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The natural wonders of New Zealand have become so closely associated with the Lord of the Rings movies that tourists travel there to get a look at Mordor and the Shire, but would Peter Jackson really be willing to film The Hobbit films away from his homeland? The proud New Zealander had planned to begin production on The Hobbit-- whenever MGM scared up the money, of course-- back in his native country, but apparently some power struggles between actors unions in New Zealand and Australia may be getting in the way.
Last Friday the Screen Actors Guild advised their members not to work on The Hobbit, which they called a non-union production. Today, in a letter snagged by Deadline, Jackson strikes back, calling the move "a grab for power" and insisting that the Lord of the Rings films honored the SAG working conditions and The Hobbit would do the same. Here's the choice paragraph that contains the least union jargon:
My personal opinion is that this is a grab for power. It does not represent a problem that needs a solution. There will always be differing opinions when it comes down to work and conditions, but I have always attempted to treat my actors and crew with fairness and respect. We have created a very favourable profit sharing pool for the non-Union actors on The Hobbit -- and now the Union is targeting us, despite the fact that we have always respected SAG conditions and residuals. I can't see beyond the ugly spectre of an Australian bully-boy, using what he perceives as his weak Kiwi cousins to gain a foothold in this country's film industry. They want greater membership, since they get to increase their bank balance.
Near the end he landed the final blow-- "If the Hobbit goes east (Eastern Europe in fact)-- look forward to a long dry big budget movie brought in this country." Moving the production to Bulgaria or Hungary would make sense from a financial standpoint, of course, but I could also imagine the rough landscape there somewhat replicating New Zealand's incredible wilderness-- to a point. I think we all know the only Middle Earth is the one Jackson created in New Zealand, so here's hoping this letter has an impact and lets the production move forward. Well, as much as it can move forward when there's no money to make it. Jeez, is this thing ever actually going to happen?