Peter Jackson‘s The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy was a huge success both financially and critically, but when the project was just getting started, it had a rocky road to travel and almost never was. In a recent sit down with The Playlist, Jackson recounts the beginnings of the LOTR project.
We went to Harvey Weinstein after “Heavenly Creatures.” We pitched the idea of doing “The Hobbit” first actually. My original idea [was] do “The Hobbit,” and if that’s successful, we’ll do “The Lord of the Rings” as two movies, back to back after that. Harvey went away and looked into the rights because we didn’t know how the rights were placed at that stage. We just asked Harvey to inquire on our behalf and he came back and said “The Hobbit” was difficult because MGM owns some of the rights, and the Saul Zaentz Company owns some of the rights, but “The Lord of the Rings” was a lot easier because it was entirely owned by Saul Zaentz. MGM didn’t have anything to do with “The Lord of the Rings.” And it so happened that he was in business with Saul Zaentz at that exact time — they were just making “The English Patient” together. So we had no idea that Saul Zaentz had the rights, so it was just a very, very lucky piece of timing that we made that phone call to the right person at the right time. And Harvey got excited about the idea, and he ended up supporting the development of “The Lord of the Rings” for a couple of years,
Harvey however, wanted it all in one movie. Disney owned Miramax at the time and ran the numbers and said, “‘Fantasy films don’t make money.’” Then Jackson went on with the story.
Then Harvey said to Fran and I, “You’ve got to make one movie, or I’m going to take it away from you, and I’ve got John Madden lined up to direct the one movie, and I’ve got Hossein Amini to write the screenplay.” He had other people all set to go on making “The Lord of the Rings” as one film, and then our manager negotiated a four-week turnaround where he said to Harvey, “You’ve got to give Peter and Fran a chance. They’ve worked on this for too long. You’ve got to give them a chance to set it up somewhere else as two films.” Harvey gave us four weeks to do that, and then he was going to take it back and it would be the end of us.
That began a studio hunt for Jackson in hopes of saving his then two picture Lord Of The Rings deal. Jackson was shown the door every time he tried to get the deal going until he was left with New Line Studios. With Harvey’s four week clock ticking down, Jackson was willing to try anything to hook that studio fish.
“I remember we had a meeting with New Line the following day, so what we did was we kept canceling it, and we kept saying, ‘Listen, we’re really busy, we’ve got to take a meeting about it here, we’ve got to take a meeting about it. It’s going out of control. We’re not going to be able to see you today, but we’ll try to fit you in before the end of the week.’ And we put this whole pretense on that this project was so eagerly sought after [laughs], which is complete crap. And we went into New Line’s office at the end of that week, and the credit really ultimately belongs to Bob Shaye who was the head of New Line at that stage. He looked at the reel and said, ‘You know what I don’t get is why you want to do two films.’ And we thought, ‘Oh, here we go. He’s going to try to make us do one film now. The same story.’ But the very next thing he said was, ‘Why would you do two films when there’s three books? Why wouldn’t you do three films?’ And that was the way he took the project on.
The shenanigans that go on in the film industry usually make good stories and this is sure one of the good ones that doesn’t involve a donkey and compromising naked pictures.
Via: The Playlist