16 Mar 2012

Actors support pub over Hobbit name fight

9:03 am on 16 March 2012

Two British actors are supporting the English pub that has been called The Hobbit for the past 20 years in its fight with an American movie company to keep its name.

California-based movie producer the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) is demanding the Southampton pub change its name and remove all references to the JRR Tolkien classic.

Sir Ian McKellen, 72, who plays Gandalf in The Lord Of The Rings films, says the Hollywood demand is unnecessary pettiness.

Fellow British actor Stephen Fry has also thrown his support behind a 40,000-strong internet campaign to save the pub's name.

Landlady Stella Roberts, 41, has claimed lawyers have written saying she has until the end of May to change the pub's theme or face legal action for copyright infringement.

SZC owns the worldwide film, stage and merchandising rights to The Lord Of The Rings trilogy and The Hobbit and has not commented on the row.

Writing on his website, Sir Ian said: "Gandalf's portrait hangs outside The Hobbit pub in Portswood, Southampton UK and has done for the last 20 years and more.

"I haven't been there, but it's clearly not a place to ill-treat hobbits, elves, dwarves and wizards, in any way. So what's the problem?

"I am a part-landlord of a pub called The Grapes. So far no vintners' group has objected. That would be silly, of course. As is this unnecessary pettiness. More Alice's Wonderland than Tolkien's Middle-earth. Harrumph.

"I haven't yet talked to Stephen Fry about his disapproval of this Hollywood bullying, but I'm with him all the way. All the way to The Hobbit pub once filming is over in July."

The pub faces having to axe its Lord Of The Rings-themed cocktails, interior artwork and even the pub sign.

The movies, directed by Peter Jackson, are among the most successful in recent years. The latest instalment, The Hobbit, is due out in December.