Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Long Post on THE HOBBIT movie

Deadlines. They make you late for everything.

So, having finished up a freelance deadline last night, now I finally have time and mental energy to blog again.

And thus it's time to return to a post I started three weeks ago and had to put by, despite one or two ineffectual efforts in the meantime, until now. Events have swept on by, but it's a topic of abiding interest (to me at least), so I think still worth noting. In any case, here's a quick run-through of recent developments on the HOBBIT movie.*

(1) after months of coyness, suddenly Jackson et al. announced a bunch of casting for the film(s), most notably by naming who'll be playing Bilbo: Martin Freeman.

I hadn't seen him before, but as luck wd have it his new role as Dr. Watson in the new series of SHERLOCK HOLMES was debuting on tv here just two days later (Sunday night Oct. 24th), so I got to see him in action.

My verdict: he'll be fine. Although the guy playing Holmes actually looks more like a Peter Jackson hobbit, with his mop of curly hair, Freeman did a good job playing an apparently ordinary bloke who gets swept up by adventures and has to deal with a lot of unreasonable people -- pretty good training for Bilbo, one wd think.

So, while I might privately mourn that I'll never get to see my personal dream choice play the role (Hugh Laurie), this first pick seems okay.**

And they'd no sooner announced the lead than a lot of the other roles got filled: Thorin, Balin, Fili, Kili, &c. -- all people I'd never heard of, like Freeman himself -- and like most of the cast for Jackson's earlier LotR. I suspect that rather than having a few high-profile well-known actors like he ceded smaller roles to in LotR, here that star power will be filled by returning luminaries such as Ian McKellan and Andy Sirkis (assuming those apparently ongoing contract talks work out, as I"m sure they will).

Then, just after I saw a piece in the dentist's office in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY about Peter Jackson's casting for the upcoming HOBBIT movie, either a little later that same day (Nov. 3rd) or possibly the next I saw a mention at an online news site about MGM's having finally officially filed for bankruptcy --the one big hold-up in getting going on the movie these past few months having been that MGM, which owns a stake in it, was about to disappear down the rabbit hole, potentially taking all the movie's profits with it. So now that particular rough bit of road looks to be behind us.

(2) Then, no sooner had that been settled than a really major roadblock loomed ahead: labor woes. Specifically, New Zealand actors kicked up a fuss, demanding to be paid Screen Actor's Guild rates (without, so far as I cd tell, actually joining the SAG, paying dues, &c). Jackson's team responded angrily by saying that they might film in Canada instead -- only to have representatives of Canadian actors' unions say in effect that they wdn't be scabs and wd recognize any boycott by New Zealand actors. Whereupon rumors started circulating that THE HOBBIT might be filmed in Eastern Europe. There were accusations that the guild making the demands wasn't even a New Zealand group after all but an Australian union claiming that it had the right to represent New Zealand actors (apparently without those actors themselves agreeing to that). Things got so crazy that people even started holding Keep-the-Hobbit-in-New-Zealand rallies across the country.

All this raised the spectre that filming outside New Zealand might mean that Bilbo's world wdn't look like Frodo's. My own take is that (a) Jackson can afford to pay people well and (b) the actors wd be crazy to drive away the crown of New Zealand filmmaking -- or, as my wife likes to refer to it, the New Zealand Full Employment Plan.

Luckily, so far as I can tell the fuss has died down here as well. Not only are they planning to film in N.Z., but Jackson et al are rebuilding Hobbiton in more durable materials to be a permanent attraction after the films are done -- a pretty smart move, given how many people have travelled to New Zealand in the past seven years to see places where things used to be before they dissembled the sets.

(con't in next post)


*(many thanks to those on the MythSoc list who posted links there between Oct 22nd and 25th, --Sara Ciborski, Alana Abbott, and Jason Fisher-- and also to Jessica Yates)

**too bad about the Holmes, though -- the first episode promised more than the rest wound up delivering, so that despite a nicely quirky approach, a good job updating Holmes & Watson to the 21st century, an appealing supporting cast, & many little tributes to A.C.D.'s stories scattered throughout, the second and third stories wind up being a bit of a mess, more style than substance. I'll keep watching, but I've definitely lowered my expectations.

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