Kill the hobbit

From everything I’ve heard and read, being a writer in Hollywood sounds like a great way to spend hours, days and weeks of your life cooped up in meeting rooms listening to the opinions of people a tapeworm would consider beneath contempt.

Of course, I could be wrong.

On the other hand, this excerpt from the upcoming biography of filmmaker Peter Jackson doesn’t give much cause for doubt. Back when The Lord of the Rings was still on track to be a two-part film produced by the Weinstein Brothers (of Miramax fame), Jackson recalls being told that one of the hobbits making the journey to Mordor would have to be killed. There was also the threat, hanging like the sword of Damocles over every meeting, that the Weinsteins would lose their nerve and demand the entire story be compressed into a single film.

Of course, Jackson was eventually able to convince New Line to pick up the ball Miramax was about to toss away, and eventually J.R.R. Tolkien’s huge story was brought to the screen in proper, three-movie fashion. One should remember that the last attempt to mount a Tolkien film, Ralph Bakshi’s animated version, had been a disaster, and Jackson himself was a cult filmmaker who had never attempted anything remotely on this scale. There was plenty of reason to be cautious about committing too many resources. One of the things I like about the three Lord of the Rings movies is that making them took good old-fashioned Hollywood balls.

But, gawd . . . you read about the little psychodramas the Weinsteins staged during story conferences and you wonder how any good films get made at all, much less great ones.

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