The Lord of the Rings Edoras set at Mount Somers, South Canterbury.
The Otago Daily Times
A New Zealand journalist laments about the poor questions asked by his colleagues at the Lord of the Rings media event held at the Minas Tirith set ten days ago.
Scoop: cynical journos overawed
By David Williams
Wellington: For 13 months we have been fed Lord of the Rings teasers.
In what was supposed to be a “media blackout” to let Peter Jackson get on with shooting his epic trilogy, based on the J.R.R. Tolkien books, this country’s media has worked itself into a feeding frenzy on the films.
Hints here, gossip there and rumours from unnamed sources everywhere.
Finally, a month before they stop shooting and start adding the computer graphics and doing production stuff that only film buffs can understand, they invite us into their lair.
We had a chance to talk to Jackson, producer Barry M. Osborne (The Matrix) and 12 of the cast on their turf, but on our terms.
Ladies and gentlemen of the public, I am here to tell you I think we stuffed it up.
Earlier this month certain newspapers, radio networks and television companies – including The Otago Daily Times – were given a week to gather their questions and pack their bags for Wellington. We were off to the set of Minas Tirith (where the climactic battle scene takes place in the third book, Return of the King ), at the Dry Creek Quarry about 25km north of Wellington.
After having to show identification at the entrance, getting laminated tags with our names on them and walking past burly security guards, we filtered into the inner sanctum. Above us, Minas Tirith was being built. It was all quite exciting.
Like worker bees hovering outside the hive, waiting to see the Queen, we hung around in groups waiting for the stars to appear.
After being ushered into a makeshift tent and being welcomed by producer Osborne, the stars filed in tentatively as the media watched like possums caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
Clapping broke out after they all took their seats and the floor was immediately opened to questions from the “cream” of this country’s media. It all went downhill from there.
Classic questions from hard-nosed journalists included: “What’s the occasion?” and “Are you giving the audience a reason to come back?”
Insightful posers for the stars included, for Sir Ian McKellen, what convinced him to spend a year in New Zealand, at the bottom of the world?
Gee I don’t know. I heard the scenery was nice.
Or maybe 19-year-old Elijah Wood – who plays the lead of Frodo Baggins and has appeared in movies like Deep Impact and The Faculty – how has he found the New Zealand film industry?
Er . . . In Wood’s own words “The New Zealand . . . film industry? Like as in New Zealand films? Oh, the crews!”
We bumbled and stumbled our way through, overawed, I think, by the spectacle of it all. When Osborne avoided a question about the official budget figure by saying it was better to ask that of movie giant New Line, nobody pressed him by asking him if $650 million was close.
Credit where credit’s due, though.
What may have sounded like one of the most stupid questions turned out to be the pearler for Peter Jackson: “How do you deal with the workload? Do you have Hobbit nightmares?”
While most people laughed, Jackson revealed he does have nightmares any time he’s making a film – recurring dreams that he’s on the set and things are going horribly wrong.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not bashing other media by saying I could do any better. My question, my 10 seconds of fame, was a shocker.
“Peter, is this the start of more, I mean are you going to base yourself here, are you here for life, or are you going to try and get all of your films here from now on?”
For the record, Jackson said there was nothing magical about his Wellington base – he lives there, he has a house there, his kids go to school there and he and Fran Walsh like it too. They just happen to make movies.
I just think any pack of tabloid journalists from the United Kingdom or the United States would have ripped the panel apart. Sex scandals would have been revealed and love children named.
My point, in a roundabout way, is to illustrate another reason why Jackson, his hordes of hobbits, goblins and orcs, and his huge purse of money have come here.
Even if we found his lair, we wouldn’t really know what to do anyway.