Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit': Is it closer to a green light?

The drama surrounding Peter Jackson’s production of The Hobbit continues: The L.A. Times reported Saturday that the film is close to a green light while the N.Y. Times confirmed the news and added that the two epic films will be shot in 3-D. So where does the drama come in? Producer/co-writer Philippa Boyens spoke out out on New Zealand’s public radio about whether or not the film will be shot in her home country due to a brewing labor dispute. One thing is true: As of Monday morning, nothing has changed. Peter Jackson is still not officially the director of the film, which will be split into two parts. MGM, a co-financier and 50/50 rights holder on the project, still does not have a final restructuring plan in place, and, as such, production on the studio’s most prized asset cannot move forward. And Warner Bros., the other co-financier, is still deciding where the movie will be shot. This heap of uncertainty has made The Hobbit one of the most challenging films to ever get into production, even more so than Jackson’s acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy, which shot back-to-back after considerable studio wrangling.

One major issue that still needs to be resolved is whether or not The Hobbit will be filmed in New Zealand, Jackson’s native land and the locale for the original Lord of the Rings movies. Due to a proposed boycott by the Australian labor union that oversees New Zealand actors, Warner Bros. feels obligated to consider other filming locations where a work stoppage wouldn’t be of issue. Boyens told Radio New Zealand National that Warner accountants are looking into five or six different locales to film The Hobbit, including Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Eastern Europe, and, ironically enough, Australia. While the New Zealand Actors’ Equity had believed the studio would stick with New Zealand because Hobbiton has already been built in Jackson’s home country, that is not the case. Sources near The Hobbit confirm Boyens’ statement that filming in Hobbiton requires only a seven- to eight-day shoot. In fact, a likely scenario could involve staying in New Zealand for those eight days and moving the rest of the production elsewhere, a situation that would deal a severe financial blow to the country’s film infrastructure, which Jackson himself has buoyed immensely with the LOTR franchise and his WETA special effects studio.

Still, sources are confident that filming could get underway by January as intended. Warner and its New Line division have been busying themselves recently with, among everything else, clearing up rights issues that remained with the J.R.R. Tolkien estate. And MGM seems to be wrapping up its financial woes, with Spyglass’ Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber set to manage the studio following its financial restructuring. Assuming those issues are settled by January, Jackson is expected to sign on officially at that time. (The director is unwilling to officially attach himself if the first movie can’t be released by December 2012.)

All in all, despite the reams of drama surrounding this project, Bilbo Baggins returning to Middle Earth is a likely reality. Let’s just hope Jackson can capture an equal amount of drama on camera that he and the Hobbit team have experienced off.

Comments (10 total) Add your comment
  • kelly timberlake

    is the movie going to be anything like the other lord of the rings movies, it isn’t going to be made fun of by a spoof movie like twilight or aome other crapp…lol

  • Catherine

    I think the Aussies Union, should back off when it comes to NZ interests. Obviously they don’t care about screwing over NZ if they can throw weigth around.

  • iggy

    For crying out loud, this project is like a treasure map that leads to a giant chest of gold, but no one can point their horse in the right direction. Jackson must be ready to pull his hair out of his head.

  • Rob

    It would be a tragedy if the Hobbit moved outside of New Zealand. Through LOTR New Zealand has almost become synonomous with ‘Middle Earth’. LOTR achieved wonders for the NZ film industry as well as the country’s tourism and trade.

  • Peter

    I don’t know the details surrounding the reasons for possible strike action but filming this movie outside NZ would be rediculous! As an Aussie I would love for it to be filmed here but the only reason why this movie is being worked on at all is because of Peter Jackson and the success he created with LOTR. It took a while but people finally listened to him on the first series and everyone made alot of money they should back him again!

  • Meghan

    Is anyone else sick of 3D yet?

    • Jacob

      Yes! I didnt like 3D in the first place!

    • bambam

      i get motion sickness from 3D, I can take it in small doses. I kind of wish for continuity between this movie and the LOTR series, I want them to look and “feel” the same, that is my only objection to 3D other than motion sickness, which isn’t a good reason to banish 3D.

  • Becca

    I lOVED Lord of the Rings and i cant wait for this one to come out!!!!

  • Ben Wilson

    >Due to a proposed boycott by the Australian labor union that oversees New Zealand actors, Warner Bros. feels obligated to consider other filming locations where a work stoppage wouldn’t be of issue.

    Actually it’s due to a common misconception that NZ Actors are overseen by Australian unions. This is actually a different country. The MEAA has about 200 members in NZ, a tiny fraction of the actors here. There are over 2000 signatures already on a petition to stop this stupid boycott, and get the film back on track with all of the thousands of people who have based the next years of their lives around making it.

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