Newswire: 'Lord of the Rings' begins year-long quest for hype - USA TODAY

I expect that in the following months leading up to the release of the movie, we will see a lot more articles like this one.

This article publically confirms what I have been told by New Line about the release of the trailer and the redesign of the new site.

By Josh Chetwynd

Let the countdown begin.

The first of three films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings will open one year from today, and New Line Cinema is wasting little time trying to capitalize on what it hopes will be an enduring franchise.

On Jan. 12, the action film's first trailer will be released, running before New Line's Thirteen Days. A revamped version of the official Rings Web site (www.lordoftherings.net) will add, among other things, RealAudio interviews with members of the cast.

There's a lot riding on the trilogy based on Tolkien's classic fantasy books about Middle Earth. The films, shot concurrently in New Zealand, are costing the studio about $270 million.

The movies, which feature such actors as Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen and Cate Blanchett, are each based on a book in Tolkien's trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers (due Christmas 2002) and The Return of the King (expected for Christmas 2003).

Logistically, the movies were trying. There were 2,500 crewmembers, 4,000 extras and 350 sets. The filmmakers shot as many as five scenes at different locations simultaneously.

But producer Barrie Osborne promises that series devotees will be pleased with the final product.

''It is everything a fan would expect,'' he says. ''It has dramatic tension, and it has grandeur and scope.''

Respecting the original is key for true fans, says Patrick Sauriol, editor of the movie buzz site Coming Attractions (www .corona.bc.ca/films).

''If you go in there and do major chops, the whole mystique of Tolkien's universe'' would be ruined, he says.

Among the efforts that should delight enthusiasts: Tolkien scholars taught actors playing elves how to speak in that race's fictional language (expect some subtitles). And dialect coaches helped give each race in Middle Earth distinct inflections and intonations.

New Line marketing president Joe Nimziki is confident that the first film's Dec. 19, 2001, opening is a wise choice. It places the movie more than a month after another big fantasy film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, due Nov. 16.

''There is one school of thought that they'll have the jump on us, but we believe that one helps the other, and it will create more interest,'' he says.

For hard-core Rings fans, Potter won't be a distraction.

''The movie has been in the works for two years, and it's still a year off, but it's amazing how much activity there is,'' says Joram Manka of fan site www.ringbearer.org.

Manka is already setting his viewing plans: On Jan. 12, he'll get in line early for Thirteen Days to see the Rings trailer.

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