Hobbit Movie Faces Axe Over Labor Negotiations

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Jason Redmond / REUTERS

Peter Jackson, director of the Hobbit trilogy

All is not well in the Shire.

Unreasonable demands from Australian acting unions are making “The Hobbit” anything but “precious” for filmmaker Peter Jackson.

Jackson, director of  the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit‘s executive producer, said the entire project is threatened by location change or could face the axe altogether.

The Screen Actors Guild and other organizations that represent performers in the U.K., Canada, Australia and the U.S. contend that the producers of The Hobbit films have refused to negotiate union contract terms with them. As a result the actors may even be forced to consider radical action.

Jackson said the dispute involving an Australian union seeking to negotiate on behalf of New Zealand actors was a “grab for power” and “an attempt by the “Australian bully-boy” to exert influence over New Zealand’s film industry. “It feels as if we have a large Aussie cousin kicking sand in our eyes… or to put it another way, opportunists exploiting our film for their own political gain.” In an open letter to the Screen Actors Guild, Jackson insists that he is not anti-union and that to relocate the project to Eastern Europe would result in “a big budget movie drought” for his native New Zealand.

Presumably, if SAG stuck to its guns, that would inhibit stars such as Ian McKellen and Cate Blanchett from reclaiming their legendary roles of Gandalf and Galadriel in The Hobbit.

The two movie project, which Peter Jackson will hopefully direct, has not yet been given the financial nod by Hollywood studios New Line and MGM.

Just as Gandalf blocked the pursuing Balrog in the Mines of Moira, Peter Jackson urges unions that they too “shall not pass.”