Back in 2010, there was an intense dispute over The Hobbit that almost derailed production and could have seen the highly anticipated Lord of the Rings prequel being filmed in *gasp* another country than New Zealand.
The New Zealand government has released documents that shed a bit more light on that dispute. It also includes emails between Peter Jackson and government officials that further show the nature of the “ire in the Shire,” as Don Groves from Deadline reports.
Thing was, the New Zealand’s Actor’s Equity and its Australian-based umbrella, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (representing a small number of actors), made a campaign to unionize the production. Which, obviously, Jackson didn’t want.
The troubles sorta thankfully died down when the New Zealand government amended the labor laws and gave Warner Bros. production $56 million to shoot the film in the country after Jackson threatened to film elsewhere. Both Jackson and partner Fran Walsh said today that they hope the dossier will:
“put to rest the unfounded conspiracy theories that sought to characterize these events as a Hollywood studio dictating terms to a sovereign government—a charge that is as spurious now as it was then.”
Those exchanges were initially deemed too sensitive to be released but a recent ruling under the Official Information Act ordered 18 documents to be published before March 1, and you can read all 41 pages of them here.
In one of those notes, Peter Jackson wrote to one of the ministers:
“In the end, this is not about Actor’s Equity, nor is it about The Hobbit—it is about an Australian trade union making a blatant play to take a controlling hand in the NZ film industry—for their own political and financial gain.”
Jackson also wrote in a separate email about Actors’ Equity boss Simon Whipp that the government had:
“engaged with a snake, who now feels quite fearless… He is in revenge mode, intent on inflicting as much damage as he can to our film, our film industry, to our country. I really can’t [take] much more of this toxic nonsense.”
(Harsh words, but true.) And now, via their WingNut Films Jackson and Walsh have said today that:
“We could have made The Hobbit in Europe, or New South Wales (who offered Warner Bros. a huge tax rebate for the film), and earned the same fee for ourselves with a lot less stress. But we fought to keep the film here and work with the actors and crew we love. We think this was worth fighting for and we’d do it again.”
In the end, we really dodged a bullet, because New Zealand IS Middle-earth to us, and moving the production elsewhere might have changed the "feel" of the movie. Don't you agree?