Before Peter Jackson teamed up with New Line Cinema on his massive “The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy, he first started developing his J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation at Miramax under the supervision of Harvey Weinstein. But trying to make an expensive fantasy epic with Weinstein proved impossible for Jackson, as is clear in British film writer Ian Nathan’s new book, “Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson & The Making of Middle-Earth.”
According to Nathan’s book (via The Guardian), Weinstein believed Jackson was wasting $12 million by developing “The Lord of the Rings” as a franchise made up of multiple movies. Jackson was planning to make two “Lord of the Rings” films with Miramax. Weinstein reportedly threatened to replace Jackson with his longtime collaborator Quentin Tarantino if Jackson did not agree to make a single two-hour adaptation of the text. Weinstein was also eyeing “Shakespeare in Love” director John Madden.
“Harvey was like, ‘You’re either doing this or you’re not. You’re out. And I got Quentin ready to direct it,” Weinstein producer Ken Kamins told Nathan for the book.
Jackson ended up getting a memo on June 17, 1998 from Miramax development head Jack Lechner detailing a “more radical, streamlined approach” to the adapted screenplay that would tell Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” story in a two-hour movie. Miramax’s version of the script edited out numerous set pieces, including the famous battle at Helm’s Deep and the Balrog attack.
“It was literally guaranteed to disappoint every single person that has read that book,” Jackson told Nathan.
Jackson went to Kamins to say he and his partner Fran Walsh would not be able to adapt “The Lord of the Rings” in the specific ways Weinstein wanted. Thanks to some persuasion from the producer, Weinstein agreed to allow Jackson and Walsh to take their script elsewhere. The pair eventually set up shop at New Line Cinema and created one of the most famous movie trilogies in history.
Weinstein’s threats weren’t the only obstacle Jackson faced while developing “Lord of the Rings” at Miramax. The director made headlines last December for revealing that Weinstein blacklisted actresses Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino from being considered for casting, telling Jackson that both women were “a nightmare to work with” on set.
“Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson & The Making of Middle-Earth” is now available for pre-order. The book will be released on October 16, 2018.