Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jackson, del Toro Talk Hobbit

by Peter T. Chattaway | posted 05/27/08

Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro held an online chat with Tolkien fans this past weekend about their upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit, as well as the as-yet-untitled Hobbit sequel.

Among other things, Jackson, who is producing the films, and Del Toro, who is directing them, discussed the differences in tone between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; the need to make sure that Smaug becomes the all-time definitive movie dragon; their desire to keep the "idiosyncrasies" of Tolkien's narrative; and the sorts of things that Gandalf and Gollum might be up to in the second film.

"I'm just pleased to be getting Gandalf the Grey back for two more movies," said Jackson. "Ian [McKellen] and I loved him best. We were a little sad when . . . Gandy the White took over." Del Toro, meanwhile, noted that "Gollum has a rather fascinating arch [sic] to go through" and alluded to the character's "alliance to Shelob or his period of imprisonment in Thranduil's, etc"—but then he cautioned that it was too early to talk about the details, lest he "tie our hands."

Del Toro also noted that "greed" provides the thematic thread that unites the story, linking both Smaug and the dwarves: "Bilbo's 'Letting go' and his noble switching of sides when the dwarves prove to be in the wrong is [the theme's] conceptual counterpart (that is a hard one to get through, Bilbo's heroism is a quiet, moral one) and the thematic thread reaches its climax in the Bilbo / Thorin death bed scene."

In related news, Variety noted in passing last week that Jackson and del Toro have contacted not only McKellen and Andy Serkis about playing Gandalf and Gollum again, but they have also contacted Viggo Mortensen about reprising the role of Aragorn, a character who does not appear in the book version of The Hobbit; and the Times of London says Ian Holm, who played an older Bilbo in The Lord of the Rings, "is expected to narrate" the new films.

Meanwhile, speaking of greed, MGM executives were quoted last week speculating that there might be more than one sequel to The Hobbit. "There's 80 years between the end of The Hobbit and the beginning of The Lord of the Rings," said MGM CEO Harry Sloan. "Think of the franchise."

One person who doesn't want to think of the franchise is Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R., who is calling for "one last crusade" to prevent The Hobbit and its sequel from being filmed, according to the Times of London.

The younger Tolkien, 83, has sued the studio for £80 million (about $160 million) that he says he is owed under the deal his father made when he sold the film rights in 1969. And on June 6, he plans to ask a California judge to support his claim that he can "terminate" the film rights to The Hobbit.

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