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Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-earth

Narrated by: Tristram Wymark
Length: 22 hrs and 3 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (103 ratings)
Regular price: $20.72
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Publisher's Summary

The definitive history of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth saga, Anything You Can Imagine takes us on a cinematic journey across all six films, featuring brand-new interviews with Peter, his cast and his crew. From the early days of daring to dream it could be done, through the highs and lows of making the films, to fan adoration and, finally, Oscar glory.

Lights

A nine-year-old boy in New Zealand’s Pukerua Bay stays up late and is spellbound by a 60-year-old vision of a giant ape on an island full of dinosaurs. This is true magic. And the boy knows that he wants to be a magician.

Camera

Fast-forward 20 years, and the boy has begun to cast a spell over the filmgoing audience, conjuring gore-splattered romps with bravura skill that will lead to Academy recognition, with an Oscar nomination for Heavenly Creatures. The boy from Pukerua Bay with monsters reflected in his eyes has arrived, and Hollywood comes calling. What would he like to do next? 'How about a fantasy film, something like The Lord of the Rings?'

Action

The greatest work of fantasy in modern literature, and the biggest, with rights ownership so complex it will baffle a wizard. Vast. Complex. Unfilmable. One does not simply walk into Mordor - unless you are Peter Jackson.

Anything You Can Imagine tells the full dramatic story of how Jackson and his trusty fellowship of Kiwi filmmakers dared take on a quest every bit as daunting as Frodo’s and transformed JRR Tolkien’s epic tale of adventure into cinematic magic, and then did it again with The Hobbit. Enriched with brand-new interviews with Jackson, his fellow filmmakers and many of the films’ stars, Ian Nathan’s mesmerising narrative whisks us to Middle-earth, to gaze over the shoulder of the director as he creates the impossible, the unforgettable, and proves that filmmaking really is 'anything you can imagine'.

©2018 Ian Nathan, 2018 Andy Serkis - foreword (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A journey to Middle Earth and Back Again

An engrossing account of the epic journey that Peter Jackson and company undertook to make the Lord of the Rings films, and the impact those movies had on the industry and the hitherto little noticed country of New Zealand. I'm a huge fan of the original material, and while I adored the movies at the time they were released, time has dimmed my admiration just a little (only a little -- I still like to watch the Extended Editions regularly). I still think they were an almost miraculous occurrence, from the decision to make three films (a brave risk, well heralded in this book) to the perfect casting (the story behind Aragorn being one of the more interesting accounts here) to the sumptuous production design by long time Tolkien illustrators Alan Lee and John Howe (interviewed throughout this book). The story of how that miracle happened is naturally an interesting one, and the author was there along the way, reporting for Empire magazine at the time, and it's clear he has his own respect for the source material. I think my own regard for Jackson's Middle Earth was sabotaged by his treatment of the Hobbit, from the poor decision (imho) to stretch it into a full trilogy (like butter spread across too much bread) to the uneven tone -- is it a slapstick comedy? a grim foreshadowing of LoTR? hey, why not both Jackson seems to have proclaimed; I mean seriously, Howard Shore could as easily have scored that rabbit sled chase to Yakkity Sax. The development of the Hobbit trilogy naturally gets less attention here by the time the first trilogy has had its full account, and probably mercifully so. I would love to someday see something of the art and script developed under Guillermo Del Toro's watch, and I suppose we'll all have to wonder if his version would have been worse or better than Jackson's. This book doesn't undertake to answer that question. The author is clearly an admirer of Jackson, and while that allows him some close access, I think it also causes him to give short shrift to some more problematic issues like the actor's dispute and the ensuing changing of NZ law to favor Jackson. I would have liked to understand the ramifications of that better, but I suppose it was a sidepath from the main story the author set out to tell. In the end, this account, with its view into Hollywood politics and business practices and its chronicle of a Kiwi indie filmmaker's development into a global powerhouse director is a worthy one. I listened to the audiobook version, and the narrator did a fine job, even injecting imitations of the people involved when narrating their own words. His Ian McKellan was particularly good.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great Read

Great story about Peter Jackson's early works and of course the epics The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The narration was incredibly rich and satisfying!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A must listen!

I am such a huge Lord of the Rings nerd. I take great pride in the fact that in middle school my friends bet me that I couldn't read the whole thing in a week. I did! (Failing a science test in the process). But I've been hooked ever since I can remember. Peter Jackson's movies soon became a huge part of that obsession. I can't count how many times I've watched the extended editions and all their behind-the-scenes content. So naturally, I had to read (well listen to) this book. Admittedly, I did know much of the stories of the actual production from those extras on the DVDs. But it was super fascinating to learn more about Peter's history as a director and more of the pre and post production work that went into getting the movies made. I'm not a super huge fan of The Hobbit movies, but there are some cool insights into them as well.

As an audio book, It's really long. Not entirely like the Lord of the Rings itself. Also, towards the end, it felt like it was getting a bit repetitive with a few two many endings (Return of the King anyone?) The narrator, Tristam Wymark is good. He does good impressions of the actors and Jackson when they speak and he didn't get irritating to listen to, even after 22 hours.

For anyone who is a fan of Peter Jackson and his Lord of the Rings movies, this really is a must read. It's super interesting, full of cool stories and interviews, and sheds a little light on Middle Earth.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think it's time for another marathon of these movies again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Amazing story

The author gets a little hung up on his role, but the insights and behind the scenes story of the journey to bring these films to the screen is incredible.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic

This is a great story for aspiring creative and entrepreneurial people. Big projects do take years, and LOTR was the largest independent film project of all time. Peter Jackson is a great role model for those independent types who want to beat their own drum, on their own terms.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

An amazing behind-the-scenes revelation of the story behind the making of the Lord of the Rings.

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Hard to imagine a better listen than this.

This is a fabulous recounting of everything to do with Peter Jackson's mammoth film undertaking.

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LOR fan and loved the movies you'll want

interesting listen that made me want to watch the movies again.
Interesting story on how movies get made.

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  • ulla
  • 05-28-18

The extended extended documentaries

As a huge lover of the lord of the rings ESPECIALLY the documentaries provided in the extended edition DVDs, this book brought me more knowledge about the making of LOTR, the cast and crew and the difficulties they faced that were only hinted at in the documentaries. I have always had a huge respect for Peter Jackson and his team’s work and during the book’s progression I found myself ping-ponging between thinking of them as ordinary people doing extraordinary things and thinking of them as godly. What they did with middle earth is amazing.

TL;DR I really enjoyed this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Flora Poste
  • 10-28-18

Middle Earth revealed

This painstaking account of the Kiwi director's journey from satirical schlock meister to ostensibly the Ruler of Middle Earth will delight Tolkein fans, but is also a fascinating description of the film process, and a small travel guide to the wonders of New Zealand.

From discussions and arguments about where the money's going to come from to make the first film, to the final post production flourishes, every twist and turn of the making of six extraordinary films is outlined in Nathan's relaxed and amusing prose, and read brilliantly by Tristram Wymark, who gets ALL the accents and voices right. The only tiny quibble I have is that Nathan confuses the actors Luke Evans and Lee Pace, but that's the only hiccup in a long and complex piece.

I've always found the film making process fascinating, but even if listeners don't share my interest, it's a highly entertaining and intelligent book, well worth the monthly credit.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Miss C St.Jean
  • 10-07-18

An epic account

Thoroughly enjoyable and an amazing detailed account of the creation of Middle Earth. A must for fans. I’m a big fan of the films, and still learnt loads of new information! I also got the need to witness the acting and creative skills of many of the actors and the holy trinity writing team so bought a few post rings Viggo films, and the wondrous ‘The Lovely Bones’.

What I’m most thankful for, is more insight into the integrity of Peter Jackson. I’m so pleased he doesn’t care much for adulation or awards. A man of heart & in his work it shows. I didn’t go to the cinema until the LOTR films came out as I generally don’t like the machine of Hollywood & it’s tedious repetitive formulaic movies. You know, I loved that dirt under the finger nails in the trilogy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-02-18

My respect grows ever on and on

Jackson introduced me to the world of middle
Earth with the fellowship of the ring, before the Two Towers came out I had absorbed the rest of the trilogy, the hobbit and was making decent headway into the Silmarilion.

This “behind the scenes” look at the journey of the ring and it’s trials and tribulations, garnered even more respect I had for PJ.

I thoroughly recommend this to anyone who enjoys understanding how a story came to be or even just a Tolkienite so you can understand the amount of love and respect that the director and his team put into the films.

An excellent book!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • FFigwit
  • 03-16-19

Entertaining and Informative

I was obsessed with the Lord of the Rings films and I watched each one of the trilogy multiple times. They remain my favourite films ever. This comprehensive account beautifully describes the unlikely journey which led to their production. I was fascinated throughout.

I’d wholeheartedly recommend this book.

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  • Phillip Lawrence
  • 02-17-19

A fine retrospective account

Any fan of the LOTR films will already have some understanding of the trials and tribulations of what it took to get these films made. However, nearly two decades after the releases gives further insight with not so rose-tinted glasses. There is obviously still a tremendously fond hold on the original trilogy by everyone involved, yet it was interesting to hear their own views on the less well-loved Hobbit films. This follows an extremely similar pattern the Star Wars original vs Prequel trilogies, in my view - that the first set seemed more mature (aimed at my age at the time of release), whereas the second trilogies were far too childlike, aimed at a much younger audience - even than I was the first time around.

Unfortunately, I found the narration (although good) quite off putting when diving randomly into mis-placed accents. Awkward and off-key - just stick to the written word, without the terrible ‘acting’

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  • James Thomson
  • 02-13-19

Better than the Appendices

A fascinating listen that goes behind the scenes of the LOTR films and offers an interesting insight into how difficult it was for Peter Jackson to get the films made. Well worth your time.

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  • Bruce Wishart
  • 02-06-19

An engaging tale of the road to Middle-Earth.

I really enjoyed this book. The Audible version is read very well, with the narrator doing credible impressions of all the main parties, especially Ian McKellen and Peter Jackson. The author obviously had unprecedented access to everyone involved in the creation of these films which gives the whole story a well rounded feel.

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  • Ben Dlugokecki
  • 08-21-18

Simply brilliant

I listened - then watched all the Movies again! Excellent! So well written and read! A great find

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  • Stormageddon (dark lord of all)
  • 08-13-18

Great

I’d highly recommend this. It contains new information that will surprise even the most knowledgeable lord of the rings and Peter Jackson fan. I’ve finished the whole book in about three days.