An interview with the producers of

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring

by Brandon V

    Vanessa Hollins of Roadshow Entertainment was kind enough to invite me to hold a personal, face-to-face interview with two of the producers of The Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring ('LOTR'). We met on Wednesday June 5, 2002, the day after the party to celebrate the upcoming LOTR DVDs. The two producers are Barrie M. Osborne and Mark Ordesky.

    Apart from LOTR, Barrie M. Osborne has co-produced a number of successful movies, including The Matrix, Face-Off, Dick Tracy, Child's Play, Peggy Sue Got Married, The Cotton Club, and The Big Chill. As a Production Manager, Osborne worked on a number of classic movies, including The Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now. During a two year tenure as Vice President for Feature Production at Walt Disney Pictures, Osborne oversaw features including Ruthless People, The Colour Of Money, Tin Men, Three Men And A Baby, Tough Guys, Outrageous Fortune, Roger Rabbit and Good Morning Vietnam.

    In 1997, following his acquisition of the Oscar-winning Shine, Mark Ordesky began his tenure as the head of Fine Line Features. At 34, Ordesky became one of the youngest executives in Hollywood to head a motion picture company. Ordesky has also nabbed such acquisitions as Saving Grace, Bernardo Bertolucci’s Beseiged, Oscar-nominated Before Night Falls, Tumbleweeds and The Sweet Hereafter. Ordesky is also remembered for successfully introducing Jackie Chan to U.S. audiences with the smash success Rumble in the Bronx.

BV: Thank you both very much for your time, and congratulations on the outstanding and continued success of the movie. I imagine that the amount of money invested in the LOTR movies, and the fact that you made three at once, suggests that you were expecting it to be successful, but were you surprised at all by the box office records?

BMO: We did expect it to be successful when the project got the green light, but yes, this movie exceeded our expectations.

BV: I'd like to touch on some external influences. Firstly, certain books, such as Dune and LOTR already have an army of fans globally. While that provides you with a ready audience, did you feel that it constrained you in any way in making the movie? Did you feel that you had to be faithful to the books?

MO: We always believed that we had a responsibility to the fans, and to the work itself. It is important to remember that the script for the movies was written by fans of the books. That passion for Tolkien's work can be seen in the attention to detail with these movies, and with the involvement of people like Alan Lee.

BMO: That's right. This is a movie made by die-hard fans who love the material.

BV: Another form of external influence comes in the form of other big-release movies. For example, movie goers are currently blessed with a few blockbuster movie-serials, such as the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies. Has this impacted on the production of LOTR at all -- do you ever feel that you have to top something done in other movies?

BMO: The impact is always positive. Great movies inspire more movie going. Those movies you mentioned are not in competition, but are complementary to LOTR.

MO: Exactly! That story that we were competing with Harry Potter is completely false. The market always expands to take in great movies. And there aren't that many great films out there.

BMO: We're really running our own race. We don't feel a need to top what anyone else does, we find our own level.

MO: Make the best possible film you can!

BV: How, if at all, do you think that the advent of DVD has changed the movie making process? Considering some of the items that appear in the special features on DVDs now, do you ever think 'wow, we should capture that for the special features', or 'we'll film these extra scenes for the DVD release'?

BMO: Peter [Jackson] is an avid fan of the DVD medium. From the very beginning of the project, even in pre-production, he wanted a videographer to document the entire production for the DVD's special features. We notified everyone in the production to invite this guy, Costa, into their areas whenever they were working on anything interesting.

BV: At what point did you decide to have an extended version of the movie on DVD?

BMO: This was an organic thing. There were a number of elements of exposition to bring you into the world of Middle-earth. The theatrical version of the film could not bear that much exposition, so a number of scenes were cut -- these included the 'gift-giving' scenes, and the prologue 'Concerning Hobbits'. Fans of the books will love to see these scenes restored to the movie, and Peter and New Line agreed it was a great idea. The effects work for some of these scenes had started, but was not finished. Also, the music was composed, but not recorded. For the extended DVD, we've gone to the expense of recording the music for these scenes with the London Symphony Orchestra, and finishing all the effects work. The end product will be seamless, and the work itself warranted it.

BV: With the Matrix and Star Wars movies being made here, and LOTR being made in New Zealand, there seems to be a greater awareness of the movie making process here, and local people wanting to be part of that. Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to become involved?

BMO: You have a great industry here. Australia has always produced world class cinematographers, production designers and actors. Australia is now an important film centre. As for advice, I'm not sure . . .

MO: It requires passion and hard work. As they say, it's not all sunglasses and swimming pools.

BV: Before LOTR, if someone said the name 'Peter Jackson' to me, I would have thought of Meet The Feebles, Brain Dead and Bad Taste. (I love Meet The Feebles by the way). I realize that he's done a few other things, but how did a Kiwi director of low budget 'schlock movies' get trusted with this multi-billion dollar project. There's nothing in his past to suggest that he could have pulled it off...

MO: You're right. If you apply conventional wisdom, you wouldn't have picked Peter. In fact, when he started pitching this project, many studios wouldn't even take the meeting. But I'd known him since 1986 or 1987 when he was commissioned to write a script for a Nightmare On Elm Street film that remained unproduced. As I got to know him better over the years, I could see his potential. He had reached that moment when you knew he could do something special. Our personal knowledge of him was the difference.

BV: Would still have shot the film in New Zealand without him?

BMO: Well Peter initiated this project -- it's Peter's project -- and you need a crowbar to prize Peter Jackson out of New Zealand. Besides, unspoiled New Zealand was very fortunate as it fits this film very well. It needed to look like nowhere you had seen before, like mountains in Europe etc.

BV: The movie features a number of renowned British actors, including Ian Holm, Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee. These are actors who are not just recognizable, but are considered to be very talented and serious about their craft. Was it hard to involve them in a heavily effects-based movie?

MO: No -- these guys are all fans of the books. In fact, Chris Lee has read LOTR every year since it was published, and even knew Tolkien himself. Ian Holm was the voice of Frodo in the famous BBC radio version of the books, and he already knew the story well. No one did this as a gig -- it's a serious commitment for the next few years.

BV: Considering that our readership are Home Theatre and DVD fans, is there anything you would like to let them know in particular?

MO: Yes -- 70% of LOTR was digitally graded, and the quality of the source material for the DVD is exceptional -- it's pristine. The second movie will be 100% digitally graded, and we are hoping to do a straight digital transfer, [such as A Bug's Life or Toy Story 2]. That is very, very exciting.

BV: Thank you again for your time. On behalf of our readers, I wish you well with the continued success of the movies, and I'm sure most, if not all, of our readers are 'chomping at the bit' to get hold of that 'Special Extended Edition DVD' in November.