How a Failed 'Nightmare on Elm Street' Sequel Got 'Lord of the Rings' Made

Long before Peter Jackson's name was synonymous with "big budget fantasy films," thanks to his Lord of the Rings trilogy, Hobbit trilogy and King Kong, he was an indie horror filmmaker trying to break into Hollywood. During a recent visit on the Post Mortem podcast, New Line Cinema founder Bob Shaye confessed that it was a failed pitch for a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel that inspired him to hear Jackson's pitch for the epic trilogy.

“I knew Peter, because he had written one of the sequels to Nightmare on Elm Street, one that we didn’t use,” Shaye recalls. “It was not a particularly good script. [New Line executive] Mark Odesky came into my office and said, ‘Look, Peter is coming in, he’d like to show us the pitch [for Lord of the Rings]. Would you be interested in seeing it?’"

Shaye might not have expected much out of what the New Zealand filmmaker had to offer, but his politeness got the better of him.

"So, partly as a courtesy, and partly out of curiosity, I said, ‘Okay, I will, but it’s not happening,'" Shaye confessed. "I went in, and I saw the thing, and it was really terrific. He had done a short video piece with Ian McKellen and it was very impressive. There’s lots of stories that come after that, but that was the genesis.”

Prior to his big break with The Lord of the Rings, Jackson had gotten his start making low budget horror films in New Zealand like Dead Alive and Bad Taste. Before creating his short film to test the concept, Jackson attributes another horror film as the inspiration to tackle the fantasy series.

In the mid-'90s, Jackson's first film in Hollywood was directing the Michael J. Fox-starring The Frighteners, a supernatural story about a ghost who was taking the lives of the living. The film conceptualized this murdering ghost as a figure wearing a massive hooded cloak who could fly through the air. To accomplish the effect, the post-production team had to utilize massive computers to create the impressive visual.

Seeing what could be accomplished with CGI, Jackson was inspired to utilize the computers once again to capture the scale of Middle Earth with a movie trilogy. In fact, the design of the ghost in The Frighteners is nearly identical to the image of the Ringwraiths in the trilogy.