Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Peter Jackson again denied allegations of animal abuse during filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. “Absolutely none; no mistreatment, no abuse”, he said during a news conference in Wellington hours before Wednesday’s world premiere in New Zealand. The director also described animal rights group PETA as “pretty pathetic” for seeking publicity for their cause at the premiere. When asked if the negative publicity had dampened the experience of making the film, Jackson said it had not. “At the end of the day we’ve made a movie we’re extremely proud of. So many people have worked for so long, it will take a bit more than that to spoil the event”.
Meanwhile, Jackson urged audiences to see the movie in 48 frames per second where possible but acknowledged that only about 1,000 of the 25,000 cinemas worldwide that have booked the film have the technology to screen it at the super-fast speed. He described using the 48fps process as “dipping your toe in the water”. “The feeling that I have as a filmmaker is I have a responsibility to look at the technology that’s available to us now and to think of ways in which that technology can be used to enhance the cinemagoing experience”, he said.
Jackson also confessed his anxiety when he feared Martin Freeman may not have been available to play hobbit Bilbo Baggins. He said that when the trilogy finally got the greenlight (after MGM was recapitalized), he was worried that Freeman couldn’t take the role due to his commitments with the Sherlock TV series. “Ï was very down, I thought we were in serious trouble,” he said. The issue was resolved when Jackson decided to shut down the production to allow Freeman to fulfill his Sherlock duties.
Jackson got some laughs when he described how he cast Barry Humphries as the voice of the Goblin King. “It was interesting, trying to cast that role because the character is very uncouth, very bad personal hygiene issues, vocabulary is quite small, so obviously casting somebody from Australia seemed like the obvious place to go first,” he quipped. “If you look at all Australians available to us, Barry fits that bill perfectly.” Sitting nearby on stage, Humphries said he brings “a healthy Australian vulgarity” to the part, which was created using Weta Digital’s performance capture. ”I always thought motion capture was something you did when you were taking a specimen at the doctor”.