When The Hobbit was first announced back in December 2007, The Lord of the Rings filmmaker Peter Jackson was only slated to produce, with Guillermo del Toro coming aboard to direct in 2008. After nearly two years of preparation, Guillermo del Toro backed out of directing the trilogy, which he co-wrote the scripts for with The Lord of the Rings team of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Eventually, Peter Jackson came back to direct all three films, but the filmmaker revealed in a candid behind-the-scenes featurette from The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies home video release, uncovered by The Guardian, that all of Guillermo del Toro's preparations had to be scrapped, because Peter Jackson wanted to make a different movie.
"Because Guillermo del Toro had to leave and I jumped in and took over, we didn't wind the clock back a year and a half and give me a year and a half prep to design the movie, which was different to what he was doing. It was impossible, and as a result of it being impossible I just started shooting the movie with most of it not prepped at all. You're going on to a set and you're winging it, you've got these massively complicated scenes, no storyboards, no pre-viz, you've got these massively-complicated scenes and you're making it up there and then on the spot. If I was a director that hadn't had those 25 years of experience doing this in the past, it would have been just impossible. I spent most of The Hobbit feeling like I was not on top of it, even from a script point of view Fran [Walsh], Philippa [Boyens] and I hadn't got the entire scripts written to our satisfaction so that was a very high pressure situation."
You may recall that The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies was originally slated for release in July 2014, but then it was pushed to a December 2014. Part of the reason for that delay was because production itself was halted, so the director could have time to work out details for the final battle. The behind-the-scenes video also features interview excerpts from several crew members, including second unit director Andy Serkis, who explained that they were all surprised when production was halted in 2012 during the final battle scenes. Here's what Peter Jackson had to say, admitting that he had "winged it" through the entire trilogy, up until that massive sequence in The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies.
"I had winged it, right up until the point where I had to film this very intricate battle, and I couldn't wing that, really. I needed to know what the hell I was doing and have a plan. We had allowed two months of shooting for that in 2012, and at some point when we were approaching that I went to our producers and the studio and said, 'Because I don't know what the hell I'm doing now, because I haven't got storyboards and prep, why don't we just finish earlier?' And so what that delay gives you is time for the director to clear his head and have some quiet time for inspiration to come about the battle, and start to really put something together."
The Hobbit trilogy ended up taking in $816.4 million domestically, which is certainly a successful trilogy by many box office standards. However, it fell short of The Lord of the Rings trilogy's $1.03 billion domestic take, and each film's domestic take decreased from the previous movie, while each of the The Lord of the Rings movies had bigger hauls than each project before it. Given the lack of time Peter Jackson had to prepare, it may help explain why many fans weren't as impressed with this trilogy as they were with The Lord of the Rings. Take a look at this candid behind-the-scenes video for more on the impossible challenges that crew members were faced with on The Hobbit trilogy.