It was difficult to put the three monumental films that make up the Lord of the Rings trilogy on their feet : not only because of the locations, special effects or complex production design, but because of the obstacles that their financing had to overcome.
Initially, Peter Jackson’s team had partnered with Miramax to develop their ambitious adaptation of JRR Tolkien , which involved dealing with the dreaded Harvey Weinstein . Before all the accusations of sexual abuse that the MeToo raised landed him in jail, this was the most feared producer in Hollywood. Above all, because of his habit of savagely shortening movies in the editing room.
These days are the 20th anniversary of the premiere of The Fellowship of the Ring , and several of those responsible have recalled how the days were before the filming went ahead. Through an oral history compiled by The Independent featuring Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen , we have learned how far Weinstein’s manipulations could go, which saw Jackson abandon the project.
Thanks to the fact that the rights ended up in the hands of New Line Cinema and The Lord of the Rings was detached from Miramax, this did not happen, but it seems that Weinstein was serious in his desire to control every millimeter of production.
One of the sources of this report is Ken Kamins , Jackson’s manager, and thanks to his testimony we know that the pressure from Weinstein to shorten The Fellowship of the Ring came to try a substitution: that of Jackson at the hands of Quentin Tarantino , favorite of Weinstein. “Harvey went from being empathetic to becoming Mr. Hyde in the blink of an eye, and he threatened Peter,” says Kamins. “He threatened to have Tarantino direct if Peter couldn’t handle a two-and-a-half hour movie, which was the exact opposite of what he originally told us he wanted.”
Three hours was too long for Weinstein (then nicknamed “Harvey Scissorhands” for these kinds of attitudes), and luckily he ended up separated from The Lord of the Rings . Without the influence of Miramax, the Jackson adaptation was allowed to start at three hours in each of the films, with Return of the King lasting three and a half hours. Something seen today seems most logical, but Kamins admits that no one had thought then that The Lord of the Rings should consist of three films. “It was actually the idea of Bob Shaye, founder of New Line, to make three movies instead of two.”
“The original proposal was to make two movies and Bob said ‘there are three books, why make only two movies?’ He said ‘Tolkien did your job for you. He wrote three books, so you’ve got three movies, ‘and I kicked Peter under the table not believing what I was hearing. They said yes on Monday and on Wednesday we already had 12 million dollars. ” This is how, according to The Lord of the Rings escaped from Weinstein, he allowed himself to have the three long films that make it up today, and they have turned it into a modern classic.
One whose legacy is far from being diluted, as shown by the upcoming Amazon adaptation while Jackson seems to have turned the page in another work of endless length: the documentary The Beatles: Get Back that recently premiered on Disney +, and that exceeds eight hours.