“Anybody who says they knew it was going to be the success it was, I don’t think it’s really true,” he says. “They didn’t have an inkling until they showed 20 minutes in Cannes, in May of 2001. They were in a lot of trouble, and Peter had spent a lot. Officially, he could say that he was finished in December 2000 – he’d shot all three films in the trilogy – but really the second and third ones were a mess. It was very sloppy – it just wasn’t done at all. It needed massive reshoots, which we did, year after year. But he would have never been given the extra money to do those if the first one hadn’t been a huge success. The second and third ones would have been straight to video.”
Mortensen thinks – rightly – that The Fellowship of the Ring turned out the best of the three, perhaps largely because it was shot in one go. “It was very confusing, we were going at such a pace, and they had so many units shooting, it was really insane. But it’s true that the first script was better organised,” he says. “Also, Peter was always a geek in terms of technology but, once he had the means to do it, and the evolution of the technology really took off, he never looked back. In the first movie, yes, there’s Rivendell, and Mordor, but there’s sort of an organic quality to it, actors acting with each other, and real landscapes; it’s grittier. The second movie already started ballooning, for my taste, and then by the third one, there were a lot of special effects. It was grandiose, and all that, but whatever was subtle, in the first movie, gradually got lost in the second and third. Now with The Hobbit, one and two, it’s like that to the power of 10.
Update: Bruce Hopkins had this to say on his Facebook page and has kindly agreed to us sharing it here.
It seem this article featuring Viggo Mortensen is causing some in the NZ media to start chasing a… ‘how dare someone critique Lord of The Rings and in particular Peter Jackson’ …line of enquiry.
Much of what he says is real and I’m sure Peter would agree, from my brief time of involvement, the job was so vast it was being done on the edge what was doable much of the time. An example was how the amazing Weta folk were creating new technology as the months/years rolled on. …Personally I don’t see that what Viggo is saying is any form of slight on Peter and the process he had to work with. As opposed to The Hobbit, Lord of The Rings was an absolute unknown, demanding of Peter that he evolved as the 4yrs of shooting/editing etc etc marched on, so I agree from my brief 50-60 days experience shooting on LOTR (which I loved every millisecond of), it did seem a stunning form of organised chaos, pulled together by the amazing dedication of everyone involved ( 1500-2000 people! ) under Peters leadership. What’s the issue NZ! We are so arrogant at times, glowing in the praise heaped upon us and our country, then spitting the dummy when someone dares say something that doesn’t polish our egos. Maybe Viggo has a point, in LOTR there were some more intimate storylines that could have been shot, but were shelved for ‘action’ scenes, many Tolkien buffs commented on these omissions at the time.
I imagine if you asked Viggo about this issue he would speak in glowing terms of what Peter et al achieved.