Go back to Spy Reports Archives


December 25, 2000 - January 11, 2001

1-11-01

WANNA KNOW WHAT'S IN THE TRAILER!?!? -UPDATE-
Xoanon @ 6:04 pm EST
From: flandaG

I saw the trailer today. I work at a theatre and we recieved the trailer today. We could not hold back our excitement so we just had to watch it. For anybody seeing a sneak of 13 days tonight the trailer WILL NOT be on it. It WILL BE on the movie Friday however.

So the beginning of the trailer I did not get to see due to an error by the projectionist. However, there seemed to be lightning and what not. When the picture finally came into view it showed the ring in Frodo's hand and it seemed to be getting smaller (larger?). I don't remember all in the trailer but there was a shot of the fellowship walking up Cahadras.

Remeber in the internet preview when they showed the test run for Massive of the army walking by the volcano. Well that shot is in it but it is finished and looks AWESOME.

There is also a shot of galadrial and she says something like "even the small do great things" or something like that. They also showed some quick parts with the Nazgul, Saruman, Arwen lying on a bed it looked like.

The best part of the trailer was the end where they show the Fellowship one by one walking up this mountain with Bill the Pony. However, at the time I thought I saw everyone in the Fellowship but now that I think about it I don't remember seeing Gimli. I may just be mistaken because I was looking at all the makeup and it's fooking amazing.

Overall the trailer is 1:46. Not too long but long enough to wet every Tolkien fans appetite. The people I saw it worth had not read the books and had listened to my ramblings all week about it and had poked fun at it. Yet when they saw it they thought it kicked ass. So it looks like at least the trailer will please everyone.

FlandaG

UPDATE

Prince Imrahil sneds along his own review of the trailer! I am getting a job at a movie theatre tomrrow...I sear.

I also work in a cinema, in the UK. We've had the trailer in since Tuesday, but the staff screening of Lost Souls tonight was the first opportunity
we've had to see it. I posted my spoilers on Decipher's LotR message board, but here it is again:

OK, I finally got to see the trailer

It starts with the screen curtains moving back - New Line have created a trailer that can only be shown in CinemaScope (2.35:1) format... none of your standard aspect rubbish.

Picture of a gold ring, spinning against a backdrop of red thunderclouds and lightning. 'One Ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,' goes the voice-over. 'One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.' Suddenly a Hobbit hand reaches up and grasps the Ring.

We cut dramatically to the Orc hordes swarming across Mordor, than a medley of scenes: a helicopter shot of the Company crossing Caradhras; Aragorn throwing his flaming branch on Weathertop; Cate Blanchett as the Lady Galadriel promising Frodo that 'even the smallest person can make a difference'. The voice-over promises us this treat 'next Christmas', with captions going through The Fellowship of The Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of The King.

Finally, we again see the Company (in close-up this time) coming over a summit on the Misty Mountains: Gandalf leads, followed by Legolas, Gimli, then the four Hobbits (I don't recall the order; Sam comes last, leading Bill the Pony), and last of all, Boromir and Aragorn bring up the rear.

The trailer ends with a cast list, an invitation to visit the official website, and the following tag line: "You will find adventure / or adventure will find you."

I don't know if I'd recommend buying a ticket just to see it, then walking out (a la Phantom Menace), but if you're going to see a film this weekend make sure it's the right one (Lost Souls in the UK; 13 Days in US and Canada).

1 Day Left!!!
Xoanon @ 9:44 am EST
From the folks at New Line Cinema

1 day left and I am very excited, the tylenol is wearing off and my head cold is drifting away. The adrenaline is running high and I am pumped!!!

So when and where will I be seeing the Trailer? Well believe it or not I still do not have any idea which cinema I am going to. Any Montreal TORNadoes who have an idea, drop me a line!

'Lord of the Rings' Taps the Net to Build Excitement for Film
Xoanon @ 9:25 am EST
By RICK LYMAN

HOLLYWOOD, Jan. 10 At 12:01 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Friday, the official Web site for the forthcoming film trilogy based on J. R. R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" books is to be simultaneously reinaugurated around the world in 10 languages.

Making their first appearance on www.lordoftherings.net will be dozens of features, including video and audio clips, an interactive map of Middle Earth, chat rooms, screen savers, interviews with cast members, links to other Tolkien sites, and probably much more than most people care to know about how the director Peter Jackson and his crew members are creating Tolkien's world of hobbits, elves, wizards, orcs, dwarfs and black riders.

But the people at New Line Cinema are not dealing with most people. They are dealing with Web-savvy, hobbit-obsessed fans of "The Lord of the Rings." And there are millions of them out there.

In April, when New Line offered a trailer about the films on the previous movie Web site, there were 1.7 million downloads the first day and 6.6 million by the end of the first week, surpassing the download fever evoked by other films, including the 1.1 million downloads of the trailer for the most recent "Star Wars" film during its first day on the Web.

Anticipation has been fervid for the official Web site's reintroduction and for the two-minute trilogy trailer that is to be shown in theaters for the first time on Friday at the beginning of New Line's latest release, "13 Days." Some 400 Web sites are dedicated to the movie trilogy and several hundred more focus on other Tolkien-related themes (www.25hobbits.com, for example, ranks Tolkien-related sites by their popularity).

For months, sites have been counting down to the Dec. 19 release of "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," the first installment in the film series, and in recent days many sites have added a daily countdown to the reintroduction of the film trilogy's Web site.

"This has taken 30 percent of my time for over a year, and the commitment of materials and resources has been massive," said Gordon Paddison, New Line's senior vice president for worldwide interactive marketing and business development, who is focused on building a relationship with Tolkien fans. ""Not until the movie comes out do we want to ask the audience for anything. Until then, it's all about giving things to them."

Since "The Blair Witch Project" streaked out of nowhere to hit status in the summer of 1999, with its success built partly on a fervent Internet fan base, Hollywood has been wondering how best to market movies on the Web. The challenge has not proved easy, and nothing has matched the viral power of the "Blair Witch" phenomenon.

When a movie is almost magically embraced by the Web sometimes with the connivance of the distribution company a strange relationship forms among the cybercommunity of fans, the filmmakers and the studio marketers. The online ferment includes nitpicking about casting choices, complaints about script changes and gossip across the globe about every nuance of the production. However, when everything clicks, a network of eager Internet evangelists evolves to promote and support the film.

Last summer "X-Men" was embraced. The forthcoming "Spider- Man" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" have been similarly charmed.

Movies with superhero, sword and sorcery, science fiction or teenage horror themes appeal to young and predominantly male moviegoers, the same demographic that spends the most time Web-surfing and often makes up the bulk of opening-weekend moviegoers.

"You need the product that matches the audience," said Amir Malin, chairman of Artisan Entertainment, which bought "The Blair Witch Project" at the Sundance Film Festival. "I'd say that 95 percent of the films in the marketplace don't really lend themselves to an Internet marketplace."

For the last year many movie sites have trumpeted such nuggets as pirated photographs from the trilogy's filming locations in New Zealand or gossip gleaned from newspaper interviews with the films' cast and crew members.

Harry Knowles, the creator of the best-known of these Web movie sites, www.aint-it-cool-nws.com, flew to New Zealand to hang around the sets during the final days of shooting and to attend the wrap party. New Line, which is owned by Time-Warner, was rewarded with a multipart, near book-length series of gushing reports that Mr. Knowles filed on his site and that were linked to dozens of other movie and Tolkien sites.

Joe Nimziki, New Line's president for theatrical marketing, said: "On the positive side, when you have a project like this that has generated so much interest on the Web, you know that you already have a built-in core audience.

"What you have to be careful of," he said, "is making sure you don't do anything that alienates your rabid core audience."

The trilogy's filmmakers decided to be as open as possible with the Tolkien Web sites, going so far as to adopt 40 of them, providing them a steady diet of images, sound clips and behind-the-scenes news.

"We decided very early on that, whatever bumps and headaches occurred during production, and they are inevitable in any film project, we would be open about them," Mr. Nimziki said. "Total disclosure, we felt, would in the long run be a positive."

These close relationships have helped the movie company squelch false rumors about the production before they made it onto the Internet, Mr. Paddison said. Just as important, they have helped the filmmakers understand what is most important to Tolkien fans and what sorts of departures from the books they would not tolerate.

When it was revealed that some Tolkien characters would not be in the films or that some would have expanded roles, there was an outcry from fans, many of whom see themselves as protecting the Tolkien canon against Hollywood exploitation.

Through their relationship with Web fans, filmmakers said they have demonstrated that the films will respect the richness, seriousness and epic scope of the books. That assurance, they said, will help sell the film.

And the excitement on the Web seems to be spreading to old media as well. Houghton Mifflin, one of the publishers of "The Lord of the Rings" and other Tolkien books in the United States, has seen sales of those books double in each of the last three years, with indications that the trend will only accelerate as the movie's premiere approaches. "This matches the period of the building anticipation for the films, which we believe will only help to increase the book audience exponentially," said Clay Harper, the Tolkien Projects director for the publisher.

Also tapping in to the Web constituency is Sony Pictures, which is making "Spider-Man" and "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within," an animated film based on a popular computer-game series."One of the things we have realized in the past couple of years is that the Internet audience is actually the same consumers as those moviegoers we get opening weekend," said Dwight Caines, vice president for Internet marketing at Sony Pictures. "When these guys become evangelists for you, their demographic profile looks just like early- weekend frequent moviegoers, and that's the best kind of evangelist to have."

The producer Laura Ziskin, who is overseeing "Spider-Man," said she understood New Line's desire to build a relationship with Web fans of Tolkien, and she hopes to do the same for Spider-Man fans.

"We want to make them happy and keep them in the loop," Ms. Ziskin said. "But ultimately, we are responsible for the movie. We are not looking for a Web-based focus group."

Mr. Jackson, the director, who is best known for "Heavenly Creatures" (1994) and "The Frighteners" (1996), spent 15 months, until Dec. 22, shooting the live-action sequences for the Tolkien trilogy around his native New Zealand. Digital effects are being added now. Following the "The Fellowship of the Ring" is the release of "The Two Towers," in December 2002, and the final installment, "The Return of the King," in December 2003.

Many in Hollywood consider the "Lord of the Rings" project financially risky, particularly for a studio like New Line, which has had a rough time at the box office in recent months. New Line says the budget for the trilogy is $270 million, or $90 million per installment.

"It's a very major thing for us," said Mr. Nimziki. "But we decided, if you are going to gamble on a trilogy, this was a good one."

Wizard-and-magic films have not always performed well at the box office, however, and marketing and distribution executives from several studios expressed wariness about the trilogy's prospects.

"You know those 1.7 million people who downloaded the trailer that first day?" said one rival marketing executive. "I think that's the whole audience for the movie."

Bob Friedman, New Line's co- chairman of worldwide marketing, said: "Our task is to expand interest in the films beyond the current core fan base on the Web. To be a success, we have to broaden the franchise."

The filmmakers are wooing three audiences, Mr. Nimziki said. The first is the most fervent fan base, which they are courting online. The second is older moviegoers, in their 30's and above, who may have read the books years ago and must now get reacquainted with them. The final group, younger than those in the second group, are also regular Web users and can be reached that way, as well as via what Mr. Nimziki called the "pass through," in which parents or grandparents suddenly begin talking about Tolkien or buying them the books.

"I don't think we could have made this movie 10 years ago," Mr. Friedman said. "The proliferation of new media, in which I include cable television and especially the Internet, allows you to so specifically target audiences that without that I don't think we could have effectively launched a franchise as big as this one."

Visitors to the film trilogy's revamped Web site will be greeted with a series of areas in which they can watch videos about the making of the film; click on a map of Middle Earth to learn how Hobbiton, home of the trilogy's hobbit heroes, was built and filmed; and join chat groups and a cybercommunity of Tolkien fans. One thing they cannot do now is download the new trailer.

New Line is showing it to no one in advance of its premiere in theaters on Friday, hoping that Tolkien fans will swell the weekend grosses for "13 Days." Part of the strategy, studio executives said, is to lure younger hobbit fans to a movie about the Cuban missile crisis that they otherwise might not have gone to see.

The trailer will become available online on Jan. 19, when a new section of the Web site opens in a partnership with Real Networks. Available then will be a library of video pieces expanding weekly until the movie's release as well as the trailer. Other partnerships in the works include one with the American Film Institute to promote middle school, high school and college-level study of the Tolkien books, augmented with material from the films and the Web. A five-minute behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the films will hit the Web, probably in February.

What the site will not have, Mr. Nimziki said, is actual clips from the finished film. All materials on the site will be about how the film was made, the characters were designed and the sets were constructed, sometimes in excruciating detail. (One segment is about how crew members worked to make the hair on the hobbits' oversize feet match the hair of the actors.) To see actual filmed scenes, moviegoers must go to theaters in December.

"At the end of the day, if it turns out to be `Star Wars,' they'll look like geniuses," Mr. Malin of Artisan Entertainment said. "If it doesn't, then they'll be sitting there in a lot of trouble with their corporate parents."

1-10-01

Sneak Peek at New Official Site?
Xoanon @ 11:19 am EST
Ringer Spy IM sends in word from The Wall Street Journal Website.

I was looking at WSJ online and they have an article about LOTR (the one I just posted -Xo), along with the article, they have an image of what must be the new look of the official site!

Day 2!!!
Xoanon @ 10:20 am EST
From New Line


Lured by the rings
Xoanon @ 10:04 am EST
Purist fans and beleaguered heirs of J.R.R. Tolkien may hate it, but a star-studded cast in a trilogy based on Lord of the Rings is reigniting new interest in an old classic

Patchen Barss
National Post

Do Balrogs have wings? When John Ronald Reuel Tolkien published his three-volume book The Lord of the Rings in 1954 and 1955, he never expected obsessed fans to wake him at three in the morning trying to find out the answer to this and countless other minutiae.

His children know better. With New Line Cinema planning to release a trilogy of film adaptations over the next three Christmases, Tolkien's survivors are wishing they had magic rings that could make them invisible.

"The Tolkien family is under perpetual abuse of one kind or another," John Francis Reuel Tolkien, J.R.R.'s eldest son told The Sunday Telegraph recently. "I am anticipating endless bother when the film actually comes out."

The bother may start sooner than he thinks: The trailer for the movie appears in theatres on Friday (attached to the movie Thirteen Days) -- almost a year before the Dec. 19 release of The Fellowship of the Ring, starring Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler and Sean Bean. Note that when a trailer was released on the Internet last April, it was downloaded 1.7 million times within 24 hours.

For the unintiated, Balrogs (evil fire spirits) are one tiny part of a pantheon of elves, dwarves, wizards, goblins and men who populate Tolkien's fantasy world, Middle-earth. It all started when the former professor of Old English reputedly wrote a single sentence on a sheet of blank paper in a student's exam booklets at Oxford: "In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit."

Tolkien, who died in 1973, loved creating mythologies; he told stories to his children about Hobbits, a generally sedentary race of small people who love good food and home comforts (the holes they lived in were dry and warm). Eventually, he adapted these into what was expected to be a money-losing book about one such furry-footed hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who became swept up in an adventure with a pack of rowdy dwarves and a wizard named Gandalf. The Hobbit, published in 1937, immediately made children's recommended reading lists.

The publisher asked for a sequel and Tolkien delivered The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King (known collectively as The Lord of the Rings). They tell the story of Frodo Baggins, Bilbo's nephew, whom Gandalf enlists to destroy a magic invisibility ring that Bilbo had found during his adventure. The ring, it turns out, is the source of power for the evil necromancer Sauron, and it must be hurled into a volcano in order to be destroyed.

Much compelling adventure ensues, including a battle between Gandalf and a Balrog in the underground caverns of Moria. "Suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall," Tolkien wrote, unwittingly starting a decades-long debate about whether he meant this literally or metaphorically.

In the sixties and seventies counterculturalists adopted Tolkien's books and people eagerly dropped acid while they read The Lord of the Rings. In the 1980s, the books fed the imaginations of a generation of Dungeons and Dragons gamers. The series consistently places at or near the top of public polls on favourite books of the 20th century, with sales of some 50 million. But despite the proliferation of Web sites, fan clubs and Tolkien societies, an authoritative film version has never, until now, been attempted (although there exists a made-for-TV cartoon version of the final volume, and a much classier animated movie of the first book and a half).

With a budget of $250 million, New Line's star-studded live-action films will become definitive even for many longtime fans, meaning the producers must take a stand on many contentious issues other than Balrog wings, including whether Legolas the Elf was blond, and whether female Hobbits have furry feet.

1-09-01

Day 3!!
Xoanon @ 12:05 pm EST
From the folks at New Line.


Report from the Wrap Party!
Xoanon @ 11:45 am EST
From: Finarfin

Ok here goes trying to dredge from my holiday season alcohol soaked brain the memory of the Lord of the Rings Wrap Party....

Actually its not that hard to remember given that I was on Cloud Nine from when I received the tickets until days after the party ended.

Party night arrived and a friend (who had managed to hike up from Christchurch; not a bad feat two days from christmas) and I dressed and ambled down to the Wellington Waterfront. We debated whether or not to take a camera and risk getting it confiscated, but in the end we bought a cheap disposable on the off chance that we would be allowed to use it (we were, and we both have photos which I'd share but for the lack of a scanner).

But eventually we arrived and tried to look inconspicuous among the slowly gathering throng. Doors (really they were chain link gates) were set to open at 9pm but 9 rolled by withut a movement from the large securty throng. People stood and chatted and it was obvious they were well into the process of remembering good times over the shooting period, and promising not to loose touch over the coming years. Then without the clap of thunder or the shining light from the clouds that (for me anyway) the moment deserved, the gates opened and we started to enter.

We got through the security check, and quickly walked through the venue so that we knew the locations of all the places and things that needed to be checked out. The main building was essentially a waterside wharehouse with huge shed doors spaced along its side. one door led to the food tent where great food (you already have the menu) was served all night. Others led to the toilets, and a coffee cart that saw many people (including me ) exceed the recommended lifetime intake for caffine in a single night).

Mind you that sought of self abuse did not come before we took total stock of the bar facilities. Now if memory serves there were...22 Bar staff on the main bar which occupied the middle of the warehouse, and at least four or five staff on the smaller bar which occupied the end of the mezinine floor reached by too large scaffolding stairwells. Alcohol for a party of this magnatude wass free and consumed with much vigour).

As I have read other accounts of the event I cannot fail to mention the other two features that dominated the warehouse. One was the stage at the far end of the warehouse, where the live acts played all night, The other was the number ( I recall at least three) of large projector screens that during downtime played slide shows of the production process, and at other times played live footage from the stage.

So far this has been a bit of a clinical account but I'm trying to prioritise my memories in order of least to best. (Now for a bit of emotion)

I would not have been suprised to learn that some gas had been released inside the venue (I mean I'm sure that many substnaces were circulating in the shadows) but seriously one thing that immediately struck me even before we got through the gates was the enourmous feeling of empathy and togetherness which was just awesome. These were a huge group of people who had worked on a project that they all believed in. That sence of achievement which was there throughout the nightwill be with me always.

Who did I see?

Well there were heaps of faces I recognised etc. And I won't list all the cast the were present and who I saw from a distance or close up etc. But I'll simply say that the highlight of the night for me, in terms of people, was meeting Orlando Bloom, seeing the tattoo (awesome) and having my photo taken with him. Since I've had it developed I show people who lack my sence of attention to the production thus far, and they say "who's he?" and I say " that's Legolas" and they reply as comprehension dawns on their faces "cool". Yep it was cool. Other words will not express it better.

What did I see?

Well a hell of a lot....but the highlight would be:

The Blooper Real - 10-15 minutes of fantastic footage including wonderful shots from Meduseld, Minas Tirith, Moria, Bag End, The scene of the Long Expected Party, Weatertop, Lorien, Fangorn and wonderful shots of Gandalf, Treebeard, The Nazgul singing "You make me feel like a natural Woman", Helms Deep and massive charges of Orcs and wildermen and the battle for the Hornburg, Gandalf admonishing Sam for listening to his conversation with Frodo at Bag End, Wonderful shots of the Fellowship travelling up Carhadras, etc. Truely I wish I could remember it all but al that needs to be said is that all of this was good. Perfect even, except for the somewhat confusing shots of Arwen atempting to fire her bow (and failing almost as many times as Legolas) at what apeared to be Helm's Deep. I've paid attention to the talk of changes to the book, and was most pleased to hea that Arwen would not be changed much...I do not know however that this change is a good one. But on the weight of the rest of the footage I am fully prepared to bow down in front of PJ and the crew and say "well done, it could not be better".

And now I put on my nationalist hat and say my proudest three moments in the next three years have already been heralded, and I belive when they come I may even cry. They will be at Christmas 2001, 2002, and 2003 when as the credits role at the conclusion of each film, I sit and see the words "Filmed entirely on location in New Zealand". For the little that I have been privileged enough to see has utterly convinced me that PJ and his team has worked creative magic truely worthy of Eru.

I left the party after all the major acts had played, about 2/3 of the guests had left, and 90% of the alcohol had been drunk. Truely a worthy party for what I am now wholly conviced will be a worthy adaption of a masterpiece of fiction.

1-08-01

Lord of Rings biggest project in movie history
Xoanon @ 5:47 pm EST
From: Jim

Lord of Rings biggest project in movie history
2,500-member crew worked on trilogy, which was shot in New Zealand and has 77 speaking parts

Mark Feeney
The Boston Globe

A year from now there is a good chance you or someone you know -- or, at the very least, someone who knows someone you know -- will be buying a ticket to see the first instalment of what is already being called the biggest project in movie history.

J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, is coming to the screen. On Dec. 19, the film version of the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring, is scheduled to open. A year later will come The Two Towers, and a year after that, the trilogy concludes with The Return of the King.

"It's a genuine cinematic first," says Mark Ordesky, the film's production executive and president of Fine Line Features, the arthouse subsidiary of New Line Cinema, which is producing Lord of the Rings. "At no time in the history of film has anyone made a commitment to a simultaneous filming of a trilogy of films."

That commitment is to the tune of a reported $270 million. The production, which was shot in New Zealand, has 77 speaking parts, a 2,500-member crew, and a 438-day shooting schedule. Principal photography concluded Dec. 22.

"It was a helluva wrap party," chuckles Ordesky.

The director and co-scenarist is Peter Jackson, best known for Heavenly Creatures (1994). The cast includes Ian Holm as Bilbo, Elijah Wood as Frodo, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn, and Liv Tyler as Arwen.

In Boston, some 15,000 kilometres from New Zealand, the opening of The Fellowship of the Ring is keenly anticipated at Houghton Mifflin Co., Tolkien's U.S. publisher. With 50 different editions of Tolkien's works in print, Houghton Mifflin has a vested interest in the success of the films. It has seen sales of the trilogy triple over the past three years, thanks in no small part to publicity about the movies.

The opening is even more eagerly anticipated in New York, where New Line's owner, Time Warner Inc., has its headquarters. The studio is hoping the Tolkien movies will help it recover from a string of costly flops, the most recent being the Adam Sandler vehicle Little Nicky.

But where the opening is most eagerly anticipated is on the World Wide Web.

"The collective enthusiasm from the Internet has been a roar," Ordesky happily notes.

"There are Web sites out there that watch every little tidbit they can find on, literally, a daily basis," adds Clay Parker, Tolkien projects manager at Houghton Mifflin. "To keep up with that stuff, I check some of them three times a day, and have for more than a year."

There are at least 400 fan sites exclusively devoted to the production. Many of them feature countdowns to the first film's opening and list not just how many days remain, but hours, minutes, and, yes, seconds.

When New Line made available a Lord of the Rings trailer in April, 1.7-million users downloaded it the first day. By comparison, the first day the trailer for Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace went online, a million users downloaded it.

Such fervour is a two-edged sword for New Line. It guarantees the films a vast presold audience. It also means that audience has very strong ideas about what it wants. Production news often takes a back seat on the Web sites to complaints about casting (Ian McKellen is playing the wizard Gandalf, but Sean Connery clearly seems to be the chat-room choice) or deviations from Tolkien's text. The trilogy runs to a thousand pages. The films are expected to run between six and seven hours. Clearly, something's got to give -- though try telling that to Tolkien buffs.

Mike Foster, U.S. representative for the English-based Tolkien Society, admits he will be one of those waiting in line next year. "But it'll be with a dire foreboding," he says. Referring to two characters in the trilogy, one of whom has a pronounced lisp, Foster expresses fears that "the merchandising tie-ins could be ludicrous: a Gollum Happy Meal with a fissRating four & chipsss McLunch? A Mattel Barbie Galadriel?"

The Lord of the Rings inspires a loyalty on the part of its admirers -- who have included such eminences as W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood and C. S. Lewis -- that can make the enthusiasm of, say, Harry Potter fans seem tame by comparison. Three separate reader polls in England in 1997 saw the trilogy named best book of the century, and it won handily in Amazon.com's Best of Millennium survey.

Tolkien's tale of hobbits and orcs and elves in an imaginary land called Middle-earth has sold 50-million copies and been translated into 26 languages since it first appeared some 45 years ago.

"It's not only a franchise," says New Line's Ordesky. "It's also the collective imagination of tens of millions of people who are passionate about these books."

The trilogy was well received in the mid-'50s, when it first appeared. But it wasn't until the mid-'60s, when it appeared in softcover editions, that the books became a phenomenon. Bumper stickers proclaimed "Frodo Lives" and "Gandalf for President." Rather to his chagrin, Tolkien became as much an icon of youth culture as the Beatles. (There was actually discussion of the Fab Four starring in a film version of the trilogy, with Paul as Frodo and John as Gollum).

By no means did the trilogy disappear in the '70s -- there were, for example, animated versions of its predecessor novel, The Hobbit (1977), and The Lord of the Rings (1978) -- but it lost its talismanic status. The success of the Star Wars films helped make Tolkien seem passe -- unless one realized the debt George Lucas owed him (Obi Wan-Kenobi is a galactic Gandalf, Yoda's maddening syntax and lizardy look are straight out of Gollum). The trilogy had been absorbed into the culture. Wherever one finds sword or sorcerer, whether on page or screen, odds are one will find a Tolkien influence, too.

The enormous commercial success of Tolkien's The Silmarillion (1977), a posthumously published collection of fairly esoteric writings on Middle-earth history, indicated both the extent and staying power of the trilogy's popularity. "It never went back down" in terms of sales, says Houghton Mifflin's Parker, who estimates the company's Tolkien sales this year to be in the mid-eight figures.

That New Line has a very solid property on its hands there can be no doubt. The big question about The Lord of the Rings on-screen isn't why, but how. The nature of the property guarantees the crowds will be there next year. It's what's been done to the property that will determine whether they're still there for the subsequent films.

In the rueful words of William Goldman, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President's Men, "When you're dealing with three movies, your first one (had) better be good. Because if it isn't, there's no interest in the second or third."

The Author

John Ronald Reul Tolkien, the lord of The Lord of the Rings was an unlikely cult author. A pipe-smoking Oxford don who was a leading authority on medieval English, Tolkien was from an early age fascinated by languages. He began making up new ones as a boy, and in that hobby lay the inspiration of The Lord of the Rings.

"The 'stories' were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse," he once said. "I should have preferred to write in 'Elvish.' ... It is to me, anyway, largely an essay in 'linguistic esthetic.' "

Born in South Africa in 1892, Tolkien moved to England when he was 4. He graduated from Oxford in 1915 and married the next year. As a junior officer, Tolkien saw action in the Battle of the Somme. After the war, he worked as a lexicographer on the Oxford English Dictionary, before taking a teaching post at the University of Leeds, then Oxford.

One day, while grading examinations, he came upon a blank page and wrote the sentence "In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit." Thus was born The Hobbit (1937), a book for children. It met with such success that Tolkien's publisher urged him to write a sequel, which proved to be The Lord of the Rings. A far more complex and sophisticated book than its predecessor, it comprises The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), The Two Towers (1955) and The Return of the King (1956).

Tolkien died in 1973.

The Trilogy

J. R. R. Tolkien's trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, is set in Middle-earth, a pre-industrial land with a society vaguely reminiscent of medieval England. Its inhabitants include not just people but elves, dwarves, orcs (also known as goblins) and hobbits. Hobbits are very much like humans, only about half the size and with furry feet.

The trilogy is a classic quest. It centres on a gold ring with magical powers that a hobbit named Frodo Baggins has inherited from his uncle Bilbo (how Bilbo came to possess the ring is told in Tolkien's children's novel, The Hobbit). Frodo learns from the wizard Gandalf that the ring belongs to Sauron, the Dark Lord, a figure of absolute evil. Sauron's regaining the ring would enable him to conquer Middle-earth. Frodo's task is to take the ring to the place of its making, in Sauron's kingdom, Mordor, and destroy it.

The trilogy is also a classic morality tale.

In attempting to destroy the ring, Frodo must battle himself as well as Sauron's many minions. For the ring corrupts its possessor even as it bestows great powers. Frodo must destroy the ring before it, or Sauron, can destroy him.

Day 4!!
Xoanon @ 9:05 am EST
From New Line Cinema


1-07-01

5 Days Left!
Xoanon @ 1:09 pm EST
The latest from the folks at New Line.


1-06-01

6 Days left!!! And is that?......
Xoanon @ 12:59 pm EST
The cool folks at New Line Cinema have sent me a countdown banner for the re-launch of the LOTR Website and theatrical trailer. I am pretty sure that the image includes our first ever look at Hugo Weaving as Elrond!!!!



12-25-00

X-Mass Spoiler Pics!!
Xoanon @ 12:53 pm EST
Some great spoiler pics for you to enjoy on this Christmas Day!!

The first is a great pic of Aragorn and what could be a stone troll! [More]

The next is a much smaller pic of Frodo, with the Ring letters glowing on his face! What an amazing pic!

Thanks to Leonides and Tulkas for the pics!


Go back to Spy Reports Archives