Variety, the leading international entertainment newspaper, reports that as more actors sign on to “The Hobbit,” its production companies New Line and Warner Bros are leaning toward keeping the films in New Zealand. The newspaper quotes studio insiders as saying that now the actors’ boycott threat has eased, staying in New Zealand makes the most sense “because that’s where Peter Jackson shot his three Lord of the Rings films.”
Though studio insiders are talking, there’s still silence from the Australian union employee who organised the actors’ boycott. He was in Wellington this week, but he wasn’t talking. His name is Simon Whipp, and he is the assistant federal secretary of the Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance.
He maintained media silence the other night after having dinner at Matterhorn with a group including Robyn Malcolm of New Zealand Actors Equity which has affiliated with the MEAA. Here’s what happened in Cuba Street, when he was asked about his Hobbit campaign.
The official website of Mr Whipp’s union (“the people who inform and entertain Australia”) hasn’t mentioned The Hobbit since September 29, when it acknowledged the international boycott which it had organised and which it called off last weekend. Its description of the boycott didn’t give a clue to the strife which it was causing: “Until we reach a fair and equitable solution, we recommend that all performers wait before accepting any engagement on The Hobbit.”
It’s not the first time that Mr Whipp has aggravated a movie producer. The Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2007 that the producer of a gangster film titled Hobby Farm had lost his cool after Mr Whipp told his actors they were entitled to more money. According to the Herald, the producer said: “[It's] three weeks before the shoot, everybody on the film is happy, and this union guy is telling me he is going to shut us down.” Earlier he’d left a message on Mr Whipp’s answer machine saying: “How dare you say we have the money to pay actors more money, when we don’t even have the f***ing raw budget yet mate. We’re still trying to get money off the investors so f*** you, spreading shit like that.” Mr Whipp threatened legal action.
Outside the Matterhorn in Cuba Street the other night, there were no threats. He looked grim, but said nothing. Not a word.