by Paul Majendie
Move over boy wizard Harry Potter. Here comes Frodo Baggins the intrepid Hobbit.
For the second time in a month, moviegoers around the globe are being invited on a magical mystery tour through the world of wizards.
First came Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the film version of the first of author J.K. Rowling’s tales of a young wizard, which have sold 100 million copies in just four <years.
Now it’s the turn of The Lord of the Rings, the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy that has sold 100 million copies in half a century and was voted the book of the 20th century in many millennium polls.
Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, whose The Fellowship of the Ring — the film version of the first book of the Tolkien trilogy — has its world premiere in London on December 10, has insisted there is no wizard rivalry.
“Everybody paints this sort of competition between Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. It’s sort of crazy because I just wish Harry Potter all the best,” the New Zealander said.
But inevitably fantasy fans will compare notes and critics watch to see which film wins at the box office.
Making the trilogy amid the picturesque splendors of New Zealand was a mammoth 274-day undertaking for Jackson and his army of actors, designers and special effects wizards.
The $300 million series is billed as the first time a director has made three films at once. The movies are to be released one at a time over the next three Christmases. December 19 is the first release date.
Film production notes on Friday revealed how Jackson tried to climb inside Tolkien’s mind to recreate a fantasy world already real to literary fans worldwide.
“When there was a question about how to proceed, I would just shut my eyes and imagine the characters in my head, the same way a million readers around the world have shut their eyes and seen these books come alive as personal movies in their heads,” he said.
“We had to shoot it as one big story because that is what it is,” he said. “I look forward to the day when audiences can sit down and watch all three films in a row because it is one big story and adventure.”
The films look set to make an international star of 20-year-old American Elijah Wood, who plays the pivotal role of Frodo Baggins, the shy but intrepid hobbit at the heart of the epic tale.
Wood loved the location: “New Zealand is Middle-earth. It has every geological formation and geographical landscape you can imagine and some you couldn’t.”
He is given solid backup by Ian McKellen as Gandalf, who the British actor described as “the archetypal wizard. He is related to Merlin and maybe Prospero but is very much his own man.”