After narrowly surviving both the exit of original director Guillermo Del Toro (which resulted in Peter Jackson deigning to take over once more) and MGM’s Tolkien-worthy epic battle with bankruptcy (which ended in a last-minute save by Spyglass Entertainment), the troubled prequel is now the target of actors’ unions SAG and AFTRA, who have urged members not to accept work on the film. Both unions have raised concerns about guaranteed minimum wages and proper working conditions for New Zealand performers, who have long “struggled” (according to the official statement) under non-union contracts, which also do not provide residuals—and considering how much money the Lord Of The Rings franchise has taken in, that’s sort of a sore point. Now Australia’s Media Entertainment and Art Alliance has banded together with New Zealand’s Actors’ Equity and the International Federation of Actors to seek a new union-negotiated contract, with the intention of working things out at a meeting tomorrow.
Except Peter Jackson doesn’t believe they have a legitimate complaint, issuing a statement yesterday claiming that this whole brouhaha is just a ploy by the MEAA to expand its membership and influence within New Zealand, which he calls “threatening behavior” couched in an emotional appeal that preys on public sympathies without any basis in fact. You can read Jackson’s point-by-point response in full here, in which he insists that he’s always cooperated with unions and fairly shared residuals among his players. In it, he threatens to move the whole production to Eastern Europe if this “power grab” is not resolved, which he says will lead to a “big budget movie drought” in New Zealand—and, of course, rob the latest Lord Of The Rings film of all that mystical, New Zealand greenery. He also counters that the film “hasn’t even been greenlit yet,” which is also a fair point. In fact, given how many setbacks it's seen, are we sure Terry Gilliam’s not secretly directing this thing?