Modern fantasy fiction owes a lot to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, with the New Zealand filmmaker taking on J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels with narrative, technical and creative mastery. Demonstrating how the contemporary blockbuster could flourish into the 21st century, Jackson’s trilogy laid down the gauntlet for other big-budget visions to match its grandeur, with very few films able to reach its greatness to this very day.
With a combined budget of approximately $270 million, the story behind the trilogy’s development is predictably just as interesting as the finished product itself, with the process involving months of prop preparation and location scouting.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole process happened at the very start, however, when an enthusiastic Peter Jackson was looking for producers for his fantasy epic. Pitching the project to Miramax, the filmmaker came face to face with the disgraced Hollywood producer and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein, who was pressured by Disney at the time to make cuts to the epic proposed project.
With his sinister, egotistical personality common knowledge at this point, Weinstein turned on Jackson with a “Mr Hyde” temper for not accepting any cuts to his vision, threatening The Lord of the Rings filmmaker by saying he would replace him as the director with Quentin Tarantino. Recalling the moment, Jackson’s manager Ken Kamins explained in an interview with The Independent: “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”.
Annoyed at the treatment of Miramax and Weinstein, Jackson jumped ship and approached New Line CEO Robert Shaye who accepted the project but requested that it be made into a trilogy, with the rest being cinema history.
The sinister impact of Harvey Weinstein had left an indelible mark, however, with several members of the cast and crew eager to make a mockery of the hateful producer as a result of his actions. Elijah Wood, the actor who plays Frodo in the trilogy, explained how the prop department took their revenge on set in an interview on Dax Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert.
“It’s funny, this was recently spoken about because Dom [Monaghan] and Bill [Boyd] have a podcast, The Friendship Onion. They were talking to Sean Astin about his first memory of getting to New Zealand,” the actor rambled on the podcast, before explaining the incident. “He had seen these Orc masks. And one of the Orc masks — and I remember this vividly — was designed to look like Harvey Weinstein as a sort of a fuck you,” Wood hilariously recalled.
17 years after the release of the final film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Return of the King, producer Harvey Weinstein was indicted on 11 charges of rape and sexual battery in Los Angeles, being sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison. Chuffed at the actions of his fellow Lord of the Rings crew members, Wood further added, “I think that is OK to talk about now, the guy is fucking incarcerated. Fuck him”.