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EXCLUSIVE: The Hobbit Interview with Peter Jackson, Lee Pace and Philippa Boyens

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Continuing from the world premiere of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in London, England, Peter Jackson’s next stop was the world premiere in Toronto, Canada.

Along with Philippa Boyens and Lee Pace, Peter Jackson met exclusively with reporters for a “round table” interview to discuss the legacy of The Hobbit, film making – Legendarium Media was there to bring it to YOU! This would be my first round table style interview. It proved to be a more intimate, casual and fun experience! The following are select questions from the media during the event.

We have officially come to the end of the films. What does this mean to you as film makers and what it was like culminating your performances?

Peter Jackson: To me, it has a significance because it is the moment in time where a 6 film series comes into focus. The first 2 Hobbit movies are the first two acts that virtually made our story and this is the climax of our story but it is also the film that is the missing piece to continue on to the Lord of the Rings. So to me it is, until this film actually existed, there were these parts floating out there that can now be together.
We are only 5 years away from a generation arriving that will forget or were too young now to have seen the movie because it’s too scary, that when they’re 8 or 9, they’ll have no knowledge on how these movies were filmed or when and all they’ll have to remember is a six part box set and if they like the beginning, they’ll go to the end.

What is the beginning for you? What order would you want them to see them in?

Peter Jackson: The order they should be in. It starts from The Unexpected Journey and finishes at The Return of the King. It’s the way we started the Hobbit that is the way we have always been shaping the films.

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Have you had a day yet when you have woken up and the first thought hasn’t been “The Orc’s teeth aren’t right” or whatever it is to do with the films?

Peter Jackson: That is a very good question! Probably not, no. Whether or not it is the first thought, it’s like we haven’t had a day where we haven’t woken up with a deadline coming. I mean, even if you go on vacation and you can’t say “hey, you finished the first Hobbit movie or something and you can have 3 weeks off at Christmas”, because it’s like we’ve got to start working on the next one. So you have to come back on January the 6th. It’s always been that looming sort of “thing” that now you get to wake up and done. Finished. Nothing to do.

I mean, we haven’t deliberately taken on any other work because Fran and I just so badly wanted for once in our lives, in our 30 professional years to not have anything to do. Now…this doesn’t mean that 6 weeks into our holidays that we will be so bloody bored that we won’t start another project and that will be fine but at least we’ll do it for the right reasons, because literally you can’t believe how much we don’t want anything to do [laughing].

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From a writer’s perspective, there is so much of the Hobbit trilogy that has been expanded, extrapolated and that you found ways to bring in elements of the Lord of the Rings to stitch it all together. It’s fascinating in each new film that much of that becomes the key narrative. How did you figure out the formula? Much of it is that you know so much about Tolkien as you’ve been engulfed in it for over 15 years.

Philippa Boyens: Experience. That’s why it was really good to approach these films with having made the Lord of the Rings first. It was a lucky accident that we did actually do it. It helped to know who Legolas was and who Gandalf was because [JRR Tolkien] never stopped writing the Hobbit. There is a lot of material and in Tolkien’s extended cut …

Peter Jackson: And also Lord of the Rings is retrospectively filled in a lot of the Hobbit gaps as well

Philippa Boyens: You go into the appendices in the Lord of the Rings and you know there were Ring Wraiths in there, you know there were Necromancers in there, you know so much more..

Peter Jackson: The thing is, we were never ever , and I don’t think people realize this, but we were never adapting the Hobbit of the 1937 version. We were adapting that Hobbit plus the two that he retrospectively put into it from Lord of the Rings plus the appendices of The Return of the King . We were sort of adapting the Hobbit as it existed in the 50’s, and not within just one book and once Tolkien had fleshed it out more.

Philippa Boyens: Thranduil was an interesting character in terms of what we had to make up and this is what is really cool about Pete’s process is that you get to work with the actors to figure out that back story and we did that with Thranduil because there’s not a huge amount in there but the whole story about him [Thranduil] being in isolation is what you really liked [pointing to Peter] and embraced because it gave him a journey. There’s possibly more in the extended cut if you do it. It’s the story of why he’s like that. It’s neat because we got to work with Lee [Pace] on that back story.

Lee Pace: It was such a purely creative process. To take the little clues we were given in the Hobbit and mine them for the essence of what that character was – this Elven King who had fought in the great battle , fought dragons, and is now refusing to fight. Now avoiding this epic battle between good and evil.

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He [Thranduil] was also a Father, hence the dynamic with the Mother which is a very interesting line that is said in the film “Your Mother loved you”[said to Legolas]. Where did that line come from?

Philippa Boyens: The gems! It started with the gems. It will be fleshed out in the extended cut. Legolas’ Mother was never mentioned but we like that idea and it’s a bit more than “ I want my gems back”[laughs]…in the end it never gets told necessarily but informs the actor when you deliver that line [referring to Pace} “Your Mother loved you”, it has a power that I thought would have the backstory that she died and the only thing he has remaining of her that Thranduil has are these gems.

Lee Pace: He’s such a cold character [Thranduil], such a severe character and it rings true to me that it comes from heartbreak. Elves feel things in a very deep way, deeper than a human. They’re very far from human. Those emotions, that love is profound.

Peter Jackson: I also think that Thranduil has the hardest decision of everybody in terms of fighting . Fighting for Thranduil is committing his troops and unlike the other characters who are mortal who don’t die in this battle will die of old age at some point. Thranduil and the Elves are immortal, however if they get an Orc’s sword through them they’re going to die like anyone else. So for someone who is basically committing the lives of Elves who would otherwise live forever more committing them surely to death is a decision more difficult.

Lee, How can Peter direct such epic films and still be able to have such an intimate relationship with his actors as well as getting such great performances from them?

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Lee Pace: Peter is one of the most inspiring person I have worked with! I mean, he has all these diverse actors working on the movie …I watched the movie back last week and we’re all telling the same big story and that is coming from conversations we’ve had in your kitchen [pointing to Peter], and coming onto a green screen where we don’t know what this battle really is going to look like. I would ask Peter, “the army is going to be big, right” and he would say “yeah, it’s big” but then I watched the move and the army is ten times bigger than I could ever conceived!

Peter Jackson: When I’m on set shooting, I love the battle stuff because it’s CGI and I don’t actually have to worry about it. That large battle was created in the last 4 or 5 months. It’s great because it’s something you don’t have to think about.

Lee Pace: This is such an important part, what I took away from the process is that we had such a good time making the movie. It was such an enjoyable experience for us all. It was so creative. These characters are fun to play!

Peter Jackson: My feeling about directing now is, I try not to direct the actors at all. What I love doing is, and the actors respond so well to it, is we talk about what the story is requiring in the scene. So I direct in the audiences point of view. I believe that every scene should have a development internally.

Lee Pace: We’re also fans of the story, fans of the fans , fans of the movie and you’re such a fan [to Peter], so that the process on set becomes “I’m going to do something that Pete likes!” [laughs] I want to make Pete laugh, I want to always do something that he [Peter] thinks is cool!
Peter: You guys surprise me, you know that story and that’s a good thing. I’m not telling you what to do, telling you what the audience needs to do and you guys come up with amazing ways to doing it.

Philippa Boyens: I remember what you said earlier about “what is Pete’s process” and a lot of actors have asked me and I tell them that and if you “do it” Pete will see it and he will find it. What is really interesting is that [speaking to Peter] your camera is clever. Like the look you give to a scene with Gandalf and he sees it . Trust in your director because when he reads a page he isn’t reading it to go “no , this is wrong”, he’s reading it to go “yes”, and I think that is really good. You embrace other people.

Peter Jackson: I try to put myself in the audience’s shoes as we’re rolling camera as it’s the only perspective that counts! It doesn’t matter what I think, it’s what the audience gets from the film. It’s the only thing that matters at the end of the day.

Regarding the art direction, for every character and for every scene you have to have a look it seems that is symbolic?

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Peter Jackson: We’ve always approached Tolkien’s works as history and not fantasy. Not that fantasy is something to be embarrassed about , I love fantasy. I always think tha fantasy movies traditionally have been a bit condescending. They’ve always been all these people in bright coloured costumes, and a little bit silly because its not real. You can see this in some of the fantasy movies in the past. I think its not the approach I like about fantasy and Tolkien as well.

The designers have been influenced by the real world, so we look at the Riders of Rohan and they’re obviously based on the Norse people more than anything. You start to look at the history books and pull bits from that. The Elves way back in Fellowship of the Ring felt like an art noveau . That French underground with all those amazing designs felt very Elven to us, so that was a clue to the Elves. Then of course, you try to be original. You don’t copy the technique, it just means tying into our world slightly with each of these races and cultures and it gets everyone on the same page to.

Lee Pace: It’s style too. You can’t buy style, you can’t fake style.

Peter Jackson: Elves are the hardest to cast for. Elves are a perfection that the majority of us aren’t. I mean, I don’t see any Elves at this table amongst us, except for one [gesturing to Lee]. They have to be other worldly and they’re a pain in the ass to cast.

Lee. You have been in some epic fantasy and sci-fi films. What is next for you? More of these genres or something different?

Lee Pace: I don’t know? I’ve loved this experience of playing characters that are so far from myself. I’ve really, really enjoyed that and found a way of working that I have a good time with and really enjoy being far away from myself.

Are you hoping to work with Peter again?

Lee Pace: anytime, anytime, yes!

Peter Jackson: Absolutely! We’ve obviously been doing these films for a long time and now I am looking into the future and I don’t know what movies I’m going to make but I would love to make movies the rest of my life using the cast we’ve used in these films. I love it when directors have relationships with the same actors that you see in film after film.

Tolkien Toyed around with the books for a decade or more after he wrote them. Do you envision a time after your vacation from the films that you’ll go back and play around with either the technology you used in the older films or do anything more to these films?

Peter Jackson: The only thing we’ll be doing is in the new year is the extended cuts. The extended cut is interesting because, it’s not the dumping ground for outtakes and a way to make more money as a lot of people may think. To me, it’s essentially the same story from two different experiences of viewing.

You know, I’m a guy who wants to make other things and it would be a sad thing to spend the rest of my life going back over these films to try and make them better.

The epic end to Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy hit theaters December 17th.

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About Steve "Rifflo" Fitch

Steve, also known as “Rifflo”, is a University MBA Administrator in Ontario Canada where he lives with his wife, Lisa and two young daughters, Alexa and Ava. Steve has an extensive background in corporate sales. Steve also worked for ISAF: International Security Assistance Force and the Canadian Military as a recruiter in Human Resources for the operations in Bosnia and Afghanistan. When not immersed in Tolkien works,sci-fi, and film, you can find him training in Muay Thai, and Italian rapier.