Peter Jackson has staged some epic, humdinger battles on-screen, but the battle royale taking place off-screen over The Hobbit — with actors’ unions feuding with the production and Warner Bros. threatening to relocate filming out of New Zealand — clearly has left him deeply exasperated. In an interview with a New Zealand television reporter (see part of the interview embedded below), the director vents his frustration at the ongoing labor dispute, which is just the latest in a series of difficult hurdles he has had to overcome to bring The Hobbit to the screen.
Appearing with co-writer Philippa Boyens on a soundstage built for The Hobbit, he frets that the unions’ boycott — which he says had “no validity” — has done great harm to the reputation of the New Zealand film industry, so much so that he doesn’t know how he can persuade Warner Bros. that it should spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make the two Hobbit films there. “I don’t know what to say,” he says. “This is where I’m out of my depth … I can talk my way around the movie. But to tell the studio why investing $500 million in our country is a good idea when they’ve just seen the disgusting, frivolous action that’s happened … I literally don’t know what to say to them.” Taking aim at Helen Kelly, the president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, who has been critical of his handling of the dispute, Jackson’s anger boils over: “How dare you. You are choosing an Australian union over the workers of our country. Stuff her. I don’t care what the hell she says.”
At the same time, Jackson insists he is neither anti-union (“I’m a paid-up member of four different unions”) nor anti-actor (“They can be a little self-centered, some of them,” he says, “but we have had a huge show of support, too.”) With the brinksmanship on both sides reaching a climax, Jackson says he doesn’t know at this point whether the film will stay in New Zealand or not. “Is the movie going to come or go? We don’t know,” he says. “The damage has been done.”
It’s been a long, tough slog just to get this movie to the starting line. Obviously, yesterday’s casting news lifted the spirits of Hobbit-watchers, but given how crucial the strange and beautiful New Zealandness of New Zealand is to Jackson’s vision of Middle-earth, does this ongoing wrangling worry you? Watch the video below (there’s also additional footage from the Jackson interview here) and share your thoughts.