“‘The Hobbit’ almost did not get shot here,” Peter Jackson (pictured with his daughter) told New Zealand Radio. Jackson, will present the world premiere of “ The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in Wellington today.
“The worst moment for me was when a box, a big box, was delivered to my office.” They had sent a reconaissance team to England and Scotland to take pictures,” he added.
Studio executives “had broken down the script into scenes, each scene was then attached to photos of the Scottish Highlands and English backdrops in order to try and convince us that we could just as easily go there and shoot the film.”
In the fall of 2010, just before the shooting, New Zealand’s actor equity union had called for a boycott of the project after Jackson refused to meet to their demands, which concerned, among others, issues of minimum wage.
The challenge, which flew in the face of $ 500 million-film project as well as the credibility of that country’s entire film industry, had become a national issue leading the Conservative-run government to intervene and get the different parties to reach an agreement.
The labor-related language was amended in order to reduce the power of union representatives and financial incentives were offered to keep the production at home.
“This really hasn’t been, for anyone involved, a very happy time” the director commented.
New Zealand’s extraordinary landscapes are a part of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (also directed by Jackson), a franchise which has earned 17 Oscars, significantly increased the profile of New Zealand tourism and contributed to the rapid development of that country’s film industry.
In return for favors lavished onto the franchise, the New Zealand tourism office has the right to use images from the trilogy for its campaigns, under the banner of “Middle Earth,” which is the term coined in the 1930s by British writer J.R.R. Tolkien, author of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings.”
Shooting for this latest installment, launching today, finally started in March 2011.
The films, which were shot back-to-back in New Zealand, depict Bilbo’s quest to reclaim the lost dwarf kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug.
Bringing the trilogy to the screen proved epic, taking more than six years since the project was first greenlit in September 2006.
Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was initially attached to direct but quit in 2010 after years of delays due to legal wrangling between Hollywood studios over the rights to the book, eventually forcing Jackson to take over.
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(photos courtesy of AFP/Getty)