New Zealand dispute may bring Hobbits to Ireland

THEY demand seven meals a day, are notoriously clannish and have peculiarly hairy feet but there’s a welcome mat here for Hobbits if filming of their life story in New Zealand runs aground.

The Irish Film Board confirmed it was in contact with the producers of the much-troubled film version of JRR Tolkien’s classic, The Hobbit, with a view to moving filming to Ireland.

“We are following a line of enquiry on the project,” a spokeswoman said, although she would not elaborate or indicate what response had been received.

The big-budget production, due to bring two movies to the screen in 2012 and 2013, is currently based in New Zealand, home of director Peter Jackson who filmed Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy there.

But a bitter dispute with the film unions coupled with financial setbacks and the withdrawal of key staff due to the ongoing delays has thrown a question mark over where Middle Earth, the fictional home of the Hobbits, will eventually be recreated.

Scotland, Canada and Ireland are among the potential alternative locations. But while there are sympathies with the Kiwi film crews who would miss out on several years’ work if the project was moved, industry heads here admit they wouldn’t object if New Zealand’s difficulty became Ireland’s opportunity.

“It’s all very early days for The Hobbit but Ireland would be a fantastic location for it,” said Tanya Warren of the Irish Film and Television Network. “We have the locations – the mountains and lakes and forests – and we have very talented crew with all the technical skills.”

The problems with the production have created a political firestorm down under with the New Zealand prime minister and Australian politicians wading in to try to defuse the row in fear of losing thousands of jobs.


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