking Cindy Crawford here. Tehanu slipped me this juicy tidbit about an artist named John Howe, now he’s done some LOTR art before, if you don’t know him you probably know his work. Apparently Howe was at a Sci-Fi convention in NZ and let slip that he and the art team have built a 7-metre-high model of Barad-Dur out of plasticine for LOTR. This was later confirmed to Tehanu from sources that wish to remain nameless but are working with said art team. Now we here at LOTR News have not gotten any pics yet, but

Can you possibly imagine a 7 foot tall statue of this! For those that have no idea where Barad-Dur fit’s into LOTR this is what I could find Barad-dur: The greatest fortress-tower on Middle-earth during the Second and Third age of the Sun was Barad-dur in the evil land of Mordor. Called the Dark Tower by Men and Lugburz by Orcs, it was built after the first millennium of the Second Age by Sauron, with the power of the One Ring.

Posted in Crew News, John Howe, LotR Movies, LotR Production, Old Main News, Other production, WETA Workshop

Ready for the Rings

The much-hyped Star Wars prequels may be getting some serious competition from an epic movie trilogy about to be made in New Zealand, reports Helen Barlow. GEORGE Lucas might have Star Wars, and he might even be shooting parts two and three of his prequels in Sydney, but there’s another mega-production taking form on the other side of the Tasman. Peter Jackson, the George Lucas of Christchurch, is about to tackle The Lord Of The Rings. He has already spent two years devising the three films, and it hasn’t been without its hiccups.

At first Miramax Films (Shakespeare In Love) was going to fund the JRR Tolkien trilogy as two movies, and it would have been the company’s most expensive effort ever. But Miramax, who love stars like Gwyneth Paltrow at the centre of their movies, baulked and good-manneredly gave Jackson a month to come up with another company.

American outfit New Line, of Boogie Nights and The Wedding Singer fame (and more of a risk-taker than Miramax), decided it would make the films. It would also be its most costly project and, what’s more, it would be happy with three movies and no stars.

It was a great relief to Jackson that the original books (and not what he calls “some strange hybrid version”) could be filmed, and that Hollywood would be of little consequence since, as usual, he would make the films in Christchurch. And what Hollywood star wants to spend 18 months there?

“I feel quite safe and sort of isolated in New Zealand,” said Jackson. “I guess I feel that I’m out of that (Hollywood) system that I don’t particularly like. So it’s a good place to be.”

Jackson, who was born on Halloween in 1961, had been lauded internationally for his films Heavenly Creatures and his splatstick movies (a genre he invented) Bad Taste and Braindead. He had been hankering to do a bigger movie and when the long-awaited remake of his favourite film, King Kong, fell through – under the weight of Godzilla and Mighty Joe Young – The Lord Of The Rings seemed the obvious choice.

“The Lord Of The Rings is big but it’s such a wonderful property that it’s worth spending five years of your life to do,” said Jackson, talking at the International Festival of Fantasy Films in Brussels. “If it was anything other than Lord Of The Rings, I probably wouldn’t do it, but it is such an amazing story and an amazing book that it’s an honour and a privilege really. “But I wasn’t one of those total Lord Of The Rings aficionados. I read it when I was 18 and I didn’t read it again until the whole idea of doing the film came up, 17 years later.

“I was thinking about what to do after The Frighteners (his horror movie starring Michael J Fox) and I was really thinking about what is possible with computers and technology now, what amazing new places and creatures you can create. I realised this could be the ideal time to finally make Lord Of The Rings, because for 40 years it hasn’t been made as a live action movie.

“I know there have been various film-makers that at times have tried to do it, some scripts have been written, but it has always been one of those unfilmable stories. (In 1978 an animated film of the first two books of The Lord Of The Rings was directed by Ralph Bakshi.) I thought probably the time of it being unfilmable has come to an end with the advances in computer technology.”

Jackson is one of the few movie directors who truly understands the technology as well as the creative process of movie-making. He can produce the costly special effects relatively cheaply in New Zealand, but with the help of computer experts from around the globe.”I’m absolutely hopeless on computers,” he said with a laugh. “I understand what they do, which is important, I understand how they do it, but I can’t actually type in the instructions myself.”

In the three Lord Of The Rings films there will be around 65 speaking parts, and while prosthetics and other special effects will be used, the only fully computerized character will be Gollum. “He’s the little emaciated guy who’s been kind of poisoned by the ring over 500 years,” Jackson explained. “He is actually a key character in the second and third films, but he doesn’t do much in the first. There are all sort of creatures and monsters that will be created on the computer but Gollum’s different because he says dialogue and has to have an emotional connection in the story. He’s very much a real character.”

Jackson’s screenplays for Lord Of The Rings have taken form at his Christchurch home, where he has recruited his usual collaborator, partner Fran Walsh, as well as two local writers, Stephen Sinclair and Philippa Boyens.For those experiencing memory loss from their childhood, The Hobbit actually preceded The Lord of The Rings in the Tolkien saga, and told the wondrous tale of the unassuming Bilbo Baggins, who discovers a mysterious ring.

The Lord Of The Rings begins with The Fellowship Of The Ring (which is followed by The Two Towers and The Return of The King) and follows Frodo Baggins, nephew of Bilbo, as he discovers that the ring left to him by his uncle is very powerful, particularly for the evil Lord Sauron. So with his friends Sam Gamgee, Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took, he undertakes an adventure to try to destroy it.More than 50 million copies of The Lord Of The Rings have been sold in 25 languages since the books were first published in paperback form in the 1960s. Tolkien, an English Professor at Oxford University, created the series out of his life-long interest in languages, myths and legends. His world is like a utopian peace-loving Europe, filled with wizards, elves,dwarves, dragons, goblins and more fanciful characters, like hobbits, orcs, balrogs, woses and ents.

Most of the players will be unknown, though the exact casting has yet to be decided. Jackson denied reports that Sean Connery will be in the film. “That’s just stuff that’s on the Net,” he said. “I mean, Sean would be fine, I’d love to work with him one day, he’s one of those icons. But he’s never been approached and I suspect it’s not going to happen in this movie. I can’t quite imagine Sean Connery coming down to New Zealand for 18 months.

“Whoever will be in all three of these movies will basically be spending most of 18 months in New Zealand. So it’s much better to work with unknown actors, who are happy just to do the work.” The much postponed Lord Of The Rings shooting date is now September, and Jackson promised it was set in stone.

But what of his smaller genre films? “Certainly whatever happens with Lord Of The Rings, no matter how successful or unsuccessful it is, I’m definitely going to make some smaller films next, because I’m making a big movie now, I’m making the biggest film that I ever want to make,” he said “I don’t need to make anything bigger than Lord Of The Rings, but it’s a great experience.”

Posted in Lord of the Rings, LotR Movies, Movie Fellowship of the Ring, Movie Return of the King, Movie The Two Towers, New Zealand, Old Main News, Peter Jackson

Waikato Site

To say Okoroire, with its hot springs, motel, shop and golf course, is a long way from Hollywood is one of the bigger understatements you could make. But courtesy of the army, the tiny Waikato settlement is now a step closer to the silver screen. An undisclosed farm property is the site of the set for director Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings”. The film’s makers are increasingly coy about letting the public know where the development work is being carried out.

The hive of excavation is buried in a farm valley not visible from any road. The farm’s owner has been sworn to secrecy.Work has been going on for nearly a month, but Okoroire locals are looking forward to the actual filming, which will be a boon for the hospitality industry.

Posted in Locations Sets, LotR Production, New Zealand, Old Main News

Voices of Many

This is a great scoop picked up by none other than Tehanu herself. She tells me that she went to dinner with some friends and other people she didn’t know, the topic turned to Lord Of The Rings and after weeding out the useless people at the table, (Hey! Those are buddies of mine! 🙂 -Tehanu) Tehanu found a lady with tons of great news:

I hurled myself into that conversation, and got talking to a woman, she knows tons of actors and film people, some in Wellington. We raved on and ignored everyone else for hours. SO:

1.The rumour about Sean Connery being involved is still going strong among actor circles here, she at least believes there is a strong possibility that it’s true. Gandalf?

2.VOICES: She’s heard that the Hobbits will have something like a Yorkshire country dialect; the Dwarves will be more cockney, the Men will be American (OUCH!) and the elves slightly Irish (NOT comic-leprechaun Irish, just a faint lilt.) The wizards will be very BBC English. I reckon this is worth putting in as a speculation on the website.

3.Now I’m pretty sure Fiordland is a location, will send pics soon. My friend said “White Island.” It’s as active as hell, steaming fumaroles everywhere, and it’s far enough offshore that it would be difficult for sightseers to get to. Great Mordor location.

4.We decided that we both wanted to drive down to Matamata and Hinuera to look for Hobbiton. We will do this later this month. Aerial views. That seems like a completely wild suggestion, I don’t know here well enough to know if she really means it. But we will at least drive down!!!

5.She knows somebody who was auditioning for Gimli.

Posted in Locations Sets, Lord of the Rings, LotR Movies, LotR Production, New Zealand, Old Main News, Other production

Lucas on Rings?

According to E! News Australia, “Star Wars” creator George Lucas has supposedly been hired onto the fantasy epic to act as a ‘consultant’ on the project. When Director Peter Jackson begins filming the ‘Rings’ trilogy in New Zealand later this year, Lucas will be in Sydney Australia shooting “Star Wars, Episode II” – conveniently placing him about a 2.5 hour flight time away from NZ. Thanks to ‘Jared’.

Posted in LotR Movies, Movie Fellowship of the Ring, Movie Return of the King, Movie The Two Towers, Old Main News

Hobbiton Is Being Built

MATAMATA – A secret start has been made on the mega-budget film Lord of the Rings in the central Waikato.

The New Zealand Herald has discovered that soldiers, earth-movers and builders have been working for two weeks amid the rolling hills and trees of a private farm between Matamata and Karapiro.

All involved have been sworn to secrecy about the $260 million trilogy, and movie staff yesterday pleaded that the site be kept secret.

A spokeswoman for the film firm Three Foot Six, Sian Clement, said she was worried that movie zealots would flock to the farm if they found out about the work. “You just have to look on the Internet to see the fanatic interest.”

The start of a movie set can now be seen from nearby hills. Tracks, graders, heavy machinery, Army vehicles and tents stretch up to 1km into farm paddocks.

The farm’s owner, Ian Alexander, said he had been involved since October. “They just arrived out of the blue,” he said. “There’s been a bit of activity, a bit of action, but they’ve only just started doing things for real.” Mr Alexander said the set was being built on a few hectares in the corner of one of his three blocks, but he refused to give more detail. “It’s all being kept very quiet,” he said. “I’m just a common old cocky with a few bloody sheep running around.”
The movie trilogy is based on a series of fantasy books by JRR Tolkien. They will be shot by Wellington film-maker Peter Jackson with 15,000 actors, and a bigger budget than any other movie project in the Southern Hemisphere.

It is understood that the set will include a mock-up of the village Hobbiton, central to the story. Sets will also be built at other sites. A worker for Okoroire Excavators said he visited the farm more than a week ago, but had been asked to say nothing about it. “I’m not even sure who we’re working for,” he said. Army and Defence Ministry staff were more secretive than a bevy of bashful hobbits. They passed all calls to a press officer, Wing Commander John Seward, who did not return the calls. The Minister of Defence, Max Bradford, earlier said that soldiers would work for two or three days as extras, and would be paid normal movie rates by producers. Fourteen soldiers staying at the Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel have been visiting the movie set for more than a week, and are expected to stay up to three weeks longer. A staff member at the hotel said: “It’s very hush-hush. I don’t know what the hell they’re doing, and as long as they pay their bills I don’t care.”

Posted in Locations Sets, LotR Movies, LotR Production, Movie Fellowship of the Ring, New Zealand, Old Main News