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February 08, 2002 - February 14, 2002

2-14-02 Latest News

Anyone Can Quote Stats, 9 Out Of 10 People Know That
Strider @ 2:54 pm EST

From Trae:

Read the "Lord, Almighty" NYpost.com article. Very interesting. I'm a stats guy, so here are a few more points that bode well for LOTR: FOTR's chances of winning best picture.

1. The movie receiving the most nominations has won best picture for the past 9 years.
2. In the past 20 years (I was too lazy to go back farther), the movie receiving the most nominations won best picture 90% of the time.
[Caveat: the two exceptions are 1981 and 1991...so, 2001?]
3. In the past 20 years, when only one of the movies up for best picture has double digit nominations, it wins 87.5% of the time.
4. In the past 20 years, when a movie has 3+ nominations more than its nearest competitor (it's happened 6 times), it wins 100% of the time.

Decipher Talks LOTR
Xoanon @ 10:34 am EST

by Iain Lowson

It has likely come to your attention as of late that Decipher Inc. has bagged a few of The Lord of the Rings games licenses, not to mention the fact that the company is also running the International The Lord of the Rings™ Official Movie Fan Club.

For those of you who don’t know, Decipher Inc. is known predominantly for its exceptionally popular and critically praised customizable card games (CCG) and trading card games (TCG).

Decipher is a company with a proven track record in excellent customer service, post-sales support, and tournament organization. They also have a strange tendency to ask their customers what they think and then – shock, horror – actually act on the information they receive. Very odd…

With the Fan Club up and running (and showing other licensed clubs how it should be done), the first release of The Lord of the Rings TCG selling out across the world, and the two incarnations of the roleplaying game imminent, it seemed high time we turned the spotlight on Decipher Inc. and had them answer a few pertinent questions.

First up was Karen Levy, Decipher’s public relations manager talking about The Lord of the Rings Fan Club.

Let's talk about the Fan Club. What's on offer there and, again, how can people sort themselves out with a membership?

Memberships in The Lord of the Rings Fan Club include a subscription to the bimonthly, “inside story” fan club magazine, a 10% discount at the fan club store, fan mail forwarding service, member portfolio with lithograph, and more!monthly, "inside story" fan club magazine, 10% discount at the fan club store, fan mail forwarding service, member portfolio with lithograph and more!

The cost for a one-year regular membership is $29.95 US, $38.95 Canadian, and $56.95 International: $49.95 US, $67.95 Canadian, and $103.95 International for two years; and $69.95 US, $96.95 Canadian, and $149.95 International for three years.

To join, fans can visit LOTRfanclub.com, or go to the official Lord of the Rings web site at lordoftherings.net and click on "Fan Club." Fans can also join by calling 1-800-451-6381 (inside the United States only) or 303-856-2201 (from anywhere in the world) between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. MST.

The original charter membership program offered a rather unique chance for fans to really get involved, principally by putting their names on the Fellowship… DVD. How well did that work out, and can we expect to see similar offers in the future for both new and existing members?

The charter membership program was very successful. The fans were very excited about the DVD and about the exclusive lithographs.

We have a lot in store for all fan club members including exclusive merchandise. We are committed to keeping the club new and exciting, so fans have a lot to look forward to over the next three years.

Will there be CCG and RPG support featured in the Fan Club magazine?

The magazine is dedicated to the fans and is not intended as support for Decipher’s other LOTR licenses. There is a regular feature that highlights companies with LOTR licenses, and you will see Decipher products show up in that feature from time to time. But the magazine will cover other companies’ products as well. We will also offer advertising opportunities to companies with LOTR merchandise. As Decipher is one of these companies, you may see ads from us from time to time as well. Both of these features are an important part of our commitment to make sure the fans stay well connected to the property.

The fan club of a certain other major film license has a well-deserved, self-inflicted reputation for not offering fans beyond the shores of the US a particularly equal opportunity as regards merchandise, special offers and so on. This seems to be something that Decipher Inc. has taken on board with the LotR club, isn't it? (And don't you dare just say 'Yes'!)

Yes. Just kidding – I couldn’t resist. Decipher is being very conscientious about the fact that this is an international fan club. And we are doing everything we can to make sure fans on every continent are happy with the service and benefits they receive.

Any future LotR Fan Club developments you'd like to talk about?

We have a lot in store for The Lord of the Rings Fan Club members. New Line and Peter Jackson have given us an incredible wealth of information and material to work with to make this the most innovative and member-oriented fan club yet. I don’t want to spoil our surprises, so I’ll leave it at that.

Next to step up to our virtual mic was Tom Lischke, The Lord of the Rings TCG Designer.

How long ago now was this license first mentioned in Decipher circles?

It was about three years ago. We primarily do licensed products, so everyone in the Trading Card Game Studio realized what an opportunity The Lord of the Rings was for us, and we hoped that we would get the rights to it. A number of us had played (or designed, for gosh sakes) the Iron Crown Enterprises MECCG, so we were very excited about getting an opportunity to work in Professor Tolkien’s world.

How long was the game in development after the license was snapped up?

One or two ideas were sketched on the drawing board at the beginning of this year, but we started the main work last March and April. In retrospect, this was just a bit later than we would have liked, but because we wanted to give people the best of both the book and the movies, it would have been hard to start earlier and get the proper feel for the film.

The game was in full development through the summer and into the fall. We demonstrated the bones of the game repeatedly to different groups at the various gaming conventions. With the hours that we were working, the only landmarks that I have from the summer were those trade shows. The rest is just a blur of Hobbits and Nazgûl.

Has the development team been involved in other Decipher products in the past, or were they all newbies?

All of us have worked on other properties. This was a big advantage, as we have a lot of experience in dealing with games based on other people’s worlds. There is a lot that has to be done right to bring books and movies to people in a game format. Our goal is to provide an experience that immerses players in the universe. The Lord of the Rings TCG benefits from the years we have spent designing other games.

Did the mechanics flow from player (and company) reaction to previous Decipher productsor was this always a stand-alone design?

We always felt that this one had to be stand-alone. We had to provide an experience that was like nothing players had seen before. Certainly the mechanics from our other games factored into the decisions we made, but we never sat back with a laundry list of our old mechanics and tried to figure out how to recycle them into a new game.

I would imagine New Line (and probably the Tolkien Estate) would have had their say over the development of the game. Peter Jackson and New Line have been very secretive over the look of the movie (let's face it, everyone knows the plot), and that must also have had an influence over the way the card game has developed. Have there been occasions when design and game elements have had to be delayed or scrapped due to the fact that you couldn't use an image, character, or location?

Well, New Line and the estate didn’t have any effect on the gameplay decisions that I could see. Of course, we worked to produce a product that would please them because it demonstrated our care and respect for the subject matter. I think we did that, and it made the review process go more smoothly (or so I am left to believe, as nobody ever came back to us requesting changes).

That being said, because we released a month and a half before the movie, Peter Jackson was concerned, understandably, that we not give away too much visually from the film. What that meant is that we held back a little bit on certain image groups in the Premiere set and will go into a lot more depth with them in Mines of Moria and Realms of the Elf-lords.

Having had a go myself, the game is beautifully simple, the cards well put together, and everything flows quite nicely. The rulebook is, however, hard work at times (especially to those of us who are fairly new to the whole CCG 'scene'). Is there an 'Idiots Guide' available anywhere or planned? Has Decipher ever considered having people write the rulebooks who are not the designers and therefore might be able to put the rules in a friendlier context?

We are working on a sample game that will really hold people’s hands through their first game or two. It should really help people who are new to this genre of gaming.

As for the rulebook, we are always looking for ways to improve it. Problems come when trying to keep the book tight. Different people like the rules presented to them in different ways. Do you give the object of the game first, or the basics of the core mechanic, or the setup? Hard to say, and people all learn differently. My opinion is that the best approach is to offer multiple approaches, and let people chose the one that works best for them. The Internet makes this approach much more successful than it could have been in the past.

What's your advice to new players; how should they approach the game, particularly once they've played a few games with a starter deck?

It really depends what they are in it for. If they are looking to just sit down and have a good time with friends and fellow fans, I think the game lends itself to buying some packs and slowly evolving your collections. If they are in it for the competition, there is nothing like a tournament to really stoke those fires. I learned more about playing TCGs in my first 10 or 15 tournament games than I did in months of casual play. At the same time, that level of competition isn’t for everyone. One thing that nobody should miss is trying out the multiplayer version of the game. It really is a hoot.

This is a game you are, as a player yourself, obviously well happy with.

What are your current favorite cards, combos, and so on?

My favorite card is Servant of the Secret Fire. What flexibility! Gandalf is pretty stout anyway. Between this and Mysterious Wizard, the Gandalf deck has eight powerful combat cards. Add Glamdring, and you have great combat abilities and the flexibility to kill some twilight pool.

On the Shadow side, Host of Thousands is another card that yields flexibility. Late in the game, a player can pick and choose between a number of different options.

The Star Wars and Star Trek CCGs have been accused of having become rather unwieldy since their initial releases, as expansion after expansion adds layers of difficulty and complexity to the games. Is this something that will be consciously avoided with the LotR TCG, or is it an inevitable aspect of a developing product line?

Well, we have gone out of our way to do a lot of things differently with The Lord of the Rings TCG. It is true that it is hard to both keep long-time players interested with new gameplay while also keeping the game accessible to new players, but there are plans in place that I am very excited about. Time will tell, but I am very optimistic, as we have heard the concerns that you are talking about, and are taking this into account.

Having asked that last question, what are the release plans for the CCG over the next six months to a year?

In March, we’ll see Mines of Moria, and Realms of the Elf-lords will follow in July. The league kits will release in January. This will be a chance for players to gain a real sense of community. Finally, we’ll be releasing The Two Towers in November 2002.

Looking specifically at the next release, 'The Mines of Moria', what will that bring to the game exactly? Which bits are you most excited by?

One word ¾ Balrog. Of course, the Watcher in the Water (and its various bits) will play an important role as well. There will be a focus on Dwarves, the Shire, and the Moria culture. We’ll be introducing a new keyword (tentatively labeled Twilight) for Nazgûl. They’ll help the set explore what happens when Frodo puts on the Ring.

For people unfamiliar with Decipher Inc.'s support services, what's available for players of the Lord of the Rings CCG in the UK, and how do they make contact?

Decipher’s support is really international. Players in the UK can reach us via the Web site (www.decipher.com) or by writing to Marcus Sheppard at marcus.Sheppard@decipher.com. Marcus, Decipher’s UK representative, and Joeri Hoste, our European representative, are valuable members of Decipher’s team and are available for questions and support.

There are certain little exclusives available for those who chose to get involved, either as tournament players or as local organizers, aren't there?

Decipher has great tournament prize support as well as a product champion program for players who want to herald the game in their communities. For information about tournaments, players can contact Dan Bojanowski at dan.bojanowksi@decipher.com. For information about how to become a product champion, contact Kevin Reitzel at kevin.reitzel@decipher.com.

The last word goes to Karen.

Are there particular individuals or groups in certain countries who deserve special mention for their heroic efforts?

It is hard to single out any one individual or group of individuals. So many people are responsible for the successful launches of The Lord of the Rings TCG and Fan Club and for the anticipated launch of the RPGs. We have to thank Peter Jackson and the wonderful folks at New Line as well as all of our retailers, and distributors, volunteers, and staff, and the great coverage all of the magazines and Web sites have given us. And of course we are thankful for the players who got excited about the property and took a chance on a new game. It has been a group effort, and we are very appreciative of everyone's contributions.

About Iain Lowson

Iain Lowson is a freelance writer living and working in Scotland. He's had work published in a whole bunch of UK magazines, including SFX, and the official Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Farscape magazines. Issue 45 of Games Workshop's Warhammer Monthly featured Iain's first ever published comic strip, and his second is at the lettering stage - he does the scripts not the art. He has enough trouble drawing breath, don't ask him to do pictures!

At the moment, the majority of Iain's work time is spent writing for the Official Star Wars Fact File. The majority of his spare time is spent planning what to write next for the Official Star Wars Fact File. The majority of his sleep time is spent dreaming about what he might write for the Official Star Wars Fact File. That usually involves a Gotal, two Kubaz, a tub of engine grease, and waking up screaming.

Maya Animation Frenzy 3 Report!
Xoanon @ 10:11 am EST

From: Peter

I attended the Storm FX and Alias Wavefront "Maya Animation Frenzy 3" showing of LOTR:FOTR last night (Wednesday February 13th) at Greater Union Cinema, George street, Sydney. The free night was titled 'Behind the Scenes of "Lord of the Rings"' and featured a fascinating hour-long talk by Weta Digital Lead Digital Model Supervisor Matt Aitken. Mr Aitken swapped between loops of footage showing test shots, pre-compositing layers, test animations etc, and the Maya interface where he showed in particular the highly detailed 'digital doubles' of the Fellowship.

Among the subjects examined were the 'ruined Elven castle' helicopter shot, Dwarrowdelf model and sequence, the Fellowship's digital doubles, the Cave Troll model and sequence, and finally the Balrog model and sequence. Some amazing insights into the skill of Weta technicians and artists.

This was followed by a free showing of the film. The theatre was full and Mark Sylvester, 'Ambassador' for Alias Wavefront, USA, was full of praise for the strength of the 3D community in Sydney and the quality of work from this part of the world. A great night, though after five hours in the theatre I was a little bleary eyed when I emerged at midnight after what was my third viewing of the film.

LOTR Premiere: Romania
Xoanon @ 10:07 am EST

From: Cristian Lupsa

Romania ready to hobbit!

Tolkien's masterpiece, "The Lord of the Rings" was first printed in Romania between 2000-2001 with the "Return of the King" hitting the book stands in September 2001. There wasn't much fuss about the work itself thus not many were drawn to the book. The ones who did, were probably sucked in by the Sunday Times Review that was quoted on the cover: "There are two kinds of readers: those that read Lord of the Rings and those that are about to do it".

Hobbits, dwarfs, trolls, orcs have an incredible potential to conquer Romania, as the country's mythology would provide plenty of space for them to run around. When the movie was officially released on February the 8th, I was there to see it. Tolkien had already been in my mind for a while, and such a grandiose epic is something you just can't miss.

I was a bit surprised that although advertised, the movie wasn't hyped up as much as it should have been - in relation to the book - and I was wondering if people would come and see it. The theatre was full when I arrived there 30 minutes earlier. The ticket line was impossible to tackle so for the first time I bought a ticket from some impromptu salesmen. The normal price of the ticket is 50.000 lei - still a lot of money for a movie in Romania [around 1.80 dollars]. I paid the "black market" ticket sellers 80.000 lei for one! But I had to see the movie!

Probably very few of the people at the theatre that night had read the book. I was one of them. And discovering every character and even some of the phrases in the book was a giant satisfaction. Not everyone in the room seemed thrilled as there is a part of the Romanian audience has the bad habit of commenting every scene in order to get the others laughing at their stupid jokes.

They applauded when Aragorn slit the big-ass Orc's throat and looked happy to have seen the movie everyone makes such a big fuss about. I wondered how many made comparison's with the book. I wonder how many went home to analyse some of the scenes. Probably Tolkien is yet to earn his Romanian "hobbit-lovers".

I am one. Soon, others will follow.

PGA zings 'Rings' credit
Xoanon @ 9:56 am EST

Sanders left out as arbitration picks three

The producing business is producing a few headaches this awards season.

In races for the Oscars and the Producers Guild of America awards, the issue of which producers would be listed in connection with nominated pics has been an intriguing subplot.

The PGA tapped three producers Wednesday as Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year nominees for New Line's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring." Frances Walsh, Peter Jackson and Barrie M. Osborne made the cut, while Tim Sanders, who produced Jackson's previous pic, "The Frighteners," did not.

Move came a day after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences said the names of those nommed for "Rings" are "to be determined," because its rules limit producer nominees to three per pic.

Sanders served as more of a creative producer than a line producer, exiting the project midway through its years-long journey to the screen, say those connected to "Rings." Osborne, a Hollywood veteran whose credits include "The Matrix" and a stint as production VP at Disney, was brought on later in the process to lend his expertise to the high-stakes "Rings" effort. The film's official Web site features photos and bios of Jackson, Walsh and Osborne, but nothing about Sanders.

This is the third Oscar race to be contested under the three-producer rule implemented after "Shakespeare in Love's" onstage thank-fest. It is the first time a best picture nominee has had a credit scramble, though categories such as visual effects have seen many such deliberations.

"This is a credit-driven industry, so the limit causes a lot of difficulty," said AMPAS spokesman John Pavlik. "If we allowed 15 nominees, there would be a 16th wanting to be mentioned."

The Acad said Wednesday that it was up to New Line to trim the "Rings" list to three, contradicting New Line's earlier assertion that it is an "Academy matter" that the Acad "is in the process of resolving."

If the company cannot settle on a trio by next week, then the 23-member executive committee of the Acad's producers branch would be convened, Pavlik said. The committee would arbitrate by conducting an investigation into the precise nature of each producer's contributions to the film.

The PGA and New Line refused to say whether Sanders' name had been submitted to the guild.

The new animated feature category also listed two nominated pics whose credits were TBD: "Monsters, Inc." and "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius." Unlike the best pic category, toons can list only one "key creative" person, except in pics that have two "co-equal" creatives.

Pavlik said both pics had submitted two names as co-equals, but the Acad balked.

The PGA had originally announced last month that "Rings" and four other pics -- "A Beautiful Mind," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Moulin Rouge" and "Shrek" -- were candidates for the Zanuck prize, along with 15 TV contenders, but without any producer names.

Appeals allowed

The PGA, which has been campaigning for tightened credit rules since 2000, subsequently determined which producers would be credited for each nominated pic or TV show and then allowed appeals of the decisions. Two such appeals were entered and one was granted, but the org did not disclose the identities of the appellants.

Other PGA-nominated producers announced Wednesday: Brian Grazer and Ron Howard for "A Beautiful Mind"; David Heyman for "Harry Potter"; Martin Brown, Baz Luhrmann and Fred Baron for "Moulin Rouge"; and Aron Warner, John H. Williams and Jeffrey Katzenberg for "Shrek."

In the TV series categories, the number of producers listed was far more extensive, with 31 names attached to the five shows up for the Norman Felton Award in drama series and 26 names for the five shows up for the Danny Thomas Award in comedy series. The seven nominees for "Frasier" include the late David Angell, who died Sept. 11 on one of the planes hijacked by terrorists.

However, the David L. Wolper nominations for longform TV included only a dozen producers for the five shows.

The PGA also announced that Bradley Whitford and Jane Kaczmarek will serve as hosts of the PGA Awards, to be presented March 3 at the Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

LOTR Number 3 In Oz
Xoanon @ 9:52 am EST

LOTR:FOTR has just overtaken Harry Potter in Australia and moved into 3rd place on the all-time list. The list as it stands is:

1. Titanic $57.633 million AUD
2. Crocodile Dundee $ 47.707 million AUD
3. LOTR:FOTR $41.605 million AUD
4. Harry Potter $41.329 million AUD
5. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace $38.797 million AUD

This is listed in the box office section of the Movie Marshal website www.moviemarshal.com

2-13-02 Latest News

Sir Ian McKellen On Fox 25
Strider @ 4:34 pm EST

TORn staffer Berendir was watching Fox 25, on "Good Day Live" yesterday, and desperately reached for the nearest notepad as Ian McKellen got on the phone. Here are some quotes from Sir Ian's conversation:

"I think i'll probably celebrate tonight with a group of friend and we'll lay down the ground rules, "no talking about the lord of the rings."

Was everything that you have done on stage on film, and as a public advocate, how do you put this in perspective, what odes it mean to you?

"I've been working in the United States for a long time ever since I appeared on Broadway, I just appeared on broadway with another nominee Heather Mirren, later i've been allowed to be in hollywood movies, i've always felt a huge welcome from America. It's a confirmation of what i've always knew, the brits are welcome in Hollywood, they always have been since....

"Movies are international, we're all part of the same big family, it's an honor, its a confirmation of friendship really."

VARIETY: Acad noms hobbit-forming
Xoanon @ 8:39 am EST

New Line's Tolkien tale tops 'Moulin' & 'Mind'

Everybody was talkin' Tolkien on Tuesday as New Line's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" nabbed 13 Oscar nominations, including best picture. Only two films have earned more ("All About Eve" and "Titanic," with 14 each) and six other pics have whipped up a baker's dozen.
Runners-up, with eight each, were Universal/DreamWorks' "A Beautiful Mind" and 20th Century Fox's "Moulin Rouge."

Those three films will compete in the pic race against USA Films' "Gosford Park" and Miramax's "In the Bedroom," which earned seven and five bids, respectively.

In general, voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences spread the wealth: Every studio had nominations in key categories (which is rarer than one would think).

"Bedroom" marks Miramax's 11th best film nomination in 10 years, thus beating WB's record of 10 noms in 10 years (1955-64). "Bedroom" was also nominated for adapted script, meaning 25 noms in the writing races since 1989. With "Amelie," the studio also chalks up its 20th foreign-language film nom in 14 years.

In terms of domestic distribs, Miramax has 15 bids, New Line has 14; Disney, Fox and Universal, nine each (U also shares in the nom for "Bridget Jones's Diary" with Miramax and Studio Canal); USA, Sony and Warner Bros., eight apiece; MGM/UA and Paramount, two each. DreamWorks has two solo, and shares in the eight for "Mind." Two genuine indies, Lions Gate and Newmarket, each nabbed a pair.

New Line co-chairman/co-CEO Michael Lynne said Tuesday, "Audiences have had their say all over the world, and now to have this kind of acknowledgement, across all disciplines, is a special kind of gratification."

USA Films also has a great showing. Not yet 3 years old, the company has had at least five noms each year, with a director bid each year, and two film bids.

The five film contenders rep a wide range of genres: fantasy, drama, comedy-mystery and musical. And they offer a wide range of budgets and box office results, from pricey B.O. bonanzas to small budgets and modest (so far) grossers.

Oscar noms always offer some surprises, and this year was no exception. "Rouge" got a picture nom though director Baz Luhrmann failed to make the final five; conversely, Ridley Scott was nominated as helmer of Sony/Revolution's "Black Hawk Down," though his picture wasn't cited. (In Academy history, however, there are only three years when there was a five-for-five correlation of picture and director).

Reached in Miami on Tuesday, Luhrmann was upbeat, celebrating the noms for his "Rouge" co-workers: "The most important thing about this film was to find a way to make the musical work again. That's all that matters. The audiences discovered it and now our colleagues have celebrated it."

As for his helming omission, he shrugged, "It's a little disappointing, but all those five directors have done remarkable work."

"Gosford Park" and "Amelie" did well, while Disney/Pixar's "Monsters, Inc." nabbed four noms. And there was good news for plenty of hopefuls who were far from shoo-ins, including director David Lynch, actors Renee Zellweger, Sean Penn, Ethan Hawke and Will Smith.

Drawing attention

"Monsters, Inc.," DreamWorks' "Shrek" and Paramount's "Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius" will square off in one of this year's most closely watched races: animated feature, the Acad's first new category in 20 years. Though cel animation has been the standard for more than 60 years, it's a sign of the times that AMPAS' debut of the category sees nominees that are all computer animated.

The Oscar lineup clearly favored year-end releases. Last year, several multinommed films were already on DVD and VHS by the time mentions came out ("Gladiator," "Erin Brockovich," etc.). This year, 17 films earned multiple noms, but only four of them are on vid: "Moulin Rouge," "Pearl Harbor," "Memento" and "Shrek."

Universal chairman Stacey Snider paid tribute to such colleagues as Nikki Rocco and Mark Shmuger in talking about the success of "Mind," and saluted Scott Greenstein "at our new sister company" USA Films. And she had special praise for "Mind" helmer Ron Howard. She said the film's subject matter, genre and period setting made it "scary. But Ron was the thing that I held onto as a security blanket; I knew that he would bring out its humanity and its universal elements."

"Mind" marks the second consecutive pic nod for Universal/DreamWorks (after "Gladiator"), and the fourth consecutive for DreamWorks. The company has had a pic contender in each of the four full years that it's been a distributor.

Speaking about "Rouge," Fox chairman Tom Rothman smiled, "To say we were an underdog is an understatement. Our goal all along was to get members of the Academy to see the movie and make their minds up." The eight noms indicate "the widespread affection for the movie across a lot of branches of the Academy. People appreciate it for its audacity and originality."

Miramax co-chair Harvey Weinstein said of his company's record run of film bids, "The whole streak is a credit to the Academy, because the films are so diverse, ranging from 'Il Postino' to 'The English Patient' to 'Bedroom,' which I think cost $2 million."

Familiar competish

This marks the fourth consecutive faceoff between Miramax and DreamWorks. Weinstein said he and Jeffrey Katzenberg would celebrate by having dinner together Tuesday: "We're going to make it an annual event."

Weinstein added that "Bedroom" widens to 1,000 screens from 700 on Friday and Miramax has the film "in a number of territories overseas." The film will broaden soon in such areas as England, Australia and Latin America

Similarly, USA chairman Greenstein noted that "Gosford Park" is on 800 screens and continues to widen. The company has been beating the drum for the pic for months. "We started screening it in September. We believed in the movie and let it speak for itself."

This year's derby also marks the debut of Joe Roth's Revolution Pictures.

Pic contenders "Gosford" and "Rouge" are from original screenplays; "Mind" and "Rings" are adapted from books; and "Bedroom" is based on a short story. "Rouge" is the only one of the five that failed to get a screenplay nom. But each of the quintet has at least one acting nomination.

"Rouge" and "Rings" were filmed Down Under, "Gosford" in the U.K.; "Mind" and "Bedroom" are domestic.

"Amelie" was handed five mentions, the highest for any foreign-language film this year. Miramax's "Iris" earned bids for actors Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent and Kate Winslet. Winslet plays the younger version of Iris Murdoch, Dench's character. It's deja vu for Winslet: She and Gloria Stuart similarly were nommed for playing the same character in "Titanic."

It's also interesting that Dench and Broadbent share most of their scenes, though she's nominated as lead while he's in supporting. Similarly, Jennifer Connelly is cited as supporting, though the Screen Actors Guild Awards put her in the lead race.

With $670 million globally, "Rings" is the highest-grossing pic nominee. The top-grossing films worldwide during calendar 2001 that were Oscar-eligible: "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Shrek," "Pearl Harbor," "The Mummy Returns," "Jurassic Park III," "Planet of the Apes," "Hannibal," "Lord of the Rings," "Rush Hour 2" and "Bridget Jones's Diary."

There were three bids for "Harry," two for "Shrek," four for "Pearl" and one for "Bridget." The others went home empty-handed.

Staking early lead

The film with the most noms has ended up winning the best picture prize in 18 of the last 20 years (and nine of the past 10). But, for the other four pics, there's always hope: 1992's "Silence of the Lambs" was not even runner-up in the nom count and it went on to win the top five prizes.

Last year, there was a heavy presence of Asians in many races, thanks to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." There were also Hispanics in key races, such as Benicio Del Toro and Javier Bardem.

This year, the actors' roster is overwhelmingly Caucasian, but it's the third time in Academy history that three blacks have been cited in the thesp categories. (Oscar results only reflect the state of filmmaking, particularly in Hollywood. Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, for example, reinforced their popularity in "Rush Hour 2," but nobody was predicting Oscar noms for either one.)

As previously announced, Arthur Hiller will receive the Hersholt Humanitarian Award, while Sidney Poitier and Robert Redford will receive another honorary nod.

Awards will be presented March 24, in ceremonies hosted by Whoopi Goldberg at the new Kodak Theater at the Hollywood & Highland complex. Event, produced by Laura Ziskin, will air live on ABC.

Nominations were announced Tuesday at 5:38 a.m. PT at Academy headquarters in BevHills by Acad president Frank Pierson and last year's supporting actress winner Marcia Gay Harden.

This year, 248 films were eligible. Films must have had a commercial run of at least seven consecutive days beginning during calendar year 2001 in L.A. County. Other categories, including docu, foreign-language, animated feature and short film, have different eligibility rules.

This year, the Acad has 5,739 voting members in 15 branches; the largest single branch is actor, 1,315; the smallest is documentarians, 110. Final ballots will be mailed Feb. 27, with polls closing March 19.

Top to bottom:
'Lord of the Rings,' 13
"A Beautiful Mind" 8
"Moulin Rouge" 8
"Gosford Park" 7
"Amelie" 5
"In the Bedroom" 5
"Black Hawk Down" 4
"Monsters, Inc." 4
"Pearl Harbor" 4
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" 3
"Iris" 3
"A.I.: Artificial Intelligence" 2
"Ali" 2
"Memento" 2
"Monster's Ball" 2
"Shrek" 2
"Training Day" 2

VARIETY: 'Rings' producers vie for credits
Xoanon @ 8:33 am EST

'Nominees to be determined' until arbitration

Sharing a podium does not come naturally in Hollywood, as the producers of New Line's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" are discovering.

The company submitted four producer names to the Acad for "Lord": Peter Jackson, Frances Walsh, Barrie M. Osborne and Tim Sanders. Due to recently tightened AMPAS rules, however, only three can be listed with the film's best picture nomination, one of 13 the pic copped Tuesday.

In the top category, the film now carries this curious attachment: "Nominees to be determined."

Now, the Acad's producers' branch will arbitrate and select three names to be formally listed as nominees. Only those three will be permitted onstage to accept the statuette, should "Lord" take home the top prize.

Even three producers could be a crowd for the long-in-development "Lord." When it won best motion picture at last month's inaugural AFI Awards, Osborne took up all of the film's allotted TV time with his thank-yous, meaning New Line topper Bob Shaye got cut off just as he opened his mouth to speak.

On Tuesday, New Line offered only this official statement: "This is an Academy matter which they are in the process of resolving."

The producer's branch of the Academy is expected to deliver a verdict by the end of the month. An org rep -- one of the few still awake after the pre-noms all nighter -- was unable to shed more light on the nature of the arbitration process.

Company sources indicated that New Line didn't want to jinx the film before the nominations were announced by trimming the producer list to three.

The new feature animation category had similar issues with name recognition. In that race, only two producers can be mentioned and appear onstage. DreamWorks opted for only one --Aron Warner. Disney and Paramount, perhaps still puzzling over the politics, struggled in "Rings"-like fashion to determine the final duo, meaning their noms also bore the caveat "nominee to be determined."

Miramax's 1999 best picture win for "Shakespeare in Love" -- after which everyone but the Bard himself jumped onstage to give thanks --prompted a rule restricting the number of recognized producers.

Efforts by AMPAS to tighten producer credit rules have made in conjunction with similar moves by the Producers Guild of America during the past two years. The PGA launched a campaign in 2000 to limit producer credits to three per film or TV show.

"We're very heartened by the Academy's decision and we're very supportive of trying to bring a semblance of order and legitimacy to the credits issue," said PGA exec director Van Van Petten.

Several recent pics have raised eyebrows, even in credit-happy Hollywood, with their abundance of producer credits. Universal Focus' "Caveman's Valentine" lists 17 producers of varying types and six full producers. "Rings" has a total of 12, including a raft of name exec producers such as Bob and Harvey Weinstein.

The PGA is due to announce today the names of producers for nominated PGA features and TV shows, following a three-month internal accreditation process.

Producers excluded from the PGA's list will be allowed to file appeals within 48 hours of the announcement.

2-12-02 Latest News

Fraud Of The Rings
Xoanon @ 9:23 pm EST

From: EJ

Thought you might like to see this amusing illustration printed in the Evening Herald, a popular Irish Newspaper here in Dublin! Lord of the Flings.... quite apt given the scandal with John Rusnak and the AIB (Allied Irish Bank) fraud!! Ahhhh... the corrupting power of the One Ring is indeed spreading! Love that Fraudo Bags!

TTT: Lee Talks McKellen, TTT 'Pick Ups'
Xoanon @ 9:16 pm EST

Pallando sends us this bit of information from UK's Channel 4 website, Christopher Lee has been talking Star Wars: Ep 2 and TTT:

"I've just finished Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones," says the actor, who plays Darth Tyranus . "I can't tell you much, just that I play a disillusioned former Jedi.

"That's out in May and I'm about to go back to New Zealand to do extra work on The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers."

Recalling his first scenes on the Tolkein blockbuster trilogy, Lee says: "They were with Ian McKellen (Gandalf). He is one of our greatest actors. I've never worked with him before," he says.

"The first take is always hard but I've never worked with a more encouraging, helpful and agreeable actor.

"He was absolutely wonderful, even if he does fancy Ewan McGregor! He was a tremendous help to me."

LOTR makes an impact in Russia
Tehanu @ 3:48 pm EST

Saaska wrote in with this translation of an article in the Russian press - many thanks for all the hard work involved, Saaska!

You can read the original online at Gazeta.ru


By Ostap Karmodi

Moscow cinemas are conquered by the ancient Middle-Earth. Delayed twice, The Lord of the Rings makes it to the screens at last.

We’ve been missing epics. Last ten years’ movies were mostly personal and small scale. Everyone was interested with the problems of the ‘little man’: little boy, little maidservant, little killer. Little piglet, for that matter. Even what could be called an epic actually was not: Gladiator and Pearl Harbor and all that were merely studies of how history strides on the backs of little people. Movies of the scale and ambition of Star Wars have become things of the past. Even the prequel of that epic has turned out to be not a saga of the Rebel struggle against the Evil Empire but a personal history of a little boy. When the smoke of the fallen Berlin Wall settled, it had seemed for a while that the History has ended — only the small purely personal histories were left.

September 11th has put that all back in place. The History stood up in full wild beauty from the ashes of fallen skyscrapers. World has once again been divided into Us and Them. Evil Empires like USSR or the Third Reich have been hard to find, but the Evil Axis has partly taken their place. People have regained the sixth sense — the sense of a fellowship, and the seventh one — a sense of fear of an unknown danger ready literally to fall down form the sky. With these feelings came a social demand for some grand work about the struggle between Good and Evil.

That’s were Peter Jackson with his
The Lord of the Rings came in handy.

Jackson has of course started to think about transferring Tolkien to screen a good deal earlier than the first Boeing jet hit the Twin Towers. At that point the shooting has already been finished and editing was in progress. The director has perhaps sensed something in the air, got a glimpse of ‘political winds’ changing. Now it is only at the first look strange how not Spielberg or Lucas but a marginal from new Zealand was trusted with the Lord of the Rings. It is really very appropriate.

Peter Jackson has shot no big mainstream movie in his life. His first one was Bad Taste a picture about how two competing galactic fast food nets send their emissaries to Earth. And not to open outlets, but to refill their stock of human meat. his next movie was a wicked parody at Muppet Show, where little frogs and pigs sniff coke and have chaotic sex after shows. A few horrors for every taste followed, then a parody at documentary which fooled half of Australia.

And then Jackson has in some incomprehensible
way acquired the rights for the adaptation
of Tolkien’s trilogy and set about finding money.

The Lord of the Rings has reached such a kind of status that no one except a downright marginal would think about transferring it on screen. Everyone has become used to the thought that a movie based on this book won’t be possible to shoot until 2050 or better say 3075. At the moment we don’t have the funds, or technology, or whatever other excuse that came to mind. The movie was likely to be worse than the book and thus cause a wave of criticism (the cartoon adaptation of 1978 was a disaster). Lucases, Spielbergs and the like had no desire to risk the reputation. Others apparently thought ‘Well, if such giants don’t take it what hope do we have?’

That was how it came to be that the rights were laying about and Jackson, with no fear of god or devil, had but to take them up.

And to everyone’s benefit, not counting Lucas or Spielberg, of course. These guys got themselves a real competitor. With the first part of the epic out Jackson has instantly gained a star status. Perhaps the New Zealander’s good knowledge of the forces of evil is to thank for it — orcs and goblins were very convincing. The bad guys are shot with care and love — one can see that much painstaking work has went into their costumes and choreography. One of them is even reminiscent of Jackson’s fellow islanders, Maori, in battle coloring. And when, accompanied by the dull sound of hoofs, the Black Riders step into the picture, it’s seems quite like they are the main characters here. On the other hand, perhaps the decision to employ British actors has contributed — they can, as New York Times put it, pronounce the word ‘evil’ as if it had at least three syllables.

Perhaps the reason for the success is that the New Zealander does not completely belong to either American or European cinematic traditions and shoots every scene as required by the developing story and not as ‘it is done’. Also, beside telling the bare plot as the creators of Harry Potter did, Jackson has attempted to convey the very spirit of trilogy, sacrificing entire characters and plot lines (he had to: the movie is three hours as it stands).

But the crucial thing that the book had,
the involvement of the reader (and now the watcher)
in the Main Battle of good and Evil, has remained.

The only thing that one cut put up criticism for is a somewhat sketchy Frodo with a rather empty stare of sky-blue eyes possessing no psychological depth. Of course, Legolas and Gandalf, fat bumpkin of a Sam, and especially the brutal unkempt Boromir look more convincing. But even that criticism is easily overcome. Many won’t agree, but Frodo is not too convincing in the book as well. It is not required of him, for he is not a sovereign character but a conductor of that very same History. That hobbit legs are not hairy enough is not so easy to argue with. Well they aren’t, and it’s only left to put up with. Of course, the book is significantly stronger and deeper. But to transfer it on the screen better than Jackson did is apparently impossible. That said, those who have not read the book will like it, too. It has the everything that is required of a fantasy movie: dungeons, long and bloody sword fights, magic staffs…

The horde of critics prepared to take the ‘sacrilegious’ motion picture to pieces fell silent in astonishment and then exploded with an unrestrained hosanna. From now on the tolkienists will have to put up with The Lord of the Rings being associated not with one name as it was before, but with two: Tolkien and Jackson. Or even Jackson and Tolkien. Perhaps that is unfair. But it is still better than it would be had the movie not been shot. Or if it had been shot by someone other. Especially here and now.

Starting February 7th in Aurora, Almaz, America Cinema, Warshawa, Karo 1 and 2, Kodak Kinomir, Orbita, Pervomaisky, Pobeda, Pyat Zvezd, Pushkinsky, Rolan, Ekran, Electron, and the theater of CHL.

13 Oscar Nominations: FOTR's Competition
Strider @ 9:08 am EST

So you know what categories Fellowship of the Ring was nominated in, but who and what is Peter Jackson up against? Check out this comprehensive list of the categories Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and who it comes head to head with.

Actor In A Supporting Role
Jim Broadbent
Ethan Hawke
Ben Kingsley
Ian McKellen
Jon Voight

Art Direction
Gosford Park
Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Moulin Rouge

Black Hawk Down
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
The Man Who Wasn't There
Moulin Rouge

Costume Design
The Affair of The Necklace
Gosford Park
Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

A Beautiful Mind
Black Hawk Down
Gosford Park
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Mulholland Drive

Film Editing
A Beautiful Mind
Black Hawk Down
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Moulin Rouge

A Beautiful Mind
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Moulin Rouge

Music (Score)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
A Beautiful Mind
Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Monsters, Inc.

Music (Song)
Kate & Leopold
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Monsters, Inc.
Pearl Harbour
Vanilla Sky

Best Picture
A Beautiful Mind
Gosford Park
In The Bedroom
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Moulin Rouge

Black Hawk Down
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Moulin Rouge
Pearl Harbour

Visual Effects
A.I. Artifical Intelligence
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Pearl Harbour

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
A Beautiful Mind
Ghost World
In The Bedroom
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

For more information, visit the official website for the Academy Awards, http://www.Oscars.com

2-11-02 Latest News

A report on John Howe and Ted Nasmith
Tehanu @ 6:39 pm EST

This great report came in from Robert Marks, a fantasy author:

"I just returned from the Ad Astra convention in Toronto this weekend, where the artist guests of honor were John Howe and Ted Nasmith. I had the pleasure of spending a fair amount of time with them both.

I suppose I should start with John Howe. John is a very gentle, soft-spoken man. He's a bit on the thin side, with dark hair and a beard with a touch of grey in it. During his Guest of Honor hour, he talked a bit about the role he and Alan Lee played in the production design of the movies, including the interest he took in the swords. One of the more interesting tidbits he dropped was that the model for Barad-dur (Sauron's Tower), was ten meters high. No wonder it looks great and awe inspiring.

Ted Nasmith was also a very kind and interesting man. He has an average build, with dark hair and a goatee. He began with architectural rendering, and branched out into freelancing. For this convention, he brought a slide show that included some previous art, and some of the artwork that convinced Christopher Tolkien to allow an illustrated version of the Silmarillion in the first place.

After some interesting panels, I ended up doing my own signing at a table with John Howe, and Ted Nasmith was nearby. Ted signs very much like an author...on my copy of the Silmarillion, he wrote "To Rob: With Warm Regards". John, on the other hand, actually sketches something on whatever he is signing, and then signs his name to it. As he puts it, he believes that an illustrator should give a fan more than just a signature. Regardless, the end result was that it took him about three or four minutes to sign anything, and that what he signed ended up becoming a John Howe original.

Sunday ended in a very good way for me: Ted Nasmith and I went to the restaurant pub to grab some food and drinks, and John Howe joined us. The conversation was long and varied, with Ted talking about how he managed to get the commission for the Silmarillion, and all of us sharing our opinions on the movie. At this point, I discovered one thing that John Howe was not soft-spoken about: Medieval recreationism. A very enthusiastic conversation developed regarding replica swords, authentic swords, and various other issues. For me, it was a high point for the entire convention.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. John had to go and pack (he lives in Switzerland, and he was heading to the airport earlier that evening), Ted had to get going as well, and my lift to Kingston was waiting for me. My only regret is that I didn't come out of it with a John Howe original; I had left my hardcover copy of Lord of the Rings at home because it was too heavy with everything else I was carrying.

For those who are interested, the Artist Guest of Honor for next year's Ad Astra will be Alan Lee, and Ted said that he was going to try to make it."

The Ad Astra Website is AdAstra.org

How Elijah Wood learnt Elvish
Xoanon @ 2:01 pm EST

nina_glyndwr writes: This article is from Linguist, the magazine of the Institute of Linguists in London, UK

Inside the raggedy plastic bag on the table is one of the most closely guarded secrets in Hollywood: the script for all three Lord of the Rings movies. Dialogue coach Andre Jack shouldn’t have brought it along, but he wants to show me how he taught Elvish to some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. I’m honoured. Once upon a time even the identity of the actors was shrouded in secrecy, and amongst the million-or-so Lord of the Rings fans around the world, there are those who would fight Sauron to get their paws on the original script.

Scribbled in the margin are notes on pronunciation, additional speeches in Elvish, and details of linguistic mistakes for every take. Jack uprooted to New Zealand for the shoot, dedicating 18 months to the trilogy, instead of a usual four weeks per film, and for the actors the language training required an extra six weeks’ work. Jack and assistant coach Róis'n Carty sat with the actors in make up every day, talking them through a series of facial exercises and sounds designed to prepare their muscles for the invented language dialogues. Picture the dressing-room scene: John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) booming orders in Dwarvish, Elijah Wood (Frodo) muttering strange Elvish sounds and the pixie features of Liv Tyler (Arwen) contorted in a facial work-out.

Released in December, The Fellowship of the Ring tells the first third of Frodo Baggins’s epic journey through Middle Earth to protect the one ring of power from the darklord (sic) Sauron. Pursued by undead Ringwratihs Frodo leaves the cosy world of the Shire for a terrifying world of wizards, Trolls, Balrogs and Dwarves. In the Mines of Moria, Frodo and Aragorn are left stranded over a bottomless abyss when a flight of stone steps collapses beneath them, escaping only to find themselves on a crumbling bridge chased by a fiery harbinger of doom. The action is paced to heart-stopping perfection and the special effects are spectacular as the camera sweeps vertiginously over the labyrinthine tower of Mordor where Orc workers manufacture evil for their dark master.

“It’s exciting because there are all these wonderful creatures who have languages of their own,” says Jack. “Languages are an important part of the story.” There was never any question that Tolkein’s languages would appear in the films despite the hug commitment involved. They were ‘the foundation’ of Tolkein’s work and in The Lord of the Rings he tried to recreate a world of myths and culture which he believed England had lost. As thick as the average novella, Tokein’s appendices carefully record the grammatical rules and accents of languages like Khûzdul, Rohirric and Black Speech in minute detail. “Tolkein’s notes on pronunciation are so extensive it felt like he was actually encouraging us to make the movie!” says Jack. These languages were made to be spoken.

When it came to the Elvish tongues of Sindarin and Quenya, Tolkein created legitimate languages with their own etymologies and structures, so it was possible to include plausible dialogues that did not appear in the book. Jackson enlisted the help of Elvish expert David Salo to find accurate translations. “Often when we were working on set someone would say ‘why don’t we do this bit in Elvish?’ Off went the email (sic) to Salo, who’d send back a translated version. The actors would do it on set in Elvish that same afternoon,” explains Jack.

The film opens with Cate Banchett speaking in Elvish. The languorous Sindarin lilt sounds a lot like Welsh. “You have to hold on to each syllable in Sindarin, like you do in Welsh. So if there are two ‘m’s you hand on to the ‘mmm’ sound,” says Jack. “Elvish is a very poetic language.” In The Fellowship of the Ring the biggest chunk of Sindarin is spoken between lovers. When Arwen and Aragorn meet in the rural paradise of Rivendell they speak in dulcet Elvish tones – a conversation unintelligible to the audience (but for the addition of subtitles) and all the more romantic for it.

The poetic nature of Elvish created its own problems, making it difficult for the actors to find the appropriate rhythm of speech. “It’s very hard to know how to act something if you don’t know exactly what it means, so we had to find out the direct translation, as well as the poetic translation,” explains Jack.

But the biggest problem was that the entire crew pronounced many of the names incorrectly and the actors got used to the incorrect pronunciation. “It got so bad they started saying things wrong on set. For example, there are creatures called mumakil and the singular form is mumak, but people were saying ‘there’s a mumakil over there’ and the actors got really confused.” With thousands of die-hard fans and countless websites dedicated to The Lord of the Rings and its languages, it was important to get the details right. Because the books is so well known everybody has their own idea of how names and words should be said, and not all of them have taken the trouble to study Tolkein’s notes. “Some people were bound to be disappointed with the way things were pronounced in the film, but we were determined that their disappointment would be with Tolkein and not with us,” says Jack.

Jack and Carty often worked a six-day week, travelling between locations on their day off. Towards the end of the shoot there were up to six units shooting dialogues simultaneously and the coaches dashed manically from scene to scene to pick up any linguistic mistakes and note down deviations from the original script. Because so much of the trilogy was filmed outside most of the dialogue was revoiced in the studio at the end of the shoot, and Jack’s main concern was that the lip movements were correct so there could be continuity at the dubbing stage. The details of every take had to be recorded on the scripts.

It was a mammoth job, but well worth the effort. In the United States the film took £32m in its first weekend and in Britain it had the second most successful opening weekend in cinema history, just behind Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. By far the most popular film over Christmas, it has been nominated for two Golden Globes, and praised almost unanimously by the critics.

With such enormous success, Jack can’t help feeling some ghostly intervention has been going on. “Some very spooky things happened,” he says. On one occasion Orlando Bloom fluffed his line, only to discover later that there was a mistake in the script and he had inadvertently used the correct word. “You have to wonder where Orlando got the right word from,” says Jack. The whole ‘Hand of Tolkein’ theory sounds somewhat unlikely. Tokein famously hated Hollywood. When he received a film proposal in 1958 he condemned the script for deviating from the original book and only sold the film rights to pay off a bad debt. But Jack is convinced. “I like to think that Tokein is looking down at us from above approvingly. In fact, I’m certain of it.”

Miscellanea text by Miranda Moore.
Pages 21-22

From The Linguist – the magazine of the Institute of Linguists, London, UK February-March 200 (Volume 41, 1)

Weekend Round Up
Xoanon @ 12:31 am EST

Noble Collection Extra Info

Arnie Compliments FOTR In Recent Interview

Mortensen Book Released February 15th

Uruk-Hai Toy Biz/Burger King Action Figure

Couric And Costas Make Olympic LOTR Reference

Hall Of Fire Chats For February 9th & 10th

Men Behaving Sublimely


Capital FM Talks LOTR

Russian FOTR premiere

Sideshow opens Toy Fair LOTR Section

Nazgul At Trentham Raceway

Blanchett In 'Heaven'

Malaysian Press Talks LOTR

Tolkien's hobbits show basic goodness of people

Weekend Box Office Reports

Putting the fellows into fellowship, nudge, nudge

Weekly Cast Watch
Xoanon @ 12:01 am EST

To get more information, use the sites I use like the ones below. Simply find a movie or actor you want to see, go to one of the sites below and see if the film is playing in your area.

mydigiguide.com, tv-now.com and IMDB.com

Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn)

28 Days (2000) UK
Walk on the Moon, A (1999) UK
Prophecy, The (1995)
Boiling Point (1993)
Ruby Cairo (1993)
Young Americans, The (1993)
Young Guns II (1990)

Liv Tyler (Arwen)

Onegin (1999) UK
Can't Hardly Wait (1998) UK
Inventing the Abbotts (1997)
Heavy (1995)

Ian Holm (Bilbo)

Joe Gould's Secret (2000)
Bless the Child (2000)
Last of the Blonde Bombshells, The (2000) (TV)
Fifth Element, The (1997) UK
Life Less Ordinary, A (1997)
Night Falls on Manhattan (1997) UK
Hamlet (1990)
Dance with a Stranger (1985)
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Time Bandits (1981) UK
Alien (1979) UK
All Quiet on the Western Front (1979) (TV)
Shout at the Devil (1976)
Fixer, The (1968) UK

Sean Bean (Boromir)

Ronin (1998)
Field, The (1990)

Ian Mune (Bounder)

Piano, The (1993)

Martyn Sanderson (Bree Gatekeeper)

Ned Kelly (1970)

John Noble (Denethor)

Airtight (1999) (TV) UK

Peter Mackenzie (Elendil)

Chill Factor (1999) UK
Major League: Back to the Minors (1998)
Lorenzo's Oil (1992) UK
Torch Song Trilogy (1988) UK

Hugo Weaving (Elrond)

Matrix, The (1999) UK
Strange Planet (1999)
Interview, The (1998)
Babe (1995)

Miranda Otto (Eowyn)

What Lies Beneath (2000)

David Wenham (Faramir)

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Elijah Wood (Frodo)

Bumblebee Flies Anyway, The (2000)
Black and White (1999)
Good Son, The (1993)
Radio Flyer (1992)
Paradise (1991)
Internal Affairs (1990)

Cate Blanchett (Galadriel)

Talented Mr. Ripley, The (1999) UK
Pushing Tin (1999) UK
Paradise Road (1997)

Ian McKellen (Gandalf)

X-Men (2000) UK
Apt Pupil (1998) UK
Bent (1997)
Rasputin (1996) (TV)
Restoration (1995)
Scandal (1989) UK
Touch of Love, A (1969) UK
Alfred the Great (1969) UK

John Rhys-Davies (Gimli)

Britannic (2000) (TV) UK
Secret of the Andes (1998) UK
Great White Hype, The (1996)
Cyborg Cop (1994)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Fatal Framing (1992) (TV)
Tusks (1990)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Murdered Madam (1987) (TV)
Firewalker (1986)
Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1982)
Victor/Victoria (1982)

Andy Serkis (Gollum)

Topsy-Turvy (1999) UK

Harry Sinclair (Isildur)

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Sean Astin (Sam)

Sky Is Falling, The (2000)
Deterrence (1999) UK
Icebreaker (1999)
Dish Dogs (1998)
Low Life, The (1994/I)
Safe Passage (1994)
Encino Man (1992) UK
Toy Soldiers (1991) UK
Memphis Belle (1990)
War of the Roses, The (1989) UK
Staying Together (1989)
Like Father, Like Son (1987) UK
White Water Summer (1987)

Christopher Lee (Saruman)

Sleepy Hollow (1999) UK
Jinnah (1998) UK
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
1941 (1979)
Three Musketeers, The (1973) UK
Death Line (1972)
Horror Express (1972)
One More Time (1970)
She (1965/I) UK
City of the Dead, The (1960)
Dracula (1958)
Cockleshell Heroes, The (1955)
Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951) UK

Bernard Hill (Theoden)

Loss of Sexual Innocence, The (1999) UK
Midsummer Night's Dream, A (1999) UK
Titanic (1997)
Gandhi (1982) UK

Brad Dourif (Wormtongue)

Prophecy 3: The Ascent, The (2000) (V)
Shadow Hours (2000)
Ghost, The (2000)
Storytellers, The (1999) UK
Progeny (1999) UK
Silicon Towers (1999)
Best Men (1997) UK
Color of Night (1994)
Amos & Andrew (1993)
Child's Play 3 (1991) UK
Hidden Agenda (1990)
Child's Play 2 (1990) UK
Mississippi Burning (1988)

Jim Rygiel (SFX)

Anna and the King (1999)
Starship Troopers (1997)
Multiplicity (1996)
Cliffhanger (1993)
Batman Returns (1992)
Last of the Mohicans, The (1992)
Ghost (1990)
Last Starfighter, The (1984)

Howard Shore (Composer)

Score, The (2001)
High Fidelity (2000)
Yards, The (2000)
Cell, The (2000)
Analyze This (1999)
Dogma (1999)
Striptease (1996)
White Man's Burden (1995)
Moonlight and Valentino (1995)
Se7en (1995)
Ed Wood (1994)
Nobody's Fool (1994)
Prelude to a Kiss (1992)
Silence of the Lambs, The (1991)
She-Devil (1989)
Fire with Fire (1986)
After Hours (1985)
Scanners (1981)

Peter Jackson (Director)

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

2-10-02 Latest News

Malaysian Press Talks LOTR
Xoanon @ 7:17 pm EST

Quistis Skywalker sends us two articles from the Malaysian press:

The first is an article in the Malaysian newspaper The Edge's weekly supplement, Options. The second is from Galaxie, a local entertainment magazine from a column called Suzy Says.

Gone to Pot by Kam Raslan

-What doesn't Harry have that Frodo Baggins does?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Lord of the Rings are both adaptations of books, both trilogies(sic) and both big, big budget productions. But one is better than the other.

Harry Potter

I didn't read the book myself so I enjoyed the film. Those who did read the book found it a fairly workaday Hollywood holiday flick directed by the uninspiring Chris Columbus who not only discovered America but also directed Home Alone. The producers presumably gave him the job because he was thought to be able to direct kids well. Unfortunately, this is one of the areas where the film falls down. The child acting has a certain charm but does not have the zing that Steven Spielberg seems to be able to draw from children. Having said that, the movie did manage to avoid the mawkish sentimentality that usually blights a Spielberg production.

But the kids are backed by some of the best character actors in Britain, although none of them are expected to push themselves too hard. Alan Rickman (the ladies' choice) is darkly menacing and Maggie Smith is as good as ever. I can never decide if Richard Harris is a very good actor or a very average one. He apparently took the part in the movie only because his granddaughter threatened to never speak to him again if he didn't. She's a big fan of the books.

What I didn't like about the movie was the fact that it was so damned noisy, The music only stopped on four occasions and only then for about a minute. These would be act breaks and it's a moviemaking habit perfected by Spielberg. Wall-to-wall music makes me fall asleep. I fell asleep during one of the noisiest bits of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as well as the interminable pod race sequence of the execrable Phantom Menace and I had to fight back yawns during Harry Potter. (QS: And all of them had their musical score done by John Williams)

Throwing in copious amounts of music is a cheap trick. Music excites an emotional response and moviemakers try everything to augment the visuals. Unfortunately, it negates any chance of emotional or pacing contrast because everything is blanketed in a wall of sound. This doesn't matter much these days because of the advent of the action movie where there is no contrast, merely a desire for a constant adrenal rush.

This first Harry Potter movie is not destined to be a classic children's picture. It doesn't deserve repeat viewing and all because it's made-to-measure Hollywood. But at least it was set in its original English context and not transposed to the US as Spielberg apparently had wanted.

Lord of the Rings

Peter Jackson is a much better director than Columbus. Lord of the Rings was his project as opposed to Columbus, who was brought in as a director for hire. And it shows. There is a palpable love for Tolkien's mythic world of hobbits, elves and men and there is also a great love for the epic landscapes of Jackson's native New Zealand.

The themes of the original books have been copied so many times in films like Star Wars, countless Playstation games and thousands of fantasy adventure books so it could now feel all too familiar. It is to Jackson's credit that he has made it accessible as action-adventure and yet remained true to its spirit of legend.

Credit also to the actors. Elijah Wood is particularly good as the innocent and somewhat reluctant hobbit hero Frodo Baggins. Hobbits are supposed to be short so Wood would have been rarely, if ever, able to act on set next to actors like Ian McKellen or Viggo Mortensen who play normal-sized people. (QS: Guess he didn't know about the forced perspective trick. ^_^)

In fact, this was a very beautiful, subtle and seamless use of special effect computer graphics. Motion-controlled cameras can repeat the same movement precisely so that the action filmed can be layered on top of each othr. This, the old fashioned use of very tall or very short stand-ins for over-the-shoulder shots and a very compelling storyline meant that this reviewer didn't even notice many of the special effects until the second viewing.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings as an English myth to rival other European legends such as Wagner's Germanic tales. He taught mythology at Cambridge and used his knowledge to give his story its mythic quality. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter is written for children and plays on the fears and fantasies of the young and innocent in this suburban age of broken homes. It is perhaps unsurprising that Lord of the Rings should be a richer film although Columbus could have played the emotional core of the Harry Potter story better. Spielberg would have. ET is as much about the break-up of the family as it is a fantasy adventure. Harry Potter skims over these aspects as just so much exposition or plays them for laughs in its headlong rush for the usual disposable excitement.

Lord of the Rings is a beautiful film. As somebody near me in the cinema said during one scene, "Wah, cantik!" (QS: That's Malay for "Wow, (it's) beautiful!") How often does that happen these days?


Suzie Says

Bored of the Rings? Why should you be?

While everyone else is recapping their Top 10 movies/Top 10 TV shows/Top 10 celebrity divorces of the year, I've decided to recap my Top 10 Tolkien books of all time, which is a difficult task because he only wrote three.

I've long held the dubious honour of having read every single fantasy book since I was 18 years old, except Tolkien. But there's a story behind it. When I was six, I picked up The Silmarillion, which is the weirdest, most ungainly, most boring fantasy book ever to be written, hence I was turned off from Tolkien for a good 27 years. And because the movies were due to be out, I gritted my teeth and bought The Lord of the Rings, which comes in three books, because if it comes in one, it would have been thicker than a phone directory with all the Chins in Hong Kong.

I was about to be proven right by my Tolkien phobia, when-- in The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book-- the first 250 or so pages turned out to be as exciting as tea with an earthworm. I felt like I was reading Alice in Wonderland: The really prolonged director's cut, with all its Mad Hatter-like characters (Tom Bombadil, who sings nasty trees to sleep), it's myriad hobbit relatives who seem to proliferate like ghastly rabbits, and a quest to destroy the Ring that never seems to get started because everyone was too busy singing songs and recounting stories about dead people to each other.

And then-- something happened. When I got to the part where the fellowship was formed at the council of Elrond, I was hooked because they added so many other interesting characters to the mix. From then on, the story becomes more interesting as the nine members of the fellowship moved through peril after peril, from Moria to Lothlorien.

Book 2 (The Two Towers) had incredible battle sieges and a great villainess -- Shelob the Spider. Book 3 (The Return of the King) had a heartbreaking story of two jilted people: Faramir-- Boromir's brother, forsaken by his father, and Eowyn-- Princess of the Rohan whose love is unrequited by Aragorn. The pace never slackens then. But only if you can get through the first 250 pages. But what of the much hyped, much Hotlinked, much Burger King tied-in spectacle of the movie?


I know Tolkien die-hards will rip me from limb to limb for this but I think Peter Jackson, the director, possibly improved on Tolkien in his movie. J.R.R. Tolkien was an Oxford professor who specialised in Norse mythology. He was the world's leading expert on Beowulf, an expertise which comes in handy in feeding the world's millions, for all the good it might do.

Because Tolkien was a mythos professor, he borrowed elements from English, Norse and Germanic lore, especially language, names and types of entities (elves, dwarves) to put them into his book. He has been credited for being 'the One', the father of fantasy, who started it all.

Nevertheless, he wasn't totally original either, as the ideas have all previously existed in myths. But it's OK not to be original. The greatest movies are not original. Star Wars was far from original. Raiders of the Lost Ark was not original. The Matrix (which shares the same producer with TLOTR) is not original. Gladiator borrowed heavily from Spartacus and Roman history cliches.


Nope. Tolkien, while being a great storyteller, simply isn't a very good writer. He has two different writing styles in the books, almost schizophrenically so. Aragorn's adventures are written in archaic prose, where every paragraph begins with, "And so, Punitha, Galaxie's editor, harked upon her minions, and bade them enter. 'Hear thee well,' she intoned, 'For mine tidings are grave. Verily, I say unto you, thine bonuses will be withheld.'"

Frodo's adventures, on the other hand, is written almost in whimsy, like Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland. The events that take place in the Shire read like a darker version of Mr. Meddle. Tolkien is concerned that we, the reader, must be ascertained to know every single aspect of hobbit life, including whether they are able to cut their toenails through those toe hairs. Which is why he managed to make the first 250 pages of a great epic like TLOTR monumentally dull. Don't get me wrong. It's a great, great story, rich with characters both noble and evil, racial discrimination and epic battles. In my opinion, Peter Jackson simply told it better.

This is how I think the movie improved on the book:

The pacing:

As I've said a million times, the first part of the Fellowship of the Ring (or Book One) is dull, dull, dull. The movie skips through all these unnecessary parts, compresses time like a DeLorean (because the first part takes almost 20 years where Frodo inherits the Ring when he's 33, and lives in unknowing bliss until he is over 50. At the time of the Party, Merry and Pippin were still toddlers) and sets Frodo off without fuss. Before we know it, we're at the Council of Elrond. (For examples of books with great pacing, read Harry Potter.)

Deleting Tom Bombadil

This is one character who completely jarred me and set me off tone in the book. He's supposed to be an ageless immortal kind-of-wizard who has a wife called Goldberry, who rescues the hobbits from a hungry tree. He reads like he's straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Oh, he also sings a lot. Putting Tom Bombadil in the movie would render it most uncool to eight-year old non-musically inclined boys.

Expanding the role of women

TLOTR was written before 1960s, before Gloria Steinem and Jackie O and Madonna's cone-shaped bras, where women were considered not that important in fantasy books. Arwen Undomiel is mentioned in one page only in the first book. She did not, in the book, save Frodo from the Dark Riders (that thingie with the horses and the river was aptly done by an elf called Glorfindel, who was also omitted on celluloid and Elrond himself), uh, actually, in the film, it was done by special effects, but you get my drift. Galadriel also has only a cameo role. And there's another blonde woman, Princess Eowyn of Rohan, who will appear in the second book, who has a bigger role to play than either Arwen or Galadriel put together. All in all, these women make up, gasp!, a remarkable 0.2% of the story.

Today's fantasy writers find this sacrilegious and have sought to include women in very prominent roles, sometimes even dwarfing that of men (Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series).

Continued Next Fortnight: More on how the TLOTR movie improves on the book. And how the book is better than the movie in some aspects.

Blanchett In 'Heaven'
Xoanon @ 7:07 pm EST

sethdove sends us these few choice pics from the new Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) film 'Heaven'.

2-09-02 Latest News

Xoanon @ 12:59 pm EST

Ringer Spy Sony Mouse sends along these articles from the latest issue of SFX Magazine. Take a look!

Read the text here (a BIG thanks to Elisa for getting this down to us!):

Good Hobbits

The four furry-footed thespians relate how LOTR changed their lives.

Being three-foot-six tall, with pointy ears and hairy feet, may not seem like an enviable job. Especially when it involves being in New Zealand, away from family and friends, for 15 months. Plus 12 to 14 hour days, often in remote locations, with new physical skills to learn and scenes that had to be repeated twice because of the problems of scale.

But the enthusiasm that bubbled up from the four actors when they spoke about their experiences was scarcely containable. Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Sean Astin (Sam), Billy Boyd (Pippin), and Dominic Monaghan (Merry), interrupted one another, topped each other’s stories, laughed at one another’s jokes and, most of all, heaped praise upon the man with the singular vision to pull it all off: Peter Jackson. Indeed, Elijah Wood was so keen to play Frodo, bearer of the Ring, that he couldn’t wait for the director—who had been seeing a lot of British actors for the part—to start in Los Angeles. Instead, he persuaded some friends to film his own audition, then sent the videotape to the man himself.

“They wanted to put me on tape in a casting office,” explained Wood, “but I thought that would be a bit sterile. I wanted to convey my real passion for this role, and for the film, in my own kind of way. So I found a costume, learned a few passages from the book by heart, went out into the woods near my house, and got my friends to film different scenes from all sorts of different angles.”

It was a risky strategy, especially given that Frodo, far from being a squeaky-clean Luke Skywalker-type, is an extremely complex character, both morally and psychologically. But Elijah Wood was alive to those dangers, and made sure he included the full spectrum of Frodo’s personality: “The scenes kind of ran the gamut. There was something from Hobbiton, when Frodo meets Gandalf for the first time in the beginning. And something from the end, when he’s all that’s left, and all that he can see is the Ring. So basically it was Frodo all sort of innocent and lovely, and then completely gone at the end.” This was part of what appealed to Wood, the sense that his character would develop over the three movies, and would be a very different Hobbit at the end. “Frodo runs this amazing arc, in which he goes from being this innocent, curious adventurer at the beginning to being a very flawed and conflicted character. And the challenge of creating that arc was intriguing to me.”

Being of tender years, the actors were not of the generation that read Tolkien’s book as a matter-of-course, but their parents sometimes were. Dominic Monaghan’s father, a die-hard fan, bought him The Hobbit for his thirteenth birthday, and The Lord of the Rings the following Christmas. Even so, he found it hard to immerse himself in the all-enveloping world of Middle-earth. It was something he only managed later, while traveling back and forth on the train to London for auditions. Sean Astin admitted he’d only tried to read the book once he’d been asked to audition for the part of Sam, and even then somewhat selfishly, to see which scenes featured his character. Billy Boyd, was another one who didn’t read the book properly until he knew he had the part. And, like Astin, his perspective was skewed by knowing that he was to play Pippin.

What hooked Elijah Wood, who had never attempted to read the trilogy, was reading the script. “It just took me into another world. It freaked me out. I remember driving home after reading it and I was expecting Orcs and things to be following me.” Something similar happened during filming, when Elijah Wood was shooting a scene with Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf. “It was just a pick-up of a scene, but suddenly I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m listening to Gandalf and he’s telling me about the history of the Ring.’ And I’ve never done that before. But there were many moments like that in the film, because everything was portrayed in such a realistic way. Every actor became their character.”

The final word on the experience of playing Hobbits, however, goes to Dominic Monaghan:

“Hobbits have a real innocence. They love wholesome things and they enjoy good food, good living and great company. They are people who embrace life. All four of us were like Hobbits at the start of the process, we’re probably more so now.”

National Elf Service

Being an immortal isn’t easy, as Liv Tyler and Orlando Bloom tell us.

For their round-table interviews, the actors were grouped roughly by species: all four Hobbits grouped together, two wizards and a Dwarf, two human warriors, and two Elves: the immortal Princess Arwen (Liv Tyler) and sword-wielding Elf warrior Legolas (Orlando Bloom).

The two young actors’ real lives could not have been more different. Tyler, the 23-year-old veteran of more than a dozen movies (including Armageddon), five Cannes Film Festivals and myriad interviews, was relaxed and confident. Bloom, by contrast, tended to blurt out his answers, often interrupting his fellow interviewee. His over-excitement was understandable, however, since this was his first Cannes and his first press junket. Tyler had simply been offered her part, her striking, angular beauty peculiarly suited to Elven pointy-ears. The less-experienced Bloom had to audition for his first leading role, and heard he’d got the role two days before he left drama school. It goes without saying that Bloom was thrilled to secure his part in The Lord of the Rings…and movie history. “To have been given the opportunity to portray someone like Legolas was exciting and terrifying at the same time, because he is so far beyond any being that you could imagine. Elves have super-human strength, reflex speed, and sensory awareness. They’re these incredible angelic spirits, who create and appreciate great beauty.”

First and foremost, however, Legolas is a warrior, so Brit Bloom had two months of preparation in New Zealand before shooting even began. “I started off with archery, I rode about 20 different horses, I had physical training in the gym, and I had to learn the Elvish ways of speaking and fighting. Their fighting is based on ancient European and Asian martial arts, so I had a trainer who taught me how to use the blades. I also did a lot of movement training, because movement is my way into the character.”

Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures being one of her all-time favorite films, Liv Tyler never thought twice about playing the Elf princess Arwen. Also, in an unashamedly “girly” way, she loved the idea of the “incredibly powerful, special love” between her immortal Elven-princess Arwen and the love-struck, mortal human Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen).

Inevitably, there had been suggestions that this romance, which does not form an integral part of the trilogy as such, had been brought to center-stage by Jackson and his co-writers solely to “up” the lovey-dovey quotient. But Tyler was quick to point out that this wasn’t the case.

“At the end of the third book, there’s an appendix called Aragorn and Arwen, and that’s what the whole thing is based on. So although you only see Arwen a couple of times in the book, at the end of the third volume, Tolkien summarizes and tells the whole story of these people. So that was all Tolkien. It wasn’t made up in any way; it all came from that.”

Could this be the greatest film ever made? Nigel Floyd talks to the cast and crew.

Approaching on foot, we round a bend in the path and the round castellated tower comes into view. All around us on the grass were gaily colored stalls and tents, some of them only partly constructed. Preparations were underway for a celebration. A party to mark the one hundred and eleventh birthday of the highly esteemed Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, perhaps? No, this was not Hobbiton; it was the Cannes Film Festival press junket for Peter Jackson’s three-part film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s perennially popular fantasy novel, The Lord of the Rings. Rumor had it that some of these Hobbit-themed constructions were the actual sets from the film’s opening scene, shipped in specially for the occasion from Three Foot Six studios in Wellington, New Zealand. No expense had been spared, and though it was only make-believe, the effect was still magical.

The film’s set designer was also on hand to supervise the assembly of the sets. Most striking of all was the fact that they were deliberately over-sized, forcing humans to perceive the world as Tolkien’s diminutive Hobbits—average height three-foot-six—would have experienced it. Had the beer tent been open, one would have had to reach up over the bar to order a drink, peering up from below as a frothing mug of ale was handed down by the cheery landlord. If anything could transport you to Bree, this was it—if it hadn’t been for the clement weather and friendly, expectant faces…We’d been brought from Cannes to the gates of this chateau in a modern motor coach. Now we were being transported to Hobbiton by the vehicle of our imaginations.

Shepherded by our hosts, we climbed the stone steps and entered through a pair of large wooden doors, into a gently sloping garden with a view of Cannes, and the distant azure sea. Even when we were corralled by myriad PR persons into the area set aside for the al fresco press conference, the buzz of anticipation continued. After years of speculation and internet rumors about New Line’s $270 million adaptation of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, we were going to hear concrete facts from the mouths of those actually involved in making the three two-hour films. Even the most jaundiced and blasé among us were aware that this was a privilege granted to few, so our calm professionalism was tinged with more than a little childish excitement.

The previous day, our appetites had been well and truly whetted by an exclusive screening of 28 minutes of footage from the trilogy. We had not, though, been the very first to see them. That privilege, quite rightly, had been reserved for members of the cast. While queuing outside the Olympia cinema, with our special security passes slung around our necks, we had caught a glimpse of Elijah Wood, Liv Tyler, Sir Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, and sundry other actors as they emerged from their screening and ducked into waiting limos. Judging their reactions was tricky, but their smiles seemed to indicate that they were more than happy with the results. Nothing, however, could have prepared us for the stunning impact of what we were about to see.

Inside the auditorium, the atmosphere was tense but electric. Even New Line executive Mark Ordesky’s formal introductory speech was enthusiastic, his corporate style not quite disguising the excitement he felt at revealing his company’s most ambitious project. Then Peter Jackson ambled on. A short, bearded Kiwi bloke with tousled hair and little round glasses, his modest physical presence utterly belies the stature of his talent, and the monumental challenge he and The Lord of the Rings crew faced during the lengthy, hectic and sometimes harrowing shooting schedule. Because, for all his genuine humility, this is the man who directed the blood-soaked Braindead and the emotionally-devastating Heavenly Creatures; the film-maker New Line Cinema confidently entrusted with $270 million of their money; the director/writer/producer who, without ever raising his voice or losing his temper, oversaw a grueling, 274-day shoot that finished on the very day it was supposed to.

Yet Jackson’s typically self-effacing introduction to the jaw-dropping footage was as low-key as one could imagine. He explained that what we were about to see was some scene-setting, followed by snippets of story designed to introduce the characters, and finally a continuous “14 minute lump of action”, complete with a score composed by Howard Shore. When the images finally flashed onto the screen, what immediately struck one was how seamlessly Jackson’s team had solved the myriad problems of scale.

For example, the scene in which the tall wizard Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) towers over the diminutive Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm). Clearly the actual disparity between the two actors had been exaggerated CGI trickery. But how, within the same frame, was Gandalf able to hand Bilbo his wide-brimmed wizard’s hat? Before we had time to ponder this mystery, tiny figures were trudging across snowbound mountain vistas, evil-looking Black Riders were thundering across the screen on horseback, Frodo and his fellow pointy-eared Hobbits (Sam, Pippin, and Merry) were hiding by the roots of a giant tree, and fearsome Orcs were brandishing weapons. The scale of the spectacle was breathtaking; the level of visual detail astonishing; yet Jackson’s inspired visual imagination had remained true to Tolkien’s original literary conception of Middle-earth.

Then came the fluid “14 minute lump”, the impact of which far surpassed that of the previous snippets. Suddenly, we were plunged into the Mines of Moria, as the nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring traveled deeper into its dark, labyrinthine tunnels. Journeying alongside Frodo (Elijah Wood) on this leg of his epic journey were his three Hobbit companions: Sam (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd)—plus Gimli the Dwarf (John Rhys-Davies), Legolas the Elf (Orlando Bloom), two human warriors, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean), and their mentor, Gandalf. Ambushed by scampering goblins and attacked by a giant cave-troll, the members of the Fellowship survived by the skin of their teeth. Their escape looked uncertain as they negotiated the stairs of Khazad-dûm, the edifice collapsing beneath them as they leapt from one teetering column of rock to the next. As we left the cinema, drained but exhilarated, there was no doubt in my mind that we had witnessed movie-making history.


The bigwigs behind the film reveal how it all came to pass.

At the Cannes press conference for The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson was flanked by his co-writer Philippa Boyens, producer Barrie Osborne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, and Richard Taylor, whose New Zealand-based company, WETA, was responsible for the film’s multi-faceted visual effects. Inevitably, initial inquiries concerned the origins of the project.

Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh had started thinking about The Lord of the Rings while filming The Frighteners in 1995, but at that time the film rights were owned by producer Saul Zaentz (The English Patient). Using their first-look deal with Miramax, Jackson and Walsh persuaded head honcho Harvey Weinstein to buy the rights. But Miramax was reluctant to commit to several films. Jackson and Walsh stuck to their guns, feeling that over-compression was what had defeated previous attempts—including Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated version—to bring the epic to the screen.

The breakthrough came later, when Jackson and Walsh met with Bob Shaye of New Line: “We originally thought of doing two movies,” explained Jackson, “but in our meeting with Bob Shaye, he said: ‘It’s three books, it should be three films.’” After some exploratory trips to New Zealand, New Line decided that Jackson and his team could deliver and adaptation of LOTR that would justify their colossal investment.

With characteristic boldness, Jackson and Walsh asked playwright Philippa Boyens to help write the screenplay. It helped that she loved the source material, but the prospect was still a daunting one: not only was this her first movie script, there were three to write.

“I was actually a huge Tolkien fan, so I was really nervous about reading Peter and Fran’s 90-page treatment. I couldn’t see how it could be done. But it was compelling, a real page-turner. At first I was overwhelmed, and then I got excited. The challenge was to stay as faithful as we could to the books, and make it a gripping cinematic experience.”

With more than one hundred million copies of The Lord of the Rings sold, and nearly two million hits on the movie’s website, Jackson and his collaborators were all too aware of the feverish levels of anticipation, plus the potential for fan-by sniping. “There are going to be people that have different ideas on things,” acknowledged Jackson, “but you can’t make a film by committee. We had to take our own decisions. It’s not a movie made for fans, but it is a movie made by fans.”

So Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens trusted their own gut feelings right from the start: “You have to go on your instincts, because even with three movies, we couldn’t include everything. One of the rules that I put into my head was that a lot of people had read The Lord of the Rings, so what we should be making was a film that’s faithful to the book even for people who remember it from 15 years ago.”

“People that are totally obsessed fans are obviously going to see major things that we had to lose, or work our way round. But we’ve tried to make sure that all the key events and characters are included. Obviously, we’ve been very careful—because it’s a complicated book—to tell the story in a way that’s accessible to people who know nothing about The Lord of the Rings.”

While clear storytelling was essential to the films’ success, it had to go hand-in-hand with visual spectacle. The beauty of New Zealand’s landscape provided many locations, but the creatures, costumes, armor and weaponry had to be made from scratch by a dedicated army of designers and skilled technicians. Drawing upon the work of conceptual artists John Howe and Alan Lee, Jackson and his team strove to create what producer Barrie Osborne called: “a singular Tolkienesque brushstroke.” To do this, they bought the entire visual effects operation under one roof. WETA’s Richard Taylor, visual effects designer on all Jackson’s films since Bad Taste, gets an incredible multiple credit on Rings, as Creature, Miniature, Armor, and SFX Supervisor.

“On our biggest days,” Taylor explains matter-of-factly, “we had up to 500 people in full prosthetics and armor, and we regularly had seven of the nine leads in full prosthetic makeup. During large-scale battle scenes, there might be six second-unit filming crews operating simultaneously.” Yet one clear vision determined the look of the production, and if there was ever any doubt, Taylor and Peter Jackson simply returned to the “bible”—a copy of The Lord of the Rings that was always on hand. “At no time did Pete say: ‘This is going to be my vision, put this book aside.’ It was always: ‘Return to the original source material’.”

Taylor aimed for a gritty realism, immersing the actors in a muddy, grungy world where they literally had dirt under their fingernails: “Our general philosophy was that, at all times, no matter how fantastical we chose to make the settings and creatures, we must ground them in reality. Because then the audience would be that much more accepting of the fantastical.”

Jackson, too, fought shy of the word: “fantasy”, which he felt was inaccurate and misleading. “We treated The Lord of the Rings as a historical film,” he explained. “We felt that Tolkien spent a large part of his life creating a mythology for Britain, which was essentially a pre-history. Just as you would if you were making a film about Rome, we did research into the world of Middle-earth. We read his books and all of the writings, and it became real. This really happened, these people went through this, and we’re trying to dramatize that.”

The story goes that in a radio interview, author Robert Heimlein was asked, “What is science fiction?” “It’s what I say it is,” Heimlein replied. Some people took that as arrogance. I think he meant we may not be able to determine the boundaries of sf, but we know it when we see it. Exactly the same applies to fantasy. It’s just a case of employing the duck test. You know: ‘if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

But to be sure we understand each other, I’ll attempt a rough working definition. Fantasy tends to be set in worlds that resemble historical periods, typically with a medieval flavor. These worlds are more likely to be feudal than democratic. The laws of physics as we know them aren’t necessarily obeyed, because magic often features. But the magic will have its own rules, consistently applied. There a good chance that dragons, elves, unicorns, ogres and other fantastical creatures will busy themselves as freewheeling heroes and heroines, wicked queens, noble princes and the like. Characters will invest lots of energy in seeking things, be it their destiny, a treasure hoard or a supernatural McGuffin that promises to avert disaster. In this they will be opposed by the forces of Evil, occasioning much swordplay, mighty battles, and magical combat.

Of course, the above doesn’t begin to embrace contemporary fantasy, magical realism, anthropomorphic fantasy or the many other diverse branches. But unless we’re careful we can be sucked into the argument that all fiction, being an artificial construct, is a form of fantasy. That way lies madness. What’s generally referred to as sword and sorcery, heroic fantasy or high fantasy—the greatest exemplifier of which was JRR Tolkien—is what we’re talking about here.

The roots of fantasy are as old as humanity itself, and undoubtedly first found expression as fanciful tales told around campfires. Every civilization, extant and extinct, had their epic stories of heroes and gods. The hierarchy of deities populating ancient Egyptian mythology; the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh; Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey; Apollonius’ adventures of Jason and the Argonauts; Virgil’s Aeneid; Arabian fables; Celtic myth; the Anglo-Saxons’ Beowulf; Icelandic sagas—all contain elements still common in fantasy fiction. It’s a lineage traceable through the ages, from the 12th century romances of Arthur and Merlin, to Edmund Spencer’s 16th century confection The Faerie Queen, to the seeds of the Goths in the mid-18th century and the birth of the novel.

The 19th century saw what might be called the first golden age of fantasy, and it manifested in many different ways. It included the baroque works of such authors as William Morris and George Meredith, the folkie whimsicality of Washington Irving and Mark Twain, the colorful adventures of H Rider Haggard and the brooding supernaturalism of Robert W Chambers. Even Dickens, utilizing vengeful ghosts to hammer home his moral tales, could be said to inhabit a slice of the fantasy section. Children’s fantasy bloomed, with Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, Lewis Carroll’s Alice and E. Nesbit’s The Book of Dragons. And let’s not forget the scientific fantasy of Frankenstein and the dark fantasy of Dracula.

It was at about the point where the 19th century shaded into the 20th that fantasy began to take on something of the appearance we recognize today. Edgar Rice Burroughs gained an enormous audience for his Tarzan novels, a series firmly in the “lost race” strand of fantasy, and L. Frank Baum’s many Oz books cornered the idiosyncratic end of the market. Lord Dunsamy, AA Merritt, Talbot Mundy, Clark Ashton Smith and others emerged as writers of a kind of proto-fantasy that would evolve into the form we know today. But arguably fantasy owed much to the advent of pulp magazines, which saw their popularity soaring in the early years of the new century. Titles such as Argosy, The Thrill Book, and perhaps the most celebrated pulp of all, Weird Tales, did much to fashion the genre. Weird Tales, in particular, was instrumental in launching the careers of a number of writers who would shape the genre, notably Conan creator Robert E. Howard.

Howard may not have invented sword and sorcery, but he was its greatest champion and most prolific producer. Apart from Conan, he introduced the heroic characters King Kulf, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Moen and Turlogh Dubh, and his influence on the field remains considerable. But he saw little recognition in his lifetime. In 1936, already displaying signs of instability and devastated by the death of his mother, Howard shot himself. He was 30 years old. The following year an English academic published an unregarded little children’s book called The Hobbit. But like Howard, Tolkien’s fame was a long time coming.

A plethora of other fantasy pulps appeared in the wake of Weird Tales, among them Fantastic Adventures, Terror Tales, Strange Stories and, in 1939, the short-lived but seminal Unknown, edited by John W. Campbell Jr., the man behind the SF field’s most respected magazine, Astounding Stories, the last 39 issues of Unknown (Unknown Worlds for the last two years of its life), can truly be said to have changed the face of fantasy fiction. L. Sprague De Camp was a regular contributor, along with Jack Williamson, Robert Bloch and a host of other name writers.

Perhaps most importantly, in terms of the kind of fantasy we’re discussing, Unknown published Fritz Leiber’s first story, “Two Sought Adventure”, the debut outing of his characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The pair defied expectations. Fafhrd’s huge frame and barbarian heritage was belied by a quick intelligence; Gray Mouser was a slippery pipsqueak with often slower wits. They could act amorally, but invariably came down on the side of right. There was humor in their relationship—sometimes to the point where they approximated the Laurel and Hardy of fantasy—though darkness and exotic peril were equally present. They were rounded, imperfect, human characters, with real desires and prejudices, and their ongoing adventures resulted in a huge leap in sophistication for heroic fantasy. Leiber, a major figure in both SF and fantasy, continued to write about Fafhrd and Mouser, constantly refining them, right up until a year or two before his death in 1992.

It’s probably fair to say that fantasy made no great strides in terms of public recognition in the 1940’s and `50’s. It lived in quiet places, simmering in the dying pulps and the digest magazines that succeeded them. There were occasional appearances of mostly reprint fantasy in book form from small presses like Shasta, Gnome and Fantasy Press, and a handful of American fanzines kept the flame burning. Basically, this was preaching to the converted.

But to say the 1950’s were subdued as far as fantasy was concerned isn’t to imply that nothing of significance happened. In what has to have been one of the longest gestation periods in literature, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien had begun to build his imaginary universe shortly after World War I. Merton Professor of English at Oxford University until his retirement in 1959, throughout the `40’s and `50’s Tolkien read drafts of his narrative to C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and Owen Barfield, the four of them having formed a society of Christian writers called the Inklings. This culminated in the publication, in 1954-55, of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Earth didn’t shake. A decade passed before anything happened.

Up to the 1960’s, mainstream publishing was more or less unaware of fantasy as a discrete category. The unlikely catalyst that changed this state of affairs was a noisy dispute between two leading American publishers. In 1962, Ace Books exploited a technical loophole that meant some of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels were, in effect, out of copyright. They published Burroughs’ Pelucidar books, and some of his one-off novels, in paperback. Rivals Ballantine Books, regarding themselves as Burroughs’ official publisher, hit back the following year by issuing the entire Burroughs canon, including all the Tarzans, in attractive uniform editions. For several years, as the dispute smoldered on, millions of copies of the author’s works flooded the market, helping to stimulate a taste for fantasy adventure. But this was only a curtain-raiser.

In 1965, Ace put out the first paperback editions of the three volume The Lord of the Rings. Because their right to do so was again in contention, this became known as the “pirate” edition. Once more, Ballantine considered that they had the moral, if not legal, high ground, and within a few months had their “official” editions in the shops. A whole new generation of mostly young readers, many of them students, discovered Tolkien for the first time and loved him. In less than a year, Ballantine sold a million copies of their editions. Ace moved in excess of 100,000 copies of the “pirate” version before having to withdraw from the fray. The Lord of the Rings, a classic example of a “sleeper,” if there ever was one, was instrumental in opening the floodgate.

Every US mass-market publisher got into the act. Lancer Books reissued Robert E. Howard’s works, as edited by De Camp, with ravishing Frank Franzetta covers. Ballantine launched its highly successful Adult Fantasy series, in which Lin Carter selected classics of the field for reprint. New work was commissioned, fresh writers began to emerge. The genie was out of the bottle.

From the `70’s to the present, fantasy has grown to the point where the field is so fecund and far-reaching it’s difficult to keep a handle on it. Recent estimates put its share of the UK book market at around 14%, with an even higher proportion in the US. What accounts for this astonishing escalation of a genre that barely existed 30 years ago? As I’ve argued elsewhere in the past, I think there are several reasons. One is the comfort factor, the appeal of a form that offers some kind of certainty in our increasingly perplexing, morally ambiguous, overly materialistic culture, particularly in these troubled times. I see nothing wrong about the desire to engage with a literature that deals in fundamental issues of good versus evil. Nor do I see it, as some critics do, as a kind of reactionary, anti-rationalist impulse. It’s no rejection of science to want to escape occasionally into landscapes of pure imagination that don’t necessarily depend on accepted logic.

Another reason for fantasy’s popularity, in my view, is that it’s reached a level of maturity where it can convincingly tackle topics relating to the real world, and do it with the kind of assurance that used to be the sole province of science fiction. And that brings us to the always contentious argument that science fiction is “just” a branch of fantasy. Which of course it is: a rationalist branch. But maybe we should consider the proposition that fantasy is now outselling science fiction—which it is, by a head—because it’s doing what sf used to do so well, and it’s doing better? If it was nothing else, science fiction was always the literature of ideas. It had innovation, it could be satiric, questioning, and even inspiring. Occasionally it was actually subversive. Science fiction has had a lot to tell us about our present condition, albeit dressed as far-flung futures or alternate worlds. It still does, but to a much lesser degree. The torch is passing to fantasy, a literature that at its best addresses ideas and emotions.

Modern fantasy, the latest incarnation of storytelling’s most enduring form, has become a broad church, comfortably embracing talents as diverse as JK Rowling, Tad Williams, Raymond Feist, Robert Jordan, David Gernmell, Terry Brooks, Robert Holdstock, Storm Constantine, Terry Pratchett, Freda Warrington, Tom Arden, Peter S. Beagle, Joy Chant, Louise Cooper, Charles De Lint, Stephen Donaldson, Philip Pullman…and any number of other names from a long list that readily comes to mind. There can be a timeless quality about the finest fantasy that doesn’t necessarily apply to science fiction, so that not unusually an epic saga from five centuries ago may be more readable than a 40 year old science fiction novel.

I cut my teeth on science fiction, read acres of it, and given the chance I still write it. No doubt it will be on the up again. But for now it might not be a bad thing if it withdraws to figure out a new direction. Meanwhile, fantasy is emerging from the shadows where it’s languished too long as a bastardized sub-genre. Stand back and let the once poor relation take a bow.

Two Wizards and a Dwarf

Christopher Lee, John Rhys-Davies, and Ian McKellen Give Us the Gossip

In striking contrast to the young, medium-sized actors who play the Hobbits, Sir Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee and John Rhys-Davies have the gravitas and presence that come with age, height, and experience. It’s easy to see why McKellen and Lee were cast, respectively as the good wizard Gandalf and his corrupted counterpart Saruman. What takes some swallowing is the idea of the robustly built Rhys-Davies as Gimli the Dwarf.

Asked whether they had read The Lord of the Rings prior to filming, their contrasting personalities were immediately apparent. McKellen admitted, apologetically, that he had read only The Hobbit. Lee, whose patrician tone and conspicuous erudition border on the arrogant, said: “I read it when it first came out, then waited for the second, and then the third. And now I read it every year, so that’s something like 45 years I’ve been reading it.”

Rhys-Davies, however, doesn’t mince his words. “I hated it. I struggled through it. I kept falling asleep in it. All I can say is, the film’s a lot better.”

Rhys-Davies bluff humor was equally apparent in his account of the rigors of filming. “My fondest memory is of being on the side of a hill and seeing two men carrying my armor up the hill, two ladies carrying my costume, a woman carrying my helmet, another carrying my boots, and then the armorers carrying the axes. And then they put it all on me and Peter Jackson said, ‘Now run after them.’”

Preferring to emphasize the positive, McKellen described a day on which he and eight other members of the Fellowship of the Ring were dropped by a helicopter onto virgin snow near the peak of a mountain. He had annotated his script to read NAR, actor’s shorthand for No Acting Required. Prophetic words indeed.

“There really was no acting required for that occasion,” he remembers, “because there we were trudging through snow about 12 inches deep, plodding up to a distant peak. At moments like those, you don’t think, ‘There’s a camera on that helicopter that’s coming around’; you’re on the journey. We were there in Middle-earth, at a time when human beings had only just arrived. In a world where there were immortal wizards, immortal Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits.”

As if that were not enough, the difficulties of scale that beset the entire production affected the actors in a particular way. “One of the things that was not so much tiring as tiresome,” said McKellen with an air of polite resignation, “was that because the Hobbits must appear smaller than the humans, each scene had to be filmed twice—once with me as Gandalf and Elijah Wood and the other actors as the Hobbits, then once again with their scale doubles, people who were the appropriate size. Then the scene had to be done again with the real Hobbit actors, Elijah and the others, but not with me. In those scenes, Gandalf was played by a very, very tall New Zealander, six-foot-eight. He was walking along the street in Wellington one day and somebody walked up to him and said, ‘Would you like to be in a film?’”

Nevertheless, McKellen was as gracious as ever, insisting that “You forgive it all when you see the film.” Christopher Lee, too, was unstinting in his praise. “I’m a great admirer or Tolkien, and I couldn’t believe what I was looking at, because it’s the very essence of Tolkien, which is something that people didn’t believe could be done.”

John Rhys-Davies had sensed something special when he first met the ensemble cast. “When I walked into the room and looked around, I was astonished. I thought, ‘Good God, he’s got to be Frodo, that’s got to be Sam, that’s got to be…’ You just looked at these unmade-up faces and you realized that you were in very safe hands; because if a director can cast that well, you know he’s done 80% of his job.”

Seeing the completed footage, the actors were able to see clearly how much digital technology—often the bane of their lives during the shoot itself—had contributed to the film’s extraordinary visual impact. Yet what most impressed Sir Ian McKellen was how director Peter Jackson had used the visual effects to serve the story line and the characters.

“Peter has taken this new technology, much of which was invented for this film, and put it at the service, not of something purely fantastic, but at the service of ordinary people, in extraordinary situations. What I like about his myth that Tolkien has created is that, although there is magic in it, and people can do superhuman things, their progress towards the destroying of the Ring wouldn’t be achieved without the particular characters of the people on the journey.

“The story never twists on some magic, which is just a storyteller’s device; the storytelling is about human emotions that we all recognize. The drama comes out of recognizable human attributes, even though some of the characters are not human—their jealousies, their ambitions, their good nature, their vision of what the world could be.

“So this film would be nothing, despite its special effects, if it weren’t for a cast who were encouraged to really delve into themselves. And that’s why, so often, there was take after take after take, to get that believability of spirit.”

Ways of the Warriors

Viggo Mortensen and Sean Bean on their warrior characters

The two actors who were clearest about their characters were Viggo Mortensen and Sean Bean, who play the human warriors Aragorn and Boromir. They were equally clear about the fact that their characters don’t see eye to eye on the Ring and its awesome power. Aragorn respects and fears the Ring, whereas Boromir is initially against destroying it, because he believes it could be used as a force for ultimate good. But as the quest continues, Boromir is forced to change his mind.

“Boromir’s people have been in the forefront of the battles, keeping the evil forces at bay, acting as a sort of buffer zone,” explained Bean. “So through the generations, he’s become a very military-minded man who believes in strength and taking action. And that’s why his aim is to use the Ring against this evil force, rather than to destroy it. Boromir doesn’t understand the power, the magic or the implications, but towards the end, he says, ‘I didn’t know what I know now. It’s much more complicated, this power of the Ring.”

Mortensen continues for him. “Through his experiences in Middle-earth, Aragorn begins to understand other species that live there, to appreciate and value the Elves, the Dwarves and the Hobbits. In a sense, the whole trilogy is about alliances being formed, about people coming together against the coming danger. So there is no one heroic figure, because the success of the quest relies on the unique qualities of the nine who make up the Fellowship. It’s the group effort that counts in the end, because the Fellowship is only as strong as its weakest link.”

But with five different cultures involved, explains Bean, it’s not always plain sailing. “At first, Boromir is very doubtful we should be bringing all these different species along. I’m used to leading an army and all I’ve got is Aragorn, a wizard and this motley crew of Elves and Dwarves and Hobbits. There are many times when it seems like it’s going to fall apart, but ultimately they all know they have to stay together…It rests on these nine beings to save everybody.”

Finally, Mortensen speaks the two words that have been on everyone’s lips all afternoon: Star Wars. “Inevitably, people will compare Rings to movies like Star Wars, but I think that these characters are much more individual, original and fleshed out. Peter also went to great lengths to ensure that the relationships included all their unspoken doubts and fears. You really see that being played out, on their faces, in their actions and even in their hesitations. Star Wars was fun but it was more on a surface level: this character is good, this character is evil, whereas in The Lord of the Rings, you get those gray areas in between.”

2-08-02 Latest News

Rankin/Bass 'The Hobbit' Follow Up
Strider @ 3:31 pm EST

In response to yesterday's mail, I've had a lot of e-mails from Ringers who seem to recall seeing an extended version of the Rankin/Bass movie 'The Hobbit' than the one on video. Never fear however, for there are always people out there who can shed light on a situation.

Here are just some of the people who mailed in wondering the same thing, and also offered some suggestions as to what Jeff was referring to.

I remember watching the show when it originally aired, and I have also owned it on VHS (two different versions) as well as the new DVD. There is definitely only one version of the animated film (although one of the VHS editions has some missing animation, due to the print being in bad shape), and Beorn is definitely not in it (and neither is the Arkenstone). I also own the "Deluxe" Abram's edition of The Hobbit, illustrated with art from the Rankin-Bass film, and it's true that Beorn appears in it. But the illustration is inconsistent with the rest of the art in both style and quality; it was clearly produced for the text only, along with a drawing of a Warg-skin and Goblin-carcass, because otherwise that chapter would have had no illustrations. Another interesting example of this sort of thing is the illustration of Shelob that appears in the old Milton Bradley board game of The Lord of the Rings. The art for that game came from the Bakshi animated film, but of course Frodo & Sam never got anywhere near Shelob's Lair in that adaptation. Elentir

I too thought I had once seen a longer version of the Hobbit when I was a lot shorter than one. I could have sworn it had Beorn in it as well as more about the Arkenstone. Later when I rented the video and there was no Beorn in it, I figured I had just dreamed those extra scenes. Please if you hear any news about the existence of a longer version of 'The Hobbit', I too would die to have it. Although I've heard some people had less than kind words for the animated movie of the Hobbit (mbe orc talk, LOL) I thought It was just fine, a very nice way to introduce little kids to Tolkien's world of Middle Earth. Bill

I was interested to read your piece on the possibility of a longer Hobbit video. I seem to also remember a longer version of the Rankin/Bass edition. It was broadcast on the Disney channel some years ago, and seemed much more complete than the version currently available. There was a scene with Beorn, which I distinctly remember, and the travels through Mirkwood were much longer, including the Black River incident. Hope this might trigger some memories for others. Mike

If you watch the scene where Bilbo exits the tunnel after talking to Smaug, as soon as he exits, there is a very bad edit that jumps to "There we go, there we go... always glad to help a friend..."(Thorin). In the television version, I DISTINCTLY remember watching him run about on the doorstep yelling "Extinguish me!!!." I also seem to remember other, now deleted scenes from when I saw it on TV back around 1986. (Heh... even though I was only seven at the time.) I'd LOVE to know the answer to this one and get ahold of the full cut. Awful animation, but a lot of great voice actors and /some/ decent music. Christopher

Perhaps the person thought that "The Hobbit" and "The Return of the King" were the same movie. "The Hobbit" is 78 minutes long. Add in commercial breaks and its 90 minutes. "The Return of the King" is 97 minutes long. Add in commercial breaks and it's 2 hours. They are mistaken, I think. Brett

I am fairly sure this person is imagining the existence of a longer version. I owned the soundtrack album when I was a kid, which was a two-record set with illustrated booklet, and I don't remember Beorn being in it. I KNOW there was no Black River scene. There's no way it could have been two hours - I seem to recall the original TV broadcast with commercials running only 90 minutes. I may see if I can get a vintage TV guide from the week of its original broadcast and see what the original run time was. Now I'm curious. Brian

Back in the 70's the Hobbit was two hours long...the only reason I know that for sure is that I had the version that I taped myself, and in 1981, I worked in a rather Bohemian store that had lots of videos for that day, and we had a version on video about 2 hours long. It was also that long on CED disks (which were disks that came in large sleeves that weighed like 15 pounds a piece and they stopped making the players in , like 1987). I have The Lord of the Rings in that form as well, and it is longer than the movie that most people are familiar with (only by five minutes). It is also the original version, that is... ended with Gollum leading Frodo and Sam to Shelob's lair, rather than ending with Gandalf throwing the sword up into the air, and riding off in to the dust, which was a change that was made after the film was out one month in theatres. I have NO IDEA where you would get these today. I taped The Hobbit on Showtime in the 80's and ROTK, and those are different versions than are on video today...and I don't really know why. It would have never come up except we had friends and their kids over for a slipover, showed the movies, and the parents said that their forms were different that they had purchased in the 90's or currently. I can no longer watch my version of LOTR, because the CED player that I have no longer works (much to everyone's annoyance). I have just recently been told that there is someone who may be able to fix it. I will have to look into it. That's all the light I can shed on this situation...I hope it helps. Diamond T

Other ringers mailed in and pointed the finger at the illustrated book of the Rankin/Bass version of 'The Hobbit'.

In regards to a longer version of the Rankin and Bass 'The Hobbit', I have an illustrated book of 'The Hobbit using the Rankin and Bass illustrations from the movie. If I remember correctly it does have the Beorn Illustrations in it. Jeremy

I too have an edition of 'The Hobbit' with illustrations from the cartoon. Many of the illustrations are stills from the movie, but many were drawn later to fill in the blanks. Beorn IS shown in an illustration, but the artwork is clearly not from the movie. This doesn't prove that there isn't a longer version of the movie, but since IMDB lists the running time as 77 minutes and makes no reference to a longer version, I suspect the e-mail writer is mistaken. Steve

I am reasonably certain that there is no long version of The Hobbit. The photos of Beorn are from pre-production drawings. There are quite a few stills in that book that are not in the movie and the common denominator among them is that they are all of relatively poor (read: hastily rendered) quality. I believe that's because they are storyboard or pre-production drawings. I've yet to see any evidence whatsoever that a longer cut of the movie exists. Jeff

I recall the book referred to. When the Rankin/Bass Hobbit originally aired, a large format hardcover edition (slightly abridged) version of Tolkien's The Hobbit was released as a tie-in. It was illustrated mostly with preproduction images from the film, and additional drawings representing scenes not included in the cartoon. I assume that these extra images were created for the book's sake. There are many illustrations that are not only absent from the film, but done in a style that is looser and more sketchy than the final designs. Bilbo, for instance has a mass of scriggly wrinkles under his eyes. Smaug is green, and lacks the furry red-fox appearance. There's also a Lord of the Eagles wearing a crown, an arkenstone, and strangely an image of the ring itself with a diamond-stone on it. I'm certain that Beorn was never intended to appear in the film, or why else would the eagles deposit the dwarves at the very entrance to Mirkwood. These additional images were obviously either earlier design concepts, abandoned, or done deliberately to fill the narrative gaps in the novel. Joe

However, the closest thing we have to an official statement about this little mystery are two mails from two very different people involved with the Rankin/Bass movie itself. First, Marbpl sent in this e-mail she received from Rick Goldschmidt, author of The Enchanted World of Rankin Bass.

I am not a 'Hobbit' expert BUT I have found nothing in the archives saying it was released to theatres in another format. As far as I know, the DVD/video release is the whole thing and it was specifically made for TV.

Secondly, Joey sent in this e-mail which seems to be hold the key to this argument.

The "Long Version" in question does not exist-- I am good friends with (snip), one of the sound engineers for both The Hobbit and RoTK. He was kind enough to dub for me copies of both movies in the early Eighties from the Rankin\Bass masters and also gave me original scripts from both movies. In neither the master tape, nor the script does Beorn exist. There are some parts in the script that were cut out of the final movie (the Stone Giants for one), but according to (snip), the audio was edited to it's nearly final form before animation would even start.

So there you have it...make from all that what you will!

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