Rallying in NZ for “The Hobbit”

A lot of fascinating things have happened in the history of movie making, but offhand I can’t think of an example of nationwide protests to keep a film in a particular country, but that’s exactly what happened today  in New Zealand, where it’s actually already tomorrow. The issue, of course, are the continuing threats amid the probably inevitable hardball negotiations to move production away from the small island nation in the wake of battles with local actors unions. Here’s what’s happening as the biggest protest is led by Richard Taylor of the famed WETA workshop which did such a great job on the effects in the “Lord of the Rings” films.

It’s important to remember, I think, that as successful as he is, Richard Taylor is very much an independent entrepreneur who has to keep a steady flow of work going for WETA. I spoke to him briefly at Comic-Con as he was helping to promote what appears to be a very unpromising and very low budget effects driven production. Thinking of him as someone who has collaborated closely with a guy like Peter Jackson, I was perplexed until I realized that, for a guy like him with a payroll, it’s always about the next job. Money is money and he can’t be too proud about the projects he takes on, as long as he delivers the best he can for the money. In the case of this particular next job, an entire country, small though it is, is seriously impacted.

For a bit more background, I have a great piece of video — including a very blunt interview with Peter Jackson (that’s Sir Jackson, to you) from last week.

H/t the fabulous El Guapo.

And one final note: Notice how New Zealand Finance Minister Gerry Brownlee assures anchor Mark Sainsbury that there was no negotiations going on between his government and Warner Brothers for improved tax incentives. If you read the THR story from today I linked to above, you’ll note that whether or not such negotiations are going on, people seem to assume they might be.

  

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“The Hobbit” needs a new director

So, I was trying to get some other stuff done during the long Memorial Day weekend and thinking I could take a break from constantly monitoring the news as surely nothing earth shattering would happen in the movie world over the three days. However, all it took was one quick look to find I was late to learn of the geek movie bombshell of all time, or at least this month.

Via Mike Fleming and Anne Thompson comes the following: it seems that MGM’s serious fiscal troubles have delayed things as long as cowriter-director Guillermo del Toro’s insanely busy career can stand. Therefore, despite the huge amount of preparation that’s already been done, he is stepping aside as director of the two-planned films of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” the “Lord of the Rings” follow-up inspired by the children’s novel that preceded the literary LOTR, later turned into the glorious three part epic directed by Peter Jackson.  Del Toro will, however, continue working on the screenplays for the upcoming films.

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Del Toro — one of my favorite filmmakers now working and, by all accounts and signs, a real stand-up guy — gave the bad news, alongside Peter Jackson, to those who care most, the devoted fans of the late author J.R.R. Tolkien, at theonering.net. It’s definitely being portrayed as the most amicable of semi-partings with both del Toro and Peter Jackson, the LOTR director who’s been overseeing the entire Tolkien project, chiming in. Here’s part of del Toro’s statement:

“After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. I remain grateful to Peter, [co-writers] Fran [Walsh] and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand. I’ve been privileged to work in one of the greatest countries on earth with some of the best people ever in our craft and my life will be forever changed. The blessings have been plenty…Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wish the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product.”

Guessing about who the replacement director has already started. Early word is that it likely will not be the obvious choice, Peter Jackson, who it’s safe to say, has done enough for the Tolkien legacy — though Anne Thompson reports he told a New Zealand newspaper he would consider doing it if he had to “to protect Warner Brothers’ investment.” At this point, I’d say so many different things could happen it’s useless to speculate, but that won’t stop anyone.

  

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