New Zealand's Prime Minister JOHN KEY has waded into the debate over The Hobbit movie, accusing actors' unions of holding producers "to ransom" and jeopardising the country's film industry.
Hollywood bosses had planned to film The Lord of the Rings prequel in the country, but the shoot has been thrown into doubt after local unions instigated a boycott over the alleged "unfair treatment" of performers.
Studio executives have since announced they are considering scouting for a new location to avoid any trouble and news that the movie may be filmed elsewhere has angered the country's leader, who is urging union bosses to reconsider their action.
Key says, "(A) debate should be held, as opposed to specifically trying to hold to ransom one particular producer and one particular film. I would be greatly concerned if the Hobbit movies were not made in New Zealand. This is a $3 billion industry. It employs a lot of people. It's great for New Zealand; it's a great way of marketing New Zealand."
The news comes shortly after The Hobbit's co-producer Phillipa Boyens admitted movie bosses are seriously considering relocating the shoot to Australia.
She told Radio NZ, "Get this, Australia (is) making a huge play for this production."
Boyens also revealed the long-delayed project, which has been affected by the ongoing financial problems at MGM Studios, is close to getting underway again.
She adds, "It's looking hopeful, but it's not signed yet. The rights are tied up in an extremely messy entangled way, and the studios involved in the making of the picture - MGM and Warner Brothers' New Line - have been going through extensive talks to resolve that issue."