Rings Trio Makes Big, Hairy Deal

After writing and directing the only trilogy to give the Star Wars franchise a run for its money, the Lord of the Rings’ team of director Peter Jackson and writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have signed one of the richest deals in Hollywood history.

The trio is reportedly getting $20 million against 20% of the gross to write, produce and (in Jackson’s case) direct the King Kong re-make for Universal Studios. A co-habiting couple, Jackson and Walsh are now members of the best-paid household in New Zealand. The compensation puts the trio into the same rarified financial universe of Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemekis and M. Night Shyamalan.

The Kong remake is tentatively scheduled for release Christmas 2005. As with the Rings films, it will be shot in New Zealand. It should be a full employment act for local thespians and CG artists. Jackson is part owner of the EFX house Weta, which will be doing the digital work on the film.

To date, the Rings trilogy has cost $350 million to make. The first two releases, Fellowship of the Rings and The Two Towers have grossed nearly $1.8 billion worldwide. The third chapter, Return of the King, opens Dec. 17.