As Tolkien fans are eagerly awaiting the release of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first of an anticipated two films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel “The Hobbit,” there are some indications that a third installment may now be in the offing.
This project, mammoth as it is, was announced as a twofer. Director Sir Peter Jackson has been shooting one ginormous production that is to be split into separate movies released a year apart. The tactic worked brilliantly on “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Speaking to Deadline Hollywood, Jackson just dropped the bombshell that they might not stop at two.
As it turns out, they have a lot of extra footage on this movie. This is partially because they haven’t stopped at just adapting the seminal fantasy novel as it was published. According to Jackson, Tolkien wrote some 125 pages of notes, included as appendices to “The Return of the King,” which fill in some gaps in the plot of “The Hobbit,” and which help “The Hobbit” speak more to “The Lord of the Rings.”
“Tolkien was retrospectively fitting ‘The Hobbit’ to embrace that mythology,” says Jackson. “We haven’t just adapted ‘The Hobbit;’ we’ve adapted that book plus great chunks of his appendices and woven it all together.”
Now it appears they have more than enough material for two movies. So why not make three? Warner Bros. ought to be thrilled. There is one hitch—the “Salkind Clause.”
Back in the seventies, father/son producing team Alexander and Ilya Salkind adapted Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel “The Three Musketeers” into an epic, satirical adventure movie with an international, all-star cast that included Michael York, Oliver Reed, Charlton Heston, Faye Dunaway, Raquel Welch and Christopher Lee. Once the movie was shot, the producers found they had plenty of footage to make two perfectly good movies. So they split the story in half, and put a trailer for a built-in sequel, “The Four Musketeers,” at the end of the first one.
The problem was this was news to the high-powered cast, and flew in the face of the well-established Hollywood principle “Thou shalt not f**k with Charlton Heston’s lawyers.”
Lawsuits flew like the bats under Wayne Manor. A settlement were eventually reached, but not before a new clause was added to standard Screen Actors Guild contracts, stipulating the number of movies an actor was being paid to make. This is known, to this day, as “the Salkind Clause.”
Turning “The Hobbit” into a trilogy, therefore, will require a fair amount of contract re-negotiating. Of course if the studio wants three movies badly enough, that will probably happen. But before a third round of ka-ching is heard at the box office, the cast will certainly be getting an extra payday.