With the concluding part of Peter Jackson’s HOBBIT trilogy nearly upon us, the cast and crew of the trilogy gathered for the press in order to give their thoughts on the film. Here’s the report of what went down at the event:
In 1997, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh wrote a treatment for a film based on The Hobbit, that if successful would be followed by two films based on the Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien’s groundbreaking novels. Fast forward to today, the eve of the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, and we have three Lord of the Rings films, three Hobbit films, thirty-six Oscar nominations and five billion dollars at the international box office. At the end of Jackson’s nearly twenty-year long odyssey, it clearly hasn’t worked out too bad for him.
So spirits were understandably high at the press conference for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in London. There was an air of nostalgia, finality, and reflection on one of the most ambitious film projects ever undertaken, as despite the nine years between The Return of the King and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the filmmakers were keen to think of the two trilogies as all part of the same series.
Director Peter Jackson said that in the next few years we would see a generation of people viewing the two trilogies in the story order, rather than the order in which they were shot. “Very soon it will be six films, the story that it should be,” he said. “When we knew we were going to do The Hobbit we were always thinking of the full arc of the story. There is a lot of stuff in The Hobbit that we planted which is designed so that when you view it in order it makes sense...I hope that when people do view the six films as a series in the right order they will get a sense there was some sort of vague design behind it all.”
Producer and screenwriter Philippa Boyens found making The Hobbit after The Lord of the Rings much easier. “We would have made a very different Hobbit if we had started with it, probably much more of a children’s tale.” Everyone agreed they were keen to make the films using The Lord of the Rings as a backdrop, and Boyens used the relationship between Gandalf and Galadriel as an example. “Now when she’s told that he has died in Fellowship, it is going to play in a completely different way. That experience makes it special for people who see it in that order.”
The actors were keen to make it clear what a unique filming experience it was. Luke Evans, who plays Bard the Bowman, said a sequence at the beginning of the film was one of the first things he shot, four years ago. Orlando Bloom, returning as Legolas, was 21 when he first started making Fellowship. Now he’s 37. Martin Freeman (Bilbo) said that playing the same character over several films “gives you the opportunity grow and expand. You learn patience.” He also praised the ‘everyman hero’ story the films explore, saying that despite being done before it’s always a story worth retelling. “Most people who you would consider brave, heroic or inspirational don’t look like Dolph Lundgren.”
The Hobbit films, like The Lord of the Rings before them, have seen Jackson and his team utilise all manner of new technologies from motion capture to High Frame Rate. Despite the criticism of the use of 48 frames per second in the previous films, Jackson is convinced it is the future of filmmaking. “It’s a much better way to make films,’ he said. “A hundred years ago, movies were black and white, silent, 16 frames per second. A hundred years from now what are they going to be? I think we can absolutely guarantee they're not going to be 24 frames a second. They're not going to be 2D...ultimately the audiences for movies are beginning to dwindle, there’s so much competition for seeing films on iPhones and iPads...it has become a very serious issue for the industry.” His solution to this problem? “It is important that filmmakers do look at technology thats available and just think of how we can use it to make the experience in the cinema more exciting.”
Andy Serkis, who set up his own motion capture studio The Imaginarium following his performance as Gollum, and directed the second unit on The Hobbit, was keen to express that story and performance are at the heart of motion capture. Jackson agreed whole-heartedly. “The technology is always driven by the needs of the story that you’re telling,” said the director. “It’s the actor that provides the soul. The technology doesn’t provide that.”
As The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opens in cinemas on December 12th, it was a chance for those involved to reflect on the last seventeen years. Jackson admitted having a great time making the films. “I’m going to miss the fun on the set. Making films is very hard, and if you’re making them like this 266 days of shooting can be bloody hell if you’re not having fun. I want to go to work in the morning and enjoy myself.” But what did he hope to achieve from making these films? “I hope I inspire children to make films. I’m sitting here today being a result of TV and films I saw when I was a kid.” Freeman agreed, explaining that story is always at the heart of these huge projects. “Any effect you can have on people is a plus,” he said. “It’s ultimately why we’re doing it. You want to touch people and communicate something.”
After all these films, all this success, an entire generation inspired - is this really the end of MiddleEarth on our screens? Jackson seems to think so. Aside from the extended cut, which will have around thirty minutes of extra footage, “the Tolkien Estate owns the writings of Professor Tolkien.” The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are the only two works of his that have ever been sold. More films based on the author’s work can’t be made “without the co-operation of the Tolkien Estate.”
However, Ian McKellen, reprising his role as Gandalf, says the films will live on, describing them as classics. He commented on the age of the fans at the premiere and the enduring quality of the series. “Some of them weren’t even born in the last century when we started making those films, he said. “They’re now going to show these films to their own kids. It’s not the end, it’s the beginning.”
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is released in the UK on December 12th.
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