Yesterday, shortly after the screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, we attended the press conference with writer/director Peter Jackson, co-writer Philippa Boyens and cast members Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Lee Pace, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Ryan Gage and ‘guest star’ Billy Boyd.
The first question directed at Peter Jackson was without fail about the future of Middle Earth – will we ever see it again?
Unfortunately, as fans already know, the Tolkien estate holds the film rights to the rest of the professor’s works. It is therefore unlikely that we will ever see a Silmarillion adaptation on screen so “without the cooperation of the Tolkien estate there can’t be more films”.
Regarding the order in which The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were shot, Philippa Boyen said that “it was lucky that we did LOTR first because I think we would have made a very different Hobbit if we started with the hobbit, probably more of a children’s tale.”
The new generations which will watch the 6 films in the correct order will have a very difference experience. In terms of characters, fans widely discussed the introduction of new characters that were not in the books, or did not appear at that time, e.g. Legolas.
However, Orlando Bloom defended these liberties, “Pete and Fran said that they wanted to explore the backstories of these characters and then tie them in to see those characters making a connection point for the Lord of the Rings”.
Technology was also one of the main points of discussion. Despite the criticism with the 48fps, especially after the first film, Peter Jackson remarked that “100 years ago movies were black and white, they were silent, they were 16 fps. So a 100 years from now what are they going to be? […] I think you can absolutely guarantee they’re not going to be 24fps and they’re not going to be 2D”.
Raising the bar with technology is something that you have to do in order to tell of the stories you want to tell. Performance capture for instance was what made possible the creation of the likes of Gollum and Smaug; “it’s artistry” reminded Andy Serkis, who is now directing The Jungle Book at the moment, animating quadrupedal animals .
Jackson also promised 30 minutes of additional footage that will be included in the extended edition which will be released next year.
Sir Ian McKellen underlined how lucky actors are to actually step into Middle Earth and inhabit it, even more than the director does. “So the next development, I hope, is that Peter is going to devise not more films but a situation that all can go to, that is more theatrical than cinematic. A living museum where you would actually have the experience to go and be there.”
Finally, The Hobbit is certainly an inspiring film “Most actual heroes in the world are not 6ft tall and they don’t look like Vikings. Most everyday heroes do not look like that. We know that to be true, Hollywood doesn’t always tells us that truth that’s why we think it’s surprising that Bilbo could be a hero” said Martin Freeman.
To an extent, The Hobbit has a happy ending because the hero does return home, whereas in The Lord of the Rings, Frodo leaves Middle Earth. When asked about how he would like to inspire the next generation, Jackson replied: “Well I hope that I’ll inspire children to make films. I’m sitting here today being the result of TV and films I saw as a kid. I mean, Thunderbirds, King Kong, Ray Harryhausen’s movies. They are the reason why I’m here”.
On a side personal note I can say that I am one of those children – The Lord of the Rings came out when I was around twelve and that sparked my interest in filmmaking and the wish to pursue a career in writing and directing. It is on a slightly melancholic note that that we left this conference but, who knows, perhaps once the times are right and if the Tolkien estate changes their mind, some other filmmakers might take the challenge of translating one of Tolkien’s most fascinating works, The Silmarillion, for the big screen…or the small screen, given the way that TV has come in terms of epic cinematic scape.