Even with the first bit of official casting news arriving late last week for "The Hobbit," the biggest issue yet to be solved is just where to shoot the two movie, $500 million production. Following a union blacklist earlier in the month against the film, which charged that it was an "anti-union" production leading to acting guilds advising their members not work on it, Warner Bros. has made good on their threats to investigate alternate options to shooting the film in New Zealand.
With Warner Bros. executives arriving in New Zealand today to talk about moving the film elsewhere, New Zealand PM John Key hopes to convince the studio that there will be no more labor issues, and will urge them to keep "The Hobbit" in the country. Key told the media over the weekend it was "a 50-50 call" as to whether the films will stay in the country or not adding, "I'd love to tell you that it's a done deal, but we're a long way away from being a done deal. There's' a number of issues that we'd need to resolve....They like New Zealand, and clearly Peter Jackson wants to work out of New Zealand, but in the end this is the better part of $US0.5-$US0.75 billion that Warner Brothers need to invest and they've got to be sure they can hit deadlines, they've got to be sure that they can make the movies, and it's got to be cost competitive. Unfortunately the actions of the unions have forced Warner Brothers to go and look at other locations and that could be to New Zealand's detriment."
These sentiments echo those by Peter Jackson in an interview to New Zealand television last week where he said, “The blacklist is not the issue anymore. Lifting the blacklist doesn’t solve the problem. It’s a question of confidence in our industrial relations and the damage was done within a week of the blacklist going on. [The studio] is frankly worried, because the actor’s [union] brought a completely frivolous action down on the studio. Now if they’ve done that once, what happens in a year’s time when Warner’s Bros. have spent $250 million dollars, they’ve halfway through the film and the actor’s [union] decide to have a little fun again? It’s like it could happen all over again. They have no confidence.”
But if the PM is going to be working hard to save the film, so is the public. Rallies began yesterday around the country (preceeded by a viral video call to arms; see below) with the public throwing their voice into the ring to let WB execs know they want the films to stay. Rally coordinator Mark Harrison said, "Sir Peter said that these were his darkest days. We want to show our support for him and we want Warner to know that their investment in New Zealand actors and actresses will be safe," going on to add, "We will do anything we can to make this film happen in New Zealand."
While the next forty-eight hours should prove to be the most fascinating yet for the ongoing saga of "The Hobbit," bits and pieces about the cast to join the film continue to leak out. Over the weekend, Sylvester McCoy, first linked to the project at the end of August, confirmed at the Armaggedon Expo in Auckland, that he had been offered the role of Radagast The Brown, but that nothing was yet signed. He joins a host of other talent including James Nesbitt, David Tennant, Stephen Fry, Saoirse Ronan and Bill Nighy all rumored, but yet to be confirmed.