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February 11, 2004 - February 18, 2004

2-18-04 Latest News

Chasing 'The Hobbit'
Xoanon @ 9:06 pm EST

Rival studios must resolve distribution issues before the Tolkien classic can be made. Some key 'Lord of the Rings' stars indicate support for the project.

The Hobbits have returned to the Shire, Gandalf has hung up his cloak and the Oscars are looming. But the battle for Middle-earth is far from over.

As "Lord of the Rings" fans come to terms with the end of the movie trilogy, many are holding out hope that director Peter Jackson will return to the J.R.R. Tolkien classics and make a film based on the first book, "The Hobbit." They may be in luck - Jackson and key cast members recently have made noises that they want to take on the cult novel.

But Time Warner Inc.'s New Line Cinema - the studio behind the "Rings" - is facing a potential battle to get "The Hobbit" to the big screen.

Under a series of complicated deals made over the past 30 years, New Line has the rights to make "The Hobbit," but a competitor, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., controls the rights to distribute the movie in most major markets. No studio would make a movie of this scale without at least some of the distribution rights, so New Line's only option is to haggle with MGM. Unsurprisingly, MGM - which these day makes few big-budget movies - is rubbing its hands with glee.

For New Line, it may be worth the battle. The first three films have reaped almost $3 billion around the world, dropping an estimated $1 billion to the studio's bottom line. "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" also received 11 Oscar nominations this year, including Best Picture and Best Director.

But if history is any indication, "The Hobbit" could have some ways to go. A string of high-profile films have stumbled over rights snafus, and "Lord of the Rings" itself took many years to reach the movie theaters. Tolkien, an Oxford professor who dreamed up the idea of the hobbits while marking exam papers, sold the rights to his Middle-earth tales, including "The Hobbit," to MGM's United Artists in 1969 for an estimated $10,000 to pay off a tax bill. MGM subsequently sold most of the film rights to Hollywood producer Saul Zaentz, who made an often-derided animated "Lord of the Rings" in 1978.

After a series of twists and turns that included settling a lawsuit with United Artists, Zaentz eventually sold the rights to New Line after approving a treatment put forward by Jackson. However, MGM retained the distribution rights for "The Hobbit." It's unclear what rights Zaentz has going forward; he declined to discuss the matter.

MGM is no "shireling" when it comes to negotiating such deals. Owning one of the biggest film libraries in Hollywood, MGM often has found itself at the center of disputes over movie rights, including an eight-year legal battle over "Spider-Man," which it eventually settled. This time, the rights to "The Hobbit" present a potential gold mine at a moment when the studio may be looking for a merger partner.

For its part, New Line says it will pursue a deal on "The Hobbit" only if Jackson takes on the project. The 42-year-old director invested seven years of his life making the "Rings" trilogy, shooting the three installments back-to-back.

"A big reason for the franchise's success has been Peter. ... He's so passionate about the subject and we feel very loyal to him," said Bob Shaye, New Line's co-chairman.

With his long, curly hair and casual attire, Jackson often jokes that his time on the "Rings" has turned him into a hobbit. But he is moving on to new projects this year, starting this summer with "King Kong" for Vivendi Universal SA's Universal Pictures. The New Zealand-born director could take on "The Hobbit" near the end of 2005. If that were the case, New Line would need to sort out the rights issue soon.

"I am certainly interested in making 'The Hobbit,'" says Jackson, wearing his now-trademark knee-length shorts in a swanky Hollywood restaurant. "I definitely wouldn't want to see anyone else do it."

Ian McKellen, the 64-year-old British actor who plays Gandalf, is also eager to return to his wizard's hat and gray beard. Aside from Gandalf, there are only two key characters from the "Rings" who are also central to "The Hobbit": the hobbit-turned-bad-guy Gollum (played by Andy Serkis) and Frodo's elderly cousin Bilbo Baggins, who has a small role in the "Fellowship of the Ring," played by Ian Holm, as a 111-year-old hobbit. Frodo himself doesn't figure into the story.

If book sales are anything to go by, there's certainly appetite for another film. Tolkien's American publisher, Houghton Mifflin, says 24 million copies of the "Rings" and "The Hobbit" were sold in 2001 and 2002 in the U.S. alone. Fans have since been digging deeper into the Tolkien trove, with sales of his less-popular Middle-earth tale, "The Silmarillion," climbing in the past year - a sure sign that fans are far from sated.

"Jackson's films have led a Tolkien resurgence among Americans and now they want more," says Clay Harper, Houghton Mifflin's Tolkien projects director.

New Line and MGM have yet to sit down to seriously discuss "The Hobbit." When they do make it to the negotiating table, it is likely that MGM will want to retain some sort of cut. A possible proposal could include the two sharing the costs and splitting the profit, with New Line taking the domestic distribution rights and MGM taking the international rights. Such a split isn't unusual - in the case of the "Rings," New Line used independent distributors for the international release.

"We're open to any discussions that the other rights holders would like to have," says MGM Vice Chairman Chris McGurk.

New Line says that if it can't do a deal with MGM, it may go back to the drawing board and either its own prequel filling in the period between "The Hobbit" and the first "Rings" book, or a sequel that follows on from "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." However, that option faces a number of potential complications, including the Tolkien family. While the family still benefits from sales of the books, they signed away their say on any films based on "The Lord of the Rings" or "The Hobbit" when Tolkien sold the rights to MGM. But a new prequel or sequel could be another matter.

Starting from scratch with a new story also would involve extending Tolkien's fantasy world without the Tolkien vision, and his fans may object. "To take some elves and short guys with furry feet and invent new challenges for them that aren't in the source material ... would be a betrayal of Tolkien and Jackson's achievements," says Houghton Mifflin's Harper.

2-17-04 Latest News

Downsizing Frodo: The arguments against.
Tehanu @ 2:57 am EST

A few days back I posted Juliet Waldron's essay discussing whether the movies downplayed Frodo's heroism relative to the role he played in the books. We got quite a few responses, many of them in agreement but also some people felt strongly that the movies did not 'downsize' Frodo.

Meredith wrote some interesting things to counter Juliet's view: "...she was more negative to Peter Jackson's version than deserved. Really, the important thing to understand is that Peej wasn't interpreting Tolkien's text, he was retelling the Peter Jackson version of the story, which plays out very well as a trilogy of movies, and brings out different aspects of the story the book doesn't really explore.

"Overall, I think Peej's characterizations are in some respects superior to Tolkien's, Tolkien didn't always have a realistic sense of the psychological effects of some of the stuff going on in his stories. For example, his Faramir is very different from the book's Faramir, and yet far more of a believable person than the book's Faramir ever was. His Boromir isn't just a foil to Aragorn, but a person as well. Where the brothers exist as illustrations of the two states of Aragorn in the book, they exist as people in the movies. Do I mind the change? Not at all. Do I respect Tolkien's original vision of them existing more as foils than flesh and bone men? Yes, because both are in their place.

"As in all retellings, the story comes to resonate with the time it is being told in. Peej's Frodo is a hero for the modern era. Like many people in the modern world he feels overwhelmed by the challenges life has put before him. In this age of high divorce rates and an unstable job market, Peej's Frodo is a hero that endures rather than overcomes, as we are expected to endure these things rather than overcome them. The world is a lot bigger and us a lot smaller nowadays. This makes him different from Tolkien's Frodo, but does not necessarily make him inferior to him.

"I entirely disagree with her interpretation of the Osgiliath scene. Yes, Frodo went up on the tower to face the Ringwraith, heeding its call, but I think clearly he went up there intending to fight, as evidenced by his immediate attack of Sam. He is not attacking Sam because Sam is Sam, he is attacking Sam because he went up there with the idea to attack the first thing that came at him through his semi-trance-like state of mind.

"Overall, there are enough flaws with the original work that there really aren't many more flaws with Peej's telling. It's simply a different telling of the story, reflecting modern sensibilities and ideals. One can take either story and say they enjoy it more, but I don't think it's fair for one to hold either version against the other, either, because Peej wasn't disrespecting Tolkien when he told the Peter Jackson version of the story, because Tolkien wasn't disrespecting the Icelanders when he told the J.R.R. Tolkien version of their traditional stories, because the Icelanders weren't disrespecting their ancestors when they told the elaborated story version of those Icelander's lives. Everybody's got their own telling of it, every telling applies to the generation in which it was told. That's how legends go.

Sulky wrote in to disagree strongly too:

"I myself feel the character was very well interpreted and have heard Peter Jackson state in many interviews that he feels Frodo is the true hero of the story - so enough of this 'maybe the writers didn't like Frodo' talk. I have never heard Jackson state that the true hero is Sam, though many book readers and film fans have felt this. The key reason that Jackson cites Frodo as the 'true hero' is because he is the character who has to make the biggest sacrifice. It is interesting to hear this critic sniffing at the notion of Frodo as a 'sacrificial hero' as if to sacrifice oneself for the sake of Middle Earth isn't brave enough for them. It seems they are ignorant to the fact that this is exactly what Tolkien intended Frodo to be and that it is precisely his 'sacificial situation' which most reveals Frodo's strength. A hero is some one who RISKS their life for the sake of good (as Sam does). A sacrificial hero or martyr is some one who OFFERS their life for the sake of good. This is the key element of Frodo's heroism and it is not taken away or even downsized in the films.

"It is interesting to see that one of the major 'downsizings' was considered to be his rescue by Arwen. It seems to me that this scene is wildly misinterpreted. Frodo's resistance to the wraith poison is an internal battle of his strengh of will. It is because of his inner strength, that in the book and the film, Frodo survives his injury. As Gandalf remarks 'You have some strength in you, my dear hobbit,' and I don't hear any character giving Arwen the credit for Frodo's recovery. The point of this scene is Frodo's inner strength, which does not require an external flourish of bravery such as Frodo jeering and waving his fists at the Black Riders. If you are able to pick up on subtleties as a viewer you might notice that Elijah's eyes express the same contempt as the line 'You shall have neither the ring, nor me!'

"Another so-called 'downsizing' which I feel has been misinterpreted is Frodo turning on Sam in ROTK. Again, if you are really concentrating you will see that it is the ring that turns Frodo against Sam, not simply Gollum (though Gollum does work as an agent of the ring). Though this does not happen in the book, it is plain to see where the writers drew their inspiration. Twice in the books when Sam offers to carry the ring, Frodo turns on Sam, insults him and rejects him. It is not that much of a stretch to imagine that his paranoia over the ring might cause Frodo to send his friend from his side. For me, Frodo and Sam's separation in the movies does not 'weaken' the friendship. Rather it highlights the hobbits devotion to each other when we see both of them alone and desperate to find one another again.

"But I am sick of this focus on the 'downsizing of frodo'. There a many additions in the movie that raise the status of the character! Though I love the books, Frodo's choice to take the ring in the council of Elrond is made much braver and bolder than in the novel - in which he seems reluctant and is almost forced into being the ringbearer. To further support the movie, I can't tell you how moved I was to hear Aragorn whisper the words 'for Frodo' before the Black Gates or to hear Merry cheering Frodo's name when the dark tower collapsed. Though I'm sure the Fellowship are aware that Sam made the journey too, it is Frodo who actually bore the ring to Mount Doom for the sake of all Middle Earth. Nothing expresses Frodo brave and selfless 'sacrifice' more so than Pippin's silent whimper - 'Oh Frodo...' It is also worth noting that the hobbit's recovery and awakening is shown through Frodo's eyes where in the book it is shown from Sam's perspective. In fact all of the final twenty minutes of ROTK is centered upon Frodo where as in the book Tolkien switched the focus to Sam. And what could place Frodo more firmly in the spotlight as the movie's hero than showing him writing a book entitled 'The Lord of the Rings'? It is and always was Frodo's story!"

Sulky sent in an additional comment that claimed the middle ground and made sense of the movie's interpretion in those terms:

"How could Frodo be the one true hero? He could never have done it without Sam. And do the people who suggest Sam is the true hero really believe he could have done it without Frodo? Both these characters' heroism is dependant on them working together! And would Frodo and Sam even have had the chance to achieve their quest if it wasn't for the heroics of the rest of the fellowship, the Rohans and the Gondorians? I don't think so. Most importantly the quest could not have been achieved without Gollum - or more specifically Frodo's, Bilbo's and eventually Sam's mercy towards Gollum which is the real heroic factor.

"What Tolkien seems to be making very clear is that you can't have one, incredible, evil defeating hero. It is the heroes unity against ONE all powerful foe that allows them to suceed. I don't know why fans are so obsessive over the notion of 'the real hero'. The idea of a fellowship of heroes is far more inspiring to me."

2-16-04 Latest News

Leonard Maltin's Oscar Predicions
Xoanon @ 8:22 pm EST

Marianne writes: Movie critic Leonard Maltin offered his Oscar predictions on his show Hot Ticket this weekend. He and his counterpart Joyce Kulhawick offered their takes on who they believe will take home Oscar gold in comparison to who they think should win. Their comments are more favorable to Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in comparison to other critics, who believe it will win but really don’t think it should. Maltin believes Jackson will win for Director, and that he is certainly deserving. That he, like we know, has done something immeasurable, and incomparable to anything else. He’s also predicting a Best Picture win as well saying it would be a crime to deny them the award. He also said that while he admires the other nominees, Return of the King just seems to be in an entirely different category, on a whole other level. Kulhawick said that she actually liked Seabiscuit better, but that she can understand a win for ROTK and would not be upset by it. As for the other nominee's predictions they were as follows.

Best Actor
Maltin and Kulhawick
Will win – Sean Penn
Should win -Sir Ben Kingsly

Supporting Actor
Will/Should – Ken Watanabe
Will – Benicio Tel Toro
Should – Alec Baldwin

Supporting Actress
Will – Renee Zelwegger
Should – Patricia Clarkson
Will – Renee Zelwegger
Should – Holly Hunter

This was very refreshing to hear critics actaully happy with what they believe will win.

ROTK Takes Japan by Storm
Xoanon @ 1:04 pm EST

jasmine writes: The total sales of the ROTK pre-order tickets was 16,272, it has broken the record of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" in Japan.

Feb 7th the premirer screening day had 260,000 people were going to the theatre. Fuji TV announced an audience rating of the FOTR on TV(Feb 7th) was 21.3%(kanto area).

Sat Feb 14th ROTK was released on 736 screens in Japan. Only this day 510,000 people had together to see ROTK. It is very strong, high pace, over TTT(150%) and FOTR(220%).

For example Tokyo Marunouchi Piccadilly theatre has lots of fans's long line in the night before, and the 1st screening on 7:30am over 200 people had not seats, they had to see 'standing'.

Nippon Herald expect of the box office over 150 or 220 million.

2-14-04 Latest News

Hobbits Reign as Mardi Gras Lords
Xoanon @ 10:39 pm EST

NEW ORLEANS,, 12 February 2004 /PRNewswire/ -- Feb. 12 - As if hobbits didn't have enough excitement this year, now they are planning to take over New Orleans during Mardi Gras! Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan, stars from the hit movie "The Lord of the Rings," will be throwing "precious" things to the crowds as part of the 147th celebration of Fat Tuesday in New Orleans. Wood is set to reign as King Bacchus 2004, while Monaghan will rule as Celebrity Monarch over the Krewe of Orpheus.

Frodo and his friend Merry won't be the only stars in town for the celebration. Country music artists LeeAnn Rimes and Brad Paisley will also reign over the festivities. Rimes will be the Grand Marshall of the The Krewe of Endymion, the largest parade during Carnival with over 1,000,000 people lining its route. Paisley, Harry Connick, Jr. and New Orleans' own Neville Brothers are other celebrities scheduled for performances.

Over a million tourists and locals are expected to line the streets to see the stars and to participate in the numerous festive happenings scheduled around this hedonistic event. Several lavish balls and over 59 parades are scattered throughout the city, all leading up to February 24, which is Mardi Gras Day.

When asked about Mardi Gras, or the "Greatest Free Show on Earth," New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said with enthusiasm, "When the marching bands kick in, you won't be able to keep your feet still. When float riders taunt you with beads, you won't be able to stop screaming, `Throw me something, Mister!"

This year, people worldwide will access the Internet to learn about the traditions and culture surrounding this holiday and to see live broadcasts of these exciting parades and events. Details about Mardi Gras 2004, including parade routes, recommendations on lodging, and informational videos are available now at http://www.mardigrasday.com/. Also available are colorful pictures of last year's celebration, Cajun recipe ideas, and decorating tips (as a consolation prize) for those who just can't make it down to the Big Easy this year.

This release was issued through eReleases(TM). For more information, visit http://www.ereleases.com/.

2-13-04 Latest News

Hall Of Fire Chats This Weekend
Frode @ 6:29 pm EST

A chance meeting:

The focus of thehalloffire for the next months will be JRR Tolkiens 'The Hobbit'. But before starting with the book we will take a closer look at the events prior to the Unexpected Party at Bag End. How did the most succesfull business enterprise of the Third Age get started? What were the motivations of the founders of Thorin & Company? We shall begin with Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield running into one another on the Road to Bree. A chance-meeting as we say in Middle-earth.

Suggested Reading:

The quest of Erebor (Unfinished tales)
Durins Folk (Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings)

Upcoming topics:

weekend 210204-220204
Chapter I from 'The Hobbit': An unexpected party

Saturday Chat:
5:30pm ET (17:30)
[also 11:30pm (23:30) CET and 9:30am Sunday (09:30) AET]

Sunday Chat:
7:00 pm (19:00) CET
[also 1:00pm (13:00) ET and 5:00am (05:00) Monday morning AET]

ET = Eastern Time, USA's East Coast
CET = Central European Time, Central Europe
AET = Australian East Coast

Do you have a possible topic for Hall of Fire? Drop us a line at

2-12-04 Latest News

Dourif at MegaCon 2004 Details
Xoanon @ 6:03 pm EST

bethany writes: Brad Dourif will be in Orlando, FL for MegaCon 2004, March 5-7th at the Orange County Convention Center.

Here's his autographing schedule:

Signing Times

Friday, March 5th - 1:00p.m. - 3:00p.m. and 5:00p.m. - 7:00p.m.
Saturday, March 6th - 12:00p.m. - 2:00p.m. and 4:00p.m. - 6:00p.m.
Sunday, March 7th - 11:00a.m. - 1:00p.m. and 3:00p.m. - 5:00p.m.

2-11-04 Latest News

'Will & Grace' Goes Geek
Xoanon @ 11:45 am EST

Sheltercats writes: "Will & Grace" was on tonight, instead of Thursday, and there was a funny bit involving ROTK. Will had a new client (the very funny Dave Foley from 'Newsradio' and 'The Kids in the Hall'), and one of the first things he asked Will was whether or not he had watched LOTR. The client said he couldn't work with a lawyer who hadn't seen all 3 films; he didn't want anyone who had "come in at the end."

Will said of course he had seen them, what's not to like about a movie with boys named Merry and Pippin searching for a piece of jewelry?

Then the client said something else about the film, and Will said something like, "When Theoden's daughter Eowyn stabbed the Witch-King, I screamed like an Uruk-hai."

Then the client said, "Hey, I liked the movies, but I'm not one of those freaks."

Astin in 'Fifthy Firtht Dathes' Preview
Xoanon @ 11:33 am EST

Greg writes:

Hi there--I don't know if you can use this for the site, but I attended a press screening of 50 First Dates tonight. The movie was god-awful and quite literally the only bright spot throughout was Sean Astin. Not only was it damn nice to see Samwise back on a screen, but he was hysterical!

He plays Doug, Drew Barrymore's protective, juiced-up brother (not to mention his very funny lisp) and without giving anything away, he has a very great "***** dance" which was truly the only thing that made me laugh out loud during the flick. Not worth your money, but good old Sean does not disappoint. Surely you deserve a loose role like this after years spent in hobbit's feet!

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