Fri Feb 22, 4:53 PM ET
By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – With the first installment of his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy a prime contender for Oscar honors, director Peter Jackson says he has reached deep into his bag of movie wizardry to deliver fresh characters and plot twists to part two due in theaters next December.
“The second feels very different from the first film, which I think is a positive thing. If audiences go to ‘Two Towers’ (the sequel) expecting more of the same, they are not going to get more of the same,” Jackson told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
Part one, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” has been a smash hit for over two months in movie theaters, raking in $700 million globally and winning 13 Oscar nominations, more than any other film vying for Hollywood’s top film honors this year.
The “Rings” movies — three in all — are based on the 1954 fantasy epic by J.R.R. Tolkien that tells of a battle for Middle-earth by an alliance of Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves and Men against the dark powers of Sauron and his Orc army.
At the center of the struggle is a powerful ring wrought by Sauron of gold and blood and an evil life force. Whoever possesses the ring can control Middle-earth, and the hobbit Frodo, aided by wizard Gandalf, must return it to the fires from which it came. Keeping it from Sauron’s demonic clutches will save the good people of Middle-earth from his armies.
While millions of Tolkien readers know the “Rings” tales by heart, Jackson’s movie magic and special effects have brought their characters to life and have kept audiences spellbound.
MORE TRICKS IN ‘TOWERS’
The director will use more tricks in “Towers,” including a starring role for a computer generated outcast Orc named Gollum, who with Frodo and his best friend Sam forms a sort of unholy alliance in the quest to destroy the ring.
See, Gollum wants the ring for himself.
“He’s a really twisted, sick little guy,” Jackson said.
Using British actor Andy Serkis dressed up in a “motion capture suit,” Jackson and his animators can digitize all of Serkis’ real movements and transform them into Gollum’s, so the computerized creep can “act” with the real characters.
“The challenge is to create a computer-generated creature that is a totally believable actor … that is as strong and powerful as any human being in the film,” Jackson said.
“The audience will be the judge of it, but I think it’s looking pretty good so far,” he added.
Jackson said he’s only about halfway into editing the second movie. The first was about the “fellowship” of elves, dwarves and men who protected Frodo on his journey, but that band of guardsman was broken.
In the second, Frodo sets out on his own with Sam, and the two are soon to be joined by Gollum. There are kidnappings, chases, battles and intertwined plots that Jackson said are “ultimately refreshing because they will be different.”
Of course, topping the success of the first “Rings” film will be hard, both at the box office and at Oscar.
But for Jackson much of the pressure is off his shoulders because all three films were shot in his native New Zealand at the same time. The movie is “in the can” as they say in Hollywood, and all he can do is edit what he already has.
His biggest concern, now, is what to say on Oscar night if he wins for best director or if “Rings” wins best film.
How does he thank — in the 30 seconds or so the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gives him — the over 2,500 people who worked on the film, not to mention 25,000 extras?
“If I go in alphabetical order, I’ll be halfway through the ‘A’s’,” he laughed. “The band will strike up, and I’ll be done.”
Well, it may be a short ending for Jackson, but not his movie. The third film in the trilogy, “The Return of the King” is scheduled for release in 2003.