Richard Taylor is the co-founder and co-director of the celebrated New Zealand-based Weta companies. He is the creative director of the Weta Workshop that he started with his partner Tania over 20 years ago. They wanted to develop a special effects company for the local film and TV businesses in New Zealand.
Over the years, they worked on the films of New Zealand director Peter Jackson. Jackson, Taylor and producer Jamie Selkirk then joined together and became the co-directors of Weta. The company created special effects for ads and many TV programs.
Weta Workshop has become famous for their work on Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy movies. Workshop staffers worked on the design, fabrication and on-set operation of the many creatures, make-up effects, prosthetics, armor, weapons and miniatures. The digital component of the company worked on many of the digital effects for the films.
Taylor has won several Academy Awards for costumes, make-up and visual effects.
He recently spoke to M&C from Wellington, New Zealand about the new Blu-ray edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as working on the films.
M&C: Of the visual effects Weta Workshop did for Lord of the Rings, do you have a favorite?
Taylor: Within my career of running the workshop, I deal with technology, design and props. My favorite is the conceptualization of the [Lord of the Rings] world, and the original creation of the world. My favorite is to build the miniatures in the traditional, classical way with model-making. Its visual importance is slipping away.
M&C: What’s your favorite part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy?
Taylor: With the three films, it’s hard for me to pick a favorite. It was a very exciting thing to work on the single character of Lurtz. To me, he was a truly evil and despicable character. He was played by Lawrence Makoare. He was 22 and wore a prosthesis. He [Makoare’s character] fit very comfortably in with Tolkien’s writing. Of all the creatures and characters, I enjoyed working on this creation.
M&C: When you look at the films now, do you see things you’d change, and what are they?
Taylor: Where we were [at that time], we did the best we could with that knowledge and experience. I don’t reflect too much as there are new films to make.
M&C: What is the best part of the Blu-ray edition?
Taylor: I haven’t seen it. But it’s neat to regenerate another level of discussion for the Lord of the Rings fan. It’s a higher level of clarity, imagery for home theaters. The qualities are high and amazing. The films have a depth of detail for the audience.
M&C: Are you in the behind-the-scenes interviews?
Taylor: I was in the original ones for many hours, but I haven’t watched them.
M&C: Why should people buy it?
Taylor: People have a choice to see the same thing again. I wish to new fans to experience the level of clarity that was in the cinema. It’s an exploration of filmmaking.