According to a letter from Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh posted late last night on, New Line Cinema has parted ways with Jackson/Walsh over a lawsuit that they had brought aainst the distributor tied to Fellowship of the Ring revenues (i.e., product licensing, “differences of opinion”, etc.).
The positive-minded Jackson/Walsh had been expecting settlement on the lawsuit, which would then be followed by a deal to start work on The Hobbit plus a Lord of the Rings prequel. However, according to the letter, “last week [New Line bigwig] Mark Ordesky called Ken Kamins” — Jackson/Walsh’s manager — “and told him that New Line would no longer be requiring our services on The Hobbit and the LOTR ‘prequel’…this was a courtesy call to let us know that the studio was now actively looking to hire another filmmaker for both projects.
“Ordesky said that New Line has a limited time option on the [Hobbit] film rights they have obtained from Saul Zaentz (this has never been conveyed to us before), and because we won’t discuss making the movies until the lawsuit is resolved, the studio is going to have to hire another director. Given that New Line [is] committed to this course of action, we felt at the very least, we owed you, the fans, a straightforward account of events as they have unfolded for us.”
What’s really going on here, I believe, is a reflection of the this year’s sea-change attitude among distributors and producers towards coddled, overpaid wunderkind types like Jackson — big-name talents who get rich deals for themselves and their production companies, after which they go off and strain or exceed the budget, and then their sometimes indulgent, overlong film (i.e., King Kong) comes out and does moderately well but not well enough. Result: the wunderkind makes out like a bandit and the studio is left holding the bag.
Image-wise, Universal’s King Kong experience with Jackson made him into the ultimate enfant terrible poster boy for indulgent, genius-boy tendencies. Jackson’s middle name is “wheeee!” — it’s what makes him what he is. If you make a movie with Jackson, provision #1 in his contract is that he gets to go “wheeee!” all through the making of it. At the end of the day the film will be in some ways awesome/brilliant/ eye-popping and what the fans want, and in other ways indulgent, show-offy, overlong and flooded with fake-looking bullshit CG shots that “wheeee!” types love to create because fake CG shots are so deliriously comic-book “imaginative.”
You may make a huge profit with a Jackson film and you may not, but one thing for sure is that he and his New Zealand pallies will make out like kings plus they’ll all get to go “wheeee!” for 18 months or two years, on your dime.
I’m basically saying that New Line did a good thing here. The more Peter Jackson gets cut down and has to trim his sails and stop “wheee”-ing his way through movie-making, the better. I say this because I have never suffered so acutely in my moviegoing years…I’ve never felt so awful, so trapped, so stuck on Devil’s Island- with-dysentery as I did while watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy and also the first 70 minutes of King Kong. I just know that the fewer “paints” Jackson has to work with, the better his films will turn out to be.