MOTW: Unveiling Peter Jackson: There and Back Again

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
December 12th, 2013

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MOTW: Unveiling Peter Jackson: There and Back Again

Peter Jackson was born on 31 Oct., 1961, in Pukerua Bay, a small coastal town located close to Wellington, New Zealand. His father, William Jackson, was a wages clerk while his mother, Joan Williams, was a factory worker. Growing up, Jackson loved watching "Thunderbirds," and he credits the TV series as his early source of inspiration for special effects. He was also fascinated by the science of stop motion as used in "King Kong (1933)." After receiving a Super 8 cine-camera as a gift, Jackson started making short films with his friends. By the age of nine, he attempted to shoot his own stop-motion film. He shot a short James Bond spoof called "Coldfinger" and another twenty-minute short film called "The Valley."

During his early teenage years, Jackson spent the bulk of his time studying and learning about special effects while attending Kapiti College. At the age of sixteen, Jackson decided to drop out of secondary school and got a job as a photo-engraver at a newspaper company with the goal of using his income to finance his film hobby. After working for two years, Jackson saved enough to buy himself a 16 mm camera. He immediately set out to make a short film, titled "Roast of the Day." Because he was still working at the newspaper company at the time, Jackson could only film his scenes over the weekends, which led to the film taking close to four years. The film was shot around his local hometown, with Jackson and his friends forming the bulk of the cast. A fortuitous NZ$235,000 investment from theNew Zealand Film Commission ensured that Jackson was finally able to complete and convert the short film into a feature length film. In 1987, Jackson released his first feature length film, renamed "Bad Taste."

"Bad Taste" was a hit in all the major markets. Critics praised the writing, production, and direction of the film, especially because Jackson, with no formal training, had created many of the special effects featured within the film. "Bad Taste" went on to become a cult classic and formed the launching pad for Jackson's career. Over the next four years, Jackson developed a reputation as the king of gore, with several low-budget splatter comedies. He wrote and directed the films "Meet the Feebles," "Braindead," "Heavenly Creatures," and "The Frighteners." "Braindead" was released as "Dead Alive" in the US and is considered one of the goriest films ever made. During this period, Jackson also met a young female screenwriter by the name of Fran Walsh, who shared his interest. In 1987, Jackson married Fran, who has since cowritten all his films.

Up until this period, Jackson's movies largely consisted of relatively low-budget thrillers and horror comedies. However, in 1997, Jackson began work on what would be his first big-budget film: a multimillion-dollar fantasy epic, adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien's famous "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and split into three films. Jackson first discovered "The Lord of the Rings" when he stumbled across 1978 Ralph Bakshi's animated adaption. It led him to the book, which read over a twelve-hour period. In 1997, Jackson successfully pitched the idea of making the film to New Line Cinema. To cut the production cost, Jackson opted to shoot all three films at once in New Zealand, his home country. Production of the film would end up taking up to eight years.

"The Lord of the Rings" trilogy was a phenomenal hit, shattering commercial and critical records. Shot on a $281 million budget, the movie went on to rake in over $2.9 billion in the global box office. It won sixteen academy awards, including a record-tying eleven wins for the final installment, "The Return of the King."Jackson's success with "The Lord of the Rings" meant that he had little difficulties getting the opportunity to fulfill his childhood dream of directing a remake of "King Kong." Written, directed, and produced by Peter Jackson "King Kong" was released in 2005 and earned up to half a billion dollars. Exhausted by nearly a decade of nonstop work, Jackson took a backseat from directing. He, however, collaborated on several other projects, contributing to the development of the video game "Halo" and producing the films "District 9" and "The Adventures of Tintin: Secrets of the Unicorn." In 2007, Jackson announced that he would be adapting Tolkien's fantasy novel "The Hobbit" into another three-part series: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug", and "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," scheduled for release between 2012 and 2014.