Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit

By Derek Cheng

Sir Peter Jackson. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Sir Peter Jackson. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Sir Peter Jackson told the Government he did not believe an international actors' boycott would force The Hobbit overseas, emails show.

The message, sent to the office of Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee on October 18, is in stark contrast to comments the film-maker made earlier in the month.

On October 1, he said: "The Hobbit is being punished with a boycott which is endangering thousands of New Zealand jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign income, for no good reason."

Sir Peter dismissed the idea that movie production was moving overseas because it was cheaper to make films there.

"It's completely absurd! Eastern Europe is only being considered because a minority group of the New Zealand acting community have invoked union action that has blacklisted our film, making it impossible to shoot in New Zealand."

But on October 18, Sir Peter said the boycott had nothing to do with the movies potentially moving overseas.

"There is no connection between the blacklist (and it's eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit," he wrote.

"What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such as way that it feels its $500 million investment is as secure as possible."

The October 18 email also suggests Sir Peter thought the boycott had been lifted, even though he said in television interviews three days later he was unsure if it had been officially ditched.

Sir Peter declined to comment through a spokesman yesterday.

Warner Bros eventually agreed to make the films in NZ after the Government said it would change employment laws to ensure that film workers were independent contractors by default.

The agreement also included extra tax breaks worth up to $34 million, on top of the $50 million to $60 million Warner Bros would pocket under existing rules.

Sir Peter's email is part of documents released under the Official Information Act yesterday which also reveal Warner Bros feared the local actors' union, Actors' Equity, would block them from using international stars on The Hobbit.

At the end of September, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson met Sir Peter and other producers, who outlined the key issues.

A week before Warner Bros executives came to Wellington, they had been seeking assurances they could ignore Equity if it failed to provide letters clearing overseas actors to work here.

SIR PETER JACKSON, OCT 1

The Hobbit is being punished with a boycott which is endangering thousands of New Zealand jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign income, for no good reason.

SIR PETER JACKSON, OCT 18

There is no connection between the blacklist (and it's eventual retraction), and the choice of production base for The Hobbit. What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment.

- NZ Herald

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