For years, film industry insiders have been following the making of "The Hobbit" with as much enthusiasm as fans of the original J.R.R. Tolkien novel about Middle Earth. As the prequel to the immensely successful "The Lord of the Rings" films, production of "The Hobbit" was mired for years in studio budgeting issues and a changeover of directors to helm the films. Add to that director Peter Jackson's decision to split the story into three films and to use the new technology of filming at a higher frame rate (double the standard 24 frames per second) and you've got a story that goes far beyond the tale of Bilbo Baggins and his quest to the Lonely Mountain. As the cast and crew came together to promote the first of the new series, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," they addressed the choices that went into the making of a new franchise.
Peter Jackson on his reluctance to direct 'The Hobbit' after Guillermo Del Toro left the project:
"I thought that I wouldn't enjoy it, is the truth," says Jackson, who directed the film adaptations of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." "I thought I'd be competing against myself to some degree. I thought it would be interesting to have another director. Guillermo Del Toro was involved for a while. But after Guillermo left, because of the delays we were facing, it was still another six months or so before we got the green light. During that period of time, I just thought, well, I am actually enjoying this a lot more. ... I'd come to realize that there's a lot of charm, a lot of humor in 'The Hobbit' that 'The Lord of the Rings' didn't have. ... I thought, you know what? This is not 'Lord of the Rings.' I'm not going to try to make another film exactly like that. This gives me the opportunity to do something different."
Stars Andy Serkis and Sir Ian McKellen defend Jackson's decision to split 'The Hobbit' into three films:
"Anyone who thinks Peter Jackson would fall for market forces rather than artistic imperative doesn't know the guy and hasn't really examined the body of his work," says McKellen, who reprises his role as Gandalf from "The Lord of the Rings" series.
"It definitely warrants three films," Andy Serkis asserts about the slim children's novel. In addition to returning to the role of Gollum, Serkis is the director of the second unit for all three films. "These films are underlaid and textured with incredible detail. The dwarf characters in Tolkien's book are very thinly sketched. ... Every single dwarf, [in the films] you will get to know throughout the course of this journey... Condensing it into two films seems almost impossible now."
Peter Jackson discusses using the high frame rate technology, which is a manner of shooting at double the speed of regular film and is said to make 3-D technology easier on the eyes:
"It's the 48 [frames per second] that actually allows 3-D to reach the potential that it can achieve because it's less eye strain and you have a sharper picture, which creates more of a three dimensional world," Jackson says. "The thing to realize about it though is that it's not an attempt to change the film industry. It's another choice. The projectors that run at 48 frames can run at 24 frames. It doesn't have to be one thing or the other. ... For me, it gives that sense of reality, or immersiveness, that I love. It makes you feel like you are leaving the cinema seat and actually becoming part of the experience of the adventure of the film."