The Lord of the Rings - Cannes Coverage

Last Update: 12 May 2001

E! Online

12 May 2001

"Lord of the Rings" Takes Cannes

Sure, the French Riviera's nice. But all eyes shifted from the Croisette to Middle Earth this week, as one of the most-hyped events of the Cannes Film Festival focused on just one film.

Well, make that 14 minutes of one film.

But for those anticipating the release of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, 14 minutes is enough to overflow Internet message boards for the next six months. Add to it another 11 minutes of juicy previews from the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic tale, interviews with the film's stars, pieces from the set and a screening held inside a hilltop castle--and we're talking all-out media whirlwind here.

While the first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring, isn't due in theaters until December, New Line Cinema launched its trilogy with a three-day media event at Cannes that, not surprisingly, was a highly coveted ticket. It's not uncommon for unfinished films to be promoted at Cannes, but a marketing launch on such a massive scale is unprecedented.

"It's also kind of scary, too, showing what we're showing here," director Peter Jackson told the Associated Press. "It's weird, because it's not the movie. ...Lord of the Rings is such a rich book with great plot machinations and characters. It's a little bit painful to just show a seven-minute kind of sketchy montage of the story."

Still, that seemed enough to satiate (however temporarily) LOTR's fans.

New Line chairman Bob Shaye and Jackson presented 25 minutes of footage from the film, which featured a montage introducing key characters, including Bilbo Baggins (Sir Ian Holm), the wizard Gandalf ( Ian McKellen) and Frodo Baggins ( Elijah Wood), as well as a 14-minute excerpt of a chase sequence in the Mines of Moria and previews of the second and third installments of the trilogy, due in December 2002 and 2003, respectively.

Set to Howard Shore's pulsating score, the footage captivated the audience. founder Jorem Manka pronounced it "thrilling."

Friday's press conference was held at the Chateau de Castellaras near the town of Mougins, featuring Jackson, writer Phillippa Boyens, executive producer Mark Ordesky, producer Barrie Osborne and effects coordinator Richard Taylor.

Ordesky noted that, while shooting the entire $270 million trilogy at once might have been a risky undertaking (after all, its success is probable, but not a given), the studio saved as much as $100 million from reduced travel, equipment and talent costs. "We see it as the launch of a franchise, a brand that will be the company's legacy for years to come," he said.

As a longtime fan of the J.R.R. Tolkien books, Jackson said he had long wanted to see a film adaptation that appealed to him, so he was making the films he had always wanted to see. Jackson also addressed the need to fulfill the expectations of core fans but also appeal to a wider audience--which is one of the reasons the romantic elements of the story have been enhanced onscreen.

Later, in roundtable interviews, stars including Viggo Mortensen (who plays human warrior Aragorn), Sean Bean (Boromir), Sean Astin (hobbit Samwise Gamgee), Liv Tyler (the elf Arwen), Wood and McKellen all spoke highly of their experience shooting in New Zealand, adding that, while the 18-month production schedule was an enormous investment, it was worth the time.

Meanwhile, at the Chateau de Castellaras, a decorating and construction crew was already hard at work preparing for the massive launch party that would take place two days later. The site was to be transformed into a replica of Hobbiton, replete with thatched-roof cottages and other set pieces from the film. Photos were forbidden as the studio reps wanted to make sure the site was complete before being shot.

But as New Line's LOTR bash proved, some things are just too tempting not to sneak an early glimpse.

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