Yet another obstacle that could delay production on The Hobbit has arisen - this time in the form of a memo that is discouraging Screen Actors Guild members from signing up for the project.
An organization known as the New Zealand Actor's Equity is responsible for initiating this campaign against Peter Jackson and his Hobbit films. The group is seeking to pressure bankrupt MGM, Warner Bros., Three Foot Seven productions, and Jackson himself into negotiating a new deal on wages and working conditions for its members.
Jackson has released a public statement - which can be read in full HERE - in response to this move. In the letter, the filmmaker touches on his own membership in three well-known Hollywood Unions; the details of a scheme that he and Warner Bros. have devised in order to fairly compensate both SAG and non-SAG members that work on The Hobbit; and the fact that the NZ Actor's Equity represents a very small percentage of Australian and New Zealand actors in total.
Ultimately Jackson reveals that he believes the NZ Actor's Equity has begun this campaign against The Hobbit production as a means to "... gain a foothold in [Australia's] film industry. They want greater membership, since they get to increase their bank balance."
This move by the NZ Actor's Equity could force The Hobbit production to relocate to Eastern Europe - which would (ironically) severely weaken the Australian/New Zealand filmmaking industry overall. The project has not (technically) even been greenlit yet and will not be until MGM's current financial status changes.
What effect could this potentially have on The Hobbit? Besides possibly delaying the production even more than it has been already, this move would mean that the grandiose New Zealand landscape will not be used to represent Middle-Earth in the film. That would not sit well with moviegoers whose vision of the fantastical realm has become synonymous with the unusual Kiwi countryside, which was featured prominently throughout Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.
It seems highly unlikely that a deal won't be worked out that allows The Hobbit to be filmed in New Zealand, given the lucrative nature of the project. Jackson's response to the situation has been fairly reasonable so far and it wouldn't benefit him to make the situation any more complicated than it already is.
Fans surely won't be pleased to hear about The Hobbit having more problems on its way to the big screen - still, if there is any truth to that old Hollywood saying about how the best movies are always extremely difficult to make, the final product could prove worth all the drama at the end of the day. Maybe.