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According to a recent essay on Polygon, there was a fierce battle, not in Gondor, but between Peter Jackson and Harvey Weinstein behind-the-scenes during the making of Lord of the Rings. Initially, the Hollywood mogul wanted Lord of the Rings to be a two-movie franchise, with a small budget. But, Jackson was having none of it. And so, Jackson’s team stepped in and made a bold move to protect the franchise. This is what happened!
How Peter Jackson got rid of Harvey Weinstein to save Lord of the Rings
Initially, Harvey Weinstein had acquired the rights to JRR Tolkien’s books on Middle Earth through Miramax. But, developing the franchise under his control seemed to be difficult for Jackson. This is because Weinstein wanted Rings to be a two-movie series, with a very limited budget of $75 million. These details have been revealed in an essay by film journalist Drew McWeeny on Polygon.
When the Lord of the Rings team found out about the finance cap, they decided to act. Back in those days, McWeeny was a writer for Ain’t It Cool News. He got his hands on a leaked script of Lord of the Rings, which came from people at WingNut and WETA studios. And the reason why the Rings team leaked the script was in hope that it would create some positive buzz in the media, which may result in some big production studios saving the film from the financial constraints that Weinstein had put on them. And that’s exactly what happened.
New Lines Cinema saved the franchise!
Peter Jackson had already had some contact with Ain’t It Cool at that point and there were many people within WingNut and WETA who were also reaching out. They felt like they were creating something great, and were worried they wouldn’t be able to find a studio willing to step up. So a decision was made to leak the scripts to Ain’t It Cool in a way that everyone could deny later. They didn’t come directly from anyone and no one ever officially asked us to cover them, so if I was ever pressed, I could honestly say that it wasn’t Peter or Fran [Walsh]. What’s clear, though, is that I was given access to them so I could talk about what I thought at the exact moment that New Line was trying to make their decision.
Luckily, New Line Cinema stepped in and saved Lord of the Rings. But, Peter Jackson couldn’t completely get rid of the Weinstein name. Their names stayed in the credits as executive producers. But, with New Line, Peter Jackson was able to expand Lord of the Rings into a trilogy. And he was able to do so with a lavish budget. The rest, as they say, is history.