Celebriel’s Dragon*Con Report: Making “The Hobbit” Happen
TORn’s panel, “Making The Hobbit Happen,” presented by staffer Larry Curtis and co-founders Chris Pirotta (Calisuri) and Bill Thomas (Corvar) was a centerpiece of Tolkien Track programming, given on Saturday and again on Monday in the Hilton’s International Ballroom.

They took us through the Power Point presentation now posted here, which reviews the complicated publication and film rights history of Tolkien’s works, especially as they relate to “The Hobbit.” Critical dates in this history to keep in mind are:

1969: Tolkien sells the film rights to his works to United Artists/MGM.

1970: UA/MGM sells the film rights to Saul Zaentz for $10,000.

1997: Saul Zaentz sells the film rights to Miramax (Harvey and Weinstein).

1998: New Line purchases rights from Miramax.

2004: In its annual April Fool’s Day parody article, TORn announced that Paul Anderson (director of “Alien Versus Predator” and “Resident Evil,” among others) was set to direct “The Hobbit,” generating lots of attention from fans, studios, and attorneys alike.

TORn also launched the Help the Hobbit Happen web site in support of the film.

A petition signature campaign was led by Lynn Machie (LithQ) to rally fan support. (See this site) On September 22, 2006 the petition, over 2000 pages containing over 62,000 signatures, was delivered to MGM and New Line Cinema.

March 2005: Peter Jackson initiates suit against New Line, requesting a audit of the books of The Fellowship of the Ring. Often, this type of court is settled out of court, but Peter felt strongly, and continues to feel, that there were important underlying issues which needed to be brought to light about film production and revenue accounting.

November 2006: In an open letter to TORn, Peter Jackson releases the project, providing background on his reasons why. (Read the letter here) In the same month, Saul Zaentz reaffirms his support of Peter Jackson as director of The Hobbit.

January 2007: Bob Shaye essentially blacklists Peter Jackson from his studio, and Peter responds on Aint It Cool News.

July 2007: Bob Shaye begins to soften his stance. While Sam Raimi continues to be mentioned as director, discussions suggest that Peter Jackson could exec produce, thereby able to bring his vision for “The Hobbit” to the screen while remaining free to develop other projects.

Discussion at the panel was very lively. The TORn presenters outlined the possibility of “The Hobbit” as two films: one a straightforward adaptation of “The Hobbit” and the second a bridge film that would carry the story over to “The Fellowship of the Ring.” There is material in Tolkien’s works that could be developed in a second film, remaining true to the characters and the spirit of the books. For example, the death of Frodo’s parents and the development of his relationship with Bilbo, the White Council, Gandalf’s earlier activities in Middle Earth, Gollum’s earlier life and history, back story on other members of the fellowship, on the relationship of Aragorn and Arwen, on Aragorn’s personal history, travels and time spent in Gondor and Rohan, and much more.

Presenters and audience had a great deal of fun speculating about characters, cast, and locations for “The Hobbit.” For example:

Bilbo: probably not Ian Holm due to age/infirmity, nor Elijah Wood.

Gandalf and Gollum: No reason Ian McKellan could not return to play Gandalf and Andy Serkis to play Gollum, dates and contracts permitting.

Gloin: John Rhys Davies could play Gloin, father of Gimli, though he’s expressed a strong desire not to wear the makeup and prostheses for the dwarf costume again.

Dwarfs: Some of the dwarfs would be fully developed as characters, like Thorin and Balin, but most would remain unnamed, or at least undeveloped, in the film.

Elrond: Hugo Weaving could reprise his role as Elrond. Another suggestion offered was David Bowie.

Bard: Bard will be the high profile hunk of “The Hobbit.” Who should play him? Clive Owen? Gerald Butler? Hugh Jackman?

Smaug: Smaug the dragon will most likely be a WETAhttp://www.wetanz.com Digital creation, but as with Gollum, the voice of the actor playing him is critical to establishing character. Alan Rickman? Jeremy Irons? Morgan Freeman? Edward James Olmos? Michael Clarke Duncan?

Locations: The New Zealand public park used for Rivendell and the private land used for Hobbiton could be most likely be used again.

Props and Sets: A great many of the props and set materials still exist, though they are the property of New Line Cinema.

There was discussion consensus at the panel that “The Hobbit” will be made, as one or two films, simply because of the huge revenue potential from theatrical release, DVD sales and rentals, and associated merchandising/licensing. “Star Wars” (6 films) and “Harry Potter” (5 so far, 2 more to come) are only two franchises that demonstrate fans aren’t satisfied with just three films. The financial potential is big enough to bring together industry people to get the project funded, produced, and distributed, regardless of personal feelings or history. Even the rights issues can be resolved with the promise of a big enough financial pie to split.

At the end of the session, various prizes were given away, including a copy of Kristen Thompson’s “The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood.” Larry, Chris, and Bill also encouraged fans to stay active in the fan community and to let Dragon*Con organizers know how important, valuable, and enjoyable the Tolkien Track is. (Staff and email links here)

A Google search of “The Hobbit + Movie” yields over 1.1 million results, with only some relating to the 1977 Rankin-Bass film. Studios, licensors, suppliers and manufacturers, producers and directors, cast, crew, the nation of New Zealand, and especially fans worldwide stand to win if the film/s come about. So let’s “Make the Hobbit Happen!”