How Sir Peter Jackson rescued Middle Earth
THE author of a new book about Sir Peter Jackson and the making of The Lord of the Rings trilogy says disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein nearly killed the blockbuster project.
Ian Nathan is a writer and contributing editor to Empire magazine, and has enjoyed special access to Peter Jackson and the cast and crew of The Lord of the Rings in order to write Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and The Making of Middle-earth.
And Nathan says Pukerua Bay-raised film-maker Jackson had to fight against the odds to rescue the film adaptation of the JRR Tolkien classic.
‘‘I don’t know if there’s such a thing as fate or destiny, but sometimes it must have felt like that. All of these things came up against them, and it must have been heartbreaking the number of times that The Lord of the Rings fell apart,’’ he says.
‘‘Peter had this team of designers and digital artists that he wanted to keep in jobs. He wanted to create this community, and it must have been awful to keep letting them down. But it must have seemed like there was some cosmic force that was making it happen, as all these hurdles were knocked out of the way.’’
Nathan reckons that Weinstein’s first look deal with Jackson in the late 1990s meant the films nearly didn’t get made at all.
‘‘The truth of it is that I don’t think it would have been made, as it got to the point where Weinstein couldn’t finance them,’’ he says. ‘‘Peter wasn’t willing to compromise and do what he thought would be a terrible version of the books. But Harvey really wanted Peter to do it, and when he said to him: ‘If you go, I’ll give it to Quentin Tarantino or John Madden,’ who is a slightly more likely candidate, I don’t know if he actually planned to do it that way. But it was costing him too much money at that point, and thankfully it didn’t happen that way.’’
Weinstein even gave Jackson an almost impossible ultimatum – just a fortnight to find new backing.
‘‘In Hollywood, a two-week turnaround is usually unthinkable, as they usually give you six months to a year to see if you can sell it elsewhere. But to have just two weeks, they must have thought it was a dead duck. Also Weinstein wanted all his money back on signature, which was a nightmare. All the other studios went: ‘It’s too quick, we can’t agree,’ so the fact that New Line agreed to it was just miraculous. And they didn’t just want to make two films, they wanted to do three, so they were prepared to go the extra mile.’’
Nathan also says Jackson is so ‘‘symbiotically related’’ to New Zealand that ‘‘he says that he never wants to make a film anywhere else’’.
‘‘There’s something in New Zealand that he feeds off, and that’s a part of how he makes films, as it’s in his blood. You can say that The Lord of the Rings films aren’t New Zealand films as they were financed by Hollywood and they don’t tell New Zealand stories. But somehow they are New Zealand films because of who Peter is.’’
Ian Nathan, above, says Sir Peter Jackson’s deal with Harvey Weinstein nearly killed the The Lord of the Rings project.