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Comic-Con Q&A: Peter Jackson On His Return To Middle Earth With ‘The Hobbit’ And How 48 Frames Can Save Moviegoing

By | Sunday July 15, 2012 @ 12:45pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Peter Jackson wowed the Comic-Con crowd Saturday in Hall H by showing footage from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of a two-parter on the Bilbo Baggins’ journey that leaves on his finger Sauron’s Ring Of Power, the precursor to Jackson’s billion dollar grossing The Lord of the Rings trilogy for New Line Cinema. Jackson’s appearance created as many questions as it answered. Bloggers are reporting he said that The Hobbit might become a trilogy and they’ve also wondered why Jackson chose not to show the 3D in the 48 frames-per-second format in which he shot both Hobbit films. On the trilogy possibility, I’m told that while Jackson shot plenty of extra footage, he has already stretched a single book into two movies. His DVD editions of The Lord of the Rings were so compellingly loaded with extended cuts of each film—they actually filled in storytelling gaps for hard core fans–that my bet is he indulges those fans that way again, even though no final decision has yet been made. I don’t think anybody but the money guys behind Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 thought it was creatively satisfying to break Stephenie Meyer’s last book into two films and I would be surprised if Jackson went that route unless the movies are just too long to fit in a double feature.

DEADLINE: Guillermo Del Toro told me he didn’t feel badly about stepping away from directing The Hobbit because the film ended up in the right hands, your hands. Everybody felt that way but you it seemed. Why did it take you so long to embrace a return to Middle Earth as director?

JACKSON: It did seem that way, but you’re talking about a series of events that were largely out of everybody’s control at the time. I have a certain belief in fate. Not in a religious way but over my life I find that if you try to assert yourself and influence things too much, it’s not necessarily the best idea. You kind of take your foot off the clutch at some stage and freewheel and let things happen. Guillermo was developing The Hobbit, I was producing it and I had other things that I was developing of my own at that time. And for the 18 months he was on it, we never had a green light. Read More »

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Billy Connolly Joining Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’

By | Wednesday February 8, 2012 @ 4:07pm PST
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Peter Jackson has set the final piece for his two-picture adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Billy Connolly has joined the cast in the role of Dain Ironfoot, a great dwarf warrior and cousin of Thorin Oakenshield. “We could not think of a more fitting actor to play Dain Ironfoot, the staunchest and toughest of Dwarves, than Billy Connolly, the Big Yin himself. With Billy stepping into this role, the cast of The Hobbit is now complete. We can’t wait to see him on the Battlefield!”

The casting comes after Jackson and partner Fran Walsh have completed a good deal of the film. They took a hiatus and went to Sundance to introduce West of Memphis, the documentary about the West Memphis 3, which created waves at the festival because some of the revelations in the film that came from DNA testing and investigative work and forensic testing that was financed by Jackson and Walsh made national headlines. That film is still being shopped for distribution, but Jackson and Walsh returned from the festival to New Zealand to get cracking on the final 100 or so days of production that should be completed by July.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will be released by Warner Bros for New Line and MGM on December 14, 2012 and the second installment, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, bows December … Read More »

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Javier Bardem Closing ‘Dark Tower’ Deal

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Javier Bardem is close to sealing his deal with Universal Pictures to play gunslinger Roland Deschain in The Dark Tower, the mammoth adaptation of the Stephen King 7-novel series that’ll span three movies and a limited run TV series in between each film. Director Ron Howard begins production on the first film in September, and he’ll also direct the first TV segment. Akiva Goldsman has scripted the film and the initial TV component. Imagine Entertainment chief Brian Grazer is producing the films with Goldsman and King. Goldsman will produce the TV part through his Weed Road banner.

Bardem, who won the Oscar for his ferocious portrayal of a hit man in  No Country For Old Men and who was more recently nominated for Biutiful, is a strong match to play the last living member of a knightly order of gunslingers. Deadline revealed in late January that Bardem had been offered the role of Deschain, who becomes humanity’s last hope to save civilization as he hits the road to find the Dark Tower. Along the way, he encounters characters, good and bad, in a world that has an old West feel.

Bardem’s WME reps are putting the finishing touches on the deal, and they are close enough that Howard has begun meeting with other actors to cast the roles around Bardem. It’s a complex deal, almost unprecedented, because it calls for Bardem to star in the feature film and the TV component. His deal will also include options for two sequels (the TV program that runs between the second and third films will be a prequel). I’m told it will add up to a career-best payday for Bardem. Howard and Goldsman have told me they see the trilogy as their answer to the Peter Jackson-directed adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. While Middle Earth had a mystical medieval feel, The Dark Tower vibe is one that Goldsman described as “an alternate Americana, one part post-apocalyptic, one part Sergio Leone.” Read More »

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Andy Serkis Signed As Gollum In ‘Hobbit’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that Andy Serkis has closed his deal to bring back Gollum in The Hobbit, the two films that Peter Jackson will direct in New Zealand starting in February. Serkis will join returning cast members Cate Blanchett and Elijah Wood. Wood’s participation was made official last week after Deadline first revealed his negotiations. According to sources, others who appeared in The Lord of the Rings poised to return at this point include Ian McKellen (who’s still working out a deal to return as Gandalf in a major role),  Christopher Lee is in talks to reprise the wizard Saruman, and Ian Holm to return as an older version of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman is playing that title role in the two new movies). I’ve written in the past about a possible reprise of Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, but it’s unclear at this point if he’ll be back.

There was no confirmation from the Serkis’ camp, but the character certainly fits a small but important role in the storyline of the JRR Tolkien book. Bilbo is on an epic quest with Gandalf and 13 dwarves led by their King, Thorin Oakenshield, to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and strike down the talking dragon Smaug (I’d heard last year Bill Nighy was a possible to voice Smaug, but have heard nothing since). During that journey, Bilbo wanders into Gollum’s lair and finds the Ring of Power. Serkis will likely be there early in the … Read More »

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