Let’s play desert island digital versatile discs. You’re a washed up castaway, with just a home entertainment system for company – which three DVDs would you keep for company? In reality, there’s little need for contemplation – the choice would have to be the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. No other DVD comes close to the entertainment experience, each four-disc release containing the substantially longer cut of the film, 14 hours of Commentary and seven and a half hours of Documentaries.
As The Two Towers hits the stores in August, to be followed by the extended edition in November, we meet Michael Pellerin, the DVD producer behind these magnificent releases. We discover the new scenes restored to the film, preview the extensive added value, and get a taster of the final instalment of the trilogy, Return of the King.
At what stage of the film production did you begin work on the DVDs?
I came on board in March 2001. I’ve been a huge fan of Tolkien my whole life, and I’ve been a DVD producer for years, I produced back in the Laserdisc days. For a couple of years, friends of mine were saying, ‘You should write a letter to Peter Jackson and do this DVD’. I was sort of timid about it -– all my life one of my cinema fantasies was that Lord of the Rings should be brought to the screen, and brought to the screen well. It was almost too good to be true. When I got the job, the first thing Peter did was show me the film, and I realized all my hopes were correct. These were the right people to make this film. I thought, ‘These are people who are working very hard to give something back to the novel that inspired them to make this movie’.
Had Peter Jackson looked ahead to the DVD release when he began shooting the movies?
From the very beginning of the project, Peter had been saving everything. He’s a huge fan of the DVD medium, and he actually produced his own Laserdisc for Universal with The Frighteners. He is actually the only director I’ve worked with who has done my job, producing supplementary material. He knew from the beginning of Lord of the Rings what to do and what to save. In each of his departments, he had the heads keep camcorders and tape everything. People got used to carrying around cameras and shooting everything that they were doing, and he also brought on a friend of his, Costa Botes. Together they had created the faux documentary Forgotten Silver, and he had Costa around for the entire 18 months of shooting, with a full team of people.
So by the time I came on board he had the most important thing possible: he had videotaped everything and documented it. When it came to putting together DVD material, the chances are if someone told a story, whatever that story was, the event was probably on tape. If somebody mentioned the day that Sean Astin impaled his foot in the water – guess what, it’s on film somewhere.
by David Richardson