In an incredibly candid behind-the-scenes DVD featurette from the extended edition of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, Peter Jackson admitted to “winging it” when directing the Hobbit trilogy.
“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,” Jackson explained. “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.”
Jackson added that he and his collaborators didn’t even have the “scripts written to our satisfaction,” and that contributed to “a very high pressure situation.” Things became especially difficult during the huge battle sequence in the trilogy’s final film. “I was able to wing it, right up until the point that I had to start shooting this very intricate battle. And I couldn’t wing that, really, I did need to know what I was doing and have a plan.” Jackson said at that point he “simply didn’t know what the hell” he was doing.
Discussing the decision to delay the shooting of that battle, Jackson explained that though they “had allowed two months of shooting for that in 2012,” he suggested to his producers that, because he didn’t have the necessary “storyboards and prep,” the sequence should be postponed. The production shut down and The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies was pushed back from its July 2014 release date to December of that year.
Though commercially successful, the final Hobbit film received mixed reviews from critics and audiences, earning 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest rated film of Jackson’s two Tolkien trilogies. Considering the extreme circumstances under which Jackson was forced to shoot, that his Hobbit films are at all enjoyable is a testament to his experience as a filmmaker.
Watch the featurette here.