Thanks to Locksley from Ringbearer.org for the tip on this article!
Land of the Rings
December 1, 2002 – Stuff.co.nz
As fans dust off their wizard hats and brush up on their elvish in preparation for part two of The Lord of the Rings, a new book reveals the precise locations of dozens of the fantasy epic’s scenes. Here director Peter Jackson recalls the day he realised New Zealand was the ideal Middle-earth.
Eighteen years old and reading JRR Tolkien for the first time, I was sitting on a train as it left Wellington and rumbled up through the North Island. During the 12-hour journey, I’d lift my eyes from the book and look at the familiar landscape – which all of a sudden looked like Middle-earth.
That was more than 20 years ago. Since then this story has ceased to exist for me as a work of fiction; instead it has become an account of an extraordinary passage of time. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is based on a detailed mythical prehistory of this planet as it was about 6000 or 7000 years ago. For me, it reads more like history than fantasy – a fully developed society and environment the records have since forgotten.
Bringing that world to life has been a fantastic and incredibly difficult journey, but one made special because of the people and places of New Zealand. There was never any question the film wouldn’t be made here. With the variety of landscapes of such an awesome nature, and the opportunity to involve talented Kiwis in a major production, it was the only way to go.
After three years of planning, on October 11, 1999, myself and a dedicated cast and crew of more than 2500 people began our cinematic journey. We wanted the Middle-earth that the viewer saw to feel believable, and it was fantastic having Tolkien’s richly created world to research all the detail. I went back and reread particular scenes to get the image right before we started filming.
The Waikato farming country where we created Hobbiton was like a slice of ancient England. I knew Hobbiton needed to be warm, comfortable and feel lived in. By letting the weeds grow through the cracks and establishing hedges and little gardens a year before filming, we ended up with an incredibly real place, not just a film set. It felt as if you could open the circular green door of Bag End and find Bilbo Baggins inside.