THE MIDDLE EARTH trilogies
“I will take the Ring to Mordor! Though… I do not know the way.”
THE LORD OF THE RINGS
1. THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
2. THE TWO TOWERS
3. THE RETURN OF THE KING
Peter Jackson . 12999-2003
Before it fell to Peter Jackson, a fairly unknown New Zealand director, to make what is, unquestionably, the greatest epic in the history of the cinema, four British men from Liverpool were keen on adapting the same JRR Tolkien books.
There were more usually referred to as the boys. The Beatles!
“We talked about it for awhile,” said Sir Paul McCartney, 35 years later. They were so keen on the Middle Earth classic, they took copies of it on their Indian trip to guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967. The books had been a gift from producer Denis O’Dell.
And the film, Denis said, “was a serious idea aimed at David Lean or Stanley Kubrick.” Lean, a surprise fan of A Hard Day’s Night,was committed to “a little romantic film in Ireland” (Ryan’s Daughter). Kubrick was more defeatist: Tolkein was unfilmable.
Paul being Paul smelt “a bit of a carve-up”
when John wanted the lead. Not Gandalf (reserved for George),
nor Frodo and Sam (Paul and Ringo;Donovan was keen on Merry)
This news would hardly surprise the fortunate few receiving his squiggley drawn Christmas cards in the 60s, where his Xmas partying humans, undressed, unsexed, looked like aliens… or, indeed, precious Golums.
“It was a shame,” said O’Dell about the project. “John even thought there could have been an album of music based around the film.”
Having heard the rumours. Peter Jackson quized Paul McCartney all about it. He confirmed the idea was it it was going to be their next film after Help. “Paul was very gracious: ‘It was a good job we never made ours because then you wouldn’t have made yours and it wasgreat to see yours.’ I said, ‘It’s the songs I feel badly about. You guys would have banged out a few good tunes for this. You were The Beatles, after all. It’s a shame we missed out’.’
From O’Dell, LOTRlanded at the now-Disney-owned Miramax, where the brothers Weinstein – Bob and… the other one – spent $14m developing a project for two movies for a total cost of a $180m. No way, said head Mouse, Michael Eisner. Tolkien’s classic would not ranslatet into film form – and even if it did, the audience would be minimal. Yeah!
Without their necessary financial backing (Disney imposed a limit on their budgets), the Weinsteins allowed Peter Jackson to shop his project around. He went to New Line Cinema where his passion won over head man Robert Shaye to the tune of $350m for three movies… before the rights reverted to Harvey Weinstein, who – we should remember – would have made one film only from the trilogy!
Ian Holm, aka Bilbo Baggins, wondered why this “affable, slightly eccentric man,” had been entrusted with the Brobdingnagian task of making three films simultaneously when, if they went wrong, they would have sunk New Line.
“But, in fact, he was absolutely the right choice. There was no doubt he was a good director… He looked like Stephen Poliakoff on a particularly bad day… a woolly little man with a crinkly, grow-anywhere beard and a slightly concertinaed shape. He always wore shorts and operated a rota system with what appeared to be just two short-sleeved shirts.” From October 11, 1999, to all the pick-ups shots ending in 2003.
And nothing fazed Peter Jackson… Not when deciding to shoot Ian Holm and Christopher Lee’s sequences in the UK’s Pinewood studios due to concerns about how flying in and out of down-under would affect their aged health). And not even when facing …
The disappointment of failing to convince
Daniel Day-Lewis or Russell Crowe to be Aragorn,
and Patrick McGoohan or Sean Connery for Gandalf.
He searched everywhere for his stars. From British theatre knights to stand-up comics, from Batman and James Bond wannbes to former Doctor Whos… and too few women. When Miranda Otto turned up for her first day as the shieldmaiden Eowyn, Liv Tyler welcomed her with a hug: “I’m so glad there’s another woman in this film.”
Frodo Baggins . Jackson said he auditioned more than 150 actors… including Jake Gyllenhaal… who never realised his accent for the test should have been British. And, of course, Elijah Wood, who sent in his own homemade audition tape – in breeches and flowing shirt – directed by his pal, the Swimming With Sharksdirector George Huang. Apart from his (official) audition, the closest Dominic Monaghan came to Frodo was reading his farewell party speech (in Woods’ absence) as Jackson shot reactions from the other hobbits. Dom became one of them: Merry. Elijah Wood became Frodo – the first actor to be cast – on July 7, 1999.
Bilbo Baggins . Ian Holm reigned supreme! As he had done (as Frodo) in the 1981 BBC radio version.. The film, he said, was a fabulous distraction. Adam Brown, from Berkshire, auditioned (and was given the dwarf Ori in Jackson’s following Tolkien trilogy, The Hobbit,2011. Jackson was such a Doctor Whofan, he probably would have dropped his Ringscycle if asked to helm a Whovian movie… or even an episode! Consequently, Doc7 was second choice for Bilbo – Sylvester McCoy wasfirst non-English Doctor Who(he’s Scottish, even though his real name is Smith). Jackson later expanded the role of The Hobbit’s wizard Radagast for McCoy. Jackson’s pal, Steven Spielberg, was another Whovian and wanted McCoy as Governor Weatherby Swann when Spielberg was planning to skipper The Pirates of the Caribbeanin the early 90s).
Gandalf the Grey . Sir Sean certainly, made a huge error. For the usual (and honest) reason. “I don’t understand the books.” Plus he (and his wife) had no wish to be stuck in New Zealand for 18 months. (With his points, he would have made $450m). McGoohan, who twice turned down James Bond, was also the initial choice for Albus Dumbelgore in the first Harry Potter film, 2001.
Following his much praised work as the dying elven king in Dungeons and Dragons, 2000, Tom Baker, (the fourth TV Doctor Who) was a strong candidate. As were Bernard Hill (who became King Theoden in the following chapters), Anthony Hopkins, Sam Neill, Christophert Plummer and Patrick Stewart.
Plus John Astin, The Judge from Jackson’s 1996 horror film, The Frighteners and Gomez, head ofThe Addams Family, TV, 1964-1966). John’s excitement about the project, led his son to push for a role. Agreeing to gain 30 lbs, Sean (The Goonies) Astin became Samwise Gamgee. (His seven-year-old, Alexandra Astin, played his daughter in the final chapter).
When the director’s first Gandalf – Nigel Hawthorne – was dying of pancreatic cancer, Ian McKellan became Jackson’s “please-God-let-us-have-him guy.” But he had X-Men commitments,. For a while. McKellan borrowed JRR Tolkien’s accent for the rôle.
Saruman . There was one actor only that Peter Jackson had in mind for The Dark Lord. However, given Sr Christopher Lee’s age. 79, the director had to listen to himself as his producer (and writer) and consider such other possibilities as Tim Curry, Jeremy Irons and Malcolm McDowell. Sir Christopher was more than an actor in this bold enterprise. Being the sole member of the cast to have actually known JRR Tolkien, Lee was Jackson’s touchstone, the finest possibler adviser on the books. He knew them inside out having read them – annually – from their publication during 1954-1956 to his 2015 death at age 93.
Aragorn . Daniel Day-Lewis passed – three times! Russell Crowe was excited about such a massive picture in New Zealand, but was committed to many Hollywood commitments (one of which, A Beauitiful Mind, won his Oscar).
Jackson then saw Vin Diesel – and two lesser known Brits from the Babylon 5series, Jason Carter and Robin Atkin Downes. They both went on to voice video-games. In fact, Downes’ stage and screen career is overhadowed by his impressive total of video-game voices – from Star Warsto Pirates of the Caribbean. Nic iolas Cage passed due to family obligatiopns. (The length of the shoot – 16 months – had many an actor, and indeed a star, refusing Jackson’s entreaties).
Finally, Stuart Townsend, 26, was chosen but let go after the six weeks of training and rehearsal and four day’s filming as Peter Jackson realised Aragorn needed to be older. Viggo Mortensen, 41, joined the shooting without having met Jackson, never having read the books either – it was his son, Henry, 11, who pushed him into the role. Veteran sword master Bob Anderson called Viggo “the best swordsman I’ve ever trained.” (On April 16, 2010, Viggo was knighted by Queen Margarethe II of Denmark, making him the fifth knight of the Rings, after Ian Holm, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee and, of course, Peter Jackson).
Galadriel . First choices Nicole Kidman and Kiwi star Lucy Lawless – Zena: Warrior Princess, herself! – and Uma Thurman all proved pregnant. Claire FGortlani, Natascha McElhone and Liv Tyler was not. But for just one of the 16 months…
Aussie Cate Blancett took over.
“I’ve always wanted pointy ears.”
Arwen . Helena Bonham Carter had been keen. Uma Thurman was still pregnant. Claire Forlani and Natascha McElhone were not. But Liv Tyler became the Third Age half-even.
Gimli . Obviously, the first time that Warwick Davis (the 2ft 1in Willow and Star Wars’Ewok, Wicket Wysrti Warrick), lost the small person role to… the 6ft 1ns John Rhys-Davies, tallest of the actors playing members of the Fellowship. Also seen for the dwarf warrior were British comic Bill Bailey, Timothy Spall and Robert Trebor (his name is a palindrome). Oh and another stand-up, the Scottish Billy Connolly (Sir Billy since 2017). Jackson called him back to be Dáin II Ironfoot in The Hobbit: The Battle oif the Five Armies.Rhys-Davies (who also voiced Treebeard) is the sole thespian to star in the Indiana Jones. 007 and LOTR franchises.
Samwise Gamgee . The “only regret” thus far in the life of British stand-up Johnny Vegas was failing to wrest Sam away from Sean Astin. “I was dreadful,” Johnny admitted about his test. “I’m in front of a blue screen, they go, ‘Imagine a spider’ and there’s me going, ‘Oooh, Shelob! Shelob.’ Peter Jackson’s talking his glasses off and rubbing his eyes, saying: I flew from New Zealand for this?”
Denethor . Peter Jackson first saw John Rhys-Davies for the role that appeared only in the final chapter. That was before Peter worked out a way to make the tallest, 6ft. 1in, actor into the little Gimli. Having tried, tested and accomplished that effect (not always satisfactorily), Jackson bypased Johnny Vegas (again) and gave Denethor to the renowned Australian stage actor and teacher John Noble, starting a whiole new TV career for him: Pirate Islands, 24, Fringe, Sleepy Hollow and Sherlock Holmes’ father in Elementary.
King Theoden of Rohan . Kevin Conway was selected for his majesty but prefered to repeat his 1993 Gettysburg TV role of Buster Kilrain in Gods and Generals, 2003. Jackson passed the king to one of his possible Gandalfs, Bernard Hill.
Grima Wormtongue . Richard O’Brien passed and Brad Dourif became Tolkien’s “wizened figure of a man… with a long pale tongue,” an archetypal sycophant (a la Beowulf’s Unferth), advising King Theoden and Saruman fin the last two chapters. (In 1990, Jackson had passed on helming Child’s Play 3, wherein, of course, Dourif voiced Chucky the killer doll).
Eowyn . In December 1999, Peter Jackson first offered the White Lady of Rohan to Alison Doody, Steven Spielberg’s Irish heroine in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1988. Which is also where John Rhys-Davies came from to be dwarfed as Glimi. Doody passed having only lately given birth to her second daughter. Enter: Miranda Otto.
Uma Thurman also passed (again).
Kate Winslet too busy.
That was Jackson’s fault. He’s the director who made her a global star as one of his Heavenly Creatures in 1994.
Boromir . Liam Neeson passed and Bruce Willis – a surprise fan of the books, it says here – “expressed interest” in what became Sean Bean’s role of Denethor’s son.
Faramir . Orlando Bloom auditioned – and received his career-making Legolas Greenleaf just two days before finishing drama school. While he trained for two months with his bow and arrows (he was fast; special effects made him faster), David Wenham became Faramir (in the final two chapters) because he resembled his screen brother, Sean Bean.
There remains just the two rumours
burning up the Internet for a wee while…
about David Bowie and (oh no!) Nicolas Cage.
Fourteen years after the fact, Cage confirmed that he’d passed on Aragorn – and regrets, he might have had a few, but too few to mention. “There were different things going on in my life at the time,” he told Newsweek, “that precluded me from being able to travel and be away from home for three years.”
Two of the three scenarists, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh (Mrs Jackson) said there was once a “drive” (by the suits) for name actors to give the movie(s) to help the box-office. (Remember Daniel Day-Lewis and Russell Crowe seen for Aragorn, Liam Neeson up for Boromir and Ethan Hawke in the Legolas quiver. And Bruce Willis ( !) was keen on Boromir). They never met Cage said Boyens. “We loved him. I remember we saw… a couple films that came out around that time. He’s an amazing actor!”
It was Dominic Monaghan, aka Hobbiton’s Merry, who recalled seeing Bowie entering John Hubbard’s London casting agency in 1999. “I’m assuming he read for Gandalf. I can’t think of anything else he would’ve read for,” Dom told The Huffington Post news-site in 2016.
“We approached him,” admitted casting director Amy Hubbard. “He is an elf, don’t you think? He is. He would’ve been Elrond,” said Boyens. “It was for Elrond, yeah,” writer-producer Fran Walsh agreed.
Either way, Bowie was way too busy for a three-year down under gig. And Jackson finally voted against any Ziggy the Grey or Thin White Elrond “To have a famous, beloved character and a famous star colliding,” he felt, “is slightly uncomfortable.”
So all honours have to go – brilliantly earned – to Peter Jackson for his trilogy of the classic Tolkien saga.. shooting in New Zealand for 438 days from October 11, 1999 to December 22, 2000 (with annual pick-ups made during 2001-2003).
Jackson juggled 114 speaking roles;
30 with fictional dialects and lingoes
(tri-lingual Viggo Mortensen) spoke some Elvish);
20,602 background actors; 100 Kiwi locations;
48,000 swords, axes, shields, makeup prosthetics;
19,000 costumes; 1,600 pairs of prosthetic hobbit feet
Plus a 10,000-strong crowd making army grunts at a New Zealand interntaional cricket match; a crew of 2,400; 250 horses in one scene; 180 computer special-effects artists; 50 wardrobe department tailors, cobblers, designers, etc; seven years of development and production for the three movies…shooting from October 11, 1999, to December 22, 2000…for more than six million feet of film being edited, more or less simultaneously, by three teams. John Gilbert was editing the first film (into 178 minutes, including 540 CGI effects) while Michael Horton was cutting the second (179 minutes, 799 sfx) and longtime Jackson associate Jamie Selkirk was perfecting the finale (144 minutes, 1,488 sfx).
Surprised there are no statistics from the LOTR medics about the injuries sustained during the shoot. Viggo Mortensen broke a toe and a tooth, Bernard Hill cracked his sternum, Orlando Bloom busted a rib, etc, etc, etc.
Never was an Oscar more richly deserved. One?The last of the films won a record eleven Oscars – from eleven nominations. A first!
Therefore, this the second film featuring Bernard Hill to score eleven; the first being Titanic, 1997, but from 14 nods). In February 2004, LOTR also became second film (after Titanic), to break the $1b barrier worldwide – a 1408% profit on New Line’s initial outlay.
And, naturally, Jackson – the inspired cause of it – all was soon wondering where his cut had got to…
That, helas, is not all.
Due to the earlier mention of a certain family name, there needs must be added to this casting history…
A repugnant footnote
In October 2017, Ashley Judd and Miora Sorvino were among the first group of women publicly accusing producer Harvey Weinstein of past sexual harassment – plus, in their case, of being nixed for LOTR for being “a nightmare” to work with. Weinstein denied everything
“Aspects of Harvey’s denial are insincere,” said a statement issued by Peter Jackson. “He is basically saying that this blacklisting couldn’t be true because New Line cast the movie. That’s a deflection from the truth. In the 18 months we developed the Lord of the Ringsat Miramax, we had many casting conversations with Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein and their executives… Amongst the many names raised, Fran [Walsh, Mrs Jackson and LOTR co-writer-producer] and I expressed our enthusiasm Ashley Judd and Miora Sorvino. In fact, we met with Ashley and discussed two possible roles with her. After this meeting, we were told by Miramax to steer clear of both Ashley and Mira, because they claimed to have had “bad experiences” with these particular actresses in the past. Fran Walsh was in the same meeting, and remembers these negative comments about Ashley and Mira as clearly as I do. We have no reason to make it up. This type of comment is not unusual – it can happen with any studio on any film, when different actor’s names come up in conversation – but once you hear negative feedback about somebody, you don’t forget it…
“The movies changed hands from Miramax to New Line before casting actually got underway – but because we had been warned off Ashley and Mira by Miramax, and we were naive enough to assume we’d been told the truth, Fran and I did not raise their names in New Line casting conversations.
“Nearly 20 years later, we read about the sexual misconduct allegations being made against Harvey Weinstein and we saw comments by both Mira and Ashley, who felt they had been blacklisted by Miramax after rejecting Harvey’s sexual advances. Fran and I immediately remembered Miramax’s negative reaction when we put their names forward, and we wondered if we had unwittingly been part of the alleged damage to their careers, at the hands of Miramax. We have no direct evidence linking Ashley and Mira’s allegations to our Lord of the Ringscasting conversations of 20 years ago – but we stand by what we were told by Miramax when we raised both of their names, and we are recounting it accurately. If we were unwitting accomplices in harming their careers, Fran and I unreservedly apologise to both Ashley and Mira.”
According to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, suing Harvey Weinstein for defamation, sexual harassment, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage and unfair competition. Ashley Judd said she felt something “unseen” had been holding her career back, but she didn’t realise until December  that it was Weinstein. “Peter & Fran had me in – showed me all the creative, the boards, costumes, everything. They asked which if the two roles I prefered, and then I abruptly never heard from hem again. I appreciate the truth coming out. Thank you, Peter.”
Mia Sorvino added: ”Just seeing this after I awoke, I burst out crying. There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career, something I suspected but was unsure. Thank you Peter Jackson for being honest. I’m just heartsick.”
Said attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr: “The pathetic reality… was that Weinstein was retaliating against Ms Judd for rejecting his sexual demands approximately one year earlier, when he cornered her in a hotel room under the guise of discussing business…A self-described benevolent dictatorwho has bragged that ‘I can be scary,’ Weinstein used his power in the entertainment industry to damage Ms. Judd’s reputation and limit her ability to find work.”
The lawsuit also details allegations made by other actresses, including Salma Hayek and Uma Thurman, who say the mogul threatened their careers after they rejected him sexually. It also alleges that Mira Sorvino was also up for a Lord of the Rings role and was passed over for the same reason as Judd.
A Weinstein representative responded: “The most basic investigation of the facts will reveal that Mr Weinstein neither defamed Ms Judd nor ever interfered with Ms. Judd’s career, and instead not only championed her work but also repeatedly approved her casting for two of his movies over the next decade. The actual facts will show that Mr. Weinstein was widely known for having fought for Ms Judd as his first choice for the lead role in Good Will Hunting and, in fact, arranged for Ms. Judd to fly to New York to be considered for the role. Thereafter, Ms. Judd was hired for not one, but two of Mr. Weinstein’s movies, Frida in 2002 and Crossing Over with Harrison Ford in 2009. We look forward to a vigorous defence of these claims.”
“Revenge? Revenge? I will show you revenge! I am fire! I am… death! ”
THE HOBBIT TRILOGY
1. AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
2. THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
3. BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
Peter Jackson . 2011
Having spent October 11, 1999 to December 22, 2000on LOTR, Kiwi legend Peter Jackson devoted March 21, 2011to July 6, 2012to The Hobbit, similarly produced back-to-back in New Zealand and released over three consecutive years. Therefore, the first chapter, An Unexpected Journey, was not exactly an unexpected prequel.
Neither was it the first of Peter Jackson’s pet projects inherited from Guillermo del Toro. Due to various production woes, MGM finally moved the project forward in 2008 and, indeed, straight into bankruptcy, setting poor GDT adrift after three years of pre-production.
Hey, it happens. It’s the movies.
At the time, the overall plan was that Peter Jackson would be producing (and co-writing with his wife, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens, as per LOTR). Once GDT started shooting, Peter would be free to move on to his another dream project, a re-tread of the celebrated 1954 UK WWII movie, The Dam Busters. The dams survived this time because Jackson was turned into Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III.
“Just when I thought I was out…
they pull me back in.“
He was not complaining. “This was the most fun I ever had making a film,” he told Deadline Hollywood editor Mike Fleming Jr in July 2014. “I damn sure wasn’t going to spend five years of my life miserable, wishing somebody else had directed it. I was going to have fun and make some great movies. I had more confidence than the first time around.”
Philippa Boyens, for one was disappiointed that the GDT version – and vision – was never to be seen. His different scenario and visual elements, she explained, resembled a fairy tale. The most significant script change was Bilbo. His characterisation “shifted and changed into someone who, rather than being slightly younger and more innocent in the world, once had a sense of longing for adventure and has lost it and become fussy and fusty.”
GDT was planning to go the distance of two films with Brian Blessed as Thorin, Doug Jones for King Thranduil, Ian McShane as a, if not the dwarf Gimli – “the perfect dwarf,” said GDT – and Ron Perlman as Beorn. Gimli, alone, did not appear in the Jackson treatise, otherwise loaded wth return tickets for Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weavingand Elijah Wood as Galadriel, Legolas, Saruman, Gandalf, Gollum, Elrond and Frodo… despite not being in the book! The fans would have never tolerated their banishment from Middle Earth.
Naturally, Bilbo was back, as well.
Gandalf: You’ve changed, Bilbo Baggins. You’re
not the same Hobbit as the one who left the Shire…
Of course not. This was a prequel and, therefore a Bilbo younger than Sir Ian Holm had to be unmiddleearthed. GDT wanted David Tennant, the tenth Doctor Who becoming available for a long shoot once Matt Smith had become Doc11. Tennant, like Colin Eccleston before him, had played both Who and why: the Doctor and Hamlet. Drama critic Michael Billington said Tennant was an active, athletic, immensely engaging Hamlet “of quicksilver intelligence, mimetic vigour and wild humour: one of the funniest I’ve ever seen.”
Jackson, however, was going to Bilboise Martin Freeman… no matter what it took. “Despite the various rumors and speculation surround this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us – and that was really before we met Martin,” the director told the media in New York. “There are a few times in your career when you come across an actor who you know was born to play a role, but that was the case as soon as I met Martin. He’s intelligent, funny, surprising and brave – exactly like Bilbo. We knew him from [the BBC’s] The Officeand Hitchhiker’s Guideto the Galaxy. We just felt he had qualities that would be perfect for Bilbo. The stuffy, repressed English quality. He’s a dramatic actor, he’s not a comedian but he has a talent for comedy.” (Jackson and Freeman had both been in Simon Pegg’s comic Hot Fuzz,2006) .
The 41-year-old Brit had never read any JRR Tolkien, but – like the rest of us – just loved Jackson’s LOTR.OK, done deal, easy peasy, thank you very much, when do we start… And thatwas when MGM, the once mighty pillar of Hollywood and its history, pulled the pin, imploded, exploded and went bankrupt. By the time a budget was found elsewhere and contracs could be drawn up and even signed, Freeman had signed a BBC deal to be Dr Watson in Sherlock.
Jackson had to start looking elsewhere… From the Australian TV star, Erin Arkin, and ex-Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe to Shia LaBeouf, James McAvoy, Tobey Maguire and Eddie Redmayne. Fine guys, but nary a one was a Bilbo, much less a Martin Freeman.
“We were in trouble,” Jackson recalled. “I was really panicking. I was having sleepless nights. We were probably six weeks away from the beginning of the shoot, and we hadn’t settled on anyone else – and I was torturing myself by watching Sherlockon an iPad at 4 o’clock in the morning!”
As mentioned in LOTR, nothing really seems to faze Peter Jackson… Not when his own emergency surgery for aperforated ulcer, delaying the start of shooting by a month and certainly not the Bilbo problem, particularly when he had the perfect Bilbo in his sights.
The solution was obvious but difficult. Jackson and his team, rewrote not the script but the schedule – allowing Freeman to return to London after four months’ work in order to doctor around Benedict Cumberbatch’s updated Sherlock Holmes for two months and then return to Base Camp. One could almost say that Freeman returned down-under with Cumberbatch in his luggage – as he was selected to voice the deadly dragon,Smaug..”
Bilbo: One day I’ll remember everything that happened:
the good, the bad, those who survived, those that did not…
and how lucky I am that I made it home.
Bard/Girion . Wales beat Ireland in the mix for the skillewd archer as Luke Evans won the heir of King Girion of Dale (killed by Smaug) from Boyzone singer Ronan Keating. Bard is not unlike a reprise of Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn. And Evans was Aramis in the latest Three Musketeers, 2010
Beorn . Ron Perlman quit when his Hellboyfilms’ director, Guillermo del Toro, was let go in the MGM collapse. GDT also planned for Ron to voice the dragon..
Fili . Robert Kazinsky (from EastEnders)shot a few scenesas Fili, of the Company of Dwarves,but then had to quit after a month to return to Britain for personal reasons.“It’s a health issue,” he said, “all will be well in time, promise!” Rob had been terrific to work with, Jackson declared: “his enthusiasm and infectious sense of humour will be missed by all of us.”His successor Dean O’Gorman, was “an extremely talented young actor with a huge career in front of him. “Besides his talent as an actor, Rob is also a champion sword fighter and I’m looking forward to seeing the damage he can do to a horde of marauding Goblin.”
Gloin/William Troll . After playing a guy named Bilbo – in Spaced,TV, 1999-2001 – comic Brit Bill Bailey was invited to test for Gloin. Peter Hambleton joined the Company of Dwarves, instead – alongside two other Kiwi actors, John Callen and Stephen Hunter (as Oin and Bombur).
Radagast . John Callen auditioned for Radagast and the voice of Smaug and was given Oin to run with.
Smaug the Unassessably Wealthy . “You care about them, do you? Good! Then you can watch them die!” John Callen (also up for Radagast), Christopher Lee, Bill Nighy and Ron Perlman (GDT’s Beorn) were all in the frame for voicing the deadly dragon. Benedict Cumberbatch found the right voice by studying iguanas and Komodo dragons at the London Zoo, to prepare a tone to “bridge between animal and human, a deep and rasping guttural dryness to the voice.” He also played the dragon in Gollum-styye motion-capture, or the top half of him did – the rest was achieved in keyframe animation.Plus The Necromancer: “We grow in number. We grow in strength. You will lead my armies.” (When he was a kid, Cumberbatch’s father, actor Timothy Carlton, used to read The Hobbitto him).
Tauriel . Evangeline Lilly was the one and only choice. So she shouldn’t be here, really – no casting battle. But a good story… Peter Jackson had met her after LOTR and promised her a role in the new trilogy. Better than that, with his co-scenarists, he created an entirely new characterfor Lilly – a Silvan elf called Tauriel – to make up for the lack of any such independent female in the Tolkien novel. Lilly, who had almost given up on her acting career for writing even before Lost wrapped in 2010, was overjoyed. “Tauriel is a wonderful option for young women. She is compassionate and soft-hearted, but there is nothing about her that is weak.”By 2014, Lilly was in the Marvelverse as Hope Van Dyne, aka The Wasp, in the Ant Manand Avengersmovies.
Thorin Oakenshield . Brian Blessed was the del Toro choice. Team Jackson prefered Richard Armitage as the leader of the Company of Dwarves out to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from a thieving dragon. The actor from Spooks and Captain America: The First Avenger won high praise from Jackson. “Richard is one of the most exciting and dynamic actors working on screen today… [and we] feel very lucky that one of the most beloved characters in Middle Earth is in such good hands.”
King Thranduil of Mirkwood . GDT’s 2008 Bilbo, David Tennant, was the 2011 Elven King until being required back home in the UK when his lover, Georgia Moffet, proved pregnant with their daughter Olive. Georgia’s father, Peter Davison, was the fifth Doctor Who; Tennant was Doc10 when the first met her on the Whovian set. Aiden Turner won Kili, instead, and the next in line, Doug Jones, was expected to take the throne except Jackson finally fell for The Fall, 2006, and its star, Lee Pace. Thranduil is the father of Legolas… although Pace is two years younger than Orlando Bloom!
Back in 2014, Mike Fleming quizzed Jackson about the appeal of not merely creating his own Middle Earth – but never leaving it. Indeed, devoting a quarter of his 53 years to the two trilogies. “Well,” said Jackson, “the bus fare home from Middle Earth is so expensive, once you’re there you might as well stay and make your living there”!
The six films made a staggering $1b each and collected Oscars well into double figures (plus a knighthood for Peter Jackson). They are unlikely to be equalled. By James Cameron or anyone else. They will quite simply be adored… by critics, film-lovers and friends… “It’s an absolute triumph, no joke,” enthused Sean Astin, Samwise Gamgee in LOTR. “I saw at least nine things I’ve never seen before in movies. I mean, ever!”
Sir Peter Jackson said these three Hobbit films would be his last dealing with planet Tolkien. May I suggest… you should not hold your breath.