Actors' Unions End Boycott Of 'The Hobbit'; Peter Jackson To Film In New Zealand After All?

Looks like the Australian trade union MEAA (Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance) lost this game of chicken. After garnering support from SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) in ordering their members to not take jobs on The Hobbit unless director Peter Jackson and co. drew up a new contract "providing minimum guarantees on wages and working conditions, residual payments, and cancellation payments to actors engaged on the production," Jackson issued his own response declaring their move "a grab for power". Then came the clincher: "Because the 'demands' of MEAA cannot be agreed to, or even considered – by law – and therefore the only options that remain involve closing the Hobbit down, or more likely shifting the production to Europe." More troubling, Jackson seemed to be making good on his promise when it was announced that production would be moved to Eastern Europe.

It isn't clear what's transpired since then, but good news: SAG and AFTRA have dropped the boycott.

Deadline reports the news, saying there's no longer a need for The Hobbit to move production outside of New Zealand.

This is a relief, as one of the greatest strengths of the Lord of the Rings films was the gorgeous New Zealand landscapes used to represent Middle-earth. Who knows the degree to which the look of The Hobbit might've been compromised had it been forced to shoot elsewhere. No official statement has been made revoking the announced plans to move production to Eastern Europe, but who knows if that was more than a threat to begin with, as pre-production didn't seem to be halted by the change. Fingers crossed: Peter Jackson will likely film in New Zealand as originally intended.

With the labor issues resolved, the films can finally move ahead as planned, meaning we can expect to see The Hobbit in front of cameras by February of 2011. Hooray for that.

Martin Freeman is starring as Bilbo Baggins, and Jimmy Nesbitt, Michael Fassbender, and David Tennant are also up for roles. And if all goes as expected, Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis will be reprising their roles as Gandalf and Gollum, respectively. The films are planned for release December 2012 and 2013.

Here's the statement issued by SAG:

Statement Regarding the Feature Film Production The Hobbit

Los Angeles (October 20, 2010) – Screen Actors Guild today released the following statement regarding the feature film production The Hobbit:

"Today, our sister union New Zealand Actors Equity issued a statement recommending all international performer unions rescind their member advisories on the feature film production The Hobbit. In light of this recommendation, Screen Actors Guild will be alerting its members that they are now free to accept engagements, under Screen Actors Guild contract terms and conditions, on The Hobbit."

And here's the statement issued by AFTRA:


AFTRA Members May Now Accept Work on The Hobbit

NZ Actors Equity today recommended that the international performer unions of FIA withdraw their respective member advisories prohibiting members from accepting employment on the theatrical motion picture The Hobbit.

In light of this advisory and the recommendation from NZ Actors Equity, AFTRA hereby notifies all members that they may now accept employment on The Hobbit, under Screen Actors Guild contract terms and conditions.

We thank you for your show of solidarity with our international brothers and sisters.