Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
Documents released by the New Zealand government today reveal more of the intense nature of the 2010 dispute over The Hobbit which threatened to move production out of the country. Included are emails between Peter Jackson and government officials which further crystallize the ire in the Shire over the aggressive tactics and demands of New Zealand Actors’ Equity and its Oz-based umbrella, The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance — which repped a small amount of actors — during their campaign to unionize the production. The turmoil ultimately calmed when the government amended the labor laws and gave the Warner Bros production $56M to shoot in the country after Jackson threatened to film elsewhere. Jackson and partner Fran Walsh said today they hope the documents (read them here) will “put to rest the unfounded conspiracy theories that sought to characterize these events as a Hollywood studio dictating terms to a sovereign government — a charge that is as spurious now as it was then.”
The exchanges related to the government and Warner Bros’ deal were initially deemed too commercially sensitive to be released. But a recent ruling under the Official Information Act ordered 18 documents be published by March 1. In one note to ministers, Jackson wrote: “In the end, this is not about Actor’s Equity, nor is it about The Hobbit — it is about an Australian trade union making a blatant play to take a controlling hand in the NZ film industry — for their own political and financial gain.” In a separate email about then-Actors’ Equity head Simon Whipp, the director said the government had “engaged with a snake, who now feels quite fearless… He is in revenge mode, intent on inflicting as much damage as he can to our film, our film industry, to our country. I really can’t [take] much more of this toxic nonsense.”
Via their WingNut Films, Jackson and Walsh said today, “We could have made The Hobbit in Europe, or New South Wales (who offered Warner Bros a huge tax rebate for the film), and earned the same fee for ourselves with a lot less stress. But we fought to keep the film here and work with the actors and crew we love. We think this was worth fighting for and we’d do it again.”
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