Cross-posted to Black Gate.
Principal photography is officially underway on the two-part adaptation of The Hobbit! Footage is occurring. Right now, in New Zealand, a crew is shooting the much delayed and hazard-prone project, under The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.
The public announcement from the studios involved was made yesterday, March 21, on the official Hobbit movie blog.
Better yet, we have proof that it is occurring: these two photos (second beneath the cut), initially posted to Peter Jackson’s Facebook page, of the director on a fully-dressed Bag End set, prepared and lit for the cameras.
It’s strange to think how much time has passed since that thrilling day in October 1999, when Variety and The Hollywood Reporter contained a two-page spread to announce that photography had started on the three Lord of the Rings films in New Zealand. The spread was a gorgeous Alan Howe painting of a Nazgûl perched on a hill over the Shire with the original logo design for the film. (I still have that older design on an edition of the novel I purchased soon after shooting began, just to have my first “merchandize” of the production). I cut out the ad and had it on my wall for ten years.
Now, how do I feel to hear that The Hobbit is finally on its journey There-and-Back Again? Honestly, I am not pitches at the same level of excitement. I love the novel The Hobbit, one of those great early childhood icons, but not the way I love The Lord of the Rings. I already have that story churned and re-churned through my system—and will get another dose in June when the Extended Editions finally make it to Blu-ray Disc. The Hobbit seems more like dessert. My excitement will increase as the premiere of the two-part film nears, of course, but it’s two years to go, and right now I’m focused on the upcoming Captain America, the revamped U.S. Godzilla, and A Princess of Mars. Those are also major genre loves, and long have I awaited them to emerge from the dark smithies of Hollywood. (In the case of Godzilla, waiting for someone to repair the damage done previously. Shame, shame, eternal shame on the 1998 travesty.)
Also, my early excitement for The Hobbit production peaked when it looked as if Guillermo del Toro would be directing it. Peter Jackson did a superb job handling The Lord of the Rings, but I wanted a different director’s take when it came to The Hobbit, which is stylistically such a different kind of book. (I like to refer to Tolkien’s three major works of fiction this way: The Hobbit is fairy-tale, The Lord of the Rings is legend, The Silmarillion is myth.) The idea of the monster-loving genius del Toro directing The Hobbit buried the needle on my geek meter. But the numerous delays on the production eventually caused del Toro to pull up stakes. And, unfortunately, earlier this month came the news came that Universal turned off the greenlight on del Toro’s adaptation of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Twice denied!
Nonetheless, we are headed back to a cinematic Middle Earth, and I will be there opening nights for both films.
Finally, it is strange seeing the thin version of Peter Jackson on these sets. Jackson was fairly hefty during the making of the trilogy—I certainly saw enough of him in the lengthy documentaries to know him well—but he dropped the weight by the time of King Kong. When I first saw these photos of Jackson on the set, I honestly didn’t realize it was him. I know what he looks like after the weight loss (I watched the King Kong documentaries as well), but not that version of him in a Middle Earth context. Weird. If there were a gorilla nearby, I would have known immediately.