Give Him a Ring Sometime: Martin Freeman stumbles upon a serious tactical advantage in THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY.
Give Him a Ring Sometime: Martin Freeman stumbles upon a serious tactical advantage in THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY.

The journey will be long, the challenges daunting, the popcorn very likely stale. But that doesn’t matter now — the grand epic that is the three-part, film adaptation of THE HOBBIT is upon us with the release of the first installment: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. Having braved the onslaught of orcs, goblins, and restless eight-year-0lds,‘s Andrea Lipinski joins Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons to discuss whether director Peter Jackson has taken what started as a compact, nimble fantasy tale and managed to elaborate on it in a way that will make audiences eager to sign on for all three films. They also delve into the film’s introduction of High Frame Rate (HFR) projection technology, and explore what effect the process has on the viewing experience.
Also: What’s coming to theaters next week.


1st Pic of Martin Freeman as Hobbit

Entertainment Weekly featured the first picture released of Martin Freeman (SHERLOCK) as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
They quote Jackson as saying Freeman: “…Fits the ears, and he’s got some very nice feet. I think he’s got the biggest hobbit feet we’ve had so far. They’re a little bit hard to walk in, but he’s managed to figure out the perfect hobbit gait.”

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Click to Enlarge

'The Hobbit' Casting News


Andy Serkis in KING KONG
Andy Serkis in KING KONG

According to Deadline, Andy Serkis (KING KONG) will reprise his voice and motion capture artist tole of Gollum for the 2-part film version of THE HOBBIT.
He joins Martin Freeman (THE HITCHIKERS GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE) as Bilbo Baggins, along with Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Elijah Wood — who is apparently to appear as Frodo. This makes sense in the light of the fact that Ian Holm is said to be in talks to return for an appearance as the older Bilbo.
Still working out deals to reprise their LORD OF THE RINGS roles are Ian McKellen (Gandolph), Christopher Lee as Saruman, and possibly Orlando Bloom as the elven prince Legolas.
Perhaps the character appearances are part of the explanation of why it’s necessary to make a two-part film. J.R.R. Tolkien’s story may be too big to play out comfortably in a single film, but not quite long enough to justify two movies without additional scenes.  
According to The One Ring , Woods’ role as Frodo can be explained as the character reading of the events in the “Red Book of Westmarch”, which chronicles the events of The Hobbit -Or- There and Back Again, suggesting a framing story.
The article reiterates that THE HOBBIT is being made by Peter Jackson as a c0production between Warner Brothers Pictures and MGM, though due to MGM’s  bankruptcy and continuing internal problems, it is being  financed by completely by Warner Brothers Pictures, who will have World-wide  distribution rights.

Peter Jackson will direct Hobbit films

Mike Fleming of Deadline New York reports that, despite initial denials, Peter Jackson will in fact direct the two films based on THE HOBBIT, J.R.R. Tolkien’s predecessor to THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Every since Guillermo Del Toro left the director’s chair, speculation among the fan community – and Hollywood in general – has been rife with rumored replacements, including Sam Raimi, David Yates, and Neil Blomkamp (whose DISTRICT 9 Jackson produced).
Jackson was not initially scheduled to direct. He was perhaps burnt out after the years spent working on the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy; there was also bad blood between him and New Line exec Robert Shaye, over accounting of the profits of those blockbuster hits. Del Toro was brought on but recently bowed out when the financial problems of MGM seemed likely to delay the start date. Fans hoped that Jackson would take over, but that initially did not seem a likely possibility.
In his article, Fleming points out that, although several directors angled for the job, no offers were made. Fleming theorizes this indicates that Jackson was hoping to take the gig all along but first had to extricate himself from other commitments. Fleming’s article quotes no one directly, citing only “trusted sources.”
Needless to say, the fan community is ecstatic. I’m not so sure. Jackson’s Tolkien trilogy started off strong with LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, but it wore down over the course of LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS and LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING. I lost count of the number of times our heroes battled impossible odds against certain death, only to emerge victorious, and the decision to film two HOBBIT prequels sounds less like an artistic decision than an accounting one, designed to milk every last penny from the franchise. There is a good movie to be made from Tolkien’s book, and Jackson may even be the one to do it; I just hope he’s had enough time away from Middle Earth to recharge his batteries.

Sir Christopher Lee on The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Christopher Lee as Saruman the White in LORD OF THE RINGS
Christopher Lee as Saruman the White in LORD OF THE RINGS

In Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND  Christopher Lee has a brief one line “cameo” as the voice of  the dragon-like Jabberwock, so it was interesting to note that Lee himself  has recently suggested  he might play the voice of Smaug, the dragon,  in the upcoming two-film adaptation of  THE HOBBIT,  being produced by Peter Jackson in New Zealand.  Unfortunately, with the recent departure of  director Guillermo Del Toro it now appears a start date for the filming of  THE HOBBIT will  be delayed for some considerable time, so as the  88-year old  Lee noted in a previous interview at CFQ about HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, if they want to use his voice in THE HOBBIT, “they better hurry up.”
I recently re-viewed the three extended LORD OF THE RINGS movies on Hi-Def  which has inspired me to post Christopher Lee’s extensive comments about his work on the THE LORD OF THE RINGS  trilogy that first appeared in a drastically edited version in the December, 2003 issue of CFQ,  which did not even include Mr. Lee’s reaction to the unpleasant shock he received in  late 2003 when he first discovered that Saruman’s important death scene was being removed from the theatrical version of  THE  RETURN OF THE KING.  Ironically, Lee was the most vocal cast member when the first two movies  failed to win the best picture Academy Award, a mistake that was finally corrected when RETURN OF THE KING won a record 11 Oscars in 2004. Unfortunately, Christopher Lee was no longer a part of the third movie (although his footage was eventually restored in the extended DVD version).

LAWRENCE FRENCH: What do you think accounts for the tremendous interest in fantasy films these days?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: I think it’s because we all love to dream. We don’t live in a particularly attractive world. I don’t really remember, except as a small boy, anything but a pretty grim world. I’m old enough to have seen Hitler in the flesh. I’m old enough to have been in Munich in 1934, on the night of the long knives, when Hitler butchered so many of his own people. I’m old enough to remember the Second World War and all the other things. So I’m not being a Cassandra, who prophesied nothing but evil and misery; I’m simply facing reality. So, yes, let us not lose faith, let us be optimistic, let us believe in the good things, but we still have to face the world as it is.  When you live in a world like that, what do you want? You want to escape, to get out of this world from time to time, into another world, a magical world, an enchanted world, where things happen we dream about, a world of fairy stories and wizards. It is like the conjurer, the enchanter, or magician who says, “Look, nothing up my sleeve. When I do this, you will come into my enchanted world!”  Dreaming, escaping, that is what we’re talking about. I firmly believe that is why this kind of film is so universally popular, and always will be, because people like to get into another world.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You first read THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING when it came out in 1954?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, and I was immensely impressed with what I read. I still think THE LORD OF THE RINGS is the greatest literary achievement in my lifetime. Like so many other people, I couldn’t wait for the second, and then the third book. Nothing like it had ever been written. Other authors like T. H. White and Lewis Carroll invented imaginary worlds, but Tolkien not only invented an imaginary world, he invented imaginary races, which you can easily believe in. And he created very long appendices with all the family trees and the names of the previous Kings and so-forth. It’s quite incredible, really, the scholarship and imagination that went into the writing of it. And what is even more remarkable is that Tolkien, who was a professor of philology, invented new languages. The Elf languages are two: Quenya and Sindarin. Quenya is based on Finnish, and Sindarin is basically Welsh. Most of the Elves speak Sindarin. And if you want, you can learn to read it, to write it and to speak it, just like English or any other language. I always thought the books would make a wonderful film, but I also felt it would probably never happen, because of the enormous amount it would cost to make. But if they ever were made, I dreamed that I would be in them. It just goes to show you, that sometimes dreams do come true.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You actually met J. R. R. Tolkien, didn’t you?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, quite by chance, really. I met him with a group of other people in a pub in Oxford he used to go to, The Eagle and Child. I was very much in awe of him, as you can imagine, so I just said, “how do you do?” I also met T. H. White who wrote The Once and Future King.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Having read the book so many times, you must have had a thorough understanding of Saruman’s history and his place in the story.
Gandalf and Saruman battle
Gandalf and Saruman battle

CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, from reading the books I naturally knew Saruman and all of the other characters intimately. And the way he is presented in the scripts is the way he is presented in the books. Saruman is one of the great Wizards. When they first came to Middle-earth there were five Wizards. Two of them, the Blue Wizards, are not mentioned. The other three are Saruman the white, who is the greatest of them all. Then, there is Gandalf the grey and Radagast the brown. We don’t see Radagast in the book or in the movie. So basically we have two wizards, Gandalf and Saruman. They have human bodies, but they are immortal. They were sent to Middle-earth by the Valar, who are the creators and guardians of the world. Saruman is number one, the most powerful and the most brilliant of them all. And at the very beginning, Saruman was a good Wizard. He was given the land for his tower at Isengard, and he is the head of the order of Wizards, the Istari, as they are called. He also has one of the seven great seeing stones, a Palantír. He and Gandalf have been friends for hundreds of years. But, as Gandalf first discovers in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, he has been corrupted by the dark power of Sauron. Saruman’s ambition causes him to think he can take over as the Lord of the Rings, because at some stage, he feels that he is more powerful than Sauron. But it’s the biggest mistake he makes in his life, which is many thousands of years. So it’s a question of a great Wizard, one of superior intellect and brilliance, being tempted until the temptation finally overcomes him. He of course pretends to be a servant of Sauron, but Sauron sees through this. It’s a very complex character, superbly written by Tolkein, although a lot of people don’t realize whom the actual Lord of the Rings is. Who do you think it is?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, absolutely, but a lot of people don’t realize that. It is Sauron, because there were many rings made, and as the poem says, “One ring to rule them all… and in the darkness bind them”. Sauron forged the one ring and it’s when Sauron discovers that Frodo now possesses the ring that he attempts to recover it. Saruman knows this and he wants the ring for himself.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: What do you think accounts for Saruman turning to the dark side and joining Sauron in a union of the two towers?
Saruman is corrupted by the power of Sauron
Saruman is corrupted by the power of Sauron

CHRISTOPHER LEE: Tolkein never explains that. Possibly it is the Palantír and the all-seeing eye of Sauron. Saruman thinks, “if Sauron can do this, so can I” although I don’t’ think Saruman fully realizes that Sauron is always one step ahead of him. But when we first see Saruman, you think he is a very agreeable character. He meets Gandalf in the garden at Isengard with a smile and when they start talking about the ring, he says, “Are you sure about all this—the ring of power has been found?” There is absolutely no indication at all of Saruman’s true character to the audience. He only reveals it in his chamber at Orthanc, when he says, “why don’t we join Sauron” and Gandalf is so horrified. Up until then, Gandalf has not even remotely thought about Saruman going over to the dark side. He still regards him as his superior and as the head of the order. That scene was also my first day on the picture and it subsequently had to be done over, because when we did it the first time there were some Orcs in the garden. Gandalf is surprised by this and he says, “Orcs in Isengard?” So that was re-shot to show it without the Orcs.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Before doing THE LORD OF THE RINGS you played another Wizard in a television series, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: That’s right, and the only reason I did that was to show anyone who was watching that I could play a Wizard and that I would be ideal casting for THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: And you sent a photo of yourself as the Wizard from ROBIN HOOD to Peter Jackson?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I sent him a picture of myself all made-up in the Wizard’s role, but it was more in the nature of a joke, really. “This is what I look like as a Wizard, don’t forget this when you cast the movie.” It wasn’t me putting myself forward at all, because I think Peter had already made up his mind. That’s what I’ve been told, anyway, that he never thought of anybody else for Saruman, except for me, so it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference.
LAWRENCE FRENCH:  Had you met Peter Jackson before that?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I first met Peter when I was the President of the Jury at the Avoriaz Film Festival in 1993. Peter Jackson’s movie, BRAINDEAD was in the competition, and I thought it was very funny, very humorous, very close to the Monty Python kind of comedy. As I was head of the jury, we decided to award BRAINDEAD the grand prize. Since then, I think his career has gone through a constant artistic growth. He started with these bizarre horror-splatter movies, and then he made HEAVENLY CREATURES, which was beautifully done. He’s a great director, who improves himself each time he makes a movie.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: So Peter Jackson eventually contacted you about appearing in THE LORD OF THE RINGS?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, he asked me if I would do a reading. Some people would have said no, but I certainly didn’t. I met with Peter here in London, in the back room of an old Church. He was there with a casting director and Fran Walsh, his partner, who is also one of the screenwriters on the movies. They asked me to read a scene in front of a video camera, and I read a scene between Gandalf and Frodo. It was one of the first scenes in the book. I think he was just asking me to read something from the book to give him a general idea, and my passion and love for the work was quite obvious to him. Of course I would have loved to play Gandalf, but I don’t think he ever had me in mind for Gandalf, because but that time I was too old.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You must have enjoyed working with Peter Jackson, since he knew the books so well and he wanted it to be as faithful as possible to what Tolkien wrote.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, he certainly shares my passion, as indeed we all did. The whole cast and the whole crew had such a dedication to this work, I’ve never experienced anything like it. And Peter knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it. I’ve very seldom met a director who was so absolutely convinced about what should, or should not appear on the screen. He always seemed to know exactly what he wanted and he wasn’t going to let a shot go until he got it exactly as he wanted. Sometimes this meant a lot of takes. But it could be the pace of the scene, it could be the inflection of the dialogue, it could be many things. Peter’s intuition is extraordinary, in terms of how to deliver dialogue and how to play the scene. When he finally got the shot and said, “right, let’s print it,” you knew that was as good as it was ever going to be, which is very encouraging. A good director is someone who cares about what the end result is going to be, and Peter Jackson is certainly a director who cares. So what was on the printed page is what I did. And if Peter Jackson wanted to change any of it, I did so. If he wanted a different interpretation or a different meaning or a certain emphasis given to a line, or a phrase, or even a word, I did it. To me, he always seemed to be right.
ChristopherLlee and Brad Douriff
ChristopherLlee and Brad Douriff

LAWRENCE FRENCH: In THE TWO TOWERS we are introduced to your new accomplice, Grima Wormtongue, played by Brad Dourif.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, Brad Dourif is a brilliant actor. He plays my right hand man, you might say, who is spying for me, while advising King Théoden of Rohan. He gives a wonderful performance, as he did in films like ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST and MISSISSIPPI BURNING. He’s a marvelous person to work with and tremendously enthusiastic about everything he does.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: In THE TWO TOWERS although you don’t have as many scenes, you are a bit like Harry Lime in THE THIRD MAN, since all the other characters are constantly talking about you and what you are planning to do.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, Saruman does hover over everything like a kind of menacing dark cloud. Everyone talks about Saruman’s armies and Saruman’s forces. They talk about him all the time, so although there isn’t as much of me as there was in the first film, where you had to establish the character, the shadow of Saruman still looms large over everything that happens. So even though he is something of an invisible presence, when you do see Saruman, he is immensely powerful and he still goes through all the emotions that are in the book: the feeling of power, the actual power, the hypnotic effect of his voice and what he says and does. THE TWO TOWERS is really a kind of confirmation of Saruman’s downfall, which is achieved partly by his losing the power after which he lusts so much. Also, several of my scenes that were cut out of THE TWO TOWERS are now restored in the extended DVD. You now see me meeting with the leader of the Wild Men and Grimma telling me about yet another ring, the ring of Barahir that is worn by Aragorn. Barahir was one of the great lords of the north in the first age. He had this ring that was handed down over thousands of years and eventually it came into the possession of Isildur.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: It must have been exciting to work with Ian McKellan on the three movies.  He said he was really thrilled to be working with you.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Ah, Ian is such a nice man. He always said very nice things about me and I’m happy to return the compliment. Not only is he a very distinguished and eminent actor, with a wonderful record—mainly in the theater—but also to a certain extent in film. He is a major actor and if you find yourself, as I did, playing scenes with him and he’s already had some weeks to get into his part while I’m doing my first day, it can be difficult, to put it mildly. My introduction to the picture was the scene in the garden at Isengard, where I come down the stairs and meet Gandalf. I was up until three in the morning that day, working with Ian McKellen. But Ian was immensely supportive and very encouraging. That doesn’t happen very often these days, where you’re working with a major actor, and they help you and guide you along. But that’s exactly what Ian did with me at the beginning of the film.  I was so glad that most of my scenes were with Ian, especially after I got quite badly injured, when a door slammed on two of my fingers.  My hand was all bandaged and bloody, so I had to hide it and if you look very carefully, you can see that in the film. It was really very difficult, because I was in extreme pain, but Ian was enormously helpful, very encouraging. He’s a tremendous person to work with and you don’t find that very often these days. People are so concerned about what they consider to be rivalry, or confrontation.  They only think about themselves, and they don’t give a damn about the other people who they are working with. But the word is collaboration, not confrontation, and Ian McKellen is a shining example of that.  So many people think another actor might be some sort of threat to them, in terms of performance. There are some big stars that won’t have anybody else in the film with them, because they are so unsure of themselves and you can see that in their films.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Ian McKellan said you startled him in one scene, where you sneaked up behind him and snarled at him, as if you were playing Dracula.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: No, not at all. That’s quite a good story, but I didn’t sneak up behind him. What he said was to be within three feet of a Lee snarl is rather unsettling.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: So you didn’t try to scare him by playing Dracula?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: No, not at any time. That part was last played by me over 30 years ago! I have no connection with it whatsoever. Nor do I wish to have.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Actually, I thought it would have been marvelous if Francis Ford Coppola had used you to play Dracula at the beginning of his movie version. You could have played the Count in Transylvania, exactly the way Stoker described him, as an old man with a mustache. Then, when Dracula arrives in London and starts drinking blood, he would grow younger and be transformed into Gary Oldman!
Christopher Lee looking as Bram Stoker described Dracula
Christopher Lee looking as Bram Stoker described Dracula

CHRISTOPHER LEE: Well, there’s no point in going over the past. These things either happen or they don’t and it’s too late now. I did see Coppola’s version, and while he’s done some wonderful films, his DRACULA was not the Stoker novel. Nobody has ever made a movie about Dracula, from the book, exactly as Stoker wrote it. They’ve come close at times, but it’s never been done. The nearest I ever got, was when I did COUNT DRACULA in Spain, with Herbert Lom and Klaus Kinski. I had a mustache and I even managed to say some of Stoker’s lines, but it was a mess, for production reasons. In Coppola’s movie, Gary Oldman did not have a mustache, and he was wearing what looked to me like a red dress! He also had a hairstyle that I thought was absurd. It certainly wasn’t how Stoker described the character. In the book, Stoker describes Dracula as wearing black from head to toe, without a single speck of color about him. But as far as I’m concerned, that character is very much in the past for me, and I’m really not all that interested in talking about the past, only the present and the future.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You were widely quoted as saying you just wanted to still be around in 2003 to be able to see the final part of the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy…
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, that’s quite true.
LAWRENCE FRENCH:  …Which is why it was obviously upsetting for you when you found out that Peter Jackson had cut your final death scene from THE RETURN OF THE KING.  Production designer Grant Major told me that the scene was originally supposed to appear at the end of THE TWO TOWERS and after it wasn’t used, Peter Jackson put it at the beginning of THE RETURN OF THE KING, then decided to cut it out because he thought it slowed down the opening of the picture:

GRANT MAJOR: Producer Barrie Osborne and I came up with the idea for Saruman’s death scene. As you know, Christopher Lee is very well known for his parts in the various Dracula films, and of course, Dracula traditionally gets done in by driving a stake through the heart. So Barrie and I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to quote that same sort of death for Saruman?” The death of Saruman was written in the script to happen at Isengard, where Grimma Wormtongue actually stabs him in the back and he falls off the top of Orthanc tower and goes all the way down to his death, landing on this treadmill structure of his own devising which has these large spikes sticking out of it. So Saruman is impaled on this huge spike. That was originally going to happen at the end of THE TWO TOWERS, as sort of a finale, but it didn’t appear, so now I suspect it’s going to be used in THE RETURN OF THE KING.

CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I was really outraged when Barrie Osborne called to tell me I wasn’t going to be in the third film.  He told me they were worried about keeping my scene in the third film because everybody would think it was a continuation of THE TWO TOWERS, after you see me and Grimma on the balcony of Orthanc looking horrified as everything around us is being flooded. They felt if they included it in the opening of THE RETURN OF THE KING it would seem like a continuation of THE TWO TOWERS.  I thought that was rather strange, because it is a continuation of THE TWO TOWERS and it’s a crucial part of the story. You can’t have Saruman looking frantic on a balcony while everything in Isengard is being destroyed and then never see him again! The audience needed and indeed, they demanded to know what happened to Saruman!
LAWRENCE FRENCH: The restored scene in the extended DVD is quite marvelous, because after you vainly attempt to persuade King Théoden to make peace, you become enraged, shouting at him, “What is the house of Rohan but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek and their brats roll on the floor with the dogs,” which is dialogue taken straight out of the book.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, and even in defeat Saruman can still exert his power and that makes them uneasy. You see, I had to make the audience believe that Saruman is still a very considerable hypnotist, particularly with his voice. There’s a chapter in The Two Towers called The Voice of Saruman and Tolkien describes Saruman’s voice as “low and melodious—its very sound an enchantment.” Saruman is able to hypnotize people with his voice and at first he succeeds. People fall under his spell, but not King Théoden and not Gandalf. They now see him for what he is. He then says to Gandalf, “Oh, you want information do you. I can give you some. You are all going to die!” That is, of course vicious and sarcastic. Later, in the book, Gandalf finally laughs at Saruman, and then the other side of his character is revealed: the hatred and the fury when something doesn’t go the way he wants it too. So part of it is savage and harsh, part of it is sarcasm and contempt and part of it is “I know things you don’t, things you have failed to see.”
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Since you knew so much about the Tolkien books, did you have any kind of capacity on the film as an unofficial advisor?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: No, I don’t recall that. But members of the cast and crew where always trying to catch me out. They’d ask me questions like, “what was the name of Frodo’s father,” or “what was the name of this or that sword.” Things like that. Well, they never caught me out—not once! They tried, but they never did.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You had to go back several times to shoot additional scenes for all three movies?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I went back to New Zealand four times to shoot pick-up shots. I think everybody else went back, as well, with the possible exception of Cate Blanchett and Ian Holm. But everybody else went back at one time or another, because they can’t take any chances. They can’t take risks. Once they start editing the picture, if they feel an extra scene is needed, or additional bits of dialogue or action are needed, then they have to call us back. It’s in our contract.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: It must have been hard on you having to fly back to New Zealand so many times.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, that’s the downside of shooting there. The tremendous length of the journey, even if you break it up, is 25 hours in the air, which is very tiring, particularly to someone of my age. The other thing is that we seemed to have done most of the pick-up shooting in our summer, which is their winter. Many people don’t realize this, but New Zealand is south of the equator, so they were bang in the middle of winter. Before I arrived there in June, they had several weeks of sunshine, but I’m afraid I brought gales and sheeting rain with me. There were 70 mph winds and bitter cold. On the southern island, in places like Christchurch, there were blizzards and vicious cold, because the further south you go, the closer you get to Antarctica. So many of us got sick with the flu, or something like it. Most of the cast, in fact, since if you are working on a set that is hot and dusty and anybody has anything wrong with them it’s going to go around very rapidly. So if you walk out of the set to go to your caravan or to make-up, into the kind of weather we had to put up with, it was murder!
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did you have to re-dub a lot of your dialogue?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I did most of it here in London, because it is very difficult to use direct sound in New Zealand, as the studio was a former paint factory that was not sound proofed. It was right bang by the airport runway, so there were planes all over the place and that meant we had to re-record all of the dialogue afterwards in a sound studio. Some members of the cast did their ADR afterwards in a sound proof studio in New Zealand, as hardly any of the direct sound could be used. For people playing major roles that go through all three films, like Frodo, Sam and Gandalf, it means they have to do their entire roles all over again in the sound studio.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Would you prefer not having to re-dub your dialogue?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Well, I’ve done it for years and years, so the technical aspects of re-recording doesn’t disturb me at all. The problem, which is the same for everybody, not just for me, is that it’s not just a question of getting the right lip-sync to the lines, which even experienced actors find difficult. It’s also a question of getting it right in terms of the atmosphere, the tone, the pauses, the voice going up, or going down. You’ve got to repeat all that in a sound studio, following the original soundtrack, which you can hear of course, but it can’t be used. Sometimes you can improve on it, but the problem is, that you’re there alone. If you were playing scenes with other people, which one does all the time, they are no longer there! And the same thing applies to them. I’ve never in my life done any looping or post-synching with another actor, because you can’t get them together at the same time. I think that is the most difficult thing: not having anybody to act with. What must be absolute hell is when somebody has to play a quiet romantic scene and the woman is there without the man, or vice-versa. That is really difficult, although it didn’t apply in my case.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Besides being cut from the RETURN OF THE KING, I was rather surprised your name wasn’t mentioned as best supporting actor in any of the trade ads New Line Cinema ran for the first two films.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Well, that didn’t bother me, because it’s not a question of whether I’m mentioned, or whether my name is in a certain position in the credits. It’s what’s on the screen that is far more important than any critical reviews. You were saying some very nice things about my performance in the film. Well some people have agreed with you and some people haven’t even mentioned that. But it’s what’s on the screen that counts. I keep saying that, because it’s true. It is what’s on the screen that the audience looks at, what the industry looks at  and what the Academy members looks at.  Isn’t that the really important thing?

Lee starred as Count Dooku in two STAR WARS prequels
Lee starred as Count Dooku in two STAR WARS prequels

LAWRENCE FRENCH: Yes, exactly.  And now after your roles in THE LORD OF THE RINGS and the two STAR WARS movies all you need is a part in one of the HARRY POTTER pictures to complete a triple-crown of the three top-grossing  fantasy series of the new millennium.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: It’s funny you should say that, because after my agent had seen the script for the first HARRY POTTER movie, she was talking to one of the producers  and said to him, “there’s a part in the film that would be ideal for Christopher Lee.” Well, this producer gave her a look of absolute horror and said, “oh, but he’s already played a Wizard.” Now wouldn’t you think that a smart producer might say, “oh, he’s going to play a Wizard in THE LORD OF THE RINGS, that’s going to be an enormous success, let’s get him for HARRY POTTER.” I’ve read the first HARRY POTTER book and it seems to me that it is really for children, although I think grown up people can enjoy it as well. On the other hand, THE LORD OF THE RINGS is not for children, and when I say children, I mean younger children, those under nine or ten years old, although some of them will undoubtedly still go to see it.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Orson Welles talked about being what he called a “King actor.” He felt he was an actor who did his best work when playing people of great power, whether they were Kings, Prime Ministers or Wizards.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, these kinds of parts are very definitely a challenge to the actor. In the case of Saruman you have to make the audience believe in his immense power. You have to make people believe that here is a man who is an immortal in a human body. The question is, what’s he going to do with that power? Does he control it? Does he believe in his own destiny, or are there any doubts? All of these things are in the books.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You’ve said several times that you think THE LORD OF THE RINGS will go down in cinema history.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I said that on my second day of work on the film, when the executives from New Line Cinema arrived in New Zealand and asked me how I thought everything was going. I said, “You are creating cinema history!” I think everyone connected with the pictures has. These films will be seen for years and years, long after the HARRY POTTER films have—I won’t say faded away—but perhaps, have lost their appeal. It is the soul of Tolkien on the screen. This film is a modern miracle and it will be remembered for a long, long time. Professor Tokien had a vision for a very long period of time. Peter Jackson had a vision. And I have my own vision: I see Professor Tokien walking over to Peter Jackson, shaking his hand and saying, “well done my boy, well done.”

Guillermo Del Toro departs Hobbit over delays due to MGM's financial crisis

Guillermo Del ToroMy friends over at The One Ring Net posted this shocking news at their site today:

Guillermo Del Toro announced today that he is no longer directing the two movies based on J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, but will continue to co-write the screenplays. Out of respect to the legions of loyal Tolkien fans, both Guillermo and Peter Jackson wanted to break the news to The One Ring first. They are both committed to protecting The Hobbit and will do everything in their power to ensure the films are everything that the fans want them to be.
“In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming “The Hobbit,” I am faced with the hardest decision of my life”, says Guillermo. “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, Fran 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, but the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wlsh the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director”.
“We feel very sad to see Guillermo leave the Hobbit, but he has kept us fully in the loop and we understand how the protracted development time on these two films, due to reasons beyond anyone’s control – has compromised his commitment to other long term projects”, says Executive Producer Peter Jackson. “The bottom line is that Guillermo just didn’t feel he could commit six years to living in New Zealand, exclusively making these films, when his original commitment was for three years. Guillermo is one of the most remarkable creative spirits I’ve ever encountered and it has been a complete joy working with him. Guillermo’s strong vision is engrained into the scripts and designs of these two films, which are extremely fortunate to be blessed with his creative DNA”.
“Guillermo is co-writing the Hobbit screenplays with Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and myself, and happily our writing partnership will continue for several more months, until the scripts are fine tuned and polished” says Jackson. “New Line and Warner Bros will sit down with us this week, to ensure a smooth and uneventful transition, as we secure a new director for the Hobbit. We do not anticipate any delay or disruption to ongoing pre-production work”.
The Hobbit is planned as two motion pictures, co-produced by New Line Cinema and MGM. They are scheduled for release in Dec 2012 and Dec 2013.

The Hobbit Coming in 2013?

Gandalf The Grey in the Lord of The Rings
Gandalf The Grey in the Lord of The Rings

Following Peter Jackon’s previous recap on highly anticipated fantasy prequel, THE HOBBIT, comes a new press release from which states the film is due for release in 2013. A lot could happen between now and then but it’s a good signal that the troubled production is finally getting closer to our screens.

THE HOBBIT, an two-part adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s tale which leads up to the events depicted in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, still doesn’t have a greenlight due to the ongoing financial issues faced by MGM. However, since this press release is as official as they come it seems as if Warner Bros. are confident THE HOBBIT will overcome these problems as it states a December 2013 release date projected for the film.
The press release also mentions other big movies, with release dates for Zack Snyder’s (WATCHMEN, 300) LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIAN: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE (September this year) and the two final HARRY POTTER films (November this year and July next year respectively). Additionally BATMAN 3 and the new SUPERMAN also get a mention, but have no release dates attached.
This is good news for Tolkien fans around the globe but shouldn’t be read as the gospel; there’s still no greenlight for the project and there’s a lot of time between now 2013 in which for things to go wrong. Fingers crossed people…

The Hobbit Scripts Finished

Director Peter Jackson
Director Peter Jackson

Moviefone have been talking with Peter Jackson (THE LORD OF THE RINGS, THE LOVELY BONES), who is producing the two HOBBIT movies, and he’s cleared up a lot of the rumours surrounding the delay in production. Jackson says that scripts for both parts of THE HOBBIT have now been handed to the studio and that he believes shooting will start at the end of the year.

Jackson states that,

“We’ve just delivered the script. Literally last week, we delivered the second of the two screenplays — the first draft. So the studio’s got both scripts now, which is a milestone; and if anything was holding it up, it was us doing the screenplays, because we’d just been writing as fast as we can, but it took us this long to get them finished…And we’re now in the process of budgeting the films, and then hopefully we’ll get to a budget the studio are happy with, and they’ll greenlight the movies and we’ll announce the shooting dates. I’d be pretty optimistic that we’ll be shooting before the end of the year. I would imagine October, November, we’d be shooting by”.

He goes on to add,

“Well, it’s not really been delayed, because we’ve never announced the date,” Jackson told the site. “I mean it’s sort of interesting because the studio [MGM] has never greenlit The Hobbit, so therefore The Hobbit has never been officially announced as a ‘go’ project, nor have we ever announced a date…But I would imagine that if we get a green light within the next month or two, we would be hopefully making some casting announcements by, I guess, the middle of the year”.

So it seems, unsurprisingly given the LOTR films’ popularity,  that the fans and media have jumped the gun somewhat on this one. However everything Jackson says here is extremely encouraging and it’s good to hear news straight from the horses mouth for once. Here’s hoping that MGM’s financial troubles won’t get in the way of THE HOBBIT’s green light and Jackson’s projected shooting date will go ahead as planned.

The Hobbit Has Been Delayed Yet Again

click to purchase
click to purchase

Yes, it’s a sad day for Tolkien lovers everywhere as according to a variety of sources the eagerly awaited film adaptation of THE HOBBIT has been delayed further still. Over at The Playlist they’ve compiled various pieces of information suggesting the projected 2011 release date for the first half of the film (THE HOBBIT is being split into two films, just like HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS) won’t be happening.
First off, Andy Serkis was queried by Digital Spy as to whether the films will start shooting soon. He had this to say,

It is, apparently! At some point towards the end of this year, I expect it’ll start kicking off.

Additionally, and contrary to it’s earlier suggestion that THE HOBBIT would start shooting in July, Sir Ian McKellen’s website now states that it’ll start shooting, “at a time to be announced”. If this were not enough, Tolkien fansite The One Ring are reporting troubling financial struggles within the studio behind the films, MGM, which are causing a delay in production.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy was a masterful piece of storytelling from director Peter Jackson (THE LOVELY BONES, THE FRIGHTENERS) and so a prequel overseen by the same visionary director, not to mention several returning cast members, is a very exciting prospect. Guillermo del Toro (PAN’S LABYRINTH, HELLBOY) is set to direct the two films and has more than enough experience to handle to the job so it’s such a shame to see this project be delayed further than it already has been (THE HOBBIT was originally meant to be on screens this year).

Confirmed: Del Toro to Direct Hobbits

The Los Angeles Times confirms what has been expected for months: Guillermo Del Toro will direct two films inspired by Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The first will portray the events of the book; the second will cover the gap between the book and LORD OF THE RINGS. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh will executive produce the films.

“We have long admired Guillermo’s work and cannot think of a more inspired filmmaker to take the journey back to Middle-earth,” Walsh and Jackson said in a statement. “We are delighted ‘The Hobbit’ is in such trustworthy hands.”

Del Toro will relocate to New Zealand for four years to work on the movies, which means fans will have to wait a long time for his recently announced project, SATURN AND THE END OF DAYS.
Del Toro’s latest film, HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY, is scheduled for release in July.