Grossing nearly $3 billion worldwide, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy certainly pleased the bean-counters at Warner Bros., even if the fantasy movies were the most expensive film production ever made at an estimated total cost of about $710 million. While it’s not surprising that The Hobbit movies were so financially successful, even if they didn’t reach the critical acclaim of Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, what is surprising is that the Hobbit movies got made at all.
Jackson took a lot of flak for the decision to inflate J.R.R. Tolkien’s source material into a bloated CG-filled trilogy and the push for high-frame rate, but a new candid interview with Jackson, Andy Serkis, and more of the trilogy’s creative team reveals the beleaguered filmmaker in a new light. The Guardian digs into this video which focuses on Jackson’s struggle to speed up prep for The Hobbit, putting in 21-hour days throughout the long production, and ultimately climaxing with the frantic effort to bring The Battle of the Five Armies together.
Watch the behind-the-scenes featurette from the Blu-ray for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies below:
Here’s what Jackson said, specifically about taking over The Hobbit trilogy after Guillermo del Toro departed the picture:
“Because Guillermo Del Toro had to leave and I jumped in and took over, we didn’t wind the clock back a year and a half and give me a year and a half prep to design the movie, which was different to what he was doing. It was impossible, and as a result of it being impossible I just started shooting the movie with most of it not prepped at all.”
What’s surprising about this is that a director of Jackson’s stature apparently didn’t carry enough sway to shift Warner Bros.’ production schedule back in order to give him more time. The final film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, was eventually pushed back five months due to production delays, but that barely relieved the pressure on Jackson:
“You’re going on to a set and you’re winging it, you’ve got these massively complicated scenes, no storyboards and you’re making it up there and then on the spot […] I spent most of The Hobbit feeling like I was not on top of it ][…] even from a script point of view Fran [Walsh], Philippa [Boyens] and I hadn’t got the entire scripts written to our satisfaction so that was a very high pressure situation.”
As for that final chapter, the title battle itself was fraught with complications, as seen in the above video:
“We had allowed two months of shooting for that in 2012, and at some point when we were approaching that I went to our producers and the studio and said: ‘Because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing now, because I haven’t got storyboards and prep, why don’t we just finish earlier?’
And so what that delay gives you is time for the director to clear his head and have some quiet time for inspiration to come about the battle, and start to really put something together.”
With all of this behind-the-scenes drama, it’s amazing that The Hobbit films came together half as well as they did. They’re not destined to be as rewatchable as classics like Lord of the Rings, but this new info certainly gives me a different perspective on Jackson. After watching The Hobbit movies, it looked like Jackson was given free rein to do whatever he wanted; now, it’s looking like he just did the best he could to get the films made at all. Some day, a documentary on the making of The Hobbit films might just be more interesting than the The Hobbit films themselves.