Peter Jackson vows to keep Hobbit in NZ

20:26, Oct 21 2010
Film workers march in Wellington to plead with actors to abandon a boycott of The Hobbit.
Film workers march in Wellington to plead with actors to abandon a boycott of The Hobbit.
Film workers march in Wellington to plead with actors to abandon a boycott of The Hobbit.
Film workers march in Wellington to plead with actors to abandon a boycott of The Hobbit.
Film workers march in Wellington to plead with actors to abandon a boycott of The Hobbit.
Weta chief Sir Richard Taylor (middle) marches with film workers in Wellington.
Film workers march in Wellington to plead with actors to abandon a boycott of The Hobbit.
Film workers march in Wellington to plead with actors to abandon a boycott of The Hobbit.
Film workers march in Wellington to plead with actors to abandon a boycott of The Hobbit.
Film workers march in Wellington to plead with actors to abandon a boycott of The Hobbit.
Film workers march in Wellington to plead with actors to abandon a boycott of The Hobbit.
Film workers march in Wellington to plead with actors to abandon a boycott of The Hobbit.

A furious Sir Peter Jackson will "fight as hard as he can" to keep The Hobbit in New Zealand – but is already listing key Kiwi staff to take if the two-part film goes overseas.

And the director hit back at Council of Trade Union president Helen Kelly's claims that he had set up the actors' union to take the blame if the US$500 million (NZ$667m) movie is lost.

"I couldn't believe it. It was the first time I really got very angry."

Sir Peter Jackson
THWARTED FILM-MAKER: Sir Peter Jackson says he has heard every possible conspiracy theory. "I'm expecting to be told I was on the grassy knoll in Dallas any moment now."

Asked if it was fingers crossed that The Hobbit would remain, Jackson said: "I don't know what to cross any more. I've just got to get some sleep. I haven't had much sleep in the past few days."

It was unlikely he would be able to take more than 150 Kiwi crew – compared with a minimum of 2500 he could employ here – but did not yet "have the heart" to choose who.

"I'm supposed to put a tick beside the ones that would travel and a tick besides the ones that wouldn't," he said, his voice breaking.

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"If we can't make films in our country then what hope is there really? We may as well not live here."

Among countries being considered by Hollywood studio Warner Bros is Britain, where it has talked to industry representatives and looked at film locations.

A Warner team – including a production person fresh from considering Britain's locations and logistics – will fly to Wellington on Monday to decide whether to move the project overseas.

Jackson said he was at a loss as to why the CTU blamed him and Warner Bros.

Ms Kelly cited a belief Warner had already decided to move the films for bigger tax incentives and lower wages, and Jackson – a "spoilt brat" – was trying to set the union up to blame. Jackson described her as clueless.

"Why do people like Helen Kelly have to be driven by rhetoric and playing some kind of role where she's always got to be the victim and everyone else is to blame?

"She has tried every possible conspiracy theory. I'm expecting to be told I was on the grassy knoll in Dallas any moment now."

Outrageous Fortune star and Actors' Equity committee member Robyn Malcolm said yesterday she could not believe a request for a discussion around conditions was enough to derail the project.

"We're not even the coffee budget. Nobody wants Cate Blanchett's salary ..."

Co-producer Philippa Boyens said: "I think Robyn truly believes that, and it's a lack of responsibility and a lack of understanding. It does still mean that you can feel they are being used."

The studio felt it would be "walking into a situation of industrial strife". A hold had been put on casting Kiwi actors and it was uncertain if New Zealanders already cast would appear.

"The thing that upsets me is that New Zealand would no longer be Middle-earth any more. That's the heartbreaker."

Jackson said Warner Bros had noted some actors citing the court case of former Weta Workshop model maker James Bryson – deemed to be an employee, not a contractor.

"Now they are saying: 'What if an actor working on The Hobbit wakes up in the night and decides they are an employee, not an independent contractor, just like that other guy?"'

While rapt with the public support, Jackson was sceptical of it making a difference.

"How do you turn this into a good result? I'm racking my brains every minute of the day."

PATH CLEARED THROUGH ANGRY FILM WORKERS

Actors including Outrageous Fortune star Robyn Malcolm were accosted by film workers riled up over The Hobbit stoush as they left Wellington's Matterhorn restaurant.

Malcolm, an Actors' Equity committee member, was one of several actors dining with Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly and other union members on Wednesday night.

Technical workers who had taken part in Wednesday's Save the Hobbit march were also at the restaurant.

It is understood the technical workers approached Matterhorn staff and asked if they could approach the group and interview them. They were told they could do so outside and were warned against jostling or threatening the group.

The union delegates left to take part in a TV interview, leaving the actors behind. When they emerged later in the evening, they were surrounded by the angry film workers.

CTU president Helen Kelly said a message went up on a Facebook page encouraging people to head down to the Matterhorn to "abuse Robyn and throw eggs at her".

Ms Kelly said the actors were "hassled and bustled" as they left the restaurant.

Two police officers, who were walking past, escorted Malcolm and the group until they were clear of the crowd.

Matterhorn general manager Dylan Marychurch said nothing happened in the restaurant.

"Apparently some people who had some influence over the decision were having dinner here and some others who were disgruntled about it turned up and that's about it."

The Dominion Post