NewsWire: Silly Hobbit: Movie Tricks are for Gradual Release - USA Today

by Josh Chetwynd and Andy Seiler

New Line execs are asking the cast of the Lord of the Rings movies to stay on target.

Facing the challenge of releasing three movies over three years that were shot simultaneously, the studio recently gathered the films' stars — including Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin and Viggo Mortensen — to discuss press coverage and other matters.

The key request: Tell anecdotes only about the first film, opening Dec. 19, before that one comes out. Save stories about the other movies until later. (The others are due at Christmas 2002 and 2003.) New Line also is collecting actors' anecdotes, so the studio will have stories to tell long after the players have moved on to other projects.

"You don't want to be coy," says Astin, who plays hobbit Sam Gamgee. "But the magician shouldn't reveal his tricks all at once."

Because of the unusual nature of shooting the films simultaneously, the actors also were briefed on subjects that studios usually don't discuss with talent, such as the films' combined cost ($270 million).

Astin, who emphasizes that the studio wasn't dictating what the actors say, appreciates the approach. "I thought it was really necessary," he says. "There is such anticipation for the film that we need to be prepared."

The buzz has been heating up for the films since screenings of footage at the Cannes Film Festival and in Los Angeles and New York. John Shaw, president of the box office tracking firm Movieline International, says that at the L.A. screening, industry execs cheered and applauded at the end. Among their descriptions of the film, he says: spectacular, awe-inspiring, astonishing CGI effects.

And he says it's "the greatest sight and sound experience yet seen on film."

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