Lord of the Rings Inc. It’s hard to remember now, when every respectable household contains the Special Extended DVD Edition of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, but the celebrated trilogy was once considered a somewhat iffy proposition. That’s part of the explanation for how Jackson, a rather obscure director from Kiwiland, was able to gain artistic control over what Newsweek once called “the most expensive and ambitious movie project in history.” And by filming in New Zealand, where he had built his very own world-class production facility, Jackson was able to use the Pacific Ocean as a moat, protecting him from Hollywood interference. The result was that rare thing, a global film franchise that bears a personal stamp — an intimate epic.

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