How Return of The King Fought Hard, Spent Millions To Sweep The Oscars

Few people remember exactly how much of a gamble it was to make the Lord Of The Rings movies. Distributors New Line Cinema were known for smaller fare, and this was a multi-million dollar trilogy from an unproven director, each entry rising into nine figures in cost before marketing. All these years later, the franchise boasts a number of Academy Awards, a beloved place in the geek pantheon, and a director who has one of Hollywood’s few blank checks. This winter brings the sixth of all films dealing with Middle Earth, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: There And Back Again.

The first two films were Oscar-nominated hits, but by the time The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King hit theaters, New Line was desperate to not be snubbed a third time, even though no fantasy films had ever won Best Picture. And now Vanity Fair has taken a look at that exact process, a cutthroat procedure where you have to break a film down to its most base elements in order to push in certain categories, lobbying to get recognized in as many ways as possible. Ultimately, Return Of The King was a massive success in that regard, receiving eleven nominations and ultimately winning every single one of those awards, a clean sweep that’s never been accomplished in Oscar history.

You won’t find too much about the making of the film here, as this is basically about the marketing. Still, it’s interesting to see how the quest to win these awards was not unlike a political campaign, complete with the overdog taking a chance at masquerading as an underdog. The amount spent on the campaign is said to be around $5-$10 million, which is presented as not a big figure as far as Oscar strategies. And it also reaffirms the consistent belief that older Academy voters are absolute imbeciles who don’t understand anything and apparently need to be told what a "fantasy film" is.

What goes unsaid is how each of those three films received Best Picture nominations, but the movies in The Hobbit trilogy have been roundly ignored by the Academy, the two films so far gathering only six nominations combined. The split into three films always seemed profit-driven, but did it also kill Oscar chances for being so transparently business-driven? Or are Peter Jackson’s prequels not nearly as good as the Lord Of The Rings pictures? Weigh in below.