Director Sir Peter Jackson's frustrations with unions and
fears that New Zealand would lose the Hobbit films have been
revealed in documents released under the Official Information
The Ombudsman ordered the Government to release documents
related to its deal with Warner Brothers which allowed the
film to go ahead in New Zealand.
Jackson's exasperation with the Australian union Media,
Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) was evident.
In a note to Cabinet Ministers Gerry Brownlee and Chris
Finlayson, Sir Peter said MEAA union boss Simon Whipp had
"played us for fools".
He later said he was concerned that Mr Whipp's actions would
derail the production.
In a separate note to ministers, he said: "In the end, this
is not about Actor's Equity, not is it about the Hobbit - it
is about an Australian trade union making a blatant play to
take a controlling hand in the NZ film industry - for their
own political and financial gain."
In an email to Mr Brownlee's chief advisor Tim Hurdle after
the minister had met with Mr Whipp, Sir Peter said that the
Government had "engaged with a snake, who now feels quite
"He is in revenge mode, intent on inflicting as much damage
as he can to our film, our film industry, to our country.
"I really can't [take] much more of this toxic nonsense. All
I want to do is make films! I haven't been able to think
about the movie for 3 weeks."
The documents also revealed the anger of New Line Cinema - a
unit of Warners - when it was informed of the unions'
After the MEAA outlined the working conditions it expected
before an actors' ban on the Hobbit was lifted, New Line
senior vice president of business affairs Carolyn Blackwood
said in an email: "I am furious. Furious."
A later email between Ms Blackwood and Mr Brownlee showed
that New Line Cinema did not plan to film the Hobbit in a
different country, despite its concerns about the labour
The Government warned in October 2010 that the films could be
moved overseas if the dispute was not resolved.
Ms Blackwood said there was growing momentum to find
alternative places to film, and asked Mr Brownlee to consider
similar incentives to those offered by New South Wales.
But she reassured the minister that the company was committed
to making the films in New Zealand.
"As I have said to you on every occasion that we have spoken,
we are committed to New Zealand ...
"We filmed all three Lord of the Rings films in NZ and are
not making any decisions to move this production lightly. If
that were to happen, if would honestly be a blow to all of
She confirmed that the labour disputes put the company in "a
very precarious position" and were a "real risk to [New
Ministers initially refused to release the documents due to
commercial sensitivity, but the Ombudsman ruled earlier this
month that they should be made public.
The Government made a deal with Warner Brothers in 2010 which
included tax rebates and a change to employment legislation.