The WETA chat on The Hobbit

I heard about the WETA chat with Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, and I have to say I can’t wait to see The Hobbit. Probably because of its shorter nature, I love The Hobbit best, even though my favorite characters are in The Lord of the Rings–Eowyn and Faramir. I love Balin best of the dwarves in The Hobbit though, so I have high hopes of them giving him justice.

Some of the parts I loved/found interesting best:

WetaHost: Peter & Guillermo: What do you envision Gandalf’s role will be in this film? He seems to go off on his own and disappear in several sections of the book. Do you want to stay faithful to that or give him a more active role? How do you think you’ll ingratiate his character into an effective, cinematic storyline?

Guillermo del Toro: I believe that Gandalf is meant to be used in that way- coming and going in and out of the narrative. If anything, this creates the perfect setting for those “gaps” to be bridged by the second film…

Peter Jackson: Those gaps are great! There’s a lot of stuff going on, which is distracting him. I’m just pleased to be getting Gandalf the Grey back for two more movies. Ian and I loved him best. We were a little sad when the Gandy the White took over.

Jessalyn: When do you expect filming to begin?

Peter Jackson: Dear Jesslyn – at this point in time the plan is to write for the rest of this year and start early conceptual designs. 2009 will be dedicated to pre-production on both movies and 2010 will be the year we shoot both films back to back. Post productin follows one film at a time with The Hobbit being released Dec 2011, and F2 release Dec 2012. That is the schedule in about as much detail as we have ourselves at the moment.

Trotter_the_Ranger: What will be the title for the second movie?

Guillermo del Toro: Too early- but not “H2 Electric Boogaloo” that has been discarded.

tigerlily: Hello Beren, as no bugger is going to answer our questons we may as well talk to eachj other! I guess we should have submitted questions earlier on as it seems they are being answered!!! (I included this because wow, what snark!–a.)

WetaHost: Peter, perhaps you could clarify what your role will be in the production of these films: What exactly does an executive producer do? Will you follow that model or “forge your own path?” How will Guillermo’s role and your role be different? Do you plan on writing the script again with Fran and Phillippa?

Peter Jackson: Truth is “Executive Producers” do a range of things on movies from a lot to virtually nothing! I see myself being one of a production team. My interest is helping Guillermo make the very best films he can. I love writing and I’m looking forward to that. Guillermo will be writing, along with Fran, Philippa and myself. As a director, I could never direct something I didn’t have a hand in writing, and we’re not expecting Guillermo to do that either. If the director is part of the writing, it means he was there when the discussions took place, story decisions were made … he knows why things are the way they are, and what they need to achieve. Everything is in a script for a reason, and only by being part of a writing team (or writing it yourself), do you really understand the intention of every beat. I see my role as being part of that writing team, which will create the blueprint, and then helping Guillermo construct the movie. I want Guillermo to make his movies, and I want to make sure we end up with a 5 movie series that’s as good as it can possibly be.

WetaHost: Hello Mr. Jackson and Mr. Del Toro! Thank you very much for this time. My question is one that I think you will hear alot of from many of us…from what material will you pulling the second movie from? I know it’ll be great with you two on board, but I am mighty curious. I am a huge fan of both of you and I look foward to more Tolkien films!

Guillermo del Toro: The idea is to find a compelling way to join THE HOBBIT and FELLOWSHIP and enhance the 5 films both visually an in their Cosmology. There’s omissions and material enough in the available, licensed material to attempt this. The agreement is, however, that the second film must be relevant and emotionally strong enough to be brought to life but that we must try and contain the HOBBIT in a single film.

Peter Jackson: I’m really looking forward to developing Film Two. It gives us a freedom that we haven’t really had on our Tolkien journey. Some of you may well say that’s a good thing of course! The Hobbit is interesting in how Tolkien created a feeling of dangerous events unfolding, which preoccupy Gandalf. There’s an awful lot of incident that happens during that 60 year gap. At this stage, we’re not imagining a film that literally covers 60 years, like a bio-pic or documentary. We would figure out what happens during that 60 years, and choose one short section of time to drop in and dramatise for the screen. I’m really interested in how it effects The Hobbit – do we show what happens to Gandalg during his trips away? We’ll see. We may well have seeds for Film Two that we’ll subtly sow during The Hobbit.

WetaHost: I’d comment on the awesomeness of director choice, but I’m sure that gets old. Concerning The Hobbit and the numerous Dwarves, I was wondering if all of them are going to find their way into the film. In Lord of the Rings, you had 9 in the Fellowship, but you had three movies to flesh them out. In the Hobbit, you have 13 Dwarves and one film to throw them all in. I’m definitely hoping to see all 13 make their way in, but what are you doing about this?

Guillermo del Toro: Tolkien wrote 13 dwarves and I intend to use 13 dwarves. I am, in fact, thrilled to keep them all and have them be distinguishable and affecting as characters. Much of the drama and emotion in the last third of the book and film will come from them.

WetaHost: Guiilermo, I have always thought of you as a visionary director, and I love your work- could you please tell me what was the deciding factor that made you agree to direct The Hobbit?

Guillermo del Toro: Of all of Tolkien literary work I was only familiar with THE HOBBIT. I purchased it at age 11 and it struck a chord with me but, back then, I failed to connect with the Trilogy and the Silmarillion (Which now I find delectable) eluded me. I found them –unlike the HOBBIT- to be “too dense” for my young mind. I dreamt of Mirkwood and Smaug for ages (in fact, a Smaug-like dragon was scripted as part of the “fairy tale” Ophelia narrates to her brother in PANS LABYRINTH and was sculpted but was cut for budget reasons) but when I saw Peter undertake the Trilogy I thought thet the HOBBIT would never come to be for me. The proposition of spending half a decade crafting these films received- as Peter will atest- a 5 second “YES” from me. To people in my industry I’m usually a guy that tries to generate his own projects and I remain very elusive when people try and attach me to big projects. For decades I have passed on films of enormous scope but this is a fantastic privilege and I immediately said “Yes”.

WetaHost: Which of the actors from LOTR will be back to reprise their roles in The Hobbit and its companion film?

Guillermo del Toro: Obviously, at this stage, the second film is still being figured out- so the actors that have been approached may or not have appeared in the HOBBIT as a literary work but still may appear in the second film as it “blends” into the Trilogy and expands. Therefore what can be said is: Unequivocally, every single actor that originated a role in the Trilogy will be asked to participate and reprise it. If Health, availability or willigness become obstacles – and only in that case recasting would be considered.

Peter Jackson: Like Guillermo says, apart from extreme circumstances, we would never recast a character who appeared in the LOTR trilogy. You can read The Hobbit and pretty much see which characters play a part. The unknown facter is Film Two, which we are still developing. If we wished to write one of the LOTR characters into the narrative of Film Two, we would only do that with that actors blessing, and willingess to take part. Otherwise we’d take the writing in another direction.

That was a pretty lengthy chat, but a fantastic teaser for all that is to come! I personally can’t wait to watch this; even though PJ’s trilogy deviated at times from the books, it was still a fantastic piece, and I feel hopeful that these two new films will be just as good, judging from their responses.

What do you think?