How ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Was Adapted for the Big Screen
Art and Experience:
How would you tackle bringing some of the world’s most beloved books to life?
In the late 90s and early 2000s, Peter Jackson hoped to bring the Lord of the Rings trilogy to the screen. He met with Miramax who worked with him on bringing the idea to life, but eventually, the idea shifted to New Line. Jackson then worked with Fran Walsh, Stephen Sinclair, and Philippa Boyens on his vision. Together they began the massive undertaking of adapting the three novels and creating one of the greatest film trilogies of all time.
The Lord of the Rings is one of the greatest series of all time in both revenues earned and cinematic achievement. The series of three epic fantasy adventure films, based on the novels written by J. R. R. Tolkien, spans nearly 20 hours and covers dozens of characters. With such an amazing story, the writers and directors had a challenge adapting the books into an accurate representation in film.
In this video, Behind the Curtain breaks down the process that went into creating such an iconic series.
How Lord of the Rings Was Adapted for the Big Screen
It’s honestly a miracle that we got three Lord of the Rings movies and that they’re all amazing. If you watched the video, you know that the production was a crazy process. Jackson went to Miramax in 1995 to try to get the rights for the film. They had it, but the money was tight. They decided to make two movies first to see if it was a success, but when they budgeted it out, they knew they’d need at least $140 million to make them.
Miramax offered $75 million. And when they went to their bosses at Disney, they couldn’t get any more. The compromise was to cut all three books into one story. Jackson and his team hated that idea. That’s when New Line was brought in to help finance the movies. They were a struggling studio and bet all the money they had on those movies. And it paid off.
Meanwhile, behind all the business scenes, Jackon had work to do. He was writing, storyboarding, and editing. He was coming up with a way to make these movies work. But one thing he didn’t anticipate was all the other writing he would do as the movie changed. Jackson had a dream of what the Lord of the Rings could be. But as sets came to life, WETA showed him the CGI they were creating, and actors began attaching, Jackson started to believe that this might turn out even better than he imagined.
He began to help with the writing and tweaking based on all this good fortune, building out the worlds of the scripts with the books and massaging the characters based on who was being cast.
His goal was simple—transport people somewhere else. His entire career had been spent wanting to provide escapism, and now he was his chance at the ultimate test. As you know, Jackson spent around eight years making those three movies. They shot back to back to back, a huge bet for the studio, actors, and everyone involved.
Throughout the process, they ran into lots of problems, including Harvey Weinstein threatening to take away Jackson’s final cut when he heard the first movie was three hours long. But they survived it all. Mostly through Jackson sticking to his guns and presenting his case peacefully. It was a long journey, but he avoided Mount Doom and gave us something special.
What did you learn about the adaptation process from this video? Let us know in the comments.