Most fans of Frodo’s long journey to Mordor in The Lord of the Rings can’t imagine any other director but Peter Jackson at the helm, but Harvey Weinstein threatened to replace him, according to a new oral history of the blockbuster franchise.
In a piece celebrating the 20-year anniversary of Fellowship of the Ring, The Independent spoke to Jackson’s manager Ken Kamins, among others involved with the franchise, including stars Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen.
At one point while discussing the films’ journey to the big screen, Kamins broached how the disgraced former Hollywood producer, who is currently serving time for felony sex crimes, used threats of replacing the New Zealand-born filmmaker with Quentin Tarantino as a means of forcing Jackson to condense the project’s runtime.
“Harvey would go from acting empathetically to turning on a dime into Mr. Hyde and would threaten Peter,” Kamins said of Weinstein’s mixed messages of support when it came to Jackson’s vision. “He’d threaten to get Quentin Tarantino to direct if Peter couldn’t do it in one film that was two-and-a-half hours — which was the exact opposite of what he initially told us he wanted.”
Development for the Lord of the Rings franchise began at Miramax — then run by Bob and Harvey Weinstein — and was acquired as part of a first-look deal between Jackson and the producing brothers. But when issues around the movie’s budget arose, tensions spilled over into conversations between Jackson and Weinstein. That’s when Kamins says the team shopped, and successfully sold, the film to New Line.
The Oscar-winning epic fantasy adventure ultimately spanned three installments, with its first two films, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, clocking in at just under three hours, before the final chapter, The Return of the King, ran at nearly three and a half.
In addition to issues with the runtime, early conversations around the franchise included a plan for just two — not three — films, according to both Kamins and New Line Cinema producer Mark Ordesky.
“It was actually [New Line founder] Bob [Shaye’s] idea to do three films instead of two. The original pitch was to do two films and Bob goes, ‘There’s three books, why are you only making two films?’” Ordesky said.
“He said, ‘Tolkien did your job for you. He wrote three books so you have three movies,’ and I’m kicking Peter under the table not believing what I’m hearing,” Kamins added. “They said yes on Monday and were out of pocket $12 [million] by Wednesday.”
During an October episode of the Armchair Expert podcast, star Wood corroborated elements of both Kamins and Ordesky’s oral history recollections about the number of films and the project’s journey from one studio to another.
“I think the lore is that they were coming with two and it was Bob Shaye who said, ‘We have to do three,’ which is insane,” Wood said. “An incredible risk. Miramax thought there was no chance in hell.”