Peter Jackson has had one seriously strange career. The filmmaker began his career in the late 80s, and while he earned a cult following for his horror comedies, such as Bad Taste, Dead Alive and The Frighteners, he was hardly a household name and most definitely not a mainstream success. That all changed in 2001 when Jackson became the first director to successfully adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. His small community of fans exploded in popularity, as audiences flocked to theaters three Decembers in a row. And now, more than a decade later, Jackson is ready to take his followers back to Middle Earth.
This past May I joined a group of fellow journalists to travel to New Zealand to visit the set of The Hobbit, and in between takes Jackson was kind enough to find a few minutes to talk about his latest epic endeavor. Over the course of our discussion we had the opportunity to broach a number of subjects, including embracing advancements in filmmaking technology, finding the reality in Middle Earth, and the elements from the Tolkien’s novel that needed to change in order to both work for the film version and fit into continuity with the Lord of the Rings movies. Check it out!
As a filmmaker, is it important for you to make this production feel like Lord Of The Rings, or do you want it to feel like something entirely different?
Neither, really. Obviously it shouldn't feel like anything entirely different but at the same time the characters-- The way that I went into it when I got involved as a director was that I'd go into it as exactly the same filmmaker that did Lord Of The Rings, like I'm returning to Middle Earth. In the sense that it's a real place, I'm there to tell another story, but the characters within the story, as well as the story itself, but the characters within the story, since you're dealing with thirteen dwarves, it gives you a different tone and a different feel in places than Lord Of The Rings did. Lord Of The Rings was incredibly good and evil, black and white. The world was at stake, Sauron. It was pretty basic, and the tension that was involved in the story. Whereas this one has a slightly more of a fairy tale quality, slaying dragons and going for gold. Just trying to get gold out of the mountain. The elements of the story give you room to change the tone slightly, but in terms of the look and the feel and the filmmaking style I wanted to keep it pretty consistent and keep everything feeling like it's the same world.
When it comes to continuity, in the book, whenever Bilbo puts on the ring, he doesn't really feel the negative effects, but obviously when Frodo has the ring in the trilogy it's a much different story. Are those kind of things that you reflect back on and try to fix within The Hobbit?
Yeah. Obviously that's all embedded in Tolkien, 'cause Tolkien, he didn't know anything about the ring when he wrote The Hobbit and then he wrote a whole trilogy around the ring twenty years later. The way that it's rationalized, and I think people in the Tolkien world have rationalized it as the ring doesn't really gain its power until Sauron comes back and actively starts to look for it, so it's asleep for a while and in the days of Frodo it's getting very agitated and it wants to find its way back to Sauron. We're taking that approach. But we are very gradually building up the effects of the ring within the movie. So the first time he puts it on it's simply a magic ring, but each time he puts it on the effect of it gets to him a bit more. We're doing a little story within that.
Is it still going to be that same effect where he is in that shadow world?
Well, he's in a shadow world, but not quite the nightmarish one that was in Lord Of The Rings. Again that was more influenced by Sauron and the Eye of Sauron and all that, so we're not dealing with that this time round, but it's the beginnings of that, it's the infancy of that.