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The Fellowship of the Ring
Tolkien’s otherworldly trilogy gets off to an expensive start — but will it be Hobbit-forming?

”One ring to rule them all … ” The incantation is enough to start fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy drooling. At least that’s what New Line Cinema hopes for its Fellowship of the Ring, the first of three movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth fantasies. The cast — which includes Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, and Elijah Wood as Ring leader Frodo Baggins — spent more than a year in New Zealand filming the pictures back-to-back. Those unacquainted with Baggins’ merry crew will soon be: The studio is honing an exhaustive marketing campaign — which began with a lavish Internet site launched in May 1999 — for the $270 million trilogy, set to open during three consecutive Christmas seasons. At the center of all this frenzy: director Peter Jackson, whose biggest flick to date is 1996’s $16.8 million-grossing The Frighteners. New Line, however, has full confidence in the longtime Tolkien freak. ”This is a life’s work for him,” says Michael Lynne, the studio’s president and COO. ”He really is a horse to be able to do it at all — it’s an incredible undertaking.” Of mythic proportions. (Dec. 19)

Bandits
Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton bank on a heist comedy

Bruce Willis sporting a ponytail? Cate Blanchett playing it for laughs? This is not your average crime drama/road movie/romantic comedy. Willis and Thornton are gun-toting bank robbers whose hearts are captured by a tagalong housewife (Blanchett). According to Barry Levinson, the actress (Oscar nominated for 1998’s Elizabeth) has proved remarkably adept at taking a joke. ”It’s a huge departure for her,” admits the director. ”But she’s very, very humorous.” While comedy may suit her, we can’t say the same about Willis’ coiffure. (Summer)

New Faces Rosario Dawson

AGE 21 WHERE YOU’VE SEEN HER In Kids, He Got Game, and Down to You COMING SOON A high-profile role in Josie and the Pussycats and a supporting part in Ed Burns’ Sidewalks of New York. But she could pop opposite Eddie Murphy in the sci-fi comedy Pluto Nash. HOW SHE GOT DISCOVERED ”I was hanging on the street [in Manhattan] where they were scouting locations for Kids. They saw me and were like, ‘Hey, you’d be really great for this movie! Are you available?’ And I wasn’t really doing anything else that summer, so … ” WHAT DO 7,000 EXTRAS SCREAMING FOR YOUR FICTIONAL ROCK BAND SOUND LIKE? ”WOOOOaaahhhhWOOOO. Then it cuts off. Very strange.”

Phone Booth
Filmmaker Joel Schumacher rings up a 10-day wonder

”Everyone thinks we’re crazy,” laughs director Joel Schumacher about the madcap 10-day shooting schedule for his real-time thriller Phone Booth, starring his Tigerland discovery Colin Farrell as a scummy New York PR guy who picks up a ringing pay phone only to be told he’ll be shot if he hangs up. Schumacher says a different kind of gun to the head — a meager (and undisclosed) budget — forced the approach. ”You can only shoot with the money they give you for the days,” he sighs, adding, ”It can be done. A lot of money is wasted on a film. Work always expands to fill the time.” Now. if only Hollywood could convince James Cameron of that.