‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ has a lot to live up to.
With £1.8 billion (€2.2bn) under their belt, Peter Jackson’s first three ventures into Middle-Earth make up the highest grossing movie trilogy of all time. They picked up 17 Academy Awards along the way, including 11 for 'Return of the King' – equalling ‘Ben-Hur’ and ‘Titanic’ for the most Oscars won by a single film. There’s no doubt, it’s a hard act to follow.
[Related story:The Hobbit isn't finished says Jackson]
[Related story: McKellen broke down on Hobbit set]
So how does Jackson’s difficult-second-trilogy shape up to its epic predecessor? We’ve compiled all the facts and stats that matter; from budget and book sales to Bill Bailey’s failed auditions.
It’s 'The Hobbit' vs. 'The Lord of the Rings'. Game on…
The budgets (estimated)
The Hobbit: £169 million / €208 million so far
LOTR: £176 million / €217 million
The book sales
The Hobbit: 100 million
LOTR: 150 million
The weird 70s animated versions
The Hobbit: Directed by Jules Bass in 1977. Featured ‘Laura’ director Otto Preminger as the Elvenking.
LOTR: Directed by Ralph Bakshi in 1978 and starred John Hurt as Aragorn. Only included the first half of the story as the project ran out of money.
Actors who were replaced
The Hobbit: Dean O’Gorman replaced 'Eastenders’' Robert Kazinsky as Fili after he left due to “personal reasons.”
LOTR: Viggo Mortensen replaced Stuart Townsend as Aragorn. Townsend had spent six weeks training for the role, but on the first day of shooting Jackson decided an older actor was needed.
The roles Bill Bailey unsuccessfully auditioned for
The Hobbit: Gloin (Gimli’s father)
LOTR: Gimli (Gloin’s son)
The cast and crew injuries
The Hobbit: Peter Jackson had a perforated ulcer.
LOTR: Christopher Lee broke his hand; Orlando Bloom broke his rib; John Rhys-Davies was allergic to make-up; Sean Astin was airlifted to hospital with a bleeding foot.
The overexcited New Zealand fans
The Hobbit: 3,000 fans overwhelmed a casting session near Wellington, leading to the police being called and the event shut down.
LOTR: 100,000 fans attended the world premiere of ROTK in Wellington - a quarter of the city’s population.
The tourist tie-ins
The Hobbit: NZ capital Wellington will change its name to Middle of Middle-Earth for three weeks surrounding the premiere. This will include a new logo appearing on government documents, postcards and local newspapers. Legal ‘Hobbit’ coins have been issued, some made of pure gold, and a 13metre Gollum sculpture has taken over Wellington Airport.
LOTR: New Zealand experienced a tourism boom in the wake of the trilogy. Tours of the sets, locations and the Weta Workshop are amongst some of the most popular attractions in the country. Air New Zealand currently operates four aircraft decorated in LOTR artwork.
The most obscure merchandise
The least-convincing action figures
Longest time spent in make-up
The Hobbit: 1hr 45mins - Stephen Hunter, who played Bombur.
LOTR: 3hrs 30mins - John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli.
Peter Jackson’s cameos
The Hobbit (so far): Air safety video ‘An unexpected brief’ for Air New Zealand
LOTR: Once in each film, including a belching drunk in 'The Fellowship of the Ring'.
Peter Jackson’s weight
The director dramatically shed the pounds between 'Return of the King' and 'Hobbit'. See below...