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Professor J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which tell the story of a mythical war and heroic quests set in the lands of Middle-earth, have been the subject of various film and TV adaptations, chiefly six feature films produced, written and directed by Sir Peter Jackson from 2001 to 2015, a tie-in TV show by Amazon slated for release in 2021, and a Biopic of Tolkien's released in 2019.

Since being published in the 1930s (and drawing on Tolkien's relationships and experiences on the eve of World War I), there were many early failed attempts to bring the fictional universe to life in screen, some even rejected by the author himself.

A whole lineup of international, award-winning filmmakers were attached to or interested in adapting Tolkien to the screen. Such filmmakers are said to include Walt Disney, Forrest J. Ackerman, William Snyder, Richard Lester, Sir David Lean, Robert Bolt, Stanley Kubrick, Michaelangelo Antonioni, John Boorman, Sir Peter Shaffer, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, John Madden, Sam Raimi, Guillermo Del Toro, Neil Blomkamp, David Yates, Bret Ratner and Simon West.

Middle Earth first appeared on film as an animated short of The Hobbit in 1966, and later in a TV special. In 1978, Ralph Bakshi brought an animated Lord of the Rings film to the big-screen for the first time. After 1980, unlicensed teleplays produced in Eastern Europe formed the only new adaptations of Tolkien, and were the first to adapt his works for live-action and for serialized TV.

In 1995, writer, director and producer Sir Peter Jackson pitched the idea of adapting Tolkien's works to live-action features, and in 2001 released The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of a trilogy based on The Lord of the Rings, distributed by New Line Cinema. The later two parts - which were shot concurrently with the first part - were released in the following two years, with extended cuts of each film released later.

Jackson and his creative team would return to produce a prequel trilogy based on The Hobbit, released from 2011 to 2014, with the final extended cut released in 2015. Jackson's six films have grossed over 6 billion dollars at the box office.

Expanding on Jackson's cinematic universe is an TV series by Amazon and New Line, set to explore an early time period glimpsed in the opening flashback of The Fellowship of the Ring. Shot in New Zealand with Jackson going over the scripts, it is intended to first air in 2021.

In 2019, Tolkien, a biopic of Tolkien's own life and conception of The Hobbit was produced for 20th Century Fox, forming a spinoff film of sorts for the series. Another biopic, Middle Earth, was developed by Lord of the Rings executives.

The series constitutes the most critically-acclaimed franchise in Hollywood history. Collectively, it has received a record 38 Academy Award nominations, winning 17, and three special awards, also a record. The concluding film of the series, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, was the first (and, by 2020) the only high-fantasy film to win for Best Picture, as well as winning all other ten awards it was nominated for: a tie for the most awards, and a record for most awards won in a clean sweep.

There have also been fan films of Middle-earth such as The Hunt for Gollum and Born of Hope, which were uploaded to YouTube on May 8, 2009 and December 11, 2009 respectively.

The Story

Tolkien, a Professor of Old English philology and literature in Oxford, first concieved of his own mythological story in 1912. Throughout his service as an officer in the First World War, he developed the "Great Tales". He later began to flesh out those stories, set in a mythical, prehistoric "Middle Earth", where Elves, Dwarven, Men and other races are locked in a struggle with the Dark Lord and his evil forces of Orcs, Trolls and wraiths.

Tolkien devised romances inspired in part from his relationship with his wife, Edith, and friendships which recalled those he had in school and university, and the horrors he experienced in World War I. He also used his extensive knowledge of Norse sagas and Old English writings to write about dragons, giants, heroes and so forth.

In the 1930s Tolkien wrote a children story, loosely set in Middle Earth, called The Hobbit. It told the story of a diminutive Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who undertakes a quest to help the wizard Gandalf and a company of thirteen Dwarves led by their exilarch Thorin Oakenshield. Thorin and Company are setting out to recover their homeland under the Lonely Mountain and treasure hoard from Smaug the Dragon. They encounter multiple adventures, in which Bilbo aids them, partially through his acquiring and using of a magic Ring.

Tolkien later revised The Hobbit and wrote The Lord of the Rings, a sequel in six volumes with an introduction and appendices, which told the story of the Rings of Power and the Dark Lord, and the quest undertaken by Frodo Baggins (nephew and heir of Bilbo) to destroy the Ring of Power and defeat the Dark Lord in the catacylsmic War of the Ring.

Besides the expansive narrative which spans multiple decades and several generations, the books also draw a fully-realized fictional world in the form of Middle Earth, with history reaching back to earlier ages, where the Dark Lord helped forge the Rings of Power and made war against the Elves, as well as the Men of the island of Numenore.

Early attempts


Walt Disney (soon to become the most awarded man in the history of the Oscars) craved the rights for Tolkien's works for years, only to be met with the Professor's disdain for his trivialization of the fantasy genre. Nevertheless, when Disney was creating the anthology film Fantasia (1940) he wanted to incorporate The Hobbit into one of the segments. Well into the fifties, his company was still trying to adapt The Lord of the Rings to animation.[1]

Forrest Ackerman treatment

In 1957, Tolkien and publisher Sir Stanley Unwin received a film proposal from Forrest J. Ackerman, Morton Grady Zimmerman, and Al Brodax. Ackerman, a Hugo-award-winning magazine editor, was also a literally agent who represented such science fiction authors as Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, A.E. Van Vogt, Curt Siodmak, and L. Ron Hubbard. According to Ian Nathan:

Ackerman is known as the godfather of geek. He had helped fashion the concept of the fan convention; arriving at the First World Science Fiction Convention in New York in 1939 clad in a ‘futuristicostume’, he effectively invented cosplay to boot. [...] For Tolkien, used to the unhurried discussion of philological esoterica among collegiate friends and the woody scent of pipe smoke at The Eagle and Child, he may as well have been from Mars.[2]

The proposed film, an animated film with some miniature work and live action shot on-location in the American out-of-doors, was to be three hours long with two intermissions. This, along with the concept art, intrigued Tolkien.

However, Tolkien was dissatisfied with the script: He criticized it for divergence to the tone of the book (such as a "fairy-tale" depiction of Lothlórien, as well as elements cut "upon which [the book's] characteristic and peculiar tone principally depends") and character representation (such as Sam leaving Frodo to Shelob and going on to Mount Doom alone). He also took issue with dialogue changes as regards to the "style and sentiment" of characters, and with intercutting between the storylines of Frodo and Aragorn. He suggested eliminating the battle of Helm's Deep to better emphasize the defense of Minas Tirith, as well as cutting characters out instead of diminishing their roles. Tolkien protested against added "incantations, blue lights, and some irrelevant magic" and "a preference for fights".

Ackerman was given a six-month option on The Lord of the Rings, which he wished to expand to a year, but was denied when Tolkien grew dissastified with the treatment and the financial arrangement which would have offered him little benefit. [1] Ackerman would later have a cameo in Peter Jackson's Bad Taste.

Two years later, author Robert Gutwillig inquired Tolkien as to the rights, but the negotiations did not get off of the ground.

William Synder's The Hobbit

In 1964 Academy-award winning producer William L. Snyder had acquired the rights to The Hobbit and commissioned Gene Deitch to write and animate a feature-legnth adaptation of The Hobbit. Synder's Rembrandt films produced three more Academy-award nominated cartoons. Synder tried to pitch The Hobbit, which was expanded upon to include a princess who would marry Bilbo, to 20th Century Fox, who declined. [1]

Before the rights would expire in 1966, Synder had Deitch condense his treatment into a 12-minute short, composed of cartoon stills. The short allowed Snyder to extend his lease for the rights of The Hobbit, which he later sold back to Tolkien. Deitch's short was the only on-screen adaptation of Tolkien for another 11 years.[1] Tolkien, growing old, began to lose faith in his work's potential for on-screen adaptation. "He let the film rights go for nothing because he knew it could not be turned into a film", said actor John Rhys-Davies.

The Proposed Beatles Musical

In 1968, after the success of their James Bond parody, Help!, The Beatles read The Lord of the Rings, and considered using it as the basis for their third film (out of a three-picture deal) with United Artists. Coincidentally, the year prior, United Artists' producers Sam Gelfman and Gabe Katzka began negotiating with Tolkien for the rights.

The Beatles, represented by Chris O'Dell, head of their production company Apple films, proposed a single, live-action musical, with Sir Paul McCartney as Frodo Baggins, Sir Richard "Ringo Starr" as Sam Gamgee, George Harrison as Gandalf, John Lennon as Gollum. Donovan was considered for Merry, and Dame Leslie "Twiggy" Lawson was to be cast as Galadriel, and "a lot of other people",[3] presumably from Britian's pool of theater veterans.

Learning that the rights are due to be sold, O'Dell found out that United Artists were in fact the bidders and they were willing to lease him the rights under the condition that - instead of Lester[4] (who directed the Beatles' previous two features) - he would get a star director to helm the project. The shortlist included Sir David Lean, Stanley Kubrick and Michaelangelo Antonioni.

David Lean

Lean (and his writer at-the-time Robert Bolt) was the top choice, given his experience on adaptations, beginning with Sir Noel Coward's play of This Happy Breed, staring Robert Newton and Dame Celia Johnson. Since then, Lean had become an international director with a string of epics, beginning with Best-Picture Winner The Bridge over the River Kwai, adapted from a Pierre Boulle novel and starring William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Sir Alec Guinness, and Sessue Hayakawa. Peter Jackson famously saw it seven times in theaters, and would later try to honour Lean's visual style in his own adaptations.

It was followed by Lawrence of Arabia, base off of Colonel Lawrence's autobiography, starring Peter O'Toole, Sir Anthony Quayle, Guinness and Omar Sharif. The third, Doctor Zhivago, based off of Boris Pasternak's Nobel-winning book, starred Sharif, Julie Christie, Guinness (a Lean regular at this point) and Sir Tom Courtenay.

Robert Bolt wrote both Lawrence and Zhivago, as well A Man for All Seasons, which won him another Oscar for Best Screenplay. He would also later serve as director for Lady Caroline Lamb, with Sarah Miles, Joe Finch and Sir Ralph Richardson.

Interestingly, Lean and Bolt would later also be offered another expansive genre novel in the form of Dune.[5] when Bolt pulled out, he was replaced by Rospo Pallenberg (co-writer of Boorman's Lord of the Rings script and a director in his own right) before Dune reverted to to Alejandro Jodorowsky, Sir Ridley Scott, and finally David Lynch (1984) and Denis Villeneuve (2020).

Lean was interested. He was a fan A Hard Day's Night[6] and his brother Tangye was an acquitance of Tolkien's from Oxford, but he "didn't want to do it"[7] as he was in the middle of producing another epic, Ryan's Daughter (1970) with Robert Mitchum and Sir John Mills.

Stanley Kubrick

O'Dell then approached Stanley Kubrick. Situated in England, Kubrick too had several succesful adaptations to his name, including Spartacus (1960) with Kirk Douglas and Lord Laurence Olivier, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, based on Sir Arthur C. Clarke's short stories and featuring innovative special effects.

Kubrick had at this point not read the book (contary to reports which posit that he was already a fan[8]) and O'Dell sent him copies. The Beatles then waited outside his house until he invited them in for lunch. He was "vaguely interested" but ultimately said it was "unfilmable" Kubrick's precise reservations are not recorded, but he may have been daunted by the novel's popularity rather than its sprawl and demand for special effects. He was also pursuing other projects at the time, gearing to make a biopic of Napoleon (only to end up making Barry Lyndon instead). Some accounts credit Kubrick for suggesting the Beatles next approach Antonioni. [9]

While Antonioni was said to be more keen,[10] the Beatles eventually lost interest in the project and soon broke up. McCartney says that Tolkien himself (who loathed the Beatles) shut down their endeavour, but being as he sold the rights to United Artists days prior to their correspondence with Antonioni,[11] this seem implausible.

United Artists

In 1969, Tolkien sold the rights in perpetuity to United Artists, a studio established by the filmmakers Sir Charlie Chaplin, David W Griffiths, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. UA were already behind several of the biggest epics of the 1950s and 1960s. These included The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, Alexander the Great with Richard Burton and Sir Stanley Baker; Best-Picture winner Around the World in 80s Days; John Wayne's The Alamo, and The Greatest Story Ever Told.

United Artists set their sights on a live-action adaptation, refusing proposals for an animated adaptation from both Heinz Edelmann (who envisioned a Fantasia-like feature) and Arlo Guthrie to adapt The Lord of the Rings.[1] Sir Peter Shaffer (writer of future Best-Picture winner Amadeus) was commisioned to write a treatment for a single, three-hour live-action film, which was deemed "elegant" but never got off of the ground.[12]

John Boorman Script

In 1970, writer/director John Boorman, hot off the success of his Lee Marvin thriller Point Blank, and a Second World War thriller Hell in the Pacific, pitched a film based on the legends of Merlin to the studio, and was reassigned to adapt The Lord of the Rings instead. Boorman - a disciple of David Lean's - began to write a rough draft with Rospo Pallenberg. He reportedly got Tolkien's blessing in writing, with the professor encouraged by Boorman's intent to adapt the work to live-action as opposed to animation.

Boorman and Pallenberg's draft, 178-pages long[13] with an intermission, would open with a framing device featuring Tolkien (who Boorman hoped could be coerced to appear as himself) followed by a montage which was to be achieved by creating a studio-sized model of Middle Earth. The backstory of the ring was to be conveyed in Rivendell after the manner of a Japanese Kabuki theatrical performance.

Boorman, who intended to shoot in his native Ireland, considered casting the Beatles (as well as Sir Michael Mick Jagger as Sauron) but also contemplated Irish and English talent which he would eventually cast in Excalibur like Nicol Williamson for the wizard. He infused the script with lusty elements, having Galadriel seduce Frodo and giving sexual overtones to Aragorn's healing of Eowyn, whom he then marries.

However, a change of management in United Artists led to a disinterest in the project, which fell out. Boorman unsuccesfully tried to pitch his script to Disney before recylcing several narrative elements, lines, locations and casting ideas for his Arthurian film, Excalibur (1981) with Nigel Terry and Dame Helen Mirren. The R-rated film is an "absolute favourite" of Peter Jackson's, and the bulky armour, bloody battles and outdoor photography inspired him in the making of his own adaptation. Elements of the script also cropped up in Boorman's Zardoz, with Sir Sean Connery, which was written at around the same time.

Rumoured George Lucas attempt

It is rumoured that George Lucas wanted to adapt The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but could not get hold of the rights.[14] Whatever truth is in this, the influence of Tolkien's works on Lucas' is undeniable, and seems to suggest some truth to the rumours.

It is unknown when Lucas might have bid for the rights. He could have done so in 1971, when he and Fracis Ford Coppola were also vying for the rights to Flash Gordon and The Hidden Fortress - this could be supported by Tolkien's influence on Lucas' next film, Star Wars and, eventually, on his treatment to Willow, which was also concieved by Lucas in 1972.

Another option is that Lucas only tried for the rights after the success of the Star Wars trilogy. Jackson said that Saul Zaentz, weary of his experience with Bakshi, had rejected some offers to adapt The Lord of the Rings to live action. One such offer was by New Line executive Mark Ordesky, and its possible that Lucas did the same.[15] At the time, Lucas conceptualized and produced two films which were suspeciously indebted to The Hobbit: The 1984 Star Wars-themed An Ewok Adventure and 1988's Willow. Steven Spielberg was also rumoured to have been interested in the rights, and it may be that Lucas (who had since lost his taste for directing) wanted to produce and help in writing the film for his fellow filmmaker, as he had done to great success with Indiana Jones.

The very first version of Star Wars, a brief handwritten synopsis called The Journal of the Whills, seems to borrow its framing device (that being the titular Journal, a concept maintained through the writing) from Tolkien's concept of the Red Book.Lucas also contemplated casting little people as the heroes of the film, a concept which developed into the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi and the Nelwyns in Willow. [16]

Furthermore, the third (and next-to-last) draft of Star Wars had Obi Wan and Luke's first meeting featuring dialogue which is clearly a paraphrase of Gandalf and Bilbo's first meeting in The Hobbit:

Star Wars (Third Draft) The Hobbit

Good morning!


What do you mean, ‘good morning’? Do you mean that it is a good morning for you, or do you wish me a good morning, although it is obvious I’m not having one, or do you find that mornings in general are good?


All of them altogether. [17]

"Good morning!" said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that

stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat. "What do you mean?" be said. "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is morning to be good on?" "All of them at once," said Bilbo. "And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain.

Tolkien's influence also informs the film sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. Lucas, who wrote the treatment to the film and co-wrote several drafts, clearly had the chapter of Mirror of Galadriel in mind when he concieved of Luke's vision in the cave. This is especially appearant in the preceding exchange between Luke and Yoda: "What's in there?" Luke asks. "Only what you take with you", Yoda answers.

Elements of Tolkien also crop-up in a 1984 Star Wars-themed TV film, concieved by Lucas. The film titled An Ewok Adventure, tells of the diminutive Ewoks taking a couple of children of a quest to the lair of the Gorax, a monster residing under a mountain. Both the title, the story and the involvement of the diminutive Ewoks disclose the influence of The Hobbit.

In fact, while Lucas was concieving his Star Wars films, there was (by chance or not) a renaissance of high-fantasy films, all closely modelled after Tolkien, including Dragonslayer (1981) with Peter MacNicol and Sir Ralph Richardson; John Boorman's Excalibur, Sir Ridley Scott's Legend with Tom Cruise (a film whose visual style Jackson recalled for his adaptation), Conan the Barbarian (1982), not to mention the animated Tolkien films and the 1981 radio adaptation.

Furthermore, Lucas contributed to this trend directly by producing and writing a treatment for a high-fantasy film. Concieved in 1981 and tentatively titled Munchkins, the story could have supplanted Star Wars as a similar story told in a high-fantasy setting (in much the same way that Indiana Jones was the same story in a 20th Century adventure movie setting). Eventually directed by Ron Howard in 1988, Willow tells the story of a Nelwyn (Hobbit) called Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) who undertakes a quest to safely deliver a magical baby from an evil sorceress and - along with his friends, including the warrior Madmartigan - eventually go to war against the witch. The film was largely shot in New Zealand, and helped revitalize its film industry.

In any case, Star Wars and its sequels would go on to serve as further inspirations for Jackson, who - while not an outright fan - adopted their "used" aesthetic, and some of their narrative devices.[18] For his part, Lucas offered Jackson help in showing him the previsualization software they were using for Attack of the Clones in Skywalker Ranch, and some members of Jackson's cast visited Lucas' set in Australia. Lucas reportedly enjoyed the films,[19] and even emulated certain aspects of them, particularly their soundtrack,[20] in his last prequel, Revenge of the Sith. He and Jackson remain amiacable, with Jackson praising Lucas influence on the industry.

First versions

Rankin/Bass The Hobbit

In 1977, Rankin and Bass produced a 70-minute animated TV Special based on The Hobbit. The most expensive animated TV show ever made at the time, it was inspired by both Star Wars and the upcoming animated Lord of the Rings film which would come out the next year.[1]

In 1978, Romeo Muller won a Peabody Award for his teleplay. The film was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, but lost to Star Wars. Ned Raggett summarizes:

As an adaptation of Tolkien's original Hobbit, meanwhile, the script wasn't perfect, with a few key sequences either shortened or omitted. Yet it turned out to be surprisingly faithful in many ways [...]it's a often effective, compact presentation of a classic children's book story in a different medium.[12]

Ian Nathan is less positive:

It surely represents everything to which Tolkien take exception.[...] The excruciating singsongy tone; the horrible, syrupy tunes; the prettified, sanctimonious nature of it all may have followed the framework of the story, but bore none of his wit.[2]

Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings (1978)

Animator Ralph Bakshi (who already directed a fantasy film in 1977's Wizards) approached United Artists for the rights in 1976. They offered him Boorman's script, which he turned down. He turned to MGM to buy the rights from UA so that he could develop a new script. After they refused, he turned to independent producer Saul Zaentz, who purchased the filming rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, while United Artists maintained distribution rights to the former.

Bakshi wanted to do three films, but he and Zaentz settled on two. Led Zeppelin were suggested for the soundtrack, but Zaentz brought orchestral composer Leonard Rosenman. Bakshi got the blessing of Tolkien's daughter. The original script, work of Chris Conkling, was framed as a story told by Merry and Pippin to Treebeard, but was rewritten by Peter S. Beagle.

Bakshi's film, starring William Squire, Sir John Hurt and Christopher Guard, was released in 1978, was the first theatrically-released feature based on Tolkien's works. It was based on the first half of The Lord of the Rings: The entirety of the Fellowship of the Ring and half of The Two Towers. Partially to save costs,Bakshi shot it as a live-action film, having the footage then rotoscoped or - for crowd scenes - solarized. Gandalf's fight with the Balrog was cut and told in a photo-montage. Some B-roll footage was shot for the second film. The film was the first job of future-director Tim Burton.

The film condensed the plot so as to accomodate a roughly two-hour runtime. It featured a brief prologue told in silhuettes, and greatly compressed the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring - rushing through the 17-year gap in the story in a time-lapse and omitting the Hobbits' lengthy travel through the Shire, the Old Forest and the Barrow Downs, abridging Bree and using narration to help summarize the council of Elrond. Like Jackson's second film (or his intended first film), it uses the Battle of Helm's Deep as an action climax.

The film was a moderate commercial success: earning 30$ million against a reported budget of 8$ million. It was however not considered enough to automatically greenlight a sequel, and after the difficulty of the shoot and his trials with the producers, Bakshi quit on making the sequel.

According to Ned Raggett:

Bakshi's film is a strange, hybrid beast, often simultaneously gripping and head-spinning, with aesthetic and design decisions that almost effortlessly range from the striking to the utterly laughable.[12]

Peter Jackson, already familiar with Bakshi's Friz the Cat and Wizards (which he very much admires), saw this film in his youth:

I liked the early part – it had some quaint sequences in Hobbiton, a creepy encounter with the Black Rider on the road, and a few quite good battle scenes – but then, about half way through, the storytelling became very disjointed and disorientating and I really didn’t understand what was going on.

However, what it did do was to make me want to read the book.

Jackson's films would feature two or three direct homages to Bakshi's film: a low-angle shot of Odo Proudfoot, a scene of the Hobbits hiding from a Ringwraith on the side of the road, and potentially an unintentional third homage in the form of misdirecting his audience to believe the Hobbits were killed in their beds by Ringwraiths in Bree. Jackson also drew conclusions from the film as to what not to do, citing for instance the look of Bakshi's Treebeard as something to be avoided. Other similarities, like amalgamating Erkenbrand and Eomer, seem incidental.

Bakshi, for his part, didn't watch Jackson's films and treated the endeavour with certain indignation, complaining that Zaentz didn't talk to him about going to live-action. He did, however, wish for the film to do well.

Rankin/Bass The Return of the King

In 1980, Rankin and Bass released another TV Special based on the second half of The Return of the King. While the timing may seem to suggest that stepped into the breach created by Bakshi's unfinished project, they had in fact planned to use the end of the story of The Lord of the Rings as a follow-up to their Hobbit from the beginning. They maintained continuity in the character design, style and voice cast, and featured a brief framing device to bridge the two disparate entries. Jackson famously didn't see this film, at least until after beginning production on his own adaptations.[21]

Aftermath of the "Animated Trilogy"

Throughout the 80s and 90s, these three films - the unofficial "animated trilogy" - were the only major adaptations of Tolkien for the screen, outside of several telplays produced in Eastern Europe. Starting with a 1985 teleplay produced in the Soviet Union and continuing in a live-action television miniseries title Hobitit from Finland in 1993. These formed the first adaptations of Tolkien to live-action and to serialized television.

A few supporting actors from the Bakshi film would reprise their roles for a 1981 Radio adaptation by Brian Sibley, which starred Sir Michael Hordern, Sir Robert Stephens, and Sir Ian Holm as Frodo Baggins. Holm would be cast as Bilbo Baggins for Jackson's films, partially based on his memorable Frodo.

In the early 1990s, there was an attempt to adapt The Lord of the Rings into two films, but the producers were unable to acquire the rights. The project went as far as casting ideas - such as Peter O'Toole for Denethor and Max Von Sydow for Theoden - were thrown around. [22]

Peter Jackson's film series

Peter Jackson, an independent New-Zealand film director, was riding the success of his 1992 psychological drama, Heavenly Creatures. The fantasy dream sequences required Jackson to build a special effects workshop with friends Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger. Together, they would create Jackson's next film, The Frighteners, for Robert Zemeckis.

At Miramax

While finishing The Frighteners in mid-1995, Jackson and partner Frances Walsh started toying with the idea of making an original fantasy film, based on Jackson's love for Ray Harryhousen's Argonaut films (a love which would come to inform his Stone Troll setpiece in The Fellowship of the Ring and the Stone Giants in An Unexpected Journey). As they started to develop a story, they kept referring back to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as a touchstone, to the point that they opted to try their hand at adapting those, instead.

Jackson contacted his producers, Harvey and Robert Weinstein from Miramax, who tracked the rights to Saul Zaentz. Saul had recently became the most accoladed producer in cinema history, having won four Oscars: three Best Picture Oscars for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus and The English Patient, and the Irvin G, Thalberg Memorial Award in 1996. Saul was indebted to Harvey for helping him fund The English Patient (with Juliette Binoche and Dame Kristin Scott Thomas), which allowed him to procure the rights for Jackson and Walsh.

The intial treatment

The filmmakers pitched a trilogy of films based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.They'd do The Hobbit first and, if that'd prove succesful, would do The Lord of the Rings in two parts, shot back to back. Jackson and Walsh commisioned Costa Botes to make synopses of the scenes in the books as a preparation for writing a treatment. By mid-1996, Harvey was still unable to facilitate a cooperation with United Artists, which held distribution rights for The Hobbit. Even though WETA produced some designs for The Hobbit, work on it was postponed until after The Lord of the Rings.

Jackson and Walsh produced a 92-page treatment of The Lord of the Rings. As they started fleshing it out into an actual script, they proposed to make a trilogy out of The Lord of the Rings, but the Weinsteins (who at one point were going to split distribution rights with Universal, with whom Jackson was working on a remake of King Kong) insisted that the project remain at two films.[23]

The treatment included characters largely left out of the films, such as Gil Galad, Elendil, Glorfindel, Fatty Bolger, Farmer Maggot, Erkenbrand (who was to die in the Paths of the Dead), Elladan and Elrohir, Imrahil, Forlong and Ioreth. Gwaihir would have taken Gandalf to Edoras, where he is denied help by Theoden and Grima and is instead assisted by Eowyn and Eomer.

Arwen was envisioned as having a greater participation in the action, having a more overt romantic triangle with Eowyn and Aragorn after re-meeting the Fellowship in Rohan. She would ride to battle at the Pelennor Fields only to be rescued by Eowyn from the Witch King and healed from the wound delt to her when Sauron was defeated.[23] Additional action sequences were envisioned, including Frodo being attacked by a Ringwraith ontop of Amon Hen, and Gollum attacking Frodo on the shores of Anduin only to be repelled by the Fellowship. Saruman would have repented as his dying act, at the end of the first film. Other elements endured to the final film, including the opening battle, the Ring adhering to the floor of Bag End, and an immolated Denethor leaping off of the battlements of Minas Tirith.[23]

First Script Revisions and pre-production

Jackson and the Weinsteins watched the Bakshi cartoon together before starting the scripting process. With co-writers Stephen Sinclair and Philippa Boyens, they started expanding the treatment into two 150-page screenplays. Sinclair would drop out of the project before the expansion to three films, but Jackson would keep his credit on the script to The Two Towers, feeling that his contributions to that portion of the story was the most significant, and endured the various drafts since.

The two-film script amalgamated Arwen and Glorfindel, and had Merry and Pippin caught eavesdropping along with Sam at the door of Bag End. Wargs attack the Hobbits on Weathertop before the Ringwraiths, and in one version Lothlorien was eliminated and Galadriel's role was relocated to Rivendel, where Denethor is also present. The Watcher in the Water, cut from the treatment, was reinstated. [23]

Led by Arwen, Elves would make an appearance at Helm's Deep. This would also be the basis for a love scene at the top of the second film, which would have taken place at the pools of the Glittering Caves. From draft to draft, Arwen's role in the action was reduced, but when shooting began she was still intended to appear at Helm's Deep.[23]

Jackson bought an old paint factory which he turned into a new studio, Stone Street, specifically to facilitate the shooting of The Lord of the Rings. He also started planning a post-production facility, Park Road Post, where work on the third film would be done.

WETA Workshop began designing the film, with Jackson calling on two of Tolkien's most renouned illustrators - John Howe and Alan Lee - to join the crew as conceptual designers. The work of a third illustrator, Ted Nasmith, was also used, and he was later contacted to join production, but had to decline.[24]

Jackson and the Weinsteins had disagreements over the project. In terms of casting, the Weinsteins favoured a largely American cast, or one comprised of stars which would be recognisable to an American audience: they even suggested Morgan Freeman or Al-Pacino for Gandalf. Jackson wanted unknowns and stage veterans, to be cast from the British Commonwealth, instead.

Another issue was the violence. Jackson - who previsualized the films extensively - wanted gritty realism in the design, and hard-hitting action sequences. As examples, he cited Zulu (1964) with Sir Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins and Sir Michael Caine and Sergei Bondarchuk's Waterloo (1970) with Rod Steiger, as well as 1995's Best-Picture winner Braveheart. In fact, he would later say:

[Its] something very different to Dark Crystal or Labyrinth. Imagine something like Braveheart, but with a litttle of the visual magic of Legend (Legend had a lackluster script in my view. It looked great, but the visual style was too unreal[...]) It should have the historical authority of Braveheart, rather than the meaningless fantasy mumbo-jumbo of Willow.[25]

The Weinsteins were worried as to the profitability of a PG-13 fantasy film (with Jackson contemplating an R-rated, extended home release), citing the low box office returns of previous efforts in the genre. Indeed, Jackson himself remarked: "The fantasy genre, in terms of movies, I don't think has ever really succeded wonderfully well.[...]Its a genre that no-one has really kind-of come to terms with very well."[26]

One-film version and cancelation

Most importantly, however, was the issue of shooting the films concurrently. Unable to support the project's balooning budget without the support of Disney CEO Michael Eisner, the Weinsteins looked to other studios for help, before asking for the project to be condensed to one film: they proposed to amalgamate similar characters (Eowyn and Arwen, Boromir and Faramir) and places (Gondor and Rohan) and events (Helms' Deep and Pelennor Battles).

Jackson refused and was granted a chance to offer his project to other studios, while Harvey Weinstein reportedly looked for other directors, including Quentin Tarantino and John Madden, who directed two films for Miramax: Mrs. Brown with Dame Judi Dench, Sir Billy Connolly and Sir Antony Sher, and Best-Picture Winner Shakespeare in Love with Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffery Rush and Dench. Harvey wanted Hossein Amini to co-write with Fran Walsh. Its unclear whether these directors were seriously considered, or whether Harvey wanted to apply leverage on Jackson to accept the one-film version.

Jackson would offer various accounts as to how amicable the parting of ways with Miramax was. While the Weinsteins did retain an Executive Producer credit and recieved a precentage off of the films, they didn't give Jackson the usual time-window for a turn-around, and required a hefty cheque to cover expanses on pre-production. He would later sue Warner Brothers for royalties over the two Hobbit sequels.

Robert Zemeckis didn’t want to make a fantasy film; Roland Emmerich's Centropolis didn’t like the scripts; and Dreamworks and Sony passed. Fox were intrigued, but had a bad working relationship with Zaentz. Paramount refused. Polygram expressed interest, but were unable to finance the project as they were being sold to Universal. New Line Cinema was the only remaining option.

The Shift to New Line

Jackson eventually secured a meeting with New Line Cinema CEOs Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne. After presenting their two-film pitch, Bob Shaye stopped Jackson:

"Why would anyone want movie-goers to pay $18 when they might pay $27? [...] Tolkien wrote three books – right?" We nodded. "Then, if you’re going to do it justice, it should be three movies – right?"[23]

The film became a trilogy. Jackson, Walsh and Boyens rewrote the piece to suit the new structure, with the script slowly taking the shape that would resemble the finished films. Elements such as Arwen's role as a fighter in Helm's Deep (and her bathing with Aragorn) and Pelennor persisted for some time into the three-film version.

Casting began before Christmas 1998, with unknown actors reading for the main parts (mostly the four Hobbits) in London. In January, the search was extended to LA, New Zealand and Australia. Casting for the smaller parts did not begin until March, but Jackson did have a wishlist, including Cate Blanchett for Galadriel, Sir Christopher Lee for Saruman, Patrick McGoohan for Denethor and Sir Ian Holm for Bilbo.

Elijah Wood was cast as Frodo Baggins based on audition tape sent to Jackson, who had in the meanwhile declined Jake Jyllenhal who failed to do a British accent for his audition. Dominic Monaghan and Orlando Bloom also auditioned for Frodo, with Monaghan redirected to the role of Merry and Bloom to Faramir and eventually Legolas: all before graduating drama school.

Almost immediately after accepting the project, New Line pushed for Sir Sean Connery as Gandalf. Jackson was intrigued, but ultimately disagreed and the actor declined the offer, anyway,[23] as did Christopher Plummer, another studio idea. Already in 1998, Jackson went on record: "Sean Connery won't be Gandalf," he said, "We have a couple of other strong ideas for Gandalf".[21] These strong ideas included Sir Nigel Hawthorne, Richard Harris, Tom Baker and Sir Ian McKellen. The latter sprung from a suggestion of co-writer Philippa Boyens, who was thinking of Sir Patrick Stewart for the role, and saw a play featuring him and McKellen, whom she then promptly suggested to Jackson. With Hawthorne and Harris considered too old (and the latter being vetoed by New Line), McKellen became the first choice. Nevertheless, Jackson admitted that "we will no doubt audition a 100 actors."[21] Such actors including Peter O'Toole, Sir John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson and Sam Neill. Some of the older actors which were considered for other parts in the trilogy like Paul Scofield, Sir Anthony Hopkins or Patrick McGoohan, were at one point or another considered for Gandalf, as well. Max von Sydow, Sir Christopher Lee, Bernard Hill and John Astin tried for the part, before Jackson and Walsh finally secured McKellen. Bob Shaye had to personally intervene to allow for rescheduling to allow McKellen to fulfill his commitment to Brian Singer's X-Men.

Reports of a series of offers for Sir Daniel Day-Lewis would turn out to be "fanciful internet speculation."[2] Lewis (whose father, the Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis - would have known Tolkien from Oxford) was at one point considered for the part, but declined. Patrick Stewart met Jackson, who was set to offer him the role of Theoden, only to find out that Stewart was intent on playing Aragorn. Vin Diesel and Keanu Reeves tried for the part in vain, while Jason Carter, Rupert Everett and Robin Atkin Downes were considered. The studio suggested Pierce Brosnan or Brad Pitt. Stuart Towsned was eventually cast, but was let go after three days shooting when Jackson realized he cast the role too young. Talking with Executive Producer Mark Ordesky, they decided that Viggo Mortensen should be cast, but also considered Russel Crowe (previously considered for Boromir) and Jason Patrick. Crowe, while interested, had conflicting schedules with A Beautiful Mind, and was not so keen on doing another film with swords after Gladiator. Mortensen, compelled by his son Henry, took the role.

Other casting options included Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sylvester McCoy, Adam Brown (for Bilbo), Charleton Heston, Patrick McGoohan, Donald Sutherland, John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Lee, Terence Stamp (Denethor), Tim Curry, Jeremy Irons, Malcolm McDowell, Paul Scofield (Saruman), Lucy Lawless, Nicole Kidman, Sadie Frost, Kylie Minogue (Galadriel), Claire Forlani, Helena Bonham Carter, Natascha McElhone, Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino (Arwen), Uma Thurman, Iben Hjejle, Alison Doody, Kate Winslet, Mila Jovovich, Reese Witherspoon, Toni Collette, Gwyneth Paltrow (Eowyn), Nick Moran (Merry), Bill Bailey, Warwick Davis, Timothy Spall, Robert Trebor, Sir Billy Connoly (Gimli), Johny Vegas (Samwise), David Bowie (Elrond), Kevin Conway (Theoden), Richard O'Brien, Jeffrey Combs (Grima), Ethan Hawke, Stephen Dorff, Jude Law, Ben Affleck (Faramir), Liam Neeson, Nicolas Cage, Russel Crowe, Bruce Willis, Daniel Craig and Simon Tolkien (Boromir), Paul Sutera (Lotho Sackville-Baggins).[27]

Jackson and cinematographer Andrew Lesnie wanted to shoot the films on large-format film, such as 65mm film, but the need to send the negative to be processed in the US was too cost and time consuming.[28] The trilogy was ultimately shot on fine-grain Super-35mm, and underwent a comprehensive, cutting-edge digital intermediate process. Lesnie wanted to do a 4K DI, but cost prohibiton limited him to 2K.[29]

Furthermore, the need to ship the negative abroad clashed with Jackson's intention to produce the films solely on New Zealand soil, using his own production company, special effects company. Jackson bought an old paint factory, converting it to Stone Street Studios, in order to shoot The Lord of the Rings, and began construction of a Post-Production facility which became Park Road Post. Inspired by David Lean, John Ford and - recently - Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line, Jackson also wanted to incorporate extensive outdoor photography from New Zealand, although plates were also taken from Niagra Falls and Peru.

The films were shot over 15 months with multiple units shooting. Jackson hired three editors, with the intention of each assembling one of the three films concurrently, with co-producer Jamie Selkirk supervising the other two editors. While shooting, Jackson also came up with the idea of an expanded home relase, capitalizing on the more leisurely pace permitted on the small screen, and the advent of DVDs.

Jackson started to incorporate music into his vision early on, wanting an intricate, operatic score. New Line wanted Doctor James Horner, but Jackson favoured Howard Shore, having used a lot of his music in the temp-track. Having joined production in late 1999, he wrote The Shire Theme before principal photography.[30] He would go on to write and record a 30-minute section of the score for a preview in Cannes and, by the end of the six films, had composed a score riddled with a variety of worldly instruments and over 160 recurring musical themes.

The Lord of the Rings

The Fellowship of the Ring was released to universal acclaim and large box office returns in December 2001. During post-production work on The Two Towers, Jackson released a three-and-a-half-hour extended cut for TV. The film was honoured by the Acamdey with 14 nominations (one short of the record for most nominations), including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay - one of very few blockbusters to have done so. It won for cinematography, Makeup, Original Score and Visual Effects.

The films garnered great appreciation within the industry. Sir Paul McCartney congradulated Jackson on his achievement, and John Boorman - who was represented by Jackson's own agent (and soon-to-be executive producer) Ken Kamins, sent compliments to Jackson. He was grateful that he didn't manage to make his adaptation, fearing that it would have prevented Jackson's own project from seeing the light of day. Steven Spielberg hailed the films' recognision by the Academy as an achievement to genre filmmaking, and expressed interest in working with Jackson's WETA Workshop.

The Two Towers, released the very next year, was also highly acclaimed while bettering its predecessor's profits - one of very few sequels to have do so. It was again nominated for Best Picture (a rarity for a sequel) and film editing, but won for Sound Editing and Visual Effects. While working on post-production for the Return of the King, an extended cut of The Two Towers, 223-minutes in length, was released.

Jackson arranged for the premiere of the third film to be held in Wellington, New Zealand. The Embassy theater was completely renovated for the event, and the premiere included a Guiness-world-record for longest Red Carpet, as well as a commercial New Zealand airliner carrying a film advertisment fly over the streets.

The Return of the King, even at a length of 200 minutes, would become the most succesful film of the frachise. It is among the highest-grossing films of all time, having grossed over 1 billion at the box-office. Buliding on the strength of its predecessors, it won for best film an director at both the Golden Globes and BAFTAs before being nominated for eleven Oscar leading up to the 76th Acadmey Awards. In the biggest clean sweep in Oscar history, the film won all eleven award, tied with Titanic and Ben Hur, while winning two Technical Achievement awards, making it the biggest winner in Oscar history. Among the awards were Best Picture (the second sequel and one of few big genre pictures to have won this award), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing. An Extended cut, the shooting for which extended until after the winning of the award, was released at a length of 263 minutes: one of the longest commercial films ever produced.

With The Hobbit in the back of his mind, Jackson proceeded to other projects in the interim, including a remake of King Kong with Universal, returned to a smaller story with The Lovely Bones for Paramount. He also produced District 9 for Neil Blomekamp - for which he was nominated for Best Picture yet again - and Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin for Sony. Jackson and Richard Taylor were both knighted in 2010, with Fran Walsh following in 2018.

The Hobbit

The success of The Lord of the Rings helped the prospect of a Hobbit prequel. While Jackson considered The Hobbit the harder book to adapt, he did want to adapt and possibly even direct it. New Line too wanted to continue with The Hobbit, courting Sam Raimi to direct. Meanwhile, however, United Artists' parent studio MGM had been acquired by a partnership headed by Sony Corporation of America and Comcast, the parent company of Universal. This complicated the issue of obtaining the distribution rights.

By 2006, Jackson opted to write and produce The Hobbit for director Guillermo Del Toro. It would be broken down into two installments. With Del Toro joining the screenwriting team, the breaking-off point of the two screenplays was a subject of some changes: it was first thought the first film would portray anything from the beginning to the opening of the Hidden Door, but this resulted in a disproportionally long first script. Del Toro mused on the idea of a bridge film to The Lord of the Rings, but soon abandoned the idea. Del Toro was a proponent of the idea of adding a female character, insisting she'd be a fighter.

With Jackson and DP Andrew Lesnie, it was decided The Hobbit would be shot on large-format digital cameras, in 3D. Tests were done on shooting at higher frame rates to reduce strobing in 3D, and a frame rate of 48 frames per second - twice the industry's standard - was decided upon. The films were to be shot at a taller aspect ratio of 2:1 for digital IMAX, but also composed for the wider 2.41:1 and cropped for standard theaters, matching The Lord of the Rings.

By 2010, ongoing issues surrounding the rights meant the project - which already had a script, concept art and effects work - was not yet green-lit, forcing Del Toro to leave and pursue other projects. After other directors (Neil Blomkamp, David Yates and Bret Ratner) refused to step-in, Jackson took the role himself. Del Toro (soon to win Best Picture and Best Director for his The Shape of Water) maintained a writing credit on all three films.

Casting-wise, Martin Freeman was always the favourite for the role of Bilbo Baggins, although the schedule conflicted with his filming of the second season of Sherlock. David Tennant, Erin Arkin, Matthew Goode, Daniel Radcliff, Shia LaBeouf, James McAvoy, Tobey Maguire and Eddie Redmayne were considered before rescheduling was done to secure Freeman. Other casting ideas included Brian Blessed (Thorin), Doug Jones (Thranduil), Lord Julian Fellows (Master of Laketown), Ian McShane (Dwalin), Brian Cox (Balin), Bill Bailey (Gloin), Ron Perlman (Beorn), Robert Kazinsky (Fili), John Callen (Radagast), Billy Nighy, Sir Christopher Lee (Smaug), Lily Collins, Eva Green (Tauriel).

Jackson returned to ideas from The Lord of the Rings, not only for casting (Sylvester McCoy, Jackson's backup Bilbo, became Radagast and Billy Connolly became Dain) but for narrative ideas and visuals. Pippin, Merry and Sam's tumble through the door in early script drafts became that of eight Dwarves, a nude bathing sequence of Aragorn and Arwen's became that of the Dwarves in Rivendell, a white rapids sequence scrapped for The Fellowship of the Ring transmutted into a barrel chase in The Desolation of Smaug.

Given the short pre-production time, Jackson had principal photography - which again extended over 15 months - divided into three "blocks", and used the downtime to revise concept art, supervise visual effects, fabricate new sets and so on. Nevertheless, he was unable to polish the last chapters of the script - those pertaining to the course of The Battle of the Five Armies and some of its aftermath - during production. The majority of the footage to do with the battle was therefore postponed into pickups, which were to commence in 2013.

Editor Jabez Olssen was assembling the footage onset during shooting, and while reviewing the assembly between blocks 2 and 3, Jackson and his co-writers felt the ending of film one and beginning of film two were misplaced. They started to consider the idea of splitting the work into three films. They spent the reminder of the shoot constructing a three-film version, only showing it to studio executives when they came to congradulate them on the finishing of the shoot. Warner Brothers were, per Jackson, "stunned. They couldn't quite believe what they were hearing."[31]

As with The Lord of the Rings, the two-film schedule allowed for a period of pickup photography of six weeks to be conducted during spring of 2013. The split to three-films allowed Jackson a few more days of pickups during 2012, as well as to extend the 2013 pickups by two weeks. In the months leading up to pickups, more screenwriting and previsualization work was performed. This allowed Jackson to come to terms with the battle sequences on the page, and indeed the bulk of the pickup shoot had to do with the contents of the third film, rather than the second.[32]

The premiere was again held in Wellington, which was renamed Middle of Middle Earth for that day. The airport was adorned with Hobbit-themed sculptures, and a Hobbit market was held in the city, with the Lord of the Rings screened outside. On location, Hobbiton was rebuilt out of permanent materials as a tourist attraction.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released to mixed-to-positive reviews. Its central performances and story were praised, but the pacing and some of its visual style was scrutinized. The high-frame rate version, shown in Digital IMAX, was a point of particular contention, with some critics deeming the footage too "hyper realistic". Nevertheless, the film drew a big box office return, and was able to secure three Academy Award nominations, as well as a win for a special technical award. An Extended Edition was released in November 2013.

The Desolation of Smaug was released the next year. It was better recieved than its predecessor, with Jackson taking care for complaints of pacing from the previous film, as well as grading down the image so as to avoid the "HD-look." An extended version of that film was released the next year.

The third film - with the new title of "The Battle of the Five Armies" was released in December 2014. It retained the large box-office draw of its predecessors, as well as continuing to secure Academy Award nominations, but didn't sustain the superior acclaim of the previous entry. An extended cut was released in October 2015, with an R-rating, the only film of this series to achieve it.

In the following years, Jackson had released an acclaimed World War One documentary, They Shall not Grow Old, and produced Mortal Engines for his longtime collaborator Christian Rivers. He is set to consult and look over scripts for Amazon's upcoming TV series, which is set to be in the same cinematic universe as his films. He is msupervising an 4K HDR boxset of the six films, slated to be released in October 2020.[33]


The six films form the only series of this scope (21 hours of cinema, equivalent to all eight Harry Potter films or all nine Star Wars episodes) to be written, directed and produced by the same person, and the same core creative team: the three main writers, cinematographer, first Assistant Director and composer were all the same, as were many of the producers (by contrast, Harry Potter went through two writers and four directors, while Star Wars went through ten writers and five directors). Having won 518 accolades out of 975 nominations, it is also the most acclaimed film series in history, ahead of The Godfather trilogy (50 out of 121, including two Golden Raspberry wins) and Star Wars, which never won any of the "big" Academy Awards to begin with.

The Fellowship of the Ring The Two Towers The Return of the King An Unexpected Journey The Desolation of Smaug The Battle of the Five Armies
PICTURE Nominated Nominated Won
Director Nominated Won
Adapted Screenplay Nominated Won
Cinematography Won
Art Direction Nominated Nominated Won Nominated
Editing Nominated Nominated Won
Supporting Actor Nominated
Costume Design Won Won
Hair and Makeup Nominated Won Nominated
Score Won
Song Nominated Won
Sound Editing Won Nominated Nominated
Sound Mixing Nominated Nominated Won Nominated
Visual Effects Won Won Won Nominated Nominated
Scientific and Technical Awards
Technical Achievement Won Won
Scientific and Engineering Achievement Won

The series was hugely influential, pushing blockbusters into telling more mature stories in terms of content, scope and themes, and revitalizing the high-fantasy genre, with many films in the genre following in its wake and attempting to duplicate its tone, such as the Narnia trilogy (based off of the books of Tolkien's friend, Professor C. S. Lewis) and Eragon. Later entries in the Harry Potter and Star Wars were affected as well, epsecially in the use of techniques and stylistic devices showcased in The Lord of the Rings such as extensive digital grading.

Jackson's insistence on casting his film from the British Commonwealth led future entries in the fantasy genre to be cast with English actors and stage veterans as a shorthand for antiquity and fairytale. Indeed, prior to The Lord of the Rings, blockbusters were predominantly American, and when Steven Spielberg considered adapting Harry Potter, he wished to change the setting and cast to an American one, as did Harvey Weinstein with The Lord of the Rings. In fantasy and period films that followed, the cast was often predominantly British.

The Lord of the Rings also reshaped the concept of film franchise, with several entries in series such as Pirates of the Caribbean, The Matrix and Twilight being shot and marketed simultaneously rather than as standalone productions. This would culminate in the contemporary "Cinematic Universe" concept, which is mostly prevalent in comic-book superhero films.

The films boosted New Zealand's economy, due to jump-starting its filmmaking industry, especially through Jackson's WETA providing cutting-edge digital effects for films such as James Cameron's Avatar (2008). Cameron, soon to become a close-friend of Jackson, would later relocate to New Zealand to film the sequels to his mega-blockbuster. Tourism increased, as well, citing the vistas shown in the films as incentive. Other films, such as Edward Zwick's historical epic The Last Samurai, would shoot in New Zealand.

Future projects

Amazon's Second Age TV Series

Amazon Studios, in co-operation with Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema, are producing a multi-season TV series based off the stories of the mid-Second Age, which were briefly glimpsed in the prolouge to The Fellowship of the Ring. The series, which like the feature films is to be principally shot in New Zealand, is set to be in continuity with the live-action adaptations, in a shared cinematic universe.[34] Sir Peter Jackson is said to be looking over the scripts, with Jurassic World director J.A. Bayona directing the first two episodes.

Tolkien Biopics

Lord of the Rings exeuctives, Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne, helped develop a biopic of Tolkien's life, Middle Earth, with James Strong slated to direct. Given the lack of Tolkien's (2019) financial success, the film may not be realized.

Another film, Tolkien and Lewis, would have elaborated on Tolkien's relationship with Professor CS Lewis, and was to be directed by Simon West, but did not proceed. Lewis had his own biopic, Shadowlands, directed by Lord Richard Attenborough, in 1993.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox, distributed an unrelated biopic titled Tolkien, starring Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins and Sir Derek Jacobi. Directed by Dome Karukoski, a fan of Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, this forms a spinoff of-sorts to the cinematic universe of the WingNut films and Amazon's TV show.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Brian J. Robb‏, Paul Simpson‏, Middle-earth Envisioned: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: On Screen, On Stage and Beyond, p. 99 ff.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ian Nathan, Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-earth
  3. https://www.mcall.com/sd-me-music-beatles-lord-of-the-rings-20180731-story.html
  4. https://medium.com/@michaelclaytoncomedy/if-you-have-seen-peter-jacksons-epic-lord-of-the-rings-trilogy-and-statistically-you-have-it-2163b6ab81bc
  5. http://www.duneinfo.com/unseen/timeline
  6. http://www.crawleyscastingcalls.com/index.php/component/movies/index.php?option=com_movies&Itemid=90&id=115&lettre=ALL
  7. https://www.uncut.co.uk/features/beatles-maharishi-lord-rings-109207/http://www.ondamusicale.it/index.php/oggi-in-primo-piano/16142-1967-il-signore-degli-anelli-interpretato-dai-beatles
  8. https://www.thevintagenews.com/2018/01/14/lord-of-the-rings-beatles/
  9. https://ricerca.repubblica.it/repubblica/archivio/repubblica/2001/12/17/tolkien-il-film-mancato-con-beatles-kubrick.htmlhttps://thebeatlesinindia.com/stories/lord-of-the-rings/ https://otrecocerto.com/2016/03/23/o-senhor-dos-aneis-estrelando-os-beatles-e-com-direcao-de-stanley-kubrick/
  10. Ian Pryor, Peter Jackson: From Prince of Splatter to Lord of the Rings.
  11. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/film-news/11260667/The-Hobbit-Tolkiens-adventures-in-Hollywood.html
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 https://thequietus.com/articles/25681-ralph-bakshi-the-lord-of-the-rings-animation-review-anniversary
  13. http://cinetropolis.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Lord-of-the-Rings.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3VvjvVTD7bQeO9zVTTa0iM-poeiqQ3aGRJOyOF4W4acCIa8XgN1tbstm8
  14. James Clarke, George Lucas: The Pocket Essential Guide, p. 77.
  15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XDsSr3sGSI
  16. Michael Kaminski, The Secret History of Star Wars, p 462 ff.
  17. https://www.starwarz.com/starkiller/the-star-wars-from-the-adventures-of-luke-starkiller-third-draft/
  18. https://deadline.com/2015/12/star-wars-george-lucas-influence-ron-howard-ridley-scott-guillermo-del-toro-peter-jackson-luc-besson-1201669415/
  19. http://www.theonering.com/news/the-lord-of-the-rings-movies/george-lucas-and-peter-jackson-become-good-friends-foxnews-com
  20. https://web.archive.org/web/20161022202522/http://jimlochner.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/FSM_TheHeiress.pdf
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 https://web.archive.org/web/20000815100628/http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com/lordoftherings2.html
  22. http://archives.theonering.net/features/interviews/marlow_round1.html
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 23.6 Brian Sibley, Peter Jackson: A Film-Maker's Journey
  24. http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Ted_Nasmith#Peter_Jackson.27s_The_Lord_of_the_Rings
  25. https://www.herr-der-ringe-film.de/v3/de/news/tolkienfilme/news_19946.php
  26. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ggVDYcvNxg
  27. http://mathom-house.net/index.php/Main/SiteMap
  28. https://collider.com/peter-jackson-the-hobbit-48fps-interview/
  29. https://archiv.arri.de/news/newsletter/articles/74839/berl_lesnie.htm
  30. https://audioboom.com/posts/7119168-episode-119-peter-jackson-philippa-boyens-on-the-music-of-mortal-engines-lord-of-the-rings
  31. https://youtu.be/9XDsSr3sGSI?t=671
  32. https://www.reddit.com/r/movies/comments/djqjur/editing_is_the_final_rewrite_or_is_the_hobbit/
  33. https://www.4kfilme.de/der-herr-der-ringe-und-der-hobbit-filme-erscheinen-auf-4k-blu-ray/
  34. https://narniafans.com/2019/08/interview-with-narnia-conceptual-designer-john-howe/ "he show runners are determined to remain faithful to the existing trilogies."
v - e - d
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit logo.png
Live-action films: The Lord of the Rings Logo.png The Fellowship of the RingThe Two TowersThe Return of the KingThe Hobbit logo.png An Unexpected JourneyThe Desolation of SmaugThe Battle of the Five Armies
The Lord of the Rings:

The Hobbit:
Mystical Animals:

See also

While working on the original Star Wars, Lucas considered developing it into a high-fantasy film, which eventually became the treatment (written by Lucas) to Ron Howard's Willow (1988), a film heavily indebted to Tolkien's books, which Lucas also produced. Willow tells the story of a Nelwyn (Hobbit) called Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) who undertakes a quest to safely deliver a baby from an evil sorceress and - along with his friends, including the warrior Madmartigan - eventually go to war against the witch. The film was largely shot in New Zealand, and helped revitalize its film industry.