Thursday, 21 January 2010

Real Giant Wetas released in wildlife sanctuary

Just came across this article in the local paper, about the NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) releasing 40 Giant Weta into the Karori Wildlife Anctuary (recently renamed as "Zealandia"). The article itself has absolutely nothing to do with the movie industry, but I thought it might be interesting for people to see what the Weta Workshop has been named after.

The Giant Weta is the largest of the different sub-species, there's also the common Tree Weta and the jumping Cave Weta (not my favourite). Unfortunately, the Giant Weta is pretty rare these days, and a breeding program has been instigated by DOC, notably on the little island in the centre of Wellington's harbour. From there, 40 specimen were transported this week to the wildlife sanctuary here in town, and released. One ended up in the newspaper, on the back of the hand of a brave insect wrangler, six-year-old Rion Anderson of Ngaio.

 'IT FELT A BIT TICKLISH': Rion Anderson of Ngaio with the Cook Strait giant weta crawl.

The Weta is a fascinating creature, I often find them outside my house (and occasionally inside). The ones I see on the property aren't as quite big as this one though. Oh, and as with pretty much every other NZ species, they're pretty harmless. What looks like a giant stinger at the rear is actually the ovipositor, with which the female lays her eggs.

Anyway, that's what Richard Taylor named his company after. Apparently when he named it he didn't expect to become a worldwide name - here in NZ everyone knows what a Weta is.

  - Jack M.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

For Sale - King Kong's Venture Porthole, nz$100

The Greater Wellington Regional Council has been busy stripping the King Kong boat Venture (actual name was the Manuia), ready for its scuttling exercise later next month. This means getting anything off it that would float back to the surface later (eg, wood), removing anything environmentally hazardous (eg, plastics), and taking off anything that might be nice to keep.

They are having a bit of difficulty getting some of it off though, the boat is a bit of a rustheap at the moment, and all the good bits are stuck pretty fast to the ship, apparently. However, one Porthole has made it off the ship properly so far, and it's available for purchase through NZ's premium auction site, TradeMe. The starting price is a mere nz$100, which is more than fair - it's made from bronze/brass and glass, and would look stunning built into your home somewhere.

Take a look at the auction here - it will run until Tuesday the 26th of January.

The porthole comes with a handwritten letter of authenticity signed by the Wellington Harbour Master.

The proceeds of the auction will go back to the region's ratepayers, to help cover the expenses of stripping the vessel and towing it out to sea.

The catch is that TradeMe is a New Zealand only auction site. If anybody is interested in making a bid from overseas, please let me know, I'm happy to bid/purchase on behalf as long as I know your bid is genuine. Drop me a line - but do so quickly!

For more details, about the state of the ship, check out the local newspaper's report today in the Dominion Post.

I'm also trying to get support for people to join me on a charter vessel on the day of the sinking, to witness the event. It could be a long day - expect at least a 10 hour day onboard (but fully catered). Again, get hold of me ASAP if you're keen. Seating will be strictly limited, and will go on a first-come, first-served basis. The ship goes down early February.

  - Jack M.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Golden Globes for Wellywood

"Wellywood is fast becoming the new Hollywood, with the New Zealand film industry set to feature at the upcoming Oscars, after several films collected awards at a precursor ceremony."

Love that quote... Apart from the Golden Globes Awards, Wellywood is up for awards for Avatar, District 9, Lovely Bones - and kiwi girl Anna Paquin is doing pretty well also. She may not have won the Golden Globes, but getting that far (for the second time!) is one hell of an achievement! Well done, Anna!

UPDATE (Jan 20 2010):
Mark Sagar from Weta Digital gets some gold too! Congratulations to Weta and to Mark!

Ok, no Hobbit news here, move along, nothing to see.

  - Jack

Location Scouts in the South Island

The Southland Times reports that the scouts have been reported in Queenstown, looking for Hobbit filming locations. Nice to have that finally reported in the mainstream media - it was already reported in the comments section of one of my reports late last year by one of my readers (Nicolás) - three weeks ago, in fact.

The newspaper article had a few more sketchy details, but at the end of the day it's nothing more than a rumour. Remember, just because it's printed on paper doesn't make it any more true than anything on a blog... :)

My thanks to Nicolás for providing me with the original comment! Nicolás, if you're reading this, I'd love more information if you have it! Or anyone else, for that matter - drop me a line at noldor [at], if you want!

  - Jack M.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Contracts being signed in Hobbit's costumes dept?

Fresh rumour :
 I've just heard a tiny scrap of information that I thought was interesting enough to share - apparently people are being signed up (by 3'7" Ltd?) to work on The Hobbit costumes. The rumoured length of the contracts would see them through to at least release of the first movie, and then some!

I've not heard any names yet, but I'll share them when (or if!) I hear more. Personally, I'm waiting to hear the name "Ngila Dickson"...

In any case, that sounds like quite a bunch of costumes!

  - Jack M.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

King Kong boat "The Venture" is going down - real soon!

I've been talking to the Wellington's Deputy Harbour Master, Patrick Atwood, about the fate of the Venture that was used in King Kong. The boat used to belong to Peter Jackson (or at least to one of his companies, I guess) but he sold it years ago, right after the movie was completed. It's been sitting on the wharf all this time, slowly rusting away. I've showed the boat to most of my guests over the years, as it's just at the entrance of the Miramar suburb that we visit on the way to the Weta Cave.

I'd noticed that there had been some action on the boat lately - a pile of old firewood and some odds and ends from the boat, the occasional Wgtn City Council vehicle parked beside it, that sort of thing. So I introduced myself a month or so ago to the council official, and we got to chatting about it. He gave me some information that I blogged already in an earlier post.

I've spoken to him again, and it looks like the approximate date is set. The final cleanup is due to be completed somewhere in the first week of February, and the ship will be towed out to sea, to an undivable position unfortunately (approx 1.7km deep!), where they will open the sea valves, and it will slowly take on water. There will be no explosive charges or anything theatrical like that.

I'm currently trying to gauge interest with a few local groups to see if anyone is keen to come out with us - if I get enough people that want to see it going down, I can arrange a tourboat to follow along from an appropriate distance. The tourboat is lined up already, and I'll be talking to the captain later today.

As an aside, Patrick has managed to salvage a few choice items off the ship, and will contact me when he has them ready for eBay. I'll announce the auction as soon as I know about it. I understand the first item will be one of the portholes, with possibly more to follow. The anchor unfortunately has already gone, luckily to a local museum.

More details when they come to hand.

  - Jack M.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Hobbit - Official Casting Call and Plot Details

The Hobbit - Official Casting Call and Plot Details

I don't often link to other people's blogs but this one looks very interesting. Apparently here is a list of the actual cast members they are still looking for. According to TORn, the list is legitimate, and came through official channels.

According to they're looking for Bilbo, Thorin Oakenshield, Fili, Kili, Bard, Gloin, Radagast the Brown, a female elf called "Itaril", an unnamed warrior Elf-Lord from Rivendell, the Mayor of Laketown, Primula and Drogo (Frodo's mum and dad), a civil servant for Laketown called Alfrid, and the voice of Smaug.

There are some notable ommisions as well as unexpected additions. For instance, they've not mentioned the other dwarves Dwalin, Balin, Oin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori and Ori, and also missing are Beorn and King Thranduil, who are surely major characters.

There could be two reasons for the ommisions - either they've been written out of the stories, which I hope is not the case - if Tolkien put them into the story I'm sure he had good reason to do so. Way back when, before NewLine Cinema got involved in LOTR, Peter and Fran were faced with making a single, two hour version of LOTR, and were asked by Miramax executives to shorten the book, and shorten the list of main characters by "killing off a hobbit or two in the first 20 minutes" among other attrocities. Luckily, they didn't do that then, and it gives me great hope that we'll still see all 13 of the dwarves. After all, without 13 dwarves, Bilbo would have been unnecessary as the "lucky number" in the adventure!

The other, and much more likely reason I can see for the ommisions is that the characters have already been cast, and in secret. Previously, my vote for the most likely candidate for Beorn was Ron Perlman, while my personal guess for Thranduil would be Doug Jones.

<bitchmode> I'm not sure which dwarf role would be best for Tom Cruise though. Still pondering on that one. He seems much too short for any of them. Maybe he could be the voice of Smaug, exuding arrogance as he goes? </bitchmode> Sorry about that, I just watched Mission Impossible 2 again last night. I'll try to stay on-topic again.

Primula and Drogo don't make it into the book, but it would leave a lovely opening for the eventual link to the 3rd movie (ie, The Fellowship of The Ring!) - Primula and Drogo are Frodo's mother and father who both die in a boating accident (if memory serves me right), after which Bilbo takes over the guardianship over young Frodo.

The even more mysterious addition of the new female elf named Itaril will no doubt provide the apparently necessary romantic addition to the story. I personally have absolutely no problem with that - it's worked extremely well previously (Arwen barely makes it into the LOTR books, and is confined to a few footnotes in the appendices) and if anything gives the children's version of The Hobbit (as in, the book) a more adult, mature angle. Go Itaril! You have my vote! Finally a FEMALE hottie elf. :)

One other piece of missing information is the address to send your acting resume and application to. This confirms my earlier assertion that Actors applications won't be held publicly (like extras are), but will be done through casting agencies. If you don't have an agent and want a main part in The Hobbit, now would be an excellent time to get yourself one! Your agent will (or should) know the correct address already.

All in all, very exciting news! If the link is legitimate, it gives us more insight into the plot of the upcoming movies than any one other piece of news over the last few years! What do you all think?

  - Jack M

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Celebrity watch - Stephen Fry spotted in Wellington?

I've just heard from a friend that Stephen Fry may be in town at the moment. Stephen Fry has been rumoured to be up for a role (as a dwarf?) in The Hobbit, so it might make sense. I mean, he's 6'4.5", so he'd make a perfect dwarf, right? (Keeping in mind, Gimli was played by the giant John Rhys-Davies, who's 6'1")

However, there might be another possibility - I heard a different rumour from another contact yesterday that Peter Jackson's film Dambusters might have started filming in the Hutt Valley at a location previously set up for the now failed movie "Kingdom Come". Stephen Fry is supposed to be writing the script for Dambusters, so maybe he's just here for that.

Or then again, maybe he's here for both!

  - Jack M.