Hey, found this article in my newly delivered (April 2001, Josie and the PussyCats on the cover) Total Movie magazine. You remember, the evil minions who deceived us all into thinking the LOTR internet teaser would be on their premier edition DVD? 🙂 Well it’s actually a pretty good magazine, even if there is nothing new in this article. And the pics are not new either, despite how it sounds. -Pipe Smoke

2001 is going to be the Year of the Ring, and what better way to kick things off than with the first official pics of Peter Jackson’s epic three-part Tolkien-fest?

Forget about those blurry, indistinct set pics you’ve seen online and wrap your eyes around these babies – the first official shots from the New Line Cinema’s upcoming live action adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien’s weighty fantasy classic The Lord of the Rings. Shortly before the holidays, after 15 months of extensive shooting in New Zealand, the last scene of director Peter Jackson’s cinematic trilogy was finally shot and a 2,000-person cast, crew and VIP wrap party was thrown in the capital city of Wellington. Now the production has another mountain to climb: assembling the footage into three films, with the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, already booked for release this coming December 19. Can Jackson meet his deadline?

Work on the film’s special effects was already well underway while filming was occurring. Jackson’s FX company, WETA Limited, is producing all of the digital effects for the trilogy (currently estimated to be around 1,200 shots), ranging in complexity from creating two armies of more than 100,000 soldiers each battling one another to digitally altering the height of the actors portraying the diminutive Hobbits (played by Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian Holm, et al). Still, we do know that at least two Middle-Earth entities – the tree-like beings called Ents and the sinister and cunning Gollum – will be entirely computer generated. There’s also been lots of Internet speculation about what kind of effects surprises the WETA team has in store for the design of the films’ major villain, Sauron, but so far no images of this guy (or the horrific Balrog creature that menaces our heroes) have leaked out.

Still, the shift to post-production has caused some downsizing to occur. WETA Workshops, the movies’ weapon-making and miniatures department, scaled back its workforce as the production began to wind down, from more than 100 employees to fewer than 50. There was one big setback when Rings lost a key member of its team in January – when WETA Limited’s visual effects supervisor Mark Stetson left the production, rumors abounded that that Stetson and Jackson had major creative differences over the execution of the film’s effects. Stetson, Oscar-nominated for his work on The Fifth Element, was hired in mid-1999 and was expected to remain on until at least mid-2002. His replacement has yet to be announced. Actually, this was the second high-profile loss for the project: while still in the casting stage, actor Stuart Townsend was let go over creative differences with Jackson. Viggo Mortensen eventually replaced Townsend in the role of Aragorn.

Assisting Jackson as he makes his rough cut of Fellowship are three different film editors. Once assembled, Jackson will then find out if he needs to go back and shoot any additional footage. As completed effects are added to the ever-changing cut, composer Howard Shore (The Silence of the Lambs, Seven) will be working on scoring the first of the three films. Rings fans are already speculating that Celtic singer/songwriters like Enya or Loreena McKennitt might also be used in the film’s soundtrack, although it’s still too early to tell if this is really in the cards.

By the time you read this, you’ve probably already drooled over the first teaser trailer that New Line premiered with the release of Thirteen Days in January. A second trailer, this one centered on fellowship, is expected to be out sometime this summer. By that time, Jackson should be finishing up his work on the first picture and should be thinking: one down, two to go.
-Patrick Sauriol