The New Zealand parliament has passed emergency legislation ensuring that the 2 back-to-back Hobbit films get made in the country. The legislation bypassed usual parliamentary committees, prompting New Zealand MPs to call it a “day of shame.” One held up a redesigned national flag with the Warner Bros logo in one corner. “What is the government going to do next – give in to any multinational that asks for a labour standard to be diluted in return for some form of investment?” asked opposition MP Charles Chauvel. The amendment was passed by a 65-50 vote. The government’s decision to rush through amended employment laws – stopping below-the-line workers from being treated as full-time employees, with all the rights which go with being a salary man — has divided local opinion. The above political cartoon is from a New Zealand newpaper. Meanwhile, some actors union officials though have received death threats after threatening a boycott. Prime Minister John Key has defended his government’s tax deal that secured The Hobbit movies as being far less generous than the opposition’s Lord of the Rings deal. The Hobbit tax deal is understood to be worth $57 million to Warner Bros across 2 movies. Key suggested that the previous Labour government’s Lord of the Rings deal was worth $225 million across all 3 movies. Warner Bros as well as producer/director Peter Jackson had been threatening to move the production to England or Western Europe.
New Line has weighed in on The Hobbit, adding doubt that the Warner Bros-financed pictures will shoot in New Zealand even though actors guilds have lifted their boycott. I still think that Peter Jackson is so staked in New Zealand with his sound stages and visual effects operations that …
Actor Guilds Settle With ‘The Hobbit’ But Ire In The Shire Could Still Push Back-To-Back Peter Jackson Pics Out Of New Zealand
UPDATE: There’s still unease even though SAG and AFTRA rescinded the order to stop its actor members from working on The Hobbit because of a request from sister union New Zealand Actors Equity. The labor settlement doesn’t mean Peter Jackson will move the pictures back to the New Zealand locations that are home to Mordor, Minas Tirith, Isengard, and other Middle Earth locales. Because of all the hard feelings that the local unions created, Warner Bros has been exploring other options, and while Jackson will have a say, the studio could decide to make a move if it gets a better deal someplace else. Now New Zealand prime minister John Key is reaching out for a meeting with Warner Bros to try and keep the films from shooting in another country.
Peter Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh were clearly furious about the aggressive tactics used by the New Zealand Actors Equity and the Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance. Yesterday, between 1,000 and 15,000 technicians and actors opposed to Equity’s actions picketed Equity headquarters last night, and moved that protest to Parliament. Polls conducted by local TV stations and newspapers in New Zealand showed little support for the union tactic, and high level ministers in government came out in support of Jackson. I’d say it’s unlikely that the films actually leave New Zealand. Jackson’s visual effects headquarters and stages were built there using Lord Of The Rings trilogy money. But clearly this is serious stuff. He and Walsh issued this incendiary release last night, before the unions tried to bring the agitation to a halt:
WELLINGTON – Thursday, 21 October 2010: The lifting of the blacklist on The Hobbit does nothing to help the films stay in New Zealand. The damage inflicted on our film industry by NZ Equity/MEAA is long since done.
Next week Warners are coming down to NZ to make arrangements to move the production off-shore. It appears we now cannot make films in our own country – even when substantial financing is available.
The spectacle of NZ Actors’ Equity suddenly cancelling their Wellington meeting, because film workers wanted to express to them their concern at losing The Hobbit, exemplifies the pure gutlessness of this small, self-centred group. They don’t appear to care about the repurcussions of their actions on others, nor are they prepared to take responsibility for decisions made in their name. NZ Equity constantly refer to ‘good faith’ discussions but they have never acted in good faith towards our film.
UPDATE: Things must be getting close on The Hobbit, because casting buzz is getting strong in Hollywood. Word is Martin Freeman will soon be set to play Bilbo Baggins, that Jimmy Nesbitt has been offered a role and that Michael Fassbender is being pursued for another as is David Tennant. Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis are expected to reprise Gandalf and Gollum.
EARLIER: While it looks like production on The Hobbit is set to start in February on the pair of films directed by Peter Jackson, there are still a few giant issues standing in the way. The films had to go in early 2011 to make the holiday release date. But even though the production schedule looks locked, there’s still the issue of the loud labor fight happening between Jackson and the unions, which have told performers outright not to work on the film because it’s a non-union production. By agreeing to a detente, the films would indeed get underway in New Zealand in early 2011. The delay has also been caused by all the ongoing problems at MGM, and just this week Lionsgate put forth a merger recommendation which Carl Icahn backs. That would obviously affect the pending Spyglass deal – and add more drama to any major production going forward. (Meanwhile, while MGM goes through all of its tumult, Mary Parent is expectedly in the process of leaving the studio, which she has run for almost three years.)
An angry Peter Jackson today is fighting back at a “Member Alert” that went out Friday afternoon from the Screen Actors Guild advising actors not to accept work on the non-union production of The Hobbit. It’s part of an international showbiz …
BREAKING NEWS: Peter Jackson Slaps Back At Kiwi/Oz/Hollywood Unions