Peter Jackson has admitted “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing” during shooting of the “Hobbit” trilogy.
The Oscar-winning director makes his candid admission in a behind-the-scenes video (embedded above) for the DVD and Blu-ray release of “The Battle of the Five Armies”, the final film in the “Hobbit” trilogy.
Those films returned to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth after Jackson’s hugely successful “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, a global phenomenon that did staggering business and earned Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. The weight of expectation on “The Hobbit” movies was therefore huge — but Jackson and his crew also had a huge problem.
In stark contrast to the extensive planning of the “Lord of the Rings” movies, which saw three and a half years of pre-production, there wasn’t enough time to fully plan out the “Hobbit” films. That’s because Jackson only stepped into the director’s chair after Guillermo del Toro dropped out, meaning that the film had to be redesigned from scratch.
According to the crew, that made shooting “a bit chaotic”, to say the least. “No department ever got ahead,” says one crew member, while another remembers how, “Almost every morning of the shoot, we were delivering the objects needed that day.”
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With no storyboards, previsualisation or even a finished script, Jackson says he was “winging it” and “making it up as I went along”. Director and crew put in 21-hour days, packing the cast off for long lunches so they could plan out scenes. Production designer Dan Hennah describes it as “laying the tracks directly in front of the train.”
Things got so confused that the second unit — a separate film crew often tasked to shoot action scenes and stunt work — started shooting the epic five-army battle sequence with no idea what they were supposed to be doing. The second unit action was directed by Andy Serkis, the actor who played Gollum in the films, who describes how the lack of guidance left them “waving around in the wind”. And so just two days into shooting, the plug was pulled so the epic sequence could be properly planned.
The delay pushed the release of “Five Armies” back by five months to December 2014. It was a commercial success, but has the lowest rating of any of Jackson’s Middle-earth movies on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The film’s title delivers in spades with an epic battle sequence, but the titular hobbit Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf friends are sidelined and too much time is spent on a clumsily tacked-on romantic subplot. And if I’m honest, I only counted four armies…
Jackson’s next film is reported to be an animated “Tintin” sequel in 2016. Let’s hope he’s had enough time to plan this one out.