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Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, who will respectively executive-produce and direct two upcoming films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit, interacted with each other and fans during an international Internet chat dubbed “An Unexpected Party,” answering dozens of the 6,000-plus questions sent in and offering tidbits about things to come.
According to the filmmakers, 2009 will be dedicated to preproduction on both movies, with the films set to be shot back to back in New Zealand in 2010. The Hobbit will open in December 2011, followed by the tentatively titled Film Two in 2012. Several actors and behind-the-scenes figures from Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy are confirmed or likely to return, among them co-stars Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis, writer-producers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, composer Howard Shore and conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe.
Del Toro and Jackson confirmed that the first film will tell the story of The Hobbit, while the second will be an original tale bridging the period between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. And, they said, del Toro’s films will be designed to stand on their own while syncing up with Jackson’s Rings trilogy.
“I believe that it’s a little bit of both; the world must feel like the same world, [in] the aspect ratio, music, essential established costume and production design trademarks,” del Toro wrote from England. “But I would love to bring a lot of new flavors to the table. The Hobbit is, in essence, an overture to a massive symphonic work, so main themes are reprised, but new modulations and new colors are introduced, thematically and texturally.”
Jackson, who was in New Zealand, added, “I love Guillermo’s symphonic allusion. The ‘overture’ can have a different flavor, a different texture, yet be a carefully crafted introduction to what’s to follow. Film Two is perfect to dramatize the shift in Middle-earth that propels us into the dark days of LOTR. If LOTR is World War I, then The Hobbit is like an Edwardian adventure tale, set in the days before [the] world notices the looming storm clouds.”
Jackson, responding to a question about why he chose not to direct the Hobbit films, explained that “essentially competing against my own movies” seemed to be an unsatisfying way to spend the next five years. However, he wrote, “I love Tolkien and care deeply about the movies we made. I couldn’t bear the idea of somebody else making them without our involvement. Being a writer and producer is the perfect way for me to work here. Guillermo has the ultimate responsibility of directing, and for him it’s easier to make these movies feel different, simply because he’s not me, and he therefore has an original vision, with new ideas to offer.”
Del Toro, meanwhile, explained that The Hobbit was the only one of Tolkien’s works with which he connected as a youth and that he dreamt of Mirkwood and Smaug for “ages.” However, once he saw that Jackson had undertaken the Lord of the Rings trilogy he assumed that The Hobbit “would never come to be” for him. When it did, he leapt at the opportunity.
“The proposition of spending half a decade [to] craft these films received, as Peter will attest, a five-second ‘YES’ from me,” del Toro wrote. “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.'” –Ian Spelling
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