Full interview: Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens on finishing the Hobbit movies

In an exclusive sit-down interview, Sir Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens talk to 3 News entertainment reporter Kate Rodger about the end of their epic journey into Middle-earth, which has culminated with the world premiere of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

Sir Peter recalls how he and partner Fran Walsh first decided they wanted to make films from The Lord of the Rings. It happened almost by default; the pair had just finished working on The Frighteners and were throwing around ideas for an original fantasy film they could write.

"For several weeks we tried to come up with a story…and we just kept saying, 'That's too much like Lord of the Rings,'" he says.

"After about three or four weeks of trying to come up with our own story we thought, 'Well, who's got the rights to Lord of the Rings?'"

And that was that. Of course, there was some serious negotiating required to get the rights and studio backing, but Sir Peter never really looked back.

In this interview he also talks about why The Battle of the Five Armies is the shortest of all the Hobbit films, and reveals which of the battle scene animals he liked so much it is now living on his farm.

KATE RODGER: Last time I spoke to you Peter, about three weeks ago, you were about the most exhausted person I've ever met!
SIR PETER JACKSON: And I didn't have any sleep since then so I'm still exhausted. Nothing changes.

How do you do it?
JACKSON: Um, we have no choice. Seriously, you've got a responsibility. Ultimately it's a film that a lot of other people have paid for and we have to finish it. There's also obviously a lot of people waiting to see it. So you just get driven by the necessity.

You have a wonderful, successful partnership together and with Fran Walsh. What has been the key to its longevity?
PHILIPPA BOYENS: I think respect, actually. A good idea floats to the surface, everyone hears it and feels it.
JACKSON: It's a lack of respect though, too. The worst thing when you're collaborating is when you have to be polite, when you have to say, 'Well that's a good idea!' Whereas we can just say, 'Come on, that's stupid!' As a collaboration, that makes it so much easier. You can just be honest and no one gets offended. You respect, you have trust and it leads to a lack of respect, which is also very healthy.

Right at the beginning of this Middle-earth journey, you guys sat around and thought, 'We really want to make Tolkien movies and we want to make them in New Zealand.' Then you went to a massive studio and asked for millions of dollars. Where do you get the balls to do that, all those years ago?
JACKSON: Well, briefly, the genesis of the Tolkien thing was I grew up loving fantasy – Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts and those sorts of things, King Kong. When we finished The Frighteners, which was the fifth movie I think we'd made, Fran and I were talking about what we should do next, and we decided to do a fantasy film. We thought it'd be an original story we'd write and talked about it for several weeks, trying to come up with a story. Everything we came up with seemed to be like Lord of the Rings. It was talked about the entire time, for three or four weeks as we failed to come up with our own story, so we thought, 'Who's got the rights to Lord of the Rings?' It was the obvious question to ask! We had a first-look deal with Miramax at the time, so anything we wanted to do at the time we had to go to Harvey Weinstein first, so we called him. We said, 'How about Lord of the Rings Harvey?' Or The Hobbit? Actually, our plan was to do one Hobbit movie then two Lord of the Rings movies if it was successful. That was our pitch to Harvey. He was making The English Patient at the time with a producer called Saul Zaentz. Harvey said, 'I know who's got the rights to those films; Saul's got the rights, and I'm making a film with him!' It just happened to be the right phone call at the right time, as he just happened to be making a movie with this guy who had the film rights to these stories.

Did he take a lot of talking into getting them made in New Zealand?
JACKSON: No, not really, because you can't make these movies in a place with TV aerials and antennae masts and roads and towns everywhere. You have to have landscapes which are pretty unspoilt, for 360°, so New Zealand was always, always, always the ideal country to make it.

Did you ever imagine that we'd take these films so close to our heart? It's kind of part of our nationhood now and we have a sense of ownership over them.
JACKSON: I find that very funny, actually. I mean this in a respectful way, but an entire country has embraced an English fantasy story like this. It's a good thing, because if you're going to identify yourself with a book, you could do a lot worse than The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit.
BOYENS: I think there's something Hobbity about us Kiwis, too.
JACKSON: I do too, I agree with that.
BOYENS: We love family and we're brave.
JACKSON: And we're suspicious of the outside world and strangers! We're fairly isolated in a geographical and a mental sense, really. Hobbiton is very isolated and the big events of the world, they happen somewhere else. We just sit here with our cups of tea and the newspaper watching the world do its thing.
BOYENS: But, called upon...
JACKSON: Called upon, we go for it. We're there.

The Battle of the Five Armies feels like the punchiest, shortest journey into Middle-earth yet, is that true?
BOYENS: 'Tis.
JACKSON: I know I never thought I could make a movie that was just over two hours long. I didn't think my DNA would enable it, but it did. It didn't start out that short; it started out nearly three hours long. We just kept nibbling it down, nibbling it down. The one thing I did want with this movie, we didn't have a running time in mind, but I did want it to have the pace of a thriller. The first two Hobbit movies were quest sort of road movies. The first one started, got to a point, then the second picked it up and kept going. With this one, you're there where the second film dumped us; there's no travelling. We now have to play this psychological thriller out. So I wanted it to have a certain energy and a certain pace to it.

My emotional response to this movie was quite intense. I cried my eyes out three separate times.
BOYENS: Good, good!
JACKSON: That's good.

In the battle there were a lot of different beasts being ridden. If you could choose one of those to have on the back porch to go for a gallop out in the paddock on, what would it be?
JACKSON: Oh the kunekune pig, for sure.
BOYENS: Well you've got the pig!
JACKSON: We've got the pig. The pig that he's riding in the film we own it; it's our pet. Pikelet, she's called, not in the movie but that's her real name. She's about the size of a bloody bus. She's huge, a big kunekune pig, a very grumpy girl too.

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Following its world premiere in London, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opens in New Zealand on December 11.

3 News

source: newshub archive