Though it turned out to be one of the biggest film trilogies in history, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings series was a risky bet at the time. Fantasy didn't typically play that well, especially episodic series, and the budget required to pull off the trilogy was massive. Luckily, Jackson is a lot sneakier than we ever knew.
Jackson told The Playlist he originally pitched a Hobbit film to Harvey Weinstein, with the potential for two Lord of the Rings movies to follow if it did well. With the Hobbit rights tied up, the focus shifted to a two-movie Lord of the Rings series, which Weinstein preferred to cram into one movie to save money.
With Jackson opposed to the one-off idea, Weinstein said he had director John Madden and writer Hossein Amini already lined up to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien's classic saga into one movie—so if Jackson didn't do it, someone else would. With the clock ticking, Jackson's agent negotiated a four-week window to let the director consider his options and see what he could do.
So he started hunting for a studio to fund the project. And he struck out. Bad.
With time winding down, he had just one studio—eventual suitor New Line—left on the list still willing to talk to him. So, he started bluffing. Bigtime.
"I remember we had a meeting with New Line the following day, so what we did was we kept canceling it, and we kept saying, 'Listen, we're really busy, we've got to take a meeting about it here, we've got to take a meeting about it. It's going out of control. We're not going to be able to see you today, but we'll try to fit you in before the end of the week.' And we put this whole pretense on that this project was so eagerly sought after [laughs], which is complete crap. And we went into New Line's office at the end of that week, and the credit really ultimately belongs to Bob Shaye who was the head of New Line at that stage. He looked at the reel and said, 'You know what I don't get is why you want to do two films.' And we thought, 'Oh, here we go. He's going to try to make us do one film now. The same story.' But the very next thing he said was, 'Why would you do two films when there's three books? Why wouldn't you do three films?' And that was the way he took the project on.So, if not for Jackson's poker face, the Lord of the Rings trilogy we all know and love might not have ever existed. Ah, Hollywood (and New Zealand).
(Via The Playlist)