That Time Peter Jackson Lost It And Dropped An F-Bomb To A Studio Head During The Making Of The LOTR Movie

the hobbits in Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
(Image credit: New Line Cinema )

The production of the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films was an epic undertaking perhaps not unlike the quest to destroy the one ring. It was unclear at the beginning if making a trilogy of films in one massive production was even possible. In the end, we got one of the most incredible franchises in movie history, but tensions on the set were, as one might expect, quite high at different points, leading to Jackson using some strong language regarding the people who were giving him money.

In a new interview with The Telegraph (via CBR), director Peter Jackson discusses a situation during the filming where LOTR studio New Line Cinema was apparently so concerned with cost overruns that a member of the studio called Jackson in the middle of filming to basically threaten him if spending didn't get under control. Jackson explains…

I am on the parapet, probably with [Aragorn actor] Viggo [Mortensen], and I see [producer] Barrie [M. Osborne]. It took him about 30 minutes to huff and puff his way to get on the top, and so I kept on shooting. Barrie arrives and says, 'I have the studio, I've got to connect you with Michael Lynne of New Line.' I ask why. He says, 'Oh, he's going to threaten to sue you and sell the house from under you to cover the cost overruns.'

It’s certainly understandable why New Line Cinema would have been concerned about costs getting out of control. Any one of the Lord of the Rings films would likely have run the risk of going over budget just based on the scope alone. Sometimes expensive movies end up making a lot of money, and sometimes they do not. While there were certainly some opportunities for cost savings by making all three movies at once, you’re still making three movies at once, meaning that cost overruns could go sideways by a factor of three, which is essentially what happened with the cost of The Hobbit films years later.

From the way producer Barrie M. Osborne, relayed the message, it certainly sounds like he wasn’t one of the people bringing pitchforks or torches to Peter Jackson’s house, he was just relaying the message of what somebody else was going to say. As such, Jackson makes it clear he wasn’t mad at Osborne, but he did tell the producer to relay a message to the studio, and he did not watch his language. Jackson continued…

Barrie was just the messenger, but it was one of the only points where I really snapped. I said, 'Just tell Michael Lynne that I'm shooting this fucking film and I'm doing the best job I can, and I'm not going to interrupt my day with a phone call like that.'

While this likely wasn’t the only call like this that Peter Jackson got during the years that Lord of the Rings was in production, in the end, he got to make the movies that he wanted, whatever the final cost was. And it worked out for New Line as the Lord of the Rings franchise went on to making billions of dollars and win several Oscars. In the end, letter Peter Jackson get back to work was probably the right call.  

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.