Sir Peter Jackson’s troubled film adaptation of The Hobbit is still at risk of being moved offshore, with a half-dozen countries vying to snare the filming rights, its co-producer says.
Actors and producers locked in an industrial dispute seem to have made some progress over the weekend, with one union saying it was “hopeful” for a resolution, while Hollywood press reports say the film is close to getting the green light from studios.
But while the film’s future looks more secure, it was far from certain to be shot in New Zealand, co-writer and co-producer Philippa Boyens said today.
The dispute between actors and producers had damaged New Zealand’s film reputation and “thrown doubt on how stable our industry is in terms of industrial relations”, she told Radio New Zealand.
“That is what is being put in jeopardy — not whether the production goes forward, but whether it’s made here.”
A number of countries were lobbying for the film to be moved offshore, including Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia and countries in Eastern Europe.
“It’s not a game because right now, in America, Warner Brother’s studios are running the numbers on five to six different locations.
That’s very real — and that has put at risk the livelihoods of countless thousands of New Zealand industry workers.”
She said the actors’ unions had been naive in their demands, and had jeopardised the production’s future in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Actors’ Equity union said on the weekend it was “hopeful” its disagreement with producers could be resolved.
Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly declined to confirm reports the spat was near resolution.
Prime Minister John Key has waded into the dispute, saying government ministers were happy to play a facilitation role between actors and Sir Peter.
Mr Key told Breakfast on TV One today there had been “tentative discussions” with ministers, including Minister for Economic Development Gerry Brownlee.
“We are happy to facilitate, play a facilitation role between the two parties if we need to. I understand they are making some progress so hopefully they can get it resolved. But I would be very, very concerned if it moved offshore.”
Mr Key said there may be a wider argument to be had but the Hobbit production should not be held to ransom.
“I would be greatly concerned if the Hobbit movies weren’t made in New Zealand, this a $3 billion industry, it employs a lot of people, it’s great for New Zealand it’s a great way for marketing
New Zealand. If you can’t make the Hobbit here frankly what movies are you going to make here?”
Ms Boyens today confirmed Hollywood media reports over the weekend that a deal over the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s book was close to being signed, and the film would soon get the go-ahead from studios.
“I think it’s looking hopeful, but it’s not signed yet,” she said.
“The rights are tied up in an extremely messy entangled way, and the studios involved in the making of the picture — MGM and Warner Brother’s New Line — have been going through extensive talks to resolve that issue.”
The reports cited anonymous sources which said a production could begin as early as January for a 2012 release.
It was also reported the film would be shot in 3D — contradicting earlier statements it would be shot in 2D.