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October 08, 2000 - October 23, 2000

10-23-00 Latest News

Listener Article
Xoanon @ 11:21 am EST

Ringer Super Spy Galurung sends the latest from the NZ Listener!

10-22-00 Latest News

Hobbit Stage Play in NZ gets Coverage
Xoanon @ 4:55 pm EST

I remember being 9 years old, standing up on stage in a Ragady Andy costume saying my four lines...the press wasn't there...not even radio..but I digress...

Weekly Cast Watch: Oct 22-28
Xoanon @ 12:30 pm EST

Sunday, October 22

Sean Astin (Sam) Kimberly TMC2 & The Goonies KMSP
Christopher Lee (Saruman) Gremlins 2: The New Batch WWOR & Killer Force KJTV & Private's Progress TMC2
Bernard Hill (Theoden) William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream HBOSIG
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Ragtime KOKH

Monday, October 23

Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) The Prophecy WWOR
Sean Astin (Sam) Deterrence TVND26
Bernard Hill (Theoden) The Bounty HBO
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Child's Play 3 SCIFI & Eyes of Laura Mars TNT & Progeny MAX
John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) Canvas TMN

Tuesday, October 24

Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Body Parts MAX
Sean Bean (Boromir) Airborne MAX

Wednesday, October 25

Ian Holm (Bilbo) Shout at the Devil FLIX
Elijah Wood (Frodo) The Good Son WNYW 5
Ian Mckellen (Gandalf) Gods and Monsters TMC2
John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) Victor/Victoria TCM
Bruce Spense (Mouth of Sauron) Mad Max 2 TNTI
Christopher Lee (Saruman) The Three Musketeers AMC
Bernard Hill (Theoden) True Crime MAXS
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Trauma SHOWB

Thursday, October 26

Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) The Passion of Darkly Noon MOMAX
Hugo Weaving (Elrond) The Matrix HBOPL
Bruce Spense (Mouth of Sauron) Sweet Talker STARZ5
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Mississippi Burning WGNSAT & Progeny MAX
Sean Astin (Sam) Bulworth MAX
Sean Bean (Boromir) Airborne TMN

Friday, October 27

Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Color of Night TMN

Saturday, October 28

Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) Floundering COMEDY
Ian Holm (Bilbo) The Madness of King George XUPN2 & Hamlet WRGT
Miranda Otto (Eowyn) The Last Days of Chez Nous BRAVOP

10-20-00 Latest News

Continuing the debate on the treatment of extras.
Tehanu @ 10:41 pm EST

The debate about the treatment of extras didn't immediately die down, as these two letters to the NZ local papers demonstrate.

"Sir - What an extraordinary attack on Lord of The Rings by Anna Wilding. The gist of her comments seems to be that extras on the film would earn more if they worked in America. Now there's a novel thought. So would everyone else in New Zealand.

Where is the evidence that people are being exploited? If there are such claims, why are they not being investigated? Who are Ms. Wilding's sources? And what are her credentials? We need to remember that Lord of The Rings is the single biggest film project undertaken in the world. It's a fantastic coup for Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, and a coup for New Zealand and our country's hi-tech and creative capability. It's put New Zealand on the international film-making map and provides a fantastic opportunity to keep growing a terrific industry. So, don't knock it!

Jane Wrightson
Chief Executive
Screen Producers and Directors

The Press published a letter from the person who started this topic off:

Letter to the Editor-published: ChCh Press 18 October 2000

"Dear Sir,-I am overwhelmingly supportive of the Lord of the Rings shooting here,of Peter Jackson,and of American productions shooting here. I and my family have contributed much to New Zealand through the years. Like many, I have championed New Zealand causes and issues.IN my work around the world, I have championed New Zealand as an ideal place to shoot. I have filmed in temperatures form sub-zero on the Isle of Man to boiling point in Africa. It is part of the job. Were horses or animals injured? No. Did people stay in tents? No.I have had a relationship with New Line for more than four years. I like this company tremendously. My return here has been, figuratively speaking,like walking on to a landmine. I have heard from various poeple around the country about the treatment they ahve received on this film. These were all issues that could have been resolved with the right employment guidelines,and the right informed and experienced communication betweeen Americans and New Zealanders.

I'm not sure both sides of the debate started out explaining themselves clearly, and now there's too much mud being flung round to discern anything except an atmosphere of disagreement. So far there's a deafening silence from people subject to abuse in the industry. Too scared to talk? Or merely satisfied now that they've blown off some steam? We're not going to know until somebody in an unbiased position does start a factual enquiry. The trouble at the moment is that most of the comments have come from people with a stake either in this film in particular, or the NZ film industry in general.

Interestingly enough, OnFilm reported that the stuntmen were forming a Guild to represent them and lay down some guidelines for their work; the technical crew workers have apparently done the same. So there people within the industry are recognising a need to have clearly set out rights and obligations.

This sort of approach probably won't affect film extras though: it's one of the least-skilled jobs you can imagine, and it's not a regular livelihood for hardly anyone. So film companies can offer whatever rate of pay the law of supply and demand will sustain. Now, I've done extra work, and sure enough it was at better rates and shorter hours than LOTR offers. The job involved being one of a crowd waiting at an airport. It was every bit as boring as real life and the only reason we were being offered good money to do it is that nobody would have shown up otherwise. One is basically a spacefiller; a prop that can move under its own power.

Whereas the kind of extra work where one is required to dress up, run, scream and fight....well true, it's dangerous. It's also so inherently fun that it's no mystery that people want to do it. Children know this instinctively and do it all the time until after years of threats and persuasion their parents manage to get them to stop. To be actively encouraged to do all that hooliganish screaming around again, only for a serious purpose, is just a gift to a lot of adults, and to be paid for it as well is a bonus. Still, it seems that people did not always know what they were letting themselves in for.

10-18-00 Latest News

Media Watch: Filmfax, SFX, Cinescape and The Net!
Xoanon @ 12:06 pm EST

Well, some of these I've already reported on, however since my Scanner has suddenly decided to work again, I'll delight you all with glorious eye candy!!

First we have an amusing pic of Liv Tyler (Arwen) from 'The Net' Magazine, with a link to the article, Liv was also on the cover of 'The Net' in that issue. Next is a small blurb from the latest 'Cinescape Magazine'. After that is the SFX Rings Rumor Round Up, from my favorite boys in the UK, and lastly is the FilmFax Magazine Cover with Christopher Lee, with a link to read a bit about the article. Enjoy!

10-16-00 Latest News

Extras and Horses: What makes for fair treatment?
Tehanu @ 8:01 pm EST

The debate about the treatment of extras and horses in "The Lord of the Rings" has continued since NZ's "The Press" quoted Hollywood-based NZ actor and producer Anna Wilding. I rather lambasted her for her comments on how New Line were treating extras unfairly. I should have paused to reflect that the news media injects as much contention into a topic as possible. What came across in the Press article as arrogance on Ms. Wilding's part were not necessarily a truthful reflection of her tone and intentions. Certainly her friends and family have sprung to her defence and I'm apologetic about my attack on her. They say she's been very supportive of the LOTR project live on air.

It was rather hard to know how to take her comments that reported that extras were being underpaid and treated like slaves etc. Her comments came hard on the heels of a comment by a stuntman/techie in the Xena/Hercules scene that the Hollywood types call the NZers "Mexicans with cellphones," which seems to insult both groups. Is it the recklessness they're talking about? The lack of sophistication? Or are they alluding to the fact that they can employ people here at sweatshop prices? Certainly the recent "Listener" article on the finanical basis for filming LOTR in NZ addresses some of those concerns, and suggests what we might have to do about it. We'll be posting the whole article next week.

A number of emails have come in to me about the whole topic. Some were from people in the film industry elsewhere in the States: "We get that so much with crews that come to North Carolina that I've taken to wearing a button on set that says, "We don't care how they do it in Los Angeles." Fortunately, by the time the crews leave, they (usually) see that us hicks know a little more than they thought we did :-)"

Being involved in Tolkien fandom I'm aware of how much people want to be involved in these films; here's another comment from the same correspondent that sums up the common theme:

"If I could afford it, I would be on a plane and haunting the film sites, begging to be an extra for free. (And I work in the film business, so I have no starry eyed notions about their being any glamour in being an extra. I know it's hard, thankless work. But just to say I was part of LOTR would make it worth it.)"

And certainly, the extras here are being paid less than standard rates. But few if any of them expect to make their living from extra work and their finances hardly depend on a healthy job scene for film extas. Horsemaster Steve Old's comment that people would pay to have that experience rings true; NZ is full of people who actually spend money getting cold, tired, bruised and exhausted doing their favourite sports and activities. I'm one of them, so I know how little discomfort count when a person is doing something they really enjoy. For most of the LOTR extras, that's the experience they'll have.
However Anna Wilding's supporters point out two issues which are harder to deal with. Firstly, (and this is a persistent rumour I've had from sources close to the film industry) there are cases where Kiwis are being paid $100 when the person from overseas doing the same job is paid $2000, and these are people whose livelihoods are in the industry. Well, I can see that with our dollar being worth 39c in the US at the moment, it would be difficult to persuade anyone to come here and work unless that was the case; an NZ wagepacket is close to useless to somebody whose life is based elsewhere, so I can see where the argument comes in for both sides. But it must seem incredibly unfair at times for the local workers.

The other issue is the horses. Much though we humans may enjoy a week of adventure and risk on a film set, the horses don't get to choose, nor do they understand the big picture. It's not that horses don't take risks, but they base their choices about what constitutes a worthwhile adventure (like bolting or escaping or fighting other horses) on completely different criteria. People have reported injuries and horses getting frightened. It's almost inevitable with so many horses in one place. I've known horses to freak out uncontrollably at their first Pony Club meet with all the excitement, so it's dishonest to pretend that a cavalry charge for horses wearing unfamiliar medieval gear can be made perfectly safe. How could it be? The riders might have accepted that injuries were a possible or probable risk, but the horses couldn't be consulted! I'm not sure it's crueller or riskier than polo or racing or steeplechasing or hunting.

My apologies to people whose feelings were hurt by my remarks. I doubt that this debate is going to reach much agreement between the extras who are having the time of their lives and the less lucky ones who aren't. Eventually even they'll probably dine out on their "I was an extra at Edoras" stories for the rest of their lives. But for the horses, who know how much horses remember about anything?

10-15-00 Latest News

Cast Watch: October 15-21
Xoanon @ 8:53 pm EST

Sunday, October 15

Liv Tyler (Arwen) Armageddon ENCORE & Heavy SUNDAE
Sean Bean (Boromir) Ronin TMC
Hugo Weaving (Elrond) The Interview STARZ5
Elijah Wood (Frodo) Deep Impact TMC & Internal Affairs WTBSLOC
Ian McKellen (Gandalf) Gods and Monsters TMC2 & I'll Do Anything HBO
John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) The Living Daylights TBS & King Solomon's Mines WGNSAT & Canvas TMN
Sean Astin (Sam) Harrison Bergeron K13VC & Encino Man WPHL

Steve Coogan (Unknown) The Indian in the Cupboard MAX

Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Bride of Chucky STARZ & Urban Legend TMC & Body Parts THMAX & Mississippi Burning KNXV

Monday, October 16

Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) The Thin Red Line ACMAX & The Young Americans ENCACT
Miranda Otto (Eowyn) The Jack Bull ACMAX & The Thin Red Line ACMAX
Elijah Wood (Frodo) The Faculty SHOWX
Orlando Bloom (Legolas) Wilde SUNDAE
Christopher Lee (Saruman) The Last Unicorn STARZ & Killer Force KSAZ & The Skull SCIFI

Tuesday, October 17

Ian Holm (Bilbo) A Life Less Ordinary KVEW
Hugo Weaving (Elrond) Bedrooms & Hallways HBOC
Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) Pushing Tin MAX & Elizabeth TMC
Sean Astin (Sam) Memphis Belle TNTI
Bernard Hill (Theoden) The Loss of Sexual Innocence HBOPL True Crime Max
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Progeny Max

Wednesday, October 18

Bernard Hill (Theoden) The Bounty HBO
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Hidden Agenda TMC & Body Parts Max

Thursday, October 19

Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) G.I. Jane WLII & The Passion of Darkly Noon SHOWDT
Ian Holm (Bilbo) Hamlet KFTY
Bernard Hill (Theoden) William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream HBOSIG
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Jungle Fever DTVFX

Friday, October 20

Mark Ferguson (Gil Galad) Every Woman's Dream LIFE
John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) Perry Mason: The Case of the Murdered Madam KTBU
Christopher Lee (Saruman) Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow TMC
Bernard Hill (Theoden) Mountains of the Moon STARZ5
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Progeny Max
Sean Bean (Boromir) Airborne TMN

Saturday, October 21

Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) Pushing Tin Max
Sean Bean (Boromir) Bulworth Max & Kimberly Max
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Body Parts Max & Bride of Chucky TMN

The Listener: Simply the best LOTR reporting I've seen.
Tehanu @ 4:06 pm EST

The NZ magazine 'The Listener' has come up with one of the best articles on the LOTR-films that I've seen anywhere. It's written by Gordon Campbell, a journalist who's been reporting on NZ culture and media for a long time; he's based in Wellington where the films are being made, and I tend to trust that he has sources that are reliable. There is not one piece of fluff in the six pages of the article, which is lavishly illustrated, and it includes a perceptive synopsis of the plot which makes no pretense that this is a cutesy little children's story. Campbell even quotes author Ursula K. Le Guins's analysis of good and evil in LOTR:

"...Tolkien's world is more morally complex than, say, C S Lewis's Narnia. While Narnia has good people and bad people - and how Lewis exults in the fall of the wicked - Tolkien consistently offers his characters....a chance of repentance. Even the zombie-like Black Riders are not evil men, Le Guin argues, 'but embodiments of evil IN men.....Similarly the men who do wrong are not complete figures but compliments: Saruman is Gandalf's dark self, Boromir is Aragorn's and Wormtongue is, quite literally, the weakness of King Theoden. As for Gollum, compassion is the only possible response. "Gollum is Frodo's shadow and it is the shadow, not the hero, who completes the quest."'

Among the wealth of information in this article are a few things I genuinely haven't seen before. I'd heard a report of Sauron appearing in a spiked helmet; this article reports '...the film Sauron wears armour decorated with a poison ivy motif and a helm shaped like a horse's skull.' (Note we don't know if this is Sauron in the time where LOTR takes place, or Sauron back in earlier history. Also of interest: In the film, when the wounded Frodo flees from the Black Riders, it is Arwen - not the elflord Glorfindel, who saves the day. Thanks to ... Sir Ian McKellen, we can rest assured that Arwen neither joins the Fellowship nor fights in major battles."

The article talks about how Jackson won the right to direct this movie, and further discusses whether Jackson can tell this story. "Moving a narrative fluidly from point A to point B has never been his strong point (But it IS Tolkien's, so I tend to think that cancels out - Tehanu) and this narrative is trickier than most. Once the fellowship shatters on Amon Hen...this creates three storylines that go ahead in parallel. A challenge. Coppola's 'Godfather II' managed to cross-cut successfully between time and place, but few other films have done it well"

".....Jackson is also no George Cukor. He prefers self-sufficiency in actors, especially women. Liv Tyler...was initially left all at sea as Arwen, but has since found her feet. Sean Bean as Boromir and Ian Holm (in a cameo as Bilbo) are said to dominate film one, while Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn seems to be accurately pacing his character's evolution from wary nomad to monarch.

A gifted method actor, Mortensen is said to have travelled to the Waikato set in the horse float, with his horse. He also shunned motel comfort and chose to stay in rundown huts nearby, without electricity. The man IS Aragorn.'

Out of this huge article I've extracted the tid-bits most likely to interest LOTR fans worldwide, but the main thrust of the piece is an examination of the tax laws that have made filming LOTR in NZ a viable proposition. The old laws were extended in order to allow LOTR to go ahead, and this meant that a lot of the financial risk could be spread - to the New Zealand taxpayer.

"I cannot tell you the importance placed inside each of these (major studios) on having some of their downside risk covered off," says Richard Reiner, an LA intermediary that brokered the Rings deal. He claims that the "existence of risk minimisation is prime incentive for entering a particular territory."

Last year's outgoing government hated the idea of tax incentives for film companies (or anyone else for that matter) but weren't prepared to court the unpopularity of stopping the project. "...the previous National Government allowed an exception for LOTR, even though tax incentives were abhorrent to its free market ideologues (Said Finance Minister Michael Cullen:) 'Yes indeed, the initial inclination from [then Finance Minister Bill] Birch was to cut them in half. But no one wanted to look as if they were taking on the hobbits in the lead-up to the election. No one wants to kill a winner. Hobbits six, National zero, would have been the outcome.

Because the tax laws have been changed, NZ probably won't support such interest from film companies again, becoming merely a source of cheap labour and nice landscapes. On the one side, Treasury argues that LOTR and Hollywood's creative accounting have left NZ taxpayers carrying an NZ$225million risk if it fails. "According to Inland Revenue papers obtained under the Official Information Act, successive governments have known since 1996 that film deals were rading our tax base to the tune of $50 million a year."

However, on the other side, the argument goes that the benefits to our economy and our skills base outweigh this, and the current government's desire to have a 'knowledge economy' should be supported by encouraging activities such as film-making which develp this.

Rings riders deny ill-treatment
Xoanon @ 1:50 pm EST

From: Stuff

A steel mist scuds in over the hills, and then parts to reveal dozens of riders and a standard-bearer.
They are Gondorians. Wearing armour and helmets, they await the call to ride through the snow tussock and back into the mist.

The Lord of the Rings has come to Twizel, with up to 600 people on this back-country set.

This is a film city: caravans, make-up buses, cameras, a fleet of four-wheel-drive vehicles and, below, a horse camp. [More]

10-08-00 Latest News

Weekly Cast Watch: Oct 8-14
Xoanon @ 2:47 pm EST

Sunday, October 8

Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) The Prophecy WPTZ & The Young Americans ENCACT & Boiling Point TNT
Elijah Wood (Frodo) Internal Affairs KJTV
John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) The Nativity FMC
Bruce Spence (Mouth of Sauron) Sweet Talker STARZ5
Sean Astin (Sam) Bulworth MOMAX
Christopher Lee (Saruman) The Man With the Golden Gun TBS & Taste the Blood of Dracula SCIFI & Scream and Scream Again
Bernard Hill (Theoden) The Mill on the Floss WVAN & Mountains of the Moon STARZ5
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Progeny Cinemax
Liv Tyler (Arwen) Plunkette and Macleane TMN

Monday, October 9

Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) The Passion of Darkly Noon MOMAX
Liv Tyler (Arwen) Cookie's Fortune HBOSIG
Ian Holm (Bilbo) Alice Through the Looking Glass HBOF
Sean Bean (Boromir) Stormy Monday KXTX
Miranda Otto (Eowyn) The Jack Bull ACMAX
Elijah Wood (Frodo) The Good Son WNYW
Cate Blahcett (Galadriel) Elizabeth TMC2 & Oscar and Lucinda FMC
Ian McKellen (Galadriel) I'll Do Anything HBOSIG
Christopher Lee (Saruman) The Longest Day AMC & The Truth About Women KUSK

Steve Coogan (Unkown) Alice Through the Looking Glass HBOF

Tuesday, October 10

Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Trauma SHOWB & Bride of Chucky TMN
Liv Tyler (Arwen) Plunkette and Macleane TMN

Wednesday, October 11

Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) Witness TNT
Ian Holm (Bilbo) A Life Less Ordinary KDKF
Sean Bean (Boromir) Airborne HBOZ
Ian McKellen (Gandalf) Apt Pupil TMC2
Bruce Spence (Mouth of Sauron) Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome WLNY 55
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Progeny Cinemax

Thursday, October 12

Liv Tyler (Arwen) That Thing You Do! VH1
Ian McKellen (Galdnalf) Alfred the Great TNTI
Sean Astin (Sam) Toy Soldiers HBOZ
Christopher Lee (Saruman) Private's Progress TMC2
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Hidden Agenda TMC & Body Parts Cinemax
Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) Pushing Tin Cinemax

Friday, October 13

Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) Pushing Tin MAXS
Ian McKellen (Gandalf) Jack & Sarah RCN
John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) Perry Mason: The Case of the Murdered Madam KTBU
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Urban Legend TMC2 & Bride of Chucky TMN
Sean Astin (Sam) Bulworth Cinemax
Bernard Hill (Theoden) True Crime Cinemax

Saturday, October 14

Christopher Lee (Saruman) The Oblong Box AMC
Brad Dourif (Wormtongue) Progeny Cinemax

No baccy ban for lord of the smoke rings
Xoanon @ 1:31 pm EST

From: Stuff

No baccy ban for lord of the smoke rings

Hobbits and wizards will not succumb to political correctness in The Lord Of The Rings films - they'll be smoking up a storm.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation is concerned, with executive director Jenny Shieff fearing the impact on viewers, especially children.

The films should be released from late 2001.

British actor Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf, said in a radio interview yesterday that the characters in the trilogy would smoke pipes.

Having the characters puffing away showed director Peter Jackson was remaining faithful to what was written by the trilogy's author J R R Tolkien, Sir Ian said.

"I was wondering whether because of political correctness, people's worries of the dangers of smoking, that in a film a lot of children are likely to see we'd be asked to cut down the smoking or not have it.

"Although it is pipe smoking, which if you don't inhale is safer than cigarettes. However, the hobbits, played as quite young people in our film, are all smoking away on their pipes . . ."

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