Did the success of the first one allow you more freedom to take these liberties?
Philippa Boyens: I think that the film is beginning to take on an identity of its own. Peter always said that this is not the book. This is The Lord of the Rings as a film. You can't just film that book verbatim. It'd never work. People are beginning to accept that, and what's been interesting for us to see is people's investment in it. Great cinema comes to be owned by the audience. You really feel that now. I felt this investment when we met the fans who came to the movie in New York, for example. They have this huge investment, so even though they'll take you to task about something, they're now not only fans of the book, they're also fans of the movie. They're interested in why you're making changes not because "you can't do that," but because they're part of this thing, this whole storytelling process.
Do you see this movie as political in any way?
Peter Jackson: Political. Well, I don't quite know in what context politics comes into it. There are certainly themes Tolkien felt were important. We made a promise to ourselves at the beginning of the process that we weren't going to put any of our own politics, our own messages or our own themes into these movies. What we were trying to do was to analyze what was important to Tolkien and to try to honor that. In a way, we were trying to make these films for him, not for ourselves.
Anything that's in there is in there because we interpreted it as something that he felt strongly about. He wrote these books between 1937 and 1949, over a twelve year period, a decade of obviously incredible turmoil in the world. His themes are many and varied, really. As a professor, he was kind of interested in all sorts of things and vented about all sorts of things in the book. The hatred of factories swallowing up the countryside. And there's a lot about freedom and enslavement. Tolkien was very, very passionate about people's right to live their lives as they wanted to and their right to live as free peoples.
A lot of his themes, even the factory theme -- it's not just about the destruction of the countryside, it's not just a green message. It's as much about the fact that the factory enslaves you, the fact that it takes away your free will. The existence of the factory enslaves you to the machine. You show up at eight o'clock in the morning and you have no freedom until the whistle blows at six o'clock at night. Such a huge proportion of your life, you're enslaved to the machine.
The ring is about a loss of free will. The threat and the danger of the ring is that if you possess it and own it, it will slowly take away your ability to think for yourself. Frodo does what he does, he goes on this journey because he's terrified by the idea of his beloved homeland, the Shire, being enslaved. Whether you'd call those things political or not, I'm not sure, but they're certainly themes that Tolkien addressed.
Philippa Boyens: He would have hated it as a label, I believe. He was a humanist. And I think one of the great lessons of Lord of the Rings is that you can look at any era of human history and find great evil. What he's saying is that this is a universality that encompasses us all. The whole world is under threat. The whole of Middle Earth is under threat. Which is why it's: Unite or you will fall. That's what he was speaking to.
Peter Jackson: He also had a great pessimism, or rather, a melancholy about him and a lack of confidence in mankind. Which is really part of what he was venting about. He was aware of and frustrated with how flawed we are. He created the Elvish race as his perfect ideal beings. They were wise, they were artistic, they were noble, they were sensible, basically. They were full of common sense, if you want to describe the Elves in the other direction. [laughs] They embody basic common sense. The world was ok as long as the Elves were in charge, but of course, The Lord of the Rings is about the time when the Elves were departing.
And who's going to inherit this thing? Well, it's going to be men, and men, well, they squabble, they kill each other, they're territorial, they're petty, they're full of greed. The book is sort of a sad reflection on the fact that what was once great and pure and noble is now going to fall into the hands of these people called "man" or "mankind." And sure, I think Tolkien's right. I think everything we do today, yesterday and tomorrow is proving Tolkien to be completely right. The Elves should make their way back here. And take control again! Then the world would be a better place.
It seems that fantasy is replacing science fiction in the realm of imaginary cinema. Do you think that science fiction has been exhausted?
I know what you're saying and I think it's true. There seems to be a slight feeling of turning away from science fiction, of people preferring fantasy. Of course, science fiction is a form of fantasy. It's just a technological form of fantasy. But it seems people are preferring stories more based in the real world. You know, still with the magic and still with a little bit of fantasy but not quite so artificial. I've always thought of science fiction being relatively artificial. I've never quite liked science fiction, to tell you the truth. I've always preferred fantasy. Because fantasy feels more historical to me.
But Star Trek does that as well, with the social elements --
But still with the production design of a very futuristic world, which is hard to relate to. I think one of the problems with science fiction is that it's often quite difficult to put yourself in that world because it is so art directed and so over designed and so separate from what we can experience today. It's easier for us to project backwards to an older age and put ourselves back rather than put ourselves forward, at least in terms of positioning yourself within the world of the movie.
Why does Fran Walsh never do these interviews?
Well, she does that of her own choice. She's my partner and when we try to take our kids to the movies, she sees the difficult time that I have going to the movies in New Zealand where I get stopped all the time. People want to talk to me and have autographs, which is nice but Fran has determined that she never wants to become a familiar face or a celebrity in that way.
She actually isn't here, she's back in New Zealand staying with our kids. We've got two young kids and the kids are always put second to the film, for obvious reasons. The film kind of demands that it be done. But we just, rather than saying to our kids, "Mommy and Daddy are going to be away for two weeks," we just thought that this time we'd put the kids ahead of the movie. So I'm here and Fran's with the kids.
How old are they?
Six and seven.
Are they proud of you? Do they know what you've achieved?
[laughs] They're very grounded children. They're very down-to-earth kids. They're great. We showed them The Two Towers before anybody else saw it. Really, they were, like, the first people that ever saw it. The second it was finished, we ran it for our kids. I said to Billy at the end, "What'd you think?" And he said, "Yeah, Dad, that's pretty good. It was better than Spider-Man." And Spider-Man is his favorite film! He's got Spider-Man stuff all over his bedroom and everything, so really, the biggest compliment he could think of to give me was to say that it was better than Spider-Man. It was incredibly touching.
The movie wasn't a bit much? I mean, seven years old?
Nah, not for our kids. Our kids were on the set. They cuddled the Orcs with their rubber masks and they know the names of the stunt guys that are wearing those masks, so they can see through all that. They know exactly what they're seeing.
Could you talk a bit about the extended version of the DVD, the importance to you of that?
Well, there's not a lot to say other than the fact we cut the film to the length that we thought was right for the theatrical version. We felt the pacing was right. We would have felt very nervous with a three-and-a-half hour film last year. We just didn't want to do that. But of course, in doing so, you're losing a lot of really nice scenes. The DVD marketplace now allows the filmmaker these opportunities -- if they choose; a lot of filmmakers would never want to do it -- but I'm not feeling that pressure. I just thought that these are a lot of really great scenes and it would give the film a little more sense of character, a little more back story, and so, I was really enthusiastic about the idea of trying to create a slightly fuller version of the movie for DVD.
By no means does that have all the scenes that we shot. You're still trying to put into the film what you think is going to help the film and enhance it and you leave other stuff out. But somebody said to me, "Ok, so you've got the theatrical version and you've got your extended cut, so what's your definitive version of the film?" And I just couldn't really answer. I sort of can. I'm not a sort of auteur in the sense of, you know, "This is my vision" or "This is my masterpiece" or this is anything, it's just that that's a slightly longer version. That's all it is! Leave it up to people to make up their own minds, which they prefer to do, really.