- 27 October 2010
- By Gerard Wood
Following two days of talks between New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and executives from Warner Brothers and New Line, John Key announced today that The Hobbit movies would be filmed in New Zealand after all. Warner Brothers, which is backing the production to the tune of US$500 million, had threatened to move production out of New Zealand due to a loss of confidence in the local film industry following industrial action by the actors' Union. At least that was Peter Jackson's spin on things. Even though the Union had lifted its boycott, Jackson claimed "The damage inflicted on our film industry by [the actors unions] is long since done. The move has undermined Warner Brothers confidence in the industry and they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their $500 million investment."
According to the director the Hollywood execs were to fly in next week to discuss moving production to another country, and the fight he now faced was somehow to get The Hobbit's production back in New Zealand.
Things have moved faster than Jackson anticipated it seems.
The financial and other benefits to New Zealand flowing from the production of Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy are probably incalculable: above and beyond the hundreds of millions of dollars generated by the production of the movies themselves, there is the longer term boon for tourism now that New Zealand has become a Middle Earth mecca. It's not surprising that the country's Prime Minister intervened:
"Making the two Hobbit movies here will not only safeguard work for thousands of New Zealanders, but it will also follow the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in once again promoting New Zealand on the world stage."
John Key has promised to introduce legislation to safeguard production from industrial action once filming is under way. "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," he told reporters today. "We will be moving to ensure that New Zealand law in this area is settled to give film producers like Warner Brothers the confidence they need to produce their movies in this country."
Of course, if the industrial relations legislation that will be introduced to shore up Warner Brothers' confidence in the local film industry is unpalatable to the Union, who knows what disruption production can expect.
Filming of the 3D two picture prequel to The Lord of the Rings is set to commence in February 2011. Peter Jackson will be directing due to Guillermo Del Toro's disappointing departure from that role earlier this year. In an inspired bit of casting announced last week, British actor Martin Freeman has been given the lead role of Bilbo Baggins.
As New Zealand's new national hero, John Key, told reporters, "It's good to have the uncertainty over, and to have everyone now full steam ahead on this project." It certainly is.
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