Yesterday, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro went online to chat with Tolkien fans about their planned approach for the two upcoming Hobbit films. (Or the one upcoming film of The Hobbit and the as-yet untitled ‘bridge’ film that will link to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.) Moderators had pre-selected twenty of the most common questions from 4000 submitted entries prior to the chat, but the pair also answered live questions from fans. The full transcript is available at Weta’s website, and you should definitely have a look for Guillermo’s long answers about Smaug and his response to questions arising from his past disparagement of ‘sword and sorcery’ tales, but here are some of the most pertinent bits of information for your pleasure:
(PJ) Middle-earth is location, with very few structures really. It’s a natural countryside and that’s where a lot of shooting will take place.
(GdT) Location will be favored and real set construction. I love REAL set construction and think that sets are very important part of the storytelling and scope of a film…
(GdT) Shore is teh [sic] VOICE of these films and we will absolutely be invited back. Peter and Fran have talked to him a couple of times already and Ive exchanged emails about the subject. He will return.
(GdT) The fact that Ian Holm is SO memorable means that PJ, Fran and PB did their job right. We will utilize him in some fashion for sure but the difficulty of th erole will be better assesed after we do the script (s).
The voice of Smaug:
(GdT) At this time the voice of Smaug is down to a very few choices in my head and I have a completely specific one, Ron [Perlman] has a good chance but I have other plans for RP… we will see…
The look and tone:
(GdT) 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.
(GdT) I hope that Mirkwood can be pretty scary but not graphic, I hope Riddles in the dark has an element of fear and suspense and to be deeply atmospheric but still allow the ingenious, engaging contest to take place. And Smaug should be all shock and awe when he unleashes his anger so, it will be pretty intense but not gorey.
(GdT) …the book, I believe, in echoing the “loss of innocence” England experienced after WWI, is a passage form innocence to a darker, more somber state- The visual / thematic progression should reflect that in the camera style, color palette, textural choices, etc.
(PJ) I personally feel that The Hobbit can, and should have a different tone. The “tone” of these stories shouldn’t be defined by the pressure our characters were under in LOTR. The world is a different place at the time of the Hobbit. The shadow is not so dark. However, what should stay the same is the reality of Middle-earth, and the integrity we bring to it as film makers.
(GdT) I plan to come up with a very strong, new treatment for the Goblins. I also think the Wargs should be readdressed for their role in The HOBBIT.
(GdT) 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.
(GdT) The aspect ratio, music, essential established costume and production design trademarks but I would love to bring a lot of new flavours 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.
(GdT) I normally use 1:85 but I thoroughly plan to respect Peter’s choice of format used in the Trilogy (2:35:1) but it is my intention, for now, to shoot this on film, not HD.
On whether Gandalf’s role will be faithful to the novel or re-written for more screen time:
(GdT) 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…
(PJ) 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.
(PJ) The rating will be the same as the Trilogy, PG13 on both movies.
(GdT) An intense PG-13…
When cameras will roll:
(PJ) 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.
(PJ) Most directors prefer to direct everything themselves. I thought I could on LOTR, but very quickly found out that the sheer scale prevented it. Instead of a 15 month shoot, we would have shot for 3 years! Guillermo always shoots his own material, so we’ll do our best to construct a schedule that allows him to do that. It will depend a lot on how the scripts break down. I’d happily shot some second unit stuff, anytime Guillermo asked me to. But let’s see what happens.
The makeup of the crew:
(GdT) Many of them will be back. I will supplement the FX departments, the design departments (with very interesting names), but the crew will utilize as many of the original elements as possible.
(GdT) I had a marvelous lunch with John [Howe] and Alan [Lee] in London a few days ago and we all got very excited as we discussed my ideas on Smaug, Mirkwood, etc They are most definetly back!
On the second film:
(PJ) 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.
(PJ) 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.