Barrie Osborne (the LOTR producer) came to my school (Auckland) today for firstly, a lecture, followed by a smaller classroomtalk. Of course , being the loyal Ringer I am, I snuck into both, and frantically scribbled down as much as I could of what he was saying. I think I got pretty much everything , but THE MOST AMAZING THING HAPPENED. During his talk, he played us this special footage he had, a sort of rough ‘Making Of Fellowship’ that HAD NEVER BEEN SHOWN to anyone before!! Even though my heartbeat was probably about 300, I still managed to get down as much as I could. So here it is – the guts of TWO HOURS WITH Barrie OSBORNE!! My apologies that I couldn1t get it ad verbatim – there will undoubtedly be some errors. Where I am certain of his words at notable points, I1ve included quotation marks to indicate it.
Thanks so much to my friends Jacob, Arvid, Lloyd and Mike for asking my pre-written questions! : ) I Guess There Are Some Spoilers Of A Sort In Here, So Beware.
Alright, everyone was sitting down, and he came in (accompanied by a ladyI think may have been his PA) to a standing ovation (us being the polite student body we are). The teacher introduced him, and they started off the presentation with a clip from ‘The Making Of The Matrix’ – that being probably his most well known project. Then he stood and began to run through his ‘beginnings’ in New York . He was born, he grew up. He was very good at maths, and applied and got into Carlton College, thinking to go into physics. Unfortunately, this wasn’t meant to be. Intrigued by the films his friends were making, his life-long interest was sparked. However, he was drafted into the army, but went to Korea, not Vietnam. Before he took his leave of the army, he became an infantry officer and engineer. Remembering the film-fun he had in college, he searched around and got into commercials for 5 years, fetching coffee and other essentials. He eventually tired of the commercials, and applied for an apprenticeship with the Director’s Guild of America Programme. His first assignment was on Godfather II, and he moved on, working on projects such as ‘ All the President’s Men’.
Then he found work on ‘The Sorcerer’, where he met many new people, and managed to progress his career , becoming something of a ‘hot commodity’ – a young guy with a drive that was being noticed. He worked as 4th Production Manager on Apocalypse Now, a job which also marked his move to California, which has been his base for the rest of his life. His move from the army to film was a ‘step-backward’ in a way, as he wandered without a job for quite a long time. At this point he stepped outside his tale, and made a point advocating diligence and perseverance. (In fact, at a later point, the question was asked ‘What are the qualities which have made you so successful?’ To which he answered ‘I worked very hard, and loved what I was doing’. )
His move to California signalled the beginning of a period of re-establishment, both personally and professionally, as he adjusted to the new social setting and different film-circles.
He was recommended to Peter Jackson, who brought him out to NZ in February 1999. (This wasn’t Osborne’s first trip to NZ however, as he had visited it 15 years previously, in connection with a Disney project). He breakfasted with PJ at ‘The Chocolate Fish’ in Wellington, as they discussed an actor from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and his suitability for the part of Aragorn. In particular he recalls PJ moaning about the traffic in Wellington, and how it took a whole 15 minutes to get in town, which made him laugh as he recalled the 1.5 hour journey from his home to the Matrix sets. He also remembered being impressed by seeing people walk around town in nothing but bare feet and shorts. Very NZ’ish.
Barrie was very impressed with the dedication of the people here, and the enthusiasm for the project. He said that a good film Ostarts with a good script, in this case a good book’. At this point in the presentation, he hushed the theatre with awe, as he made us reel with a list of stupendous figures, including :
– The filming schedule was 274 days over 15 months, from October 99 to Dec 2000.
– 21 cameras, 5 studios, 4.5 million feet of film.
– Locations from Te Anau to White Island.
– 350 different sets, including some larger than several city blocks (Helm1s Deep and Minas Tirith)
– 330 Vehicles, including many trucks, in total a kilometer of metal when parked.
– A crew of 2000 people and 22 major roles.
– Will be shown in 10, 000 cinemas worldwide on the opening day 3except Japan, and one or two others2.
– 30 km of road were built for the filming.
– Cost = NZ$600 million. (a figure often quoted in the media, not an official figure from New Line -Xo)
– At one meal , on one set – 1440 eggs cooked, 160kg of meat.
– 28 containers, each 40 ft long for the costumes.
– 48 000 different props and other misc bits and pieces created for the films.
Then he showed Teaser Trailer #2 , which was all very well and good. (I was waiting for that magic moment when he said 3and now I1ll show you some finished footage’ : ) The trailer was followed by tumultous applause. He then told us that there was another trailer in the works, due to be released in October probably. Apparently it will only be released once there is an agreement on what content it will display.
The next section was a Q&A time, and while I couldn1t always get all the questions (it’s a big lecture theatre) I got most of his monologue.
He confirmed he will not be working on the next two Matrix films, as he had already committed himself to LoTR (nice to know he has his priorities straight). He discussed NZ’s blessings, believeing that there is a) A lot of fine material produced here, and b) A lot of fine material that suits the NZ setting. He was (as always) impressed by the surfeit of ‘Industrious and ingenious group of Kiwi can-do talent, [we] had some artistic geniuses’ He then listed some of the amazing talent, including the costume producers, set designers etc, calling the head sculptor ‘a national treasure’. He was asked to differentiate between the position of director and producer, to which he replied that the director is ‘the leading creative force’ the ‘one point-of-view’, and (half-jokingly) that the producer1s imput depends greatly on his relationship with the director. He said that while some of the book has been cut out, ‘PJ has remained fairly faithful to the book, certainly to the spirit of it’. Apparently, the screenplay is in a constant state of re-writal. He has a whole load of projects he1d like to see done, but with LotR taking up all his time, they have to wait.
He first came to NZ involved in a Disney project about 15 years ago, and was intrigued by the country then, and actively tried to find out more about it. Even then large sets were made here, and he was impressed with the technical skill of the people.
In connection with his Matrix production, he said that ‘ [I] really like Keanu. He has a business partner , and they asked me to join their film company’. In regard to the difference between stage and film acting, he focused on the fact that film acting really is capable of many more subtleties that are practically impossible on the stage.
Then he announced he was unveiling a small documentary that had not been seen by the public be