The Daily Telegraph
11 May 2001
Stars given early viewing of the first
By Nigel Reynolds Arts, Correspondent in Cannes
THE film adaptation of J R R Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings, the movie that hopes to challenge Harry Potter in cinemas this autumn, was given a secretive launch in Cannes last night as fresh pictures of the cinematic version of the Hobbit and his friends were released in France.
Only the cast, who include Sir Ian McKellan, Cate Blanchett, Sean Bean and Liv Tyler, and members of the crew were invited to see a 20-minute extract from one of the most expensive films ever made. Although they had spent months working on the film in New Zealand, it was their first chance to see some of the results of their efforts.
The Hollywood studio, New Line Cinema, has invested $300 million (£210 million) - the equivalent to filming Titanic three times over - to turn Tolkein's trilogy about the inhabitants of Middle Earth into a screen trilogy.
The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of the three, will be released around the world late this autumn, a few weeks after the first film adaptation of the Harry Potter books, costing £100 million, reaches cinemas. It is a commercial battle neither project can afford to lose.
Though the Lord of the Rings books are well known - 50 million copies have been sold worldwide - New Line is believed to have spent well in excess of £1 million to launch the project in Cannes in a careful strategy to garner maximum publicity.
The company has rented a castle an hour from Cannes and flown in the design team who worked on the film to turn it into a fantastic scene from Middle Earth. The public and even journalists covering the festival are barred from screenings at the castle.
One hundred and fifty selected magazine journalists are being flown in from around the world to see the 20-minute trailer and to meet the stars for three days. They have been asked not to reveal any details of the trailer this far before the film is released.
One insider said yesterday: "When they have spent so much making The Lord of the Rings, this kind of event is just pocket money." Although all three films, directed by Peter Jackson, are in the can there is expected to be a gap of a year between the showing of each of them.
Making three at once has never previously been attempted. Mr Jackson said it was the only way to complete the project. He said: "In order to do the tale's epic nature justice we had to shoot it as one big story because that's what it is. I look forward to the day when audiences can sit down and watch all three films in a row, because it is one big story and adventure."
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