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Peter Jackson speaks to the American Cinematheque in Hollywood
by David Haber, Wizard News Editor
"All nights without fail, every night Iím shooting, I have the same dream, and then as soon as I stop shooting it goes away. Itís happened on many films, not just on Lord of the Rings. I dream that Iím lying in bed, just tired as all hell, Iím absolutely exhausted, Iím barely able to lift my head off the pillow, and thereís all the film crew and all the actors all in the bedroom, standing around looking at me, waiting for me to tell them what to do. Then I realize I donít even know what film Iím making, and I have clue what Iím doing."
Thankfully, when heís awake, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson knows exactly what heís doing. He spoke on Friday night to an audience after a screening of Fellowship of the Ring at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, as part of a weekend Lord of the Rings Trilogy screening hosted by the American Cinematheque.
"I discovered the Tolkien books when I was about 17, I actually read the Lord of the Rings the first time because Iíd seen the Ralph Bakshi animated film. That was in 1978. It was a brave and ambitious movie, it had some interesting stuff in it, but it finished the story half-way through, it got a little confusing towards the end. I did inspire me to pick up the book and find out more about this world, the hobbits and the characters.
"One of the cool things about making movies is that weíre fans ourselves. We see films, we look at actors, we listen to soundtracks, and when you get to make a movie yourself, you get possibly, if itís appropriate, to work with people that youíre fans of. Getting Howard Shore to do the score for Lord of the Rings really came about because we were doing animatica in the beginning when we were doing preproduction, which is basically filming the story board with a rough voice track to get a feel for the pacing of the movie, and we wanted music on our animatic, this was about 18 months before we started shooting. And so we went into a lot of different soundtracks, we used some Braveheart stuff and we used a bunch of different soundtracks, but for a lot of the emotional segments, for things we really wanted people to feel, we ended up using Howard Shoreís music, The Fly, Crash and Silence of the Lambs, some of it really beautiful and emotional, even though theyíre a really different kind of film. He does what I call Ďdark beautyí so well. We loved Howard Shoreís music on the animatic and we like his sensibility so we just ended up with him being our only choice, he was the person we went to when we were looking for a composer.
"Ian McKellen was a problem because he was on X-Men at the time, and we had to start shooting in October and it was clear that X-Men that was running over would run over into Christmas. We had Ian agreeing to do the movie early on and then X-men was pushing further and further back. The reason why it was pushing back was because originally in X-Men the role of Wolverine was going to be played by Dougray Scott and they were waiting for him to arrive on X-Men because he was in Australia doing Mission Impossible II, which was running way over schedule. And then lucky for us Dougray Scott had an accident on the set of Mission Impossible II, fell off a motor bike, broke his arm. That meant that Wolverine had to be recast, to Hugh Jackman, which just sped up that production and we delayed Gandalf scenes and started shooting other scenes and it all worked out. We never really had another choice for Gandalf.
"Ian McKellen was great to work with, and slightly frustrating sometimes. I hate Wizards with magic, I just think thatís a real cheap and tacky device. Fortunately, Tolkien didnít really use it that much, so we didnít have to have Gandalf doing much magic. In the Return of the King he had this thing where he rides on his horse and shines his staff of light to try and drive the nazguls away and it was the only time we did something magical with the staff like that. Later on a few weeks later we were doing Gandalf fighting with his staff, he was knocking orcs over the head with his staff. Ian marches up to me half-way through after weíd done some rehearsing and he says, ĎI donít know what Iím doing, I donít know why Iím doing this.í I said why is that, and he said, ĎWell, youíve seen my staff and it shoots that light. Why am I hitting them, why canít I just blast them?í I looked him the eye and said Ian, Minis Tirth is at war, and all the stores are closed, and your staffís run out of batteries. Without any batteries, your staff is dead, youíre going to start hitting people with it. And he just looked at me and I didnít know if he was going to hit me or not, and he just grumpily said, ĎRight. Fine.í"
Peter Jackson spoke about how they decided early on to make the focus of the films Frodo and his journey to destroy the ring. Because of this, much of the book gets to be in the films but some things have to be left out. Many fans want to know why the character of Tom Bombadil was left out of the first movie, but Peter Jackson feigned innocence with the audience.
"I donít know what happened to Tom Bombadil, I really donít. People say we didnít put Tom Bombadil in and thatís not true at all. In the movie, you got the scene in Isengard and then you cut to the scene of the hobbits arriving in Bree in the rain. I mean, whoís to say they hadnít visited Tom Bombadil on the way? We didnít cut him out, we just werenít rolling cameras at the time they met up with him on the way..."
Only a big hobbit from New Zealand could get away with an answer like that. Good thing the cameras were rolling for the rest of it.
Published February 7, 2004
This article is Copyright © 2004, David Haber, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission