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OSCARS: Eric Saindon On ‘Hobbit’s VFX

Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine

When the Academy’s visual-effects peer group meets tomorrow to vote on this year’s short list, among the films they’ll be examining is Warner Bros. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Industry audiences and ardent fans will be pleased to see the familiar goblins and orcs, but visual-effects supervisor Eric Saindon says much of the technology underneath the characters is virtually unrecognizable from the first Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Saindon recently spoke with AwardsLine about how much things have changed. Read More »

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Peter Jackson’s 2nd Video From ‘Hobbit’ Set

By | Monday July 11, 2011 @ 10:03am PDT

Peter Jackson’s behind-the-scenes odyssey on The Hobbit continues (see Part I of his video diary here) as the first production block wraps and cast and crew dish on what they’re doing during their first break in filming. Of course, Jackson has less free time: He’s back to preproduction on the second block of filming, in postproduction on the first batch of scenes and location scouting via helicopter.

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Peter Jackson’s Ulcer To Delay ‘The Hobbit’

Mike Fleming

In a development that pushes back the start of The Hobbit a bit, Peter Jackson was admitted today night to Wellington Hospital with acute stomach pains and underwent surgery for a perforated ulcer. According to a statement from the production, “Sir Peter is currently resting comfortably and his doctors expect him to make a full recovery. Sir Peter’s surgery is not expected to impact on his directing commitment to The Hobbit beyond a slight delay to the start of filming.” Between all the turmoil of: Guillermo del Toro dropping out as director; Jackson replacing him; MGM freezing production while it went into bankruptcy; local unions blackballing The Hobbit which almost pushed the production out of New Zealand; why would Jackson be getting ulcers? Here’s to a speedy recovery, Sir Pete.

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Ian McKellen Explains Middle Earth Muddle

Mike Fleming

Ian McKellen, who along with Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis and Cate Blanchett formalized his return to Middle Earth to reprise his The Lord of the Rings character Gandalf, has taken to his own blog to explain why his deal took so long. I’m still waiting for formal word on Christopher Lee to bring back Saruman, Ian Holm to do a small turn reprising an older Bilbo Baggins, and possibly Orlando Bloom to return as Legolas for director Peter Jackson. There might even be word on Hugo Weaving and his Elrond character. What I most love about McKellen’s missive is that a 71-year old brilliant actor takes the time to write his own blog, adding hot links (something I’m still getting the hang of). Here is McKellen’s dispatch:

All I had to decide was what to do with the time that is given me.

I’m 71 and fit: though at my age who knows what accident is ’round the next corner?  For a year or more, I have been arranging my professional commitments around the possibility of The Hobbit films starting at almost anytime.  We brought the Waiting for Godot tour of Australia to New Zealand early 2010, assuming I would stay on to start shooting soon after.  Then there was yet another delay: but in Wellington I met with Guillermo del Toro and later read his script for … Read More »

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TOLDJA! James Nesbitt Lands ‘The Hobbit’

Mike Fleming

LOS ANGELES November 1, 2010 – British actor James Nesbitt (Millions and TV’s Cold Feet), is the latest actor to join the ensemble cast of The Hobbit, it was jointly announced today by New Line Cinema, Warner Bros, and MGM.
Nesbitt will play Bofur, a disarmingly forthright, funny and occasionally brave Dwarf. “James’s charm, warmth and wit are legendary as is his range as an actor in both comedic and dramatic roles. We feel very lucky to be able to welcome him as one of our cast,” said director Peter Jackson. Newcomer Adam Brown will play Ori, another of the Dwarf Company which sets out to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the infamous dragon, Smaug.

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Official: ‘The Hobbit’ Stays In New Zealand

Producer/director Peter Jackson is celebrating. Warner Bros executives were locked in negotiations all day with New Zealand government leaders. Then Prime Minister John Key announced at a press conference tonight that The Hobbit back-to-back movies will be made in New Zealand. That’s a $500+ million project, and the Hollywood studio bargained considerable perks for itself. Tax rebates of up to an extra $7.5 million per movie are arranged, subject to the success of the pics. The NZ government will offset $10 million of Warner Bros’ marketing costs as part of the strategic partnership. And New Zealand will also host one of the world premieres of the Hobbit movies. The NZ Government and Warner Bros also agreed to work together in a “long-term strategic partnership” to promote New Zealand as both a film production and tourism destination. Said Key: “My Government is determined to use the opportunity that the Hobbit movies present to highlight New Zealand as a great place to visit, as well as a great place to do business.”

The NZ government will introduce legislation tomorrow to clarify the distinction between independent contractors and employees as it relates to the film industry only, according to news reports. “The industrial issues that have arisen in the past several weeks have highlighted a significant set of concerns for the way in which the international film industry operates,” Key said. “We will be moving to ensure that New Zealand law in this area is settled to give film producers … Read More »

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Rallying For ‘The Hobbit’ To Stay In Kiwi

Mike Fleming

New Zealanders are leaving nothing to chance when Warner Bros executives arrive early this week. Prime Minister John Key and other politicians  are trying to salvage The Hobbit situation so the shoot stays in New Zealand. But the studio is eyeing other locations after the production was temporarily blacklisted by local and U.S. acting guilds. In a country whose population is about half the size of Los Angeles, the threat of losing its signature shoot — and its $500 million budget — has people rallying around director/producer Peter Jackson who brought them all that Lord Of The Rings trilogy fame and fortune and tourism and just plain work. Check out this video that is spreading across New Zealand, designed to bring people to the streets in a show of support:

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New Line Fans Ire In The Shire: No Guarantee Of New Zealand ‘Hobbit’ Shoot

Mike Fleming

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 he won’t shoot elsewhere, but this is really dragging out. Here is the statement:

Recent reports that the boycott of The Hobbit was lifted by unions a number of days ago and that Warner Bros asked to delay this announcement are false. It was not until last night that we received confirmation of the retractions from SAG, NZ Equity and AFTRA through press reports. We are still awaiting retractions from the other guilds. While we have been attempting to receive an unconditional retraction of the improper Do Not Work Orders for almost a month, NZ Equity/MEAA continued to demand, as a condition of the retractions, that we participate in union negotiations with the independent contractor performers, which negotiations are illegal in the opinion of the New Zealand Attorney General. We have refused to do so, and will continue to refuse to do so. The actions of these unions have caused us substantial damage and disruption and forced us to consider other filming locations for the first time. Alternative locations are still being considered.

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Actor Guilds Settle With ‘The Hobbit’ But Ire In The Shire Could Still Push Back-To-Back Peter Jackson Pics Out Of New Zealand

Mike Fleming

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.

Read More »

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‘The Hobbit’ Finally Filming In February, But Peter Jackson & Actor Unions Still At Odds

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.) Read More »

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Peter Jackson Directing ‘The Hobbit’? TOLDJA!

Mike Fleming

I saw yesterday’s breathless reports that Peter Jackson is close to a deal to direct The Hobbit – and I am bewildered how anyone slaps an “exclusive” tag on a story Deadline broke back on June 25th. That’s when Jackson moved from co-writer/producer into the director’s chair. Recent reports by the LA Times and NY Times have added some nice details, but I laid out back then the chain of events that are unfolding now. Even before Guillermo del Toro withdrew as director, Warner Bros and MGM had set December 2012 and December 2013 as release dates, replicating the release pattern of the original The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Production has to begin in January or these pictures would get pushed back an entire year — and who knows if Jackson would have stayed? Deadline advised that MGM’s creditors needed to get their heads out of their you-know-where’s and either commit funding or step aside to let Warner Bros  pay for the films. It was clear those decisions would precede a long-planned prepackaged bankruptcy that won’t play out until year’s end. 

The 3D discussion also goes back before Del Toro departed, but I can confirm a NYT report that they’re locked into a 3D two-picture shoot that will cost around $500 million. Unless a third party steps in, Warner Bros most likely funds production because MGM can’t. The movement on The Hobbit doesn’t help James Bond, which is post-bankruptcy business. … Read More »

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The Curse Of ‘The Hobbit’ Strikes Yet Again

Now add fire to the latest list of woes which have beset Peter Jackson’s pre-production on those back-to-back The Hobbit films. Flames yesterday engulfed his New Zealand workshop set which would have been used for the Tolkien movies. It took 50 firefighters three hours to quell the blaze in Wellington. All that’s left now is a burned-out warehouse at Jackson’s Portsmouth Miniatures Studio which had been used in the past as a specialist miniatures shooting facility, one of the few in the world, to create special effects for his The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong. Meanwhile, there’s still a standoff between New Zealand and Aussie actors unions, joined by SAG and AFTRA and others, and Jackson, New Line, Warner Bros, and MGM. (SAG & AFTRA Nix Non-Union ‘The Hobbit’ and Peter Jackson Slaps Kiwi/Oz Unions and ‘Hobbit’ Producers Defend Peter Jackson Against Actor Union Allegations)

This is after MGM went bust, and after director Guillermo Del Toro quit the project only to be replaced by Jackson, who was previously just producing and co-writing. Little wonder that overseas news media are blaming The Curse Of The Hobbit for all the bad breaks. Meanwhile, Hollywood insiders … Read More »

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‘Hobbit’ Producers Warner Bros, New Line, & MGM Defend Peter Jackson Against Actor Union Allegations: “Baseless And Unfair”

SAG & AFTRA Nix Non-Union ‘The Hobbit’ For Kiwi & Oz Actors
Peter Jackson Slaps Back At Kiwi/Oz Unions

New Line, Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures are concerned by the recent allegations of unfair treatment of actors in New Zealand and instructions from the performers’ guilds to their membership to withhold services from the producers of “The Hobbit” in New Zealand.

We are proud to have good relations with all of those performers’ guilds and value their contribution to the motion pictures produced in their respective jurisdictions throughout the world. But we believe that in this case the allegations are baseless and unfair to Peter Jackson and his team in Wellington who have been tireless supporters of the New Zealand motion picture community.

To classify the production as “non-union” is inaccurate. The cast and crew are being engaged under collective bargaining agreements where applicable and we are mindful of the rights of those individuals pursuant to those agreements. And while we have previously worked with MEAA, an Australian union now seeking to represent actors in New Zealand, the fact remains that there cannot be any collective bargaining with MEAA on this New Zealand production, for to do so would expose the production to liability and sanctions under New Zealand law. This legal prohibition has been explained to MEAA. We are disappointed that

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Peter Jackson Slaps Kiwi/Oz Unions: Threatens To Move ‘Hobbit’ To Eastern Europe

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 labor effort begun by New Zealand Actors’ Equity and its umbrella The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance headquartered in Australia to go public with a campaign confronting Peter Jackson, the director and producer of the back-to-back Hobbit movies. NZ Actors’ Equity is calling a meeting of actors on Tuesday to pressure The Hobbit filmmakers Jackson, Three Foot Seven, MGM, and Warner Brothers to negotiate a contract providing minimum guarantees on wages and working conditions, residual payments, and cancellation payments to actors engaged on the production. But Jackson is having none of it:

Statement regarding The Hobbit and claims by the Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA):

The Australian Labour Union, the MEAA is using our production The Hobbit in an attempt to widen it’s membership, and power within the New Zealand film industry. As a New Zealand filmmaker, who has nothing to hide or be ashamed about, I’m not going to see this threatening behaviour continue without some form of sensible discussion about the “facts” and “truth” behind their various allegations.

It’s incredibly easy to wave the flag on behalf of workers and target the rich studios. It’s not hard to generate an emotive response, nor is it hard to sway public opinion, since nobody seems to like the facts

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