Exclusive: TORn’s interview with Richard Taylor
With the release this week of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time on Blu-ray, Warner Bros. offered TheOneRing.net the chance to speak to with Richard Taylor, head of Weta Workshops. (Be sure to check out our very own Xoanon’s interview with him as well)
Taylor and partner Tania Rodger famously built the New Zealand special effects house first from their Wellington, New Zealand flat in in 1987 and expanded it dramatically in 1994 when bringing in Peter Jackson. Since then it has grown into one of the elite special effects houses in the world, producing the wonders seen in films like the LOTR trilogy, King Kong, and Avatar, just to name a very few, and all of this across the ocean from the U.S. Film Industry, building what director Guillermo del Toro called, “Hollywood the way God intended it.”
Along the way Taylor earned five Oscars and and many other awards and rather than rest on his accomplishments, remains a tireless worker.
Weta’s own website says: “Weta Workshop houses a range of disciplines under one roof – including conceptual design, weapons, armour & chainmaille, specialist props, vehicles, specialty costumes, models & miniatures, special makeup & prosthetics, public art & displays.”
Thinking to write a story for TORn’s audience, it soon became clear that the articulate Taylor should be allowed to simply speak for himself. What follows is a transcript that of that conversation where he reveals:
* That he has never watched a minute of the LOTR DVD extras
* What he watches in his leisure time
* How LOTR impacted his life and informs his work still
* A question about the Oscars that nobody has ever asked before
Richard Taylor: Hello. You should have just given us a call sometime (laughs)
TORn: Well, maybe but we aren’t going to pass up this opportunity. I guess you are doing a lot of these interviews, is that true?
Richard Taylor: About 20 of them yesterday and today.
TORn: Does that get tiring and repetitive?
Richard Taylor: Not really. The only pain is that it is taking me away from my work which is so critical with limited time. But of course it is also a great pleasure to be able to support this thing and continue to support the movie. It is just bloody amazing that after all these years the legacy of Lord of the Rings just continues on. It is cool. It is very, very cool.
TORn: Not a lot of movies have legs like these ones. Has your perception of the films changed? Now you have hindsight on your side, has it changed how you see the movie?
Richard Taylor: Be aware that I haven’t had a chance to watch the Blu-ray version yet. We haven’t got a copy of it yet and we haven’t had a chance to look at it yet. I hope that will change very shortly but it hasn’t arrived here in New Zealand yet.
But what is exciting for me, and also a little bit nerve wracking is how the world will re-look at the work we did and see maybe a higher level of detail than they had a chance to see originally. But also the fact that they can inspect the movie with much greater clarity is also a little nerve wracking.
TORn: I have had the opportunity to see it and it is remarkably more clear. I am not as familiar with Blu-ray and it is shocking – the improvement over the home DVD.
Richard Taylor: What do you think though? Do you think it takes any anything away from the filmic quality of it?
TORn: I honestly don’t. I just found the colors were richer, the blacks were blacker, the brights were brighter. It held up really well, even special effects. The word is that CGI sometimes doesn’t maybe look as good on Blu-ray but I didn’t find that to be the case at all.
Richard Taylor: That is great to hear from yourself. I have nothing to judge it against yet. I haven’t actually seen much Blu-ray yet but somebody showed me a little piece of “Blade Runner” which is one of my favorite films and I found that the extra fidelity in the images actually in some way stripped out some of the unique filmmaking qualities that the filmmakers put in originally. It allowed you to penetrate much deeper into the image than maybe you would be able to just looking at it in its original state. But anyway, that ‘s a whole other thing.
TORn: That is really interesting. Clearly you have a different eye for film than the common person and certainly than I do so your perspective would be really interesting when you get a chance to see the film.
Richard Taylor: I look forward to it, that’s is for sure.
TORn: Now Richard you are a busy guy and you don’t strike me as a guy that sits down to watch a lot of movies. Do you go to the movies just out of leisure ever?
Richard Taylor: No, sadly, and that is nothing to be proud of. I love film, going to the cinema. It is an incredibly rare thing for me to get to the cinema or even watch a film at home. It is just….time is a bit packed with other things.
TORn: Maybe you are an example. I guess you don’t want us to quit watching movies but maybe we would all get more done if we did.
Richard Taylor: (Laughs) Oh no! I think its fantastic that people actually have leisure time and are actually enjoying such an opportunity but sadly it is not something that happens too frequently in our lives.
I mean I do on a Sunday afternoon, my son and I sit down and watch our preferred entertainment which – I love Anime – I am watching a 24 part TV series from Japan right now called “Princess 9,” a 1990s TV show about a girl’s baseball team. We watch a half hour episode once a week but that is a fantastic show. I am a huge fan of (Hayao) Miyazaki’s movies. If we want to watch something we invariably put on Miyazaki’s stuff.
TORn: Even shows like “Avatar” that Weta obviously contributed to or “District 9,” do you have a chance to see those in part?
Richard Taylor: Certainly we go to the premieres of them. We saw “Avatar” on the last day of the year in our cinema here at work. That was fantastic. Watching with all your friends that have worked on it is a real treat. The opportunity to go and see something like “District 9,” amongst the team at the premiere is just fantastic. The premieres are really crew screenings, is probably a better way to call it. We very much enjoy the chance to do that.
TORn: Back to LOTR again. Life certainly has changed since you started that massive project until now. Do you have a chance to think about that? What does it feel like to be on the other end of all that?
Richard Taylor: I do reflect on what it took and how much fun it was. You know you can never go back, as much as you wish to. The trick is always to look forward to the next opportunity and the next project.
But we remember Lord of the Rings incredibly fondly. I mean when you have most of your staff around you that were the senior people who worked on it, you can’t help but (think about it). We were just having a meeting yesterday where we were assessing how to tackle a new job and we were drawing on ideas that we developed in one of our manufacturing processes for Lord of the Rings and you are talking with the very same people that you were standing on the floor with nine years ago actually trying to make it work at a manufacturing level and that is really fantastic fun.
TORn: Mainly that crew is still together it sounds like.
Richard Taylor: Not every person but when we come to do the Hobbit we will go back to many of the people that were critical originally and ask if they want to join us again and obviously look forward to bringing new people on board that can bring a whole other level of skills that we may not yet have. That is a very exciting thing.
TORn: Speaking of The Hobbit, fans are very anxious for the film. Do your guys have that same feeling?
Richard Taylor: Its phenomenal. We could not be more thrilled and amazed. When we finished on Lord of the Rings it was huge, incredibly deep sense of sadness that we were having to leave this project. We had been on it for such a long time with such an amazing group of people and you know, as everyone appreciates, it is an incredibly opportunity. And knowing that the complexity of the rights and so on, we were actually uncertain if we would ever get a chance to ever work on The Hobbit. The fact that that has been successfully facilitated is a very exciting thing.
TORn: Is it a bit of a reunion feeling?
Richard Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. It is a wonderful feeling that you are working back in the same environment, in the same world with the same, with many of the same people and that is a fantastic feeling. It is just terrific to think that this may all unfold and we may get to interact together again.
TORn: Can you even remember when the last time you had a chance to watch even a part of LOTR.
Richard Taylor: I have not actually had a chance to sit down and watch them all the way through since we actually made them. My son is getting to an age where he wants to watch the whole lot all the way through. So there is probably going to be a time very, very soon where that does actually get to happen, which is great.
But I ‘ve caught snippets of them as I have journied through my life. I have not actually managed to see one minute of the behind the scenes footage that obviously so much effort was put into but I just haven’t been able to give myself the time to sit and watch any of that.
TORn: I think that would shock fans.
Richard Taylor: Well, you have got to appreciate that when you have actually lived through it all, you move on to the next project. It has not been in any way disingenuous to the efforts – they were incredible – its just that we were there in the moment. I would love to watch them with my family but it just not something we have had a chance to do yet.
TORn: Are you personally going to be able to be at Comic-Con.
Richard Taylor: Definitely, unless something untoward happens. It will be my ninth year I think of going.
TORn: is that your chance to meet fans face-to-face?
Richard Taylor: Well, since we have built the Weta Cave here at the workshop that is a great opportunity to interact with people and meet people. But going to Comic-Con, we are in a community of enthusiasts. I am an enthusiast for the Lord of the Rings as much as anyone. So it is actually a great chance. Now so many years have gone past you actually meet people more on a similar footing where you can talk about the films just in an enjoyable way rather than a fan talking to someone that worked on it. You now talk as friends. We have become very close friends many of the people who were first introduced to us through their enjoyment of the films.
They have now become family friends with us and we travel to see them. We just love the world of Tolkien and that is a great common interest as anyone on the planet, as you, well know. It is a great way to engage with people.
TORn: Before we run out of time – do they come in and interrupt us?
Studio host: I was actually just going to come in! Please do your one last question.
TORn: My last question then deals with Oscars and not the ones you have received. It seems that a lot of guys who do design for films don’t get recognition. There is maybe some category missing. I wonder if you have any thought on it.
TORn: Oh boy. (Laughs) You are absolutely right. Yes. Yes. It would be lovely to see recognition for the men and women that actually do the conceptual design of the world – that take the script and turn it into the visual imagery that we see.
You are the only and first person ever to note that. It is something we think about because we are in the thick of that with our own people and we are interacting with a community of conceptual designers around the world that are incredibly impacting in the making of these films.
TORn: I brought it up because I thought it would make a great story.
Richard Taylor: It is a tricky one to answer because the people who do get the awards are highly deserving of them. There is a little bit of a hole when it comes to the recognition for the person that actually conceives of the look of the world.
TORn: Someday maybe we can talk about that. I appreciate your time Richard and I hope you get to sit down and enjoy the Blu-ray a little bit.
Richard Taylor: I will. I mean with that coming out it’s a good opportunity for me to go back and relive the films and enjoy them with my family and introduce them to my family on some level.Posted in Blu-Ray, Costume Design, Hobbit Movie, Locations Sets, Lord of the Rings, LotR Movies, LotR Production, Make Up, Models, New Zealand, WETA Workshop on April 9, 2010 by MrCere Exclusive: TORn’s interview with Richard Taylor | Discuss