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Posts tagged “The Hobbit

Sir Christopher Lee – R.I.P.

Sir-Christopher-LeeSad news just in, one of my all time movie star heroes, for as long as I can remember, Sir Christopher Lee, has died at the age of 93 after being hospitalised for respiratory problems and heart failure.

The veteran actor, best known for a variety of films from Dracula to The Wicker Man through to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, passed away on Sunday morning at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, according to sources.

The decision to release the news days after was based on his wife’s desire to inform family members first. The couple had been married for over 50 years.

His film career started in 1947 with a role in gothic romance Corridor of Mirrors but it wasn’t until the late 50s, when Lee worked with Hammer, that he started gaining fame. His first role with the studio was The Curse of Frankenstein and it was the first of 20 films that he made with fellow legend, Peter Cushing.

Lee’s most famous role for Hammer was playing Dracula, a role which became one of his most widely recognised although the actor wasn’t pleased with how the character was treated. “They gave me nothing to do!” he told Total Film Magazine in 2005. “I pleaded with Hammer to let me use some of the lines that Bram Stoker had written. Occasionally, I sneaked one in. Eventually I told them that I wasn’t going to play Dracula any more. All hell broke loose.”

In the 70s, Lee continued to gain fame in the horror genre with a role in The Wicker Man, a film which he considered to be his best… he’s right.

He was knighted in 2009 for services to drama and charity and was awarded the Bafta fellowship in 2011. Lee still has one film yet to be released, the fantasy film Angels in Notting Hill.


Lord of the Rings – By Aaron Horkey

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Comic Con Trailer

Peter Jackson’s bloated Hobbit trilogy wraps with the final chapter The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies which he gave fans a sneak peek at over the weekend at Comic-Con. Warner Bros. has now released the trailer first seen in Hall H at the convention, in which the heroes of Middle Earth must contend with the ferocious dragon Smaug and the fast-mobilizing forces of Sauron, the latter of which took center stage in The Lord Of The Rings. Here’s the new look at the December 17 release set to hit theaters in 3D, 2D, IMAX, and the awful High Frame Rate 3D.


The Witch King by Florian Bertmer

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LEGO: The Hobbit

LEGO The Hobbit sends players of all ages on an unforgettable interactive journey through the first two films in The Hobbit Trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and the upcoming The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. Players will follow Bilbo Baggins as he is recruited by the Wizard Gandalf to aid Thorin Oakenshield and his Company of Dwarves. Bilbo leaves the comforts of the Shire on a journey through Middle-earth to help the Dwarves reclaim their lost Kingdom of Erebor within the Lonely Mountain. Along the way, he is introduced to ravenous Trolls, dangerous Orcs and, of course, Gollum and his precious Ring.
Check out the new trailer released today to see more of the highly anticipated LEGO® The Hobbit™ videogame featuring all of your favourite characters from the first two films in The Hobbit Trilogy in LEGO form, including Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Dwarves of Erebor.
I’d rather watch this than The Hobbit again…


The Hobbit – Fan Art by Franco Clun

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Ringwraith – Lord of the Rings Poster Art

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The Lord of the Rings – Mondo Poster by Olly Moss

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Peter Jackson – Part 1

Sir Peter Robert Jackson, ONZ, KNZM (born 31 October 1961) is a New Zealand film director, producer, actor, and screenwriter, who is mainly known for his The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001 to 2003), adapted from the novel by J. R. R. Tolkien.

He won international attention early in his career with his horror comedies beginning with Bad Taste (1987), Meet the Feebles (1989), and Braindead (1992) before coming to mainstream prominence with Heavenly Creatures (1994), for which he shared an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay nomination with his wife, Fran Walsh. Jackson has been awarded three Academy Awards in his career, including the award for Best Director in 2003; he also won the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Saturn Award for Best Direction the same year.

Jackson was born on 31 October 1961. He grew up in Pukerua Bay, a coastal town near Wellington. As a child, Jackson was a keen film fan, growing up on Ray Harryhausen films as well as finding inspiration in the television series Thunderbirds and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. After a family friend gave the Jacksons a Super 8 cine-camera with Peter in mind, he began making short films with his friends. Jackson has long cited King Kong as his favourite film and around the age of nine he attempted to remake it using his own stop-motion models.

When he was 16 years old, Jackson left school and began working full-time as a photo-engraver for the local newspaper. For the 7 years he worked there, Jackson lived at home with his parents so he could save as much money as possible to spend on filming equipment. After two years of work Jackson bought a 16 mm camera, and began shooting a short film that later became Bad Taste.

Over four years (from 1983 to 1987) Jackson’s first feature, Bad Taste, grew in haphazard fashion from a short film into a 90-minute splatter-comedy, with many of Jackson’s friends acting and working on it for free. Shooting was normally done in the weekends since Jackson was now working full-time. Bad Taste is about aliens that come to earth with the intention of turning humans into food. Jackson had two acting roles including a famous scene in which he fights himself on top of a cliff.

The film was finally completed thanks to a late injection of finance from the New Zealand Film Commission, after Jim Booth, the body’s executive director, became convinced of Jackson’s talent (Booth later left the Commission to become Jackson’s producer). In May 1987, Bad Taste was unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival, where rights to the film quickly sold to twelve countries.

Around this time Peter Jackson began working on writing a number of film scripts, in varied collaborative groupings with playwright Stephen Sinclair, writer Fran Walsh and writer/actor Danny Mulheron. Walsh would later become his wife.

Jackson’s next film to see release was Meet the Feebles (1989), co-written by the four writers mentioned above. An ensemble musical comedy starring Muppet-style puppets, Meet the Feebles originally began as a short film intended for television, but was rapidly expanded into a full-length film after unexpected enthusiasm from Japanese investors, and the collapse of Braindead, six weeks before filming. Begun on a very low budget, Meet the Feebles went weeks over schedule. Jackson stated of his second feature length film, “It’s got a quality of humour that alienates a lot of people. It’s very black, very satirical, very savage.”

Jackson’s next release was the horror comedy Braindead (1992) (released in North America as Dead Alive), now seen as a landmark in splatter movies. Originally planned as a Spanish co-production, the film reversed the usual zombie plot. Rather than keeping the zombies out of his place of refuge, the hero attempts to keep them inside, while maintaining a façade of normality. The film features extensive special effects including miniature trams, stop motion and a plethora of gory make-up effects.

Released in 1994 after Jackson won a race to bring the story to the screen, Heavenly Creatures marked a major change for Jackson in terms of both style and tone. The film is based on real-life events: namely the Parker-Hulme murder in which two teenage girls in 1950s Christchurch murdered the mother of one of the girls. Jackson’s partner Fran Walsh helped persuade him that the events had the makings of a movie; Jackson has been quoted saying that the film “only got made” because of her enthusiasm for the subject matter. The success of Heavenly Creatures won Jackson attention from Miramax, who promoted the film vigorously in America and signed the director to a first-look deal.

The following year, in collaboration with Wellington film-maker Costa Botes, Jackson co-directed the mockumentary Forgotten Silver (1995). This ambitious made-for-television piece told the story of New Zealand film pioneer who had supposedly invented colour film and ‘talkies’, before being forgotten by the world. Though the programme played in a slot normally reserved for drama, no other warning was given that it was fictionalised and many viewers were outraged at discovering Colin McKenzie had never existed.

The success of Heavenly Creatures helped pave the way for Jackson’s first big budget Hollywood film, The Frighteners starring Michael J. Fox, in 1996. This period was a key one of change for both Jackson and Weta Workshop, the special effects company, born from the one man contributions of George Port to Heavenly Creatures, with which Jackson is often associated. Weta, initiated by Jackson and key collaborators, grew rapidly during this period to incorporate both digital and physical effects, make-up and costumes, the first two areas normally commanded by Jackson collaborator Richard Taylor.


Lifesize Gandalf & Bilbo in LEGO

Lifesize LEGO statues of Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins, of The Hobbit,  from Comic Con 2012. 


Guillermo Del Toro – Interview at Comic Con

Excellent Comic Con interview with Guillermo Del Toro. Courtesy of DEADLINE.

Del Toro is back at Comic-Con after completing the robots vs monsters saga Pacific Rim financed by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. While it won’t be released until July 12, 2013, some in the industry have seen the early visuals and said they are stunning and they predict Del Toro will make a stirring return that was informed by his setbacks.

DEADLINE: You are finally here with a movie you directed. Describe your road here.

DEL TORO: Two years in New Zealand on The Hobbit, a year in L.A. and Canada developingMountains. Luckily, during the year of Mountains, I started on Pacific Rim and when people ask me why I have four or five things in development, here’s the answer. Paraphrasing John Lennon, a career is what happens when you’re making other plans. I once had a gap between Mimic and Devil’s Backbone of four years and haven’t had that long a gap until now. It is four years since Hellboy II. In 1998, my father was kidnapped for 72 days, I had to emigrate to Texas, and start over. I was recuperating from a bad experience on Mimic and luckily I found Pedro Almodovar, who basically supported me in doing Devil’s Backbone, which I consider my first movie in many ways. To me, this second four-year gap, finding Thomas Tull, John Jashni and Warners, was vital for me to continue. Pacific Rimhas given me an injection of life that I very much needed. I am reinvigorated, and at the most basic existential level, I needed this. I needed to have as good as an experience as this was. I came back from The Hobbit and met the Legendary guys and the experience was life changing. Thomas wanted me to read Travis Beacham’s pitch they had for Pacific Rim and I instantly saw the world.

DEADLINE: What did you see?

DEL TORO: This is a medium that requires large investment, and as a storyteller on this scale, there are only five guys who can write their own ticket; James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Chris Nolan and Michael Bay. The rest of us, we can only do certain things and they are mostly linear. If you are good at doing a comedy, the industry and the audience sees you only doing that comedy. This was a huge opportunity for me to step beyond where I was. And it was huge for me because I am a such a fan of robots and Kaiju, since I was a kid.

DEADLINE: You mean those cheesy, dubbed Japanese monsters…

DEL TORO: Speak for yourself. How about those fantastic Japanese monster movies? When I was a real young kid, 10 or maybe younger, I wanted to see a movie called The War of the Gargantuas. It was opening and I knew it was designed originally to be a companions piece to Frankenstein Conquers the World. I had to see it and I took the bus to the other side of town, because a movie like that doesn’t open in the A or B circuit, it opened in the Z theaters. It was and old, rundown 2000 seat movie palace, and as I was sitting there enjoying the movie, somebody from the balcony throws a big empty glass…full of pee. It lands on my head. This is how much I love Kaiju; I finished the movie. And then I came out, with a There’s Something About Mary kind of hairdo, and I rode the bus back and nobody sat next to me. Japanese properties were probably cheap to acquire, so the theaters in Mexico were inundated with these films. I saw them all. And it instantly came back to me with Pacific Rim. I pitched scenes to Thomas and Jon, and they said, you have to direct it. I said I can’t, I have Mountains. I came on as producer and in a month, we had done a teaser trailer we animated, we had had silhouettes for 40 robots and some of the monsters and we were doing clay models. I did the Bible for the movie, and found myself feeling, damn, what lucky director is going to play in this world with all these toys?Mountains looked like it was going to happen. Until what I call that Black Friday, and then it wasn’t. I called Thomas and said, I’ll come on board Monday, if you are willing to really ready to take the step into pre-production. And it happened so fast. I’ve never worked as hard on a movie, to hit the budget number. We came in under budget, and under schedule. Hellboy took 135 days, the sequel 132 days. We did this in 103 days.

DEADLINE: You got close on The Hobbit, closer on Mountains. From an outside perspective, it feels like you were at the altar twice, and each time the girl didn’t show up. How’d you feel?

DEL TORO: I don’t know if I would characterize it quite that way. I am a writer of at least the first Hobbit film. The one that really hurt most was Mountains, because it was really abrupt. It was devastating. We were scouting, on the border of Alaska, in the glaciers in a helicopter. And I get the call, you gotta come back for a meeting on Friday. I said, eh…why do we need to meet?

DEADLINE: After I wrote about the film being halted because the studio would not make a $150 million film and give you the right for it to be an R rated movie, numerous studio execs said they would have done the same thing, even though they wanted to see the movie. It’s hard to make your money back on a big budget R film. Do you regret not being more flexible?

DEL TORO: No. But you’re guilty of a lot of my problems, not on Mountains, but you were the one whose article said I was busy till 2015, when in my mind, I’m unemployed and go movie to movie.

DEADLINE: Well, that was an editor at my former workplace, Daily Variety, trying to be clever. But what you say is true. But should you have caved on the rating and been willing to do Mountains at PG-13?

DEL TORO: I don’t regret it. Look at Prometheus. There’s an R rated horror movie that doesn’t have big name stars. We had Tom Cruise, and Jim Cameron producing. But I completely understand why they did it and I can’t argue, I can’t say they were wrong and I was right to take that position. I could never have their job because I would approve Mountains and many others, but I understand. I’ve been here 20 years and I don’t go for the altar reference because I never go into these things feeling it’s unthinkable they might not happen. But it still hurt like a motherfucker. You’ve got hundreds of drawings, dozens of paintings, storyboarded sequences, animatics, ILM did a test that was phenomenal and proved to me that everything we wanted to do was actually possible. It hurts always for the director because there is a movie you see in your head, and you want people to see it. [Del Toro’s manager Gary Ungar stops by our table to give him a carefully bubble wrapped package. He unfolds it, and it is a leather-bound brown journal, the pages filled with elaborate sketches of his Hellboy character. The pen and ink drawings look like paintings, and the handwritten notes beautifully scrawled in the filmmaker’s hand are so perfectly crafted that the book looks like a movie prop out of Indiana Jones or The Da Vinci Code].

DEADLINE: That is magnificent. Are you a closet calligrapher?

DEL TORO: This was on loan to the Seattle Science Fiction Museum. It’s just my notebook on Hellboy and some different stuff. These are all my drawings, and I just got it back. I’m an obsessive compulsive, what can I say.

DEADLINE: Will you still make At The Mountains of Madness, especially if Pacific Rim puts you near the category of those five directors you mentioned who can write their own tickets on big buck films?

DEL TORO: I want to see Prometheusfirst [there are plot similarities]. To me,Pacific Rim is a catalyst for so many things. You learn your craft little by little, and you do it publicly. You make mistakes in front of an audience. Make a wrong casting or editorial decision, and it’s all out in the open, like crashing a car in slow motion, publicly. Everybody can see your head bounce, your spine snap, and they comment on every single fracture. You’re giving interviews, or reading opinions. “Look at the way his wrist snapped! He’s never going to walk again the way his spine just broke!” You learn your craft that way and it’s rare that you can calculate or control it. You get lucky sometimes. I desire to direct big crazy movies and small crazy movies, and on Pan’s Labyrinth I was able to do that with some degree of control. Pacific Rim is the first time I have been able to articulate something that is purely entertaining, big and bold in this large format. I was incredibly aware of every choice, both creatively and fiscally. I stayed under budget and wanted that to be part of the experience. To be as bold and big as possible, but within the parameters I had agreed to. The narrative comes first, but I was a producer on this as well.

DEADLINE: At Disney’s Comic-Con panel, early The Lone Ranger footage was stylish and impressive, but the first connotation of that film is budget struggles. Unless you’re making a sequel, it seems very hard to create new tent poles. How much has pressure increased when you are creating something completely new?

DEL TORO: When you are producer and director, you are basically making a vow to be able to whistle and keep the tune. I’m aware of how much each extra costs, that I have to give up two cars to get four extras for five days. I have to pre-plan so if I say a sequence will take three days, it takes three days. I had the partnership of guys who believed in creating something new. They were not asking for a re-launch or a sequel. Finding a partner like this who shares not only in the financials but fully in the creative dream is a blessing that doesn’t happen often. But as to your question, I don’t believe any experience is bad and I’m not trying to sound wide-eyed or naïve. I don’t know if I could have done Pacific Rimwithout having prepped The Hobbit and especially Mountains because we got so close. It was a warm up for prepping movies that size, fiscally and technically. My contact with ILM started on Mountains, all the creative heads that came intoPacific Rim were guys who wanted to do Mountains. They knew what I wanted to try, that it was a new way of trying effects. The core of my creative team of designers moved from Mountains on a Friday to Pacific Rim on Monday. That tough experience allowed me to do this. To me, it’s harder to recuperate from success than failure. You can get a little lost in analyzing your success too much. Our culture prepares you on how to overcome failure. Look down, soldier on, figure it out. No one tells you how to avoid the trappings of success. That you figure out by brutally going through experiences. You learn much more about who you are going through difficulty.

DEADLINE: What look were you after with Pacific Rim?

DEL TORO: I wanted to do a big adventure movie with saturated colors, operatic battle set pieces and saturated colors and richly textured. As a kid I loved the Korda adventure films and I used them for inspiration. I wanted to evoke the feeling I had as a kid when I dreamed of being a cowboy or a pirate or an astronaut. I didn’t want to make a war movie, and visually avoided all the trappings of that like the long lens, super polished blue steely images that looked like a recruitment video, and the winner aesthetics that immediately tell you that a select group saves the world. I wanted it to be all of us who saved the world. So when I wanted Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, and Ron Perlman, they got it. Sometimes you pitch that and watch the studio head glaze over and say, yeah, but we need these five names to make this work.

DEADLINE: Will you be involved in Legendary’s Godzilla remake?

DEL TORO: No, we made it a point so far not to discuss that. Our conversations are limited to this. We were planning a sequence on Pacific Rim and when I described it to Thomas Tull, there was a landmark involved and he said, that one is taken in Godzilla. You have to guarantee me you won’t stomp, burn or destroy X, because Godzilla’s already doing that.

DEADLINE: Will it be odd having The Hobbit on the same Comic-Con bill as Pacific Rim?

DEL TORO: No. I haven’t seen the footage, but The Hobbit decision took a long time to make. And when you make a decision like that, you don’t look back, at least I don’t. I really think the movie’s in the right hands. I want to see it and wish it the best of luck. For me, the one that hurt was Mountains because it was not one where I had time to absorb or think about. That year was a hard year. But there is a contraction of the industry and Mountains three years before would happened. With DVD and Blu-ray, they would have taken the bigger risk.

DEADLINE: Fans will look at Mountains the same way we look at Halo, and wonder what might have been had Neill Blomkamp done that as his debut film instead of District 9.

DEL TORO: You mention Halo. We developed that movie, with D.B. Weiss, one of the creators of Game of Thrones. We made a screenplay and nobody talks about it but it was amazing. I went to WETA, met with them to talk about designs, had a big meeting. And then I went and made Hellboy.

DEADLINE: So leaving was your choice?

DEL TORO: That one was my choice.

DEADLINE: It really feels like this is a game of choices and it’s understandable why it’s so hard to choreograph success, especially now, when studios don’t really know what to make except sequels.

DEL TORO: It has always been that way though, no? When you read the real tales of movie making, it has always been pretty turbulent. Always, a few guys can write their own ticket, whether it was Capra and Sturges, Howard Hawks. The names change, but it’s usually limited to the same number of guys. I was just saying to a studio executive the other day that in the best of circumstances, when you hire a director, you are hiring either a guy who has the touch with actors, is a world creator visually, and maybe a guy who brings a certain tone that make his films recognizable. Everything else is a crap shoot. And all the preconceptions that used to guide the movie business through the years, like reliance on stars, are basically gone.

DEADLINE: How are you with that?

DEL TORO: I think that’s thrilling. At the end of the day, if you have a worthy story to tell, you’re going to tell it. If you can only tell a story with a certain range of budget, then you should worry. It softens your tissue somehow. But if you can write a book, make a small or big budget film or tell your story in a graphic novel, then it is a very exciting time.

DEADLINE: You mentioned Michael Bay as one of the five guys. After John Carter and Battleship, I heard more than a few people say they had new found respect for Bay and the skill it takes to make these big popcorn pictures.

DEL TORO: A lot of people think erroneously that it gets easier with more money. It doesn’t, because you are steering a much bigger ship. Imagine you are the rudder of a small fishing boat. If you become the rudder of a trans-Atlantic oil tanker, it doesn’t get easier on the rudder, it’s more taxing. There’s a feeling that CGI writes itself and happens while the director is riding with a starlet on the PCH in a convertible, on the phone saying, how is the CGI going? It’s a specific logistical, almost military operation you have to be able to run.

DEADLINE: How helpful is it to be here at Comic-Con with a movie that’s not coming out until next summer?

DEL TORO: To me, Comic-Con has always been invaluable, it doesn’t matter what project, I want to be here. Spiritually, it’s a beautiful place for me, I truly love Comic-Con. I feel at home. Whether it’s Pacific Rim or Pan’s Labyrinth, I come here.

DEADLINE: It’s easy to be condescending and cynical, but the passion of this crowd is charming when you get to observe it up close.

DEL TORO: It’s more than that to me. It’s pretty easy to be reactionary, to be like a parent in the 50s seeing their kids with rock and roll. What are you doing in your room all day? You are doing nothing! Same with video games. But the craftsmanship that allows for that narrative interface with video games, it’s huge and transformative. It has transformed the storytelling of the visual medium. Cultural swings are defined by clashes. Counterculture clashed with narrative in the 70s and you got intense, thoughtful, hardcore movie making, and you have pop culture colliding with narrative and these are waves you ride.

DEADLINE: It’s hard to figure out this current wave.

DEL TORO: There’s a very interesting confluence where you have this very intense awareness of pop culture, to a point where essentially nothing is fringe that cannot be taken by a corporation and commercialized by it. That’s the bad aspect of it. At the same time, you are finding a lot of the young generation galvanized socially in a collective way, whether it’s hacking or taking on Wall Street. It’s a curious time. I, myself at 47, am more interesting in find what’s alive, what is the pulse, than mourning any loss.


Christopher Lee – Part 2

In addition to doing films in the United Kingdom, Lee did movies in Mainland Europe: he appeared in Count Dracula, where he again played the vampire count, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Castle of the Living Dead and Horror Express.

Since the mid 1970s, Lee has eschewed horror roles almost entirely. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond spy novels and Lee’s stepcousin, had offered him the role of Dr No in the first official Bond film. Lee accepted, but the producers had already cast the role. In 1974, Lee finally got to play a James Bond villain when he was cast as the deadly assassin Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun.

In 1982, Lee appeared in The Return of Captain Invincible. In this film, Lee plays a fascist who plans to rid America (and afterwards, the world) of all non-whites. Lee sings on two tracks in the film (“Name Your Poison” and “Mister Midnight”), written by Richard O’Brien (who had written The Rocky Horror Picture Show seven years previously) and Richard Hartley.

In 1985, he appeared in Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch. In 1998, Lee starred in the role of Muhammad Al Jinnah, founder of modern Pakistan, in the film Jinnah. While talking about his favourite role in film at a press conference, he declared that his role in Jinnah was by far his best performance.

Lee played Saruman in the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. In the commentary, he states he had a decades-long dream to play Gandalf but that he was now too old and his physical limitations prevented his being considered. The role of Saruman, by contrast, required no horseback riding and much less fighting. Lee had met Tolkien once (making him the only person inThe Lord of the Rings film trilogy to have done so) and makes a habit of reading the novels at least once a year. Lee’s appearance in the third film was cut from the theatrical release. However, the scene was reinstated in the extended edition.

The Lord of the Rings marked the beginning of a major career revival that continued in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), in which he played Count Dooku. His autobiography states that he did much of the swordplay himself, though a double was required for the more vigorous footwork.

Lee has also become a regular in many of Tim Burton’s films, five times since 1999. He had a small role as the Burgomaster in the film Sleepy Hollow (1999), Lee then went on to voice the character of Pastor Galswells in Corpse Bride (2005), and play a small role in the Burton’s reimagining of the Roald Dahl tale Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). His part was cut from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). He voiced the Jabberwocky in Burton’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic book Alice in Wonderland (2010). In 2012, Lee marked his fifth collaboration with Tim Burton by appearing in his film adaptation of the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows.

In 2011, Lee appeared in The Resident and the critically acclaimed Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese. Lee will be reprising the role of Saruman for the Lord of the Rings prequel film The Hobbit.

In 2001, Lee was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2009. In 2011, Lee was awarded the BAFTA Academy Fellowship by Tim Burton.


In Praise of Andy Serkis By James Franco

The new Planet of the Apes film, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes belongs to Andy Serkis. Narratively it was always his film: I play an emotionally stilted scientist who in the process of mistakenly unleashing a lethal virus on the human race, learns to care for others;Serkis gets to play Caesar, essentially Che Guevara in chimp form. There is no question that his character arc is much more dynamic and fascinating, it is the story line that takes the franchise’s central theme of culture/racial/species clash and turns it on it’s head by making the maligned apes the unequivocal heroes.  We get to watch the fall of mankind and enjoy it because we root for the underdogs, the apes.

But this narrative structure is only half of the story; there is also an acting revolution that has taken place.  Andy Serkis is the undisputed master of the newest kind of acting called “performance capture,” and it is time that Serkis gets credit for the innovative artist that he is.

When Serkis was hired to play the inimitable character, Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy it was initially only for his voice, the character was meant to be entirely animated. But Serkis got so physically involved in the production of the character’s odd voice – Serkis was inspired by his cat coughing up a hairball – that Jackson decided to find a way to capture the performance so that it could be translated into a digitally rendered character. This was the birth of performance capture as we know it, the process that led to the nuanced performance behind King Kong, the blue things in Avatar, and now Caesar. Audiences are used to large scale effects: impossible explosion, space travel, fantastic fairytale worlds, boys in tights swinging around New York, men with Squids for faces, but there is still a disconnection that happens when a character’s outer surface is rendered in a computer like Caesar’s was. We want to forget that there is a human underneath, the effects are so  well rendered we either forget that the spark of life in it’s eyes and the life in its limbs is informed by a breathing human or we are so drawn into the ontology of the character we can’t grasp its artistic origins or exactly how it was created. What this means is that we can enjoy such a character – enjoyment testified by the response to such films as Avatar, Return of the King, and Planet of the Apes – but we don’t give artistic credit where it is due.

I, as much as anyone, can get anxious when I think about the future of movies and the possibility of the obsolescence of actors, or at least actors as we know them, but after making Apes I realize that this is backward thinking. Performance Capture is here, like it or not, but it also doesn’t mean that old-fashioned acting will go the way of silent film actors. Performance Capture actually allows actors to work opposite each other in more traditional ways, meaning that the actors get to interact with each other and look into each others eyes. For years computer technology forced actors to act opposite tennis balls if a movie wanted to have CG creatures, but now the process has come full circle so that actors playing CG creatures can perform in practical sets, just like the “human” actors. In acting school I was taught to work off my co-stars, not to act but react and that was how I would achieve unexpected results, not by planning a performance, but by allowing it to arise from the dynamic between actors, and on The Rise of the Planet of the Apes that’s exactly what I was able to do opposite Andy as Caesar. And Andy got to do the same because every gesture, every facial expression, every sound he made was captured, his performance was captured.  Then, what the Weta effects team did was to essentially “paint” the look of Caesar over Andy’s performance.  This is not animation as much as it’s digital  “make-up.”  There are plenty of Oscar winning performances that depended on prosthetic make-up to help create the characters: John Hurt’s in The Elephant Man, Nicole Kidman’s in The Hours, Sean Penn’s in Milk. Those actors depended on make-up artists to augment the look of their characters, but the performance underneath came solely from the actors. Well, that’s exactly the same position that Andy is in, his problem is that the digital “make-up” is so convincing that it makes people forget that he provides the soul of Caesar. That soul, the thing that was so compelling about that film, came from Andy, and the way he rendered that soul is of equal importance, if not more important than the photo
realistic surface of the character.

Andy doesn’t need me to tell him he is an innovator, he knows it. What is needed is recognition for him, now. Not later when this kind of acting is de riguer, but now, when he has elevated this fresh mode of acting into an art form. And it is time for actors to give credit to other actors. It is easy to praise the technical achievements of this film, but those achievements would be empty without Andy. Caesar is not a character that is dependent on human forms of expression to deliver the emotion of the character: despite the lack of any human gestures, and maybe two or  three words of human speech Caesar is a fully realized character, not human, and not quite ape; this is no Lassie and this is no Roger Rabbit, it is the creation of an actor doing something that I dare say no other actor could have done at this moment. Courtesy of the Deadline Team.


J. R. R. Tolkien

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE (3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973) was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Simarillion

Tolkien served as a signals officer at the Somme. On 27 October 1916 Tolkien came down with trench fever, a disease carried by the lice which were common in the dugouts. A weak and emaciated Tolkien spent the remainder of the war alternating between hospitals and garrison duties, being deemed medically unfit for general service.

Tolkien was a professor at Pembroke College, Oxford, from 1925 to 1959. He was a close friend of C. S. Lewis, they were both members of the informal literary discussion group known as the Inklings. It was during his time at Pembroke College Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings, whilst living at 20 Northmoor Road in North Oxford (where a commemorative blue plaque was placed in 2002). Tolkien completed The Lord of the Rings in 1948, close to a decade after the first sketches. Tolkien also translated the Book of Jonah for the Jerusalem Bible, which was published in 1966.

Tolkien never expected his stories to become popular, but by sheer accident a book called The Hoobit, which he had written some years before for his own children, came in 1936 to the attention of Susan Dagnall, an employee of the London publishing firm George Allen & Unwin, who persuaded Tolkien to submit it for publication. However, the book attracted adult readers as well as children, and it became popular enough for the publishers to ask Tolkien to produce a sequel.

The request for a sequel prompted Tolkien to begin what would become his most famous work: the epic novel The Lord of the Rings (originally published in three volumes 1954–1955). Tolkien spent more than ten years writing the primary narrative and appendices for The Lord of the Rings, during which time he received the constant support of the Inklings, in particular his closest friend Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia. Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are set against the background of The Silmarillion, but in a time long after it.

Tolkien at first intended The Lord of the Rings to be a children’s tale in the style of The Hobbit, but it quickly grew darker and more serious in the writing. Though a direct sequel to The Hobbit, it addressed an older audience, drawing on the immense back story of Beleriand that Tolkien had constructed in previous years, and which eventually saw posthumous publication in The Silmarillion and other volumes. Tolkien’s influence weighs heavily on the whole fantasy genre that grew up after the success of The Lord of the Rings.

The Lord of the Rings became immensely popular in the 1960s and has remained so ever since, ranking as one of the most popular works of fiction of the 20th century, judged by both sales and reader surveys. In the 2003 “Bi g Read” survey conducted by the BBC, The Lord of the Rings was found to be the “Nation’s Best-loved Book”. In a 1999 poll of online store Amazon.com customers, The Lord of the Rings was judged to be their favourite “book of the millennium”.

Tolkien was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on 28 March 1972. After his death, Tolkien’s son Christopher published a series of works based on his father’s extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion. These, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about a fantasy world called Arda, and Middle Earth within it. Between 1951 and 1955, Tolkien coined the term legendarium to the larger part of these writings.

While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien,the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings led directly to a popular resurgence of the genre. This has caused Tolkien to be popularly identified as the “father” of modern fantasy literature. In 2008, The Times ranked him sixth on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. Forbes ranked him the 5th top-earning dead celebrity in 2009, due in large part to the success of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy of films.


Elijah Wood is a ‘Maniac’

Elijah Wood is the lead in the remake of ‘Maniac’ (1980) The indie will be directed by Franck Khalfoun and produced by Alexandre Aja and Gregory Lavasseur. Wood plays the role of a serial killer who works at a shop that sells antique mannequins. He finds victims on the Internet and stalks them like prey, all the while suffering from hallucinations that throw him back into the past, when he was abused by his own mother. In his twisted mind, he gains a measure of revenge against his mother with each kill. It will shoot later this year.

This isn’t the first deranged killer role for Wood, who was unnerving as the creepy cannibal Kevin in Sin City. Wood has been busy lately, voice work in the upcoming Happy Feet 2, the indie Celeste and Jesse, Sky TV’s Treasure Island, and, of course, he reprises his signature role in The Hobbit. Wood also reprises his starring role in the series Wilfred, which begins production early next year.


Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro (born October 9, 1964) is a Mexican director, producer, screenwriter, novelist and designer. He is mostly known for his acclaimed films, ‘Blade II’, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and the ‘Hellboy’ film franchise.

He first got involved in filmmaking when he was about eight years old and studied special effects and make-up with legendary SFX artist Dick Smith. He spent eight years as a special effects make-up designer and formed his own company, Necropia. Guillermo wrote and directed ‘Cronos’ in 1993. A Mexican horror film starring veteran Argentine actor Federico Luppi and American actor Ron Perlman, the first of several films on which del Toro, Luppi and Perlman have collaborated.

In 1998, at the age of 34, Guillermo was given a $30 million budget from Miramax to shoot his second film, ‘Mimic’. During this time, his father, Federico del Toro, was kidnapped in Guadalajara, Mexico. Although Federico was eventually released safely, the event prompted Del Toro, his parents and his siblings to move abroad.

In 2001, del Toro wrote, directed and produced ‘The Devil’s Backbone’, a gothic thriller set in Spain, 1939 during the Spanish Civil War. the film follows Carlos (Fernando Tielve), a young boy who arrives at an orphanage, thinking that he will be staying there temporarily, until his father returns from the war. Carlos then sees a ghost of a boy in the kitchen doorway… The movie was a critical and commercial success, enough to warrant another Hollywood project.

He was entrusted with the sequel to comic book vampire hit Blade, ‘Blade II’ was a better film than it’s predeccessor and to date the most successful in the franchise. Taking up the action two years after the first movie, Blade has been killing vampires in Russia and Eastern Europe before a new challenge arrises. Decribed brilliantly at time of release as “Blade II is for those undiscriminating movie-goers who want nothing more from a trip to the multiplex than loud, raucous, mindless entertainment.”

In 2004, he wrote and directed  his dream project, ‘Hellboy’ based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola. Starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy, a demonic beast who secretly works to keep the world safe from paranormal threats. The movie is visually spectacular and was successful enough to warrant a sequel in 2008. ‘Hellboy II: The Golden Army’, also written and directed by del Toro.

In 2006, del Toro released his best film to date, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. The film takes place in Spain in May–June 1944, five years after the Spanish Civil War, during the early Franco period. The narrative of the film interweaves this real world with a fantasy world centered around an overgrown abandoned labyrinth and a mysterious faun creature, with which the main character, Ofelia, interacts. Ofelia’s stepfather, Captain Vidal, hunts the Spanish rebels who fight against the Fascist reign in the region, while Ofelia’s pregnant mother grows increasingly ill. Ofelia meets several strange and magical creatures who become central to her story, leading her through the trials of the old labyrinth garden. The film won three Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Cinematography and Make-Up.

Since the release of the Hellboy sequel, del Toro hasn’t directed another movie. He has however been incredibly busy writing and producing work for others. In a production capacity he brought us ‘The Orphanage’ (2007), ‘Splice’ (2009), ‘Julia’s Eyes’ (2010), ‘Kung-Fu Panda 2’ (2011) and ‘Don’t be Afraid of the Dark’ (2011) among others. He was bust for a considerable time writing the screenplay for the forthcoming adaptation of Tolkeins ‘The Hobbit’ which he was going to direct. he has since left the project and has four films lined up for Universal: ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ and ‘Pacific Rim’… the slate keeps changing, however whatever he decides to do, I’ll see.