NewsWire: Modern Weapons for Ancient Battles - The Dominion


Mount Ruapehu is the real-world location of Orodruin, Mount Doom.
One correction on this article: Middle-earth does not mean "the middle of the earth"... as we all know!

Modern weapons for ancient battles
The Dominion - May 1, 2000

Hidden under the snow-capped peaks of Mt Ruapehu among rocks and scrub 7000-year old battles are being fought with the help of modern technology.

Lord of the Rings trilogy producer Barrie M. Osborne is relying on technology to turn the snow-capped postcard perfect mountain into J R R Tolkien's fiery volcanic Middle-earth.

Filming in the National Park began two weeks ago with a crew and cast of 800 and will continue for another two.

Avoiding snow, floods and climbing up and down the mountain was hard work but the cast members were strong, Osborne said.

An early snow fall last week stopped filming of battle scenes for a day, but it has not caused any problems.

"We were supposed to be on Mt Doom. It is hot with lava flowing so that snow wasn't really appropriate," Osborne said.

The set is far removed from the glamorous Los Angeles studios but it is not the most remote place Osborne has ever filmed.

That was Easter Island, where he worked on Rapa Nui (1994) with an all-Maori cast.

He has lost count of the films he has worked on. They include Face-Off, Dick Tracey, The Big Chill, and the Cotton Club.

At base camp in Tukino, Osborne is just another member of the crew with dusty jeans and cold hands, but the announcement that his latest film, The Matrix, has just won four Academy Awards is a reminder that Hollywood is closer than you think.

The Matrix won Oscars for sound effects, sound editing, visual effects, and picture editing.

Osborne said The Matrix and Lord of the Rings were not that different -- the former set in the future with a contemporary look and the latter in the middle of the earth a long time ago, but both rely on a lot of technology.

He said in 30 years of making films, budgets had literally exploded, especially during recent years.

"But so has audience expectation. If you're going to compete you have to have state-of-the-art technology."

New Zealand has it and it is being used -- 95 percent of the 800 cast and crew are Kiwis.

Two units are filming the battle scenes for all three films simultaneously at different sites around the mountain.

Filming returns to the stage in Wellington before heading back to the South Island in August.

If all goes to plan fans will be able to let out their breath in December 2001 with the release of the first film.

The next two will be released in December of each following year. -- NZPA

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