Mick Jagger as Frodo. A Led Zeppelin soundtrack. Fighting on the ground and behind the scenes before a three-shot saga shot. Forty years after his animated classic Lord of the Rings hit the theaters on November 15, 1978, these are some of the things director Ralph Bakshi's mind said during a sincere conversation about what happened and what might have been.
"I'm sitting in my office and reading that the United Artists were going to do it Lord of the Rings as a live-scene image written and directed by John Boorman, "says the 80-year-old animation director whose successful adult cult success Fritz the cat and Hard traffic has prepared the way for him Wizards then. "But they were going to outline three cards in one photo and add extra characters to make it work." For a Tolkien fan, I thought it was the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life. You can not tighten the three cards in one photo unless you make a Roger Corman movie.
Throughout the years 60, J.R.R. to Tolkien Lord of the Rings books has increased exponentially in popularity and was initially perceived as "an underground hit, especially with artists and cartoonists," says Bakshi. Graffiti, proclaiming "Frodo Lives," was not an unusual vision of college campus walls, and in the early 1970s Hollywood began to think about its box office potential.
"As for the realistic imagination of adults, Tolkien was certainly the best I'd ever read," says Bakshi, who regularly consumes sci-fi and fantasy like Robert E. Howard Conan the barbarian Roman pulp in the '50s. "There was a huge fantastic shot in the underground and in the popular culture [in the ‘60s and ‘70s]. This shot finally made me take the picture Wizards. "
The $ 1.3 million budget has been budgeted, acute politics Wizards has embedded a number of tolkienesce characters in post-apocalyptic decoration, from fairies and elves and dwarves to title characters themselves. While Bakshi's animation studio ended the film, he found out that Mike Medavoy, who led United Artists at the time, put Boorman's adaptation in change.
"I thought," Wait a minute, why do not I make the movie? "I recall Bakshi." So I invite Mike Medavoy and go to United Artists, who on those days were on the same batch as MGM. The main building on one side of the building was MGM – which Dan Melnick fled those days – and on the other hand, Mike Medavoy at the AU. I went to see Mike in his office and he says, "Look, I have this script and I do not understand it." I never read the book, we do not want to take the picture, what do you want to do? , "I want to anime it, Three pictures." He said, "We do not want the picture, what we want is to get back three million dollars for the scenario we paid to Boorman, so I give you the rights if we do not. you can get the money, you can make the picture any way you want. "True story.
So Bakshi went straight to the MGM room to try to convince Melnick. Peter Bogdanavich met a studio project behind closed doors, but Bakshi spoke in his office and drew his rights In them in front of them. Melnick was beating immediately. "Bogdanavici had to leave the room, never to talk to me for the rest of my life," says Bakshi with a chicot. "I walked the corridor to Medavoy's office and Danny told Mike: "Okay, I want to make the movie with Ralph, what do you want?" And Mike says, "Three million dollars for my script back, and Melnick says, "Medavoy, whose job was just salvaged, stood up and shook my hand, almost weeping," I turned my money, he was out of the hook. "Then Bakshi contacted him immediately with his lawyer, Bruce Ramer (also the lawyer of Steven Spielberg, who called the infamous shark Jaw after him), who concluded the deal with MGM that afternoon.
"So I have rights, I have the funding of the MGM movie, Medavoy's in the hook, I'm going to make three pictures, and I have 200,000 dollars to start the stories. It was not a bad day, is it?
While Bakshi's animation company was being liquidated Wizards, a whole division was created to develop Lord of the Rings. Then he read in the trades that Dan Melnick was just fired. "I thought," Shhhhit. "Richard Shepherd was now heading to production at MGM, so his director and lawyer staged a meeting to confirm that the project was still on the right track." He says, I do not understand the picture. I do not want to succeed, "Bakshi recalls. "You had two people in Hollywood in those days, people who read the cards that made the picture, and people who did not read books and did not picture." Lord of the Rings about a wedding? "I said," No, it's not a wedding. "Now I'm upset.
Bakshi wanted her rights, and Shepherd wanted her money back. But the director of animation went into pre-production and had no funds to get back $ 200,000. So the producer / director Saul Zaentz called, who "made a fortune" on Fritz the cat and Hard traffic soundtracks: "Saul Zaentz did One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest on Fritz the cat the money he made. Fritz the cat was made for less than a million dollars and at one point made $ 60 or $ 70 million, so it rolled in money. It gets the plane that afternoon, makes an agreement with my lawyer to finance all three films and to pay MGM money and to distribute the UA movie – that's Medavoy, which is more than happy because now resumes the movie without a penny in it. So I'm put.
For Bakshi, it was important to get the blessings of the Tolkien family and traveled to England to visit Tolkien Priscilla's daughter. "I told her how to make the film and if she did not like to fail," Bakshi recalls. "She loved what I had to say and went to Tolkien's studio in Oxford."
Armed with a script released after several reviews by Peter S. Beagle and Chris Conkling, Bakshi had his blessing and was ready to go with the first film in the series, budgeted at $ 8 million. "A fortune for me; I roll in the dough," he says. Given the blanche book and choosing to make a live action or animated adaptation of the extended story, Bakshi is part of the animation: "He gave it to my boys. All the animators were my friends and I did not want to let me go. It was a matter of getting behind the boys who were behind me in all my films.
But the director preferred to shoot a live action movie first, as a graphical reference of the model for its unique animation process, a mixed and straightforward approach to straight, rotoscopic and high-contrast animation. "I always thought mixing styles were good and that's why I managed to mix live and animation and get a very interesting effect; to call it a collage, "says Bakshi.
Using a variety of mixed media already on their previous movies (Wizards (Bakshi) knew he could jump ahead of the traditional, prolonged and laborious animation process using the "secret technique that Disney used".
"In those days I did not control the movement, there were no computers," he says. "[Rotoscoping] it was an extraordinary way to get realism into a picture. … When she came In them I was really caught within the deadline. I came up with the technique to locate the photo, I put the real photo [in high-contrast] even the animated one and paint it. … Short time allowed me to take a chance on things that have evolved incredibly. … If a director has no money, he has to find a way to find the style or technique of shooting to make the lack of money disappear and at least be emotionally correct, which is all. No emotion, you do not have a scene. "
For the appearance and tone of the film, Bakshi leaned on a variety of artistic inspiration ranging from "Rembrandt's attitude to light and shadow" to artist J. Allen St. John, the art of Hal Foster Prince Valiantand epic masterpieces of sword and witchcraft by his friend Frank Frazetta, who inspired their subsequent collaboration in the animation of 1983 Fire and ice characteristic. While Tolkien's world is clearly visible to audiences, Bakshi points out that there is not a small plan that goes beyond the pure imagination of the words on the printed page and praises their concept artists for their collective efforts to bring the Earth middle life. "They had nothing to look at," he says. "I loved these guys, the amount of work that they did, the type of work I designed – I did not have a movie to look at Tolkien's book, they showed everyone else how they should show.
Another challenge faced by Bakshi in making his painting was to properly synchronize the lines of the actors of the voice with the movements of his characters whose characters were captured separately on different continents. "I was at home at night, I was not sleeping trying to figure out how to do it," he says of the unique dilemma. "It was very complicated and it was the first time I did it, it was representative of the chances I took. I went to England and recorded the actors of the voice, and I threw them out of movies and English. They were absolutely wonderful. [John Hurt as] Aragorn did a job so sensational that it embarrassed me. " Star Wars & C-3PO Anthony Daniels also offered the voice for the Legolas Elf.
Once he recorded the whole film dialogue with the British actors, Bakshi returned to Los Angeles to shoot costumes on a sound stage. The actors Billy Barty and Felix Silla were among the best-known performers. "We are in a white scene, all white walls, ceilings, floors, with lines on the floor to know where you are and instead of recording voices when I say," Action! "My voice would activate the voice band I recorded in England," Bakshi explained. "And there you were going to bring the actor from the speakers of the English voice, and the actor would mime that."
Considering all the tap dancing needed to effectively mix vocals with performance, Bakshi was the least concerned about their synchronization: "In animation I could change the song, all they had to do was come close enough," he continues Bakshi. "You have to understand that you have total control over the drawings." I was not worried about making the Moviola synchronization, which could be 12, 16 frames on and still can still work, it was still tiring, but it was not something all of these techniques were new to the industry and to me, and when I asked for another three or four months to edit the film at the end, the producers and distributors say, "Go fuckin ' "And that's not really nice."
Despite his unwavering enthusiasm for Tolkien's material that helped him lead him to the finish line, Bakshi discovered the monumental realities of overseeing such massive production to be back.
"I almost died," he says frankly. "It was the hardest thing I had to do in my life. We did not have the budget for the producers." While I was filming the live film in Spain, I was running the company on my phone via my secretary and my production manager. too much It was the hardest thing I ever had But the animators loved me And I had extraordinary support for all my movies from these guys because they liked what they did and knew what I was trying to do it. They kept it together.
While more than 3,000 animators worked diligently on the set material, Bakshi fired in Orc's scenes and the battle of Helm's Deep in Spain, battling the elements – and some policies – in the process. The team shot at Belmonte Castle, the same 15th-century fortress in Castilla-La Mancha, which hosted the production of Charlton Heston El Cid.
"I'm on the wall of the castle, it's windy, it's cold, it's freezing," says Bakshi about a certain battle sequence that hired nine rooms to run immediately. "Coming from the different cities there are hundreds and hundreds of townspeople, all of them align, feed, shout, shields, costumes. All morning and afternoon we dress and now we walk through composition. , we're ready to roll, so I said, "Run camera 1, turn camera 2, turn camera 3, turn camera 4, turn camera five" Until I get to room six, a guy gets up in the middle of the composition, and the helmet – is the Communist leader – said, "It's time to have lunch!" They all take their spears, their costumes and leave at noon, but in order not to lose a shot, they keep the cameras on the move. Helm's Deep, I would have had to make a blow of orcs that move away with disgust. So we used a few photos of people who went on in the movie, and we had to reset and resume the shot. I will never forget it .
As the band took shape, Led Zeppelin and Mick Jagger surrounded the project with interest. Zeppelin is well known for their multiples In them references to Mordor, Gollum, Ringwraiths and others in songs such as Ramble On, Mountain Hop Misty, and Evermore Battle. " Bakshi approached the band to use their music as the soundtrack of the film and said they had responded with an "absolute" enthusiasm. But, according to Bakshi, the Zaentz producer, who owned Fantasy Records, could not obtain music rights, the sales team's contract prevented them from working for another label. "It's over and took Leonard Rosenman [to compose the orchestral soundtrack], Says Bakshi. "It was good, I was not upset, it had a good reputation, but Led Zeppelin would have thrown it from the roof of the painting, so I lost it.
As for Jagger, Rolling Stones' main role has been on production and he wanted to get involved. "So I called from Mick Jagger – he wanted to come and see what we were doing In them," reminds Bakshi."[My studio on Hollywood and Vine] is full of college children graduates from the art school, a very young group. So I went through the studio with Mick Jagger and the girls start shouting and fainting. We had 2,200-3,000 people working on four levels, and the word spread across each floor, which Jagger walked on, and people walked from one floor to the other on a staircase, and there descended tuners like horsemen, trembling scale. My son was there for the summer and he was terrified – he hid in the bathroom. So it was just hysterical. … [Jagger] he wanted to make Frodo's voice. I told him I would have used it easily, but I've already been registered and everything. He would be a good Frodo, I think. I do not know."
Bakshi says the compromise for all the hard work on In them was a true sense of creative freedom on the picture, but his biggest surprise was yet to blame – the central decision that would oblige him to leave the rest of the trilogy.
"I wanted three or four months to edit, I was exhausted, I was tired, I was burned out of Spain and filmed, and I did not want to make the term, which was [right before] Christmas, "he remembers." What you're looking at is the first great test on my part. So we had a big fight with [the studio to buy more time]. – We can not. We have the reserved newspapers, we have popcorn in theaters – you know, that shit. That was the first shot. The second blow was when I handed it to the theater a week before the release, what I called it "wet prints." They showed me the advertising campaign and I said, "Where is it? First part– And then I found out.
An essential critique of Bakshi In them the final cut was that the story ended just after the battle of Helm's Deep with a narrative narrative explaining "how their gallant battle ended, so it ends the first big story Lord of the Rings. "The fans of the source material felt cheated, and even the uninitiated scratched his head collectively because they had never seen Frodo throw one ring into the fires of Mount Doom.
"We had a great fight with [Zaentz] and I did not want to do it Part Two,"Says Bakshi."It might sound strange to you today. I came from a different race in those days. … Life was too short to spend time with a bunch of people you would not want to be. In other words, people who would have cheated on you after you had made so much money for them. You do not want to spend another eight years with these boys. … It was not an easy decision to leave because I liked Tolkien.
He continued: "There is a certain attitude that we have worn with us in those days that have to do with a movement of the hand and honor and respect, do what is necessary and let the blacks vote and let the women vote, Vietnam. "Bobby Dylan was singing, Jackson Pollock was an abstract painting, Charlie Parker was playing his saxophone, Miles Davis," It was a totally different American. "So you did not want to go out with garbage and I did not want to spend the time to do that.
The clock at 132 minutes, Lord of the Rings was launched in the U.S. on November 15, 1978, collecting more than 30 million dollars in the domestic market. He was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Fantastic Film and a Hugo Award for Best Drama. He also won a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score and won Golden Gryphon in 1980 at the Giffoni Film Festival in Italy.
Public participation was solid in theaters, although many critics were not fond of the final product. "The picture was very confusing – that said many reviews," notes Bakshi. "Everyone put me down for use [rotoscope] for some reason. They thought I was wrong. … The animation industry shouted at me. People screamed at me. They said the animation was cheap. They said I have too many different styles. It was broken to pieces.
Despite the critical crisis In them, Bakshi fixed his pistols with the rotoscope style / mixed style on a lengthy length similar to that of 1981 American Pop, 1983 Fire and iceand 1992 The cold world. But it was the last studio film with Brad Pitt, Gabriel Byrne and Kim Basinger, who turned out to be too much for the Brooklyn director. "This was the movie that made me totally. I quit the movies afterwards," he says World. "We burned and we left the tired industry, thinking I was a failure."
Returning to television work for a spell in the 90s, Bakshi finally found more happiness living in the southwest, painting, drawing, working on various pet projects and the emergence of conventions.
"I have always felt that my attitude was anathemous at Hollywood, I was playing a game that no one wanted to let him play," she faces with her unconventional approach to studio politics. "But I had a great Hollywood party, I had more freedom than ever had a director in his life – except perhaps for Spielberg." After all the things I've been through, I do not complain. "I had the best time in my life my.
As for the unfinished business of Tolkien's trilogy, Bakshi offers: "Now, when Saul Zaentz disappeared, I would not mind being involved. If Warner Bros. wanted to be two and three in animation, I would I would be very happy to do that. "