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Marlow Writer in '93 LOTR script project

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Q and A session with 'Marlow' writer of the ill fated '93 script for Lord of the Rings!! : ROUND 1

"What were the hardest parts to cut?"

Without doubt, "The Scouring of the Shire". This is a magnificent chapter that is an absolutely perfect illustration of how the Shire is not immune to the politics of the wider world, and how Hobbits have to defend their own homes and way of life just as the other "free peoples" had had to do. Nevertheless, film executives don’t want a major production ending on a "minor note" and they would not accept it in any of the working drafts.

My co-writer, I ought to add, found it heartbreaking to cut anything, as he was a lifelong Tolkien fanatic.

"What was the dialogue to be like; much as Tolkien wrote it, or revised and changed to a more modern language?"

Much as Tolkien wrote it, actually. "Modern" dialogue can sound so out of place in historical films or fantasy films, preventing "suspension of disbelief", or, at worse, making the film laughable.

There would have been some tweaking, though, to emphasise character traits, mood or the tone of the scene. In general, the more important the character (in terms of rank) the "higher" her or his style of speech. Hence, Saruman and Denethor, for example would always speak in a lofty way, whereas the likes of Sam or Gimli would remain down to earth. Gandalf would have been the character whose speech styles would have shown the most variety, as we wanted to portray him as someone complex, somewhat moody but comfortable in any situation and with any rank of person.

Only the most zealous of purists would have disagreed with any modifications we proposed. Tolkien was a fabulous writer of dialogue; the exchanges between his characters form one of the many elements that elevate his work high above authors in the same genre.

"How did you handle the Arwen situation? In other words, how did you change her character, her relationship to Aragorn, and her place in the events of the story? How satisfied were you with her character after doing the tinkering?"

We made no changes to her character. We gave her scenes at Rivendell with Aragorn major significance and she reappeared for the coronation and wedding near the end of the story. Other than that, Aragorn would refer to her, recall her or dream of her during difficult or quiet moments. We saw this as the best way of "boosting" her role without flouting Tolkien’s vision of the novel. We also felt that such moments would emphasise Aragorn as a loving character — not simply a warrior or leader - and help us to distinguish his personality from Boromir’s (which was a central concern of ours).

"Marlow, as I try to keep up with the news about the movies being made, I have recently heard (via movie sites, etc) about Arwen’s role being radically made-over. From what I have seen, it could be as much as her joining the Fellowship, or as little as replacing Glorfindel near Rivendell. Were there ever issues concerning this when honoured folk like yourself had the "Ring"-like task of producing LOTR? If so or not, what is your opinion concerning these "changing" times?

When I was brought in to rework the first draft treatment, there were no specific "issues" concerning Arwen, however, the executives did give me a vague remit to "increase" the female interest in the treatment. I like to think my work on the project achieved this without compromising Tolkien’s vision at all.

Replacing Glorfindel with Arwen strikes me as a fine idea. In fact, if we’d thought of it at the time, I’m sure we would have used it in our treatment.

Making Arwen a member of the Fellowship is a terrible suggestion. I’m sure this is one of those rumours with no foundation. Jackson would have to be mad (and he isn’t) to even consider it.

"What were some of the oddest ideas you and your staff (if you have a staff) came up with?"

I wish I had a staff. I do have an agent, and my wife often gives me good ideas, but on LOTR 93 I was working with one other writer. There was a young PA who was a Tolkien fan and he tended to liase with us, chip in ideas and fight our corner, but that was it.

I don’t think we came up with many odd ideas. I once remarked, jokingly, that Bombadil reminded me of Jimmy Saville. (For those who aren’t British, Saville is a bizarre English TV and radio "personality" who speaks in gibberish, does a "lot of good work for charity", dresses in lamé tracksuits, wears ghastly gold jewellery and never blinks — mad.) We all found the comparison hilarious and used "Jimmy Saville" as code for Bombadil whenever we discussed that character.

This was as nothing compared to the insane ideas execs, or more particularly, their assistants, would produce.

"Do we really need the Hobbits?"

"Why don’t we make all the elves black and the dwarves oriental?"

"We could have supermodels play all the female parts."

"Arnold Scwarzenegger is perfect for Aragorn."

I’m glad to say that we did not have to act on any of these stupidities.

"Can you briefly explain how that project came about?"

The other writer convinced several players in the British film/TV business that LOTR was a guaranteed blockbuster. They had been looking for a big project that could serve as the basis for a giant European co-production and suck in public/private funding from European countries. They hoped to sell it as a prestige project and sure-fire hit that could act as an "embodiment of the new Europe" post 1992 and the Single European Act.

"Why was the project shelved?"

The backers became aware that they were never going to acquire the rights - simple as that.

"Were any actors’ names mentioned during your work?"

Yes, lots. The primary target for the backers was Connery. They even told me to write Gandalf’s part for Connery. You can argue about the merits of the man but to film producers he makes perfect sense as Gandalf. (New Line was just as desperate to get him if my sources are correct.)

You may have heard of the inaccurately named "casting video" for the 93 LOTR so I’d like to set the record straight. My fellow writer and I had a video put together to illustrate for those execs too lazy or busy to read the book/the treatment/notes the characteristics of the main figures. We also hoped that this video would serve as a stimulus for discussion about casting. Some of our choices were serious, some were wishful thinking and some were tongue in cheek. Please bear this in mind. Sometimes we included more than one actor to illustrate a character and, six years later, I can’t recall absolutely everyone on the tape. (NB: the video had to refer to Connery as a given and the fact that casting would be dominated by the international nature of the putative project.)

Character Actor(s)
Gandalf Connery
Aragorn Sam Neill
Arwen Isabelle Adjani
Galadriel Catherine Deneuve/Greta Scaachi
Saruman Nicol Williamson
Theoden Max Von Sydow
Eowyn Alison Doody/someone else
Eomer Rutger Hauer/Scwarzenegger
Denethor Peter O’Toole/Patrick McGoohan
Legolas Vincent Perez/someone else
Gimli Bob Hoskins/Tim Healey
Treebeard Paul Smith/Brian Blessed/Bud Spencer
Elrond Terence Hill
Celeborn Franco Nero/Alain Delon
Boromir Clive Owen/Martin Kemp
Faramir Iain Glen/someone else
Bombadil Spike Milligan/David Bellamy
Goldberry Helen Mirren
Radagast James Cosmo
Witch King Bob Peck

Hobbits didn’t appear, as we would probably have been going for unknowns. This list is in no way to be intrepreted as a possible cast and it only makes sense if you know about the linguistic basis of our treatment (but that’s another story).

Other names were being bandied about by the execs. Mel Gibson or Daniel Day-Lewis (and that is a long and intersting story) as Aragorn; Michelle Pfeiffer as Galadriel; Uma Thurman/Virginia Madsen for Eowyn; two of the McGann brothers for Boromir and Faramir, Richard Harris for something, etc. A lot of the discussions were linked to speculation on who might direct. I still haven’t mentioned everyone considered but that’s enough for today.

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