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LORD OF THE RINGS: INSIDE THE TWO TOWERS

WHAT’S MISSING - ISN’T MISSED
The Sydney premiere of The Two Towers brought together some of the stars and filmmakers from The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. But, as Andrew L. Urban, says, something seemed to be missing. He spoke to David Wenham, Miranda Otto and producer Barrie Osborne about it. Photo courtesy David Morgan.


Sydney’s red carpet premiere of The Two Towers (Dec. 19, 2002) was all colour and movement as some of the film’s stars and a few crew, producer Barrie Osborne and Executive Producer Mark Ordesky mingled with celebrity guests. The Fellowship of The Ring had already proved a global mega-hit in cinemas and on DVDs; Oscars had been won. Praises had been sung. The cast and crew had been hailed. But something was missing.

Missing, it seems to me, was ego. And I don’t mean the usual gossip that floats away from the set. I mean the ego that drives the creative and production people to be noticed; to exert power. Ego that bruises others. 

"wanted the work to shine"

This absence first became apparent during a visit to the creative and manufacturing innards of the trilogy in Wellington, the Weta workshops, where Richard Taylor was a tour guide to the making of Middle-earth. People weren’t jostling for fame, power or glory. They wanted the work to shine.

The same on the screen. During our interview on the morning after the Sydney premiere last week, I put this notion about the absence of ego to David Wenham, one of the Australian cast, who plays a human of Gondor, Faramir, brother of Boromir, a ranger who finds the hobbits in Emyn Muil. 

“That’s an interesting perception; I think you’re absolutely spot on,” he says quietly. “And that comes from the top. Peter Jackson is … you’re never aware he has an ego. He’s a simple man - and that’s not patronising him in any way at all - who is obsessed with telling stories; he’s fiercely intelligent, he’s incredibly creative, and one of the most warm human beings that you could ever wish or hope to come across. And a joy to work with.

“Then you have Barrie Osborne and Mark Ordesky – exactly the same. Producers who are obsessed with telling the story in the best possible way that they can. That’s what motivates them; and they love working with creative people.”

Then of course there is the ego-less genius, Richard Taylor, who film history will judge to be a master craftsman in the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci, with his ability to fuse creative solutions to practical problems, and make a virtue of his obsession for detail and accuracy.

"a real fellowship"

A few minutes later, I put this notion to Barrie Osborne. “It’s absolutely true. John Rhys-Davies [who plays Gimli the dwarf] told me at the very beginning; ‘two things can happen when you put together an ensemble. The ensemble can disintegrate and be driven by cliques – or you can form a real ensemble, a real fellowship.’ And he said, it’s usually attributable to someone in the cast. In our case it’s attributable to Sir Ian McKellen and Viggo Mortensen. That’s a great thing with the British cast: they’re very professional and usually not ego driven.”

Sometime an actor has so much power their ego can skew the film, throw it off course, he says. “But this was a celebration, a pleasure. Going to these premieres is great fun because you get together with the actors again.”

When was the last time you heard a producer say that?

Another Australian in the cast, Miranda Otto (Eowyn of Rohan, niece to the King) takes up where Wenham left off. “The amazing thing about Peter is that even though it’s a huge budget movie, it still felt like a small, intimate film. We’d joke that it was the biggest independent film ever made. We were away from the studio and Pete’s very strong. He’d do his own thing. The passion and the lack of cynicism that’s involved in the making of it made you feel like you’re on a small film.”

And Jackson retained his own style of shooting, budget notwithstanding. “I think Pete thrives on a little bit of an edge of chaos. He likes to keep it a bit liquid. Even though things were heavily organised as they had to be when you’ve got so many people in different places…there was still an air of if he wanted to change something he’d change something. That’s the magic of filmmaking, to be able to go in the moment with something, or a better idea, new lines, and so on. He likes to keep it in flux…”

"always trying to improve things"

And Otto admits that “because I’m a control freak, the big challenge for me was to go with the flow. I always want to know the schedule, and what are we doing exactly, what the lines are…I like to have it all in my control. But in this you had to accept there are so many characters and the script was changing….they were always trying to improve things. So you just had to go with the flow.” 

Published December 23, 2002

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Miranda Otto and Barry Otto at the premiere (Photo courtesy David Morgan - photo selection at Austral)

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David Wenham


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