When New Line Cinema honchos visited Peter Jackson’s office in New Zealand soon after they had given the director the go ahead to make J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings epic, they were startled to see the posters for his earlier pictures.
Meet the Feebles.
Good Heavens! they thought to themselves should we have entrusted such an awesome enterprise to a man responsible for such films? Didn’t someone screen these movies before giving the Kiwi the greenlight?
When New Line assigned the Lord of the Rings to Jackson, its future was on the line. One false note, and the studio — part of the AOL Time Warner group — was history.
On Sunday night, Peter Jackson delivered final vindication of the trust New Line placed in him.
By winning 11 Oscars and tying the record set by William Wyler’s Ben Hur in 1959 and James Cameron’s Titanic in 1997.
He had already ensured New Line’s commercial future in 2001 when Lord of the Rings became one of the biggest grossers in a year when American was traumatised by 9/11, making $869,797,416 (that is $869 million) in the US and the world.
A year later, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers became another mammoth grosser, making $924,855,550 (that is $924 million) in the US and the world.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kingnot only earned the universally best reviews a film has done in a long time, but has been a titan at the box office, becoming the second biggest box office hit of all time, after The Titanic. As of February 29, its worldwide gross: $1,014,763,077 (that is over a billion).
An amazing achievement for a New Zealander (who ever heard of Kiwis making movies before Peter came along?), who began his cinematic career making Super 8 movies as a kid in his backyard.
To celebrate his Oscar feat, here are 11 facts about Peter Jackson that you must know:
Peter is 5 feet, six inches tall. ‘Portly’ is one description you will find in any Jackson profile but the director says he does not know how much he weighs. ‘I haven’t weighed myself in a long time,’ he told Rolling Stone magazine recently.
He was born on October 31, 1961, at Pukerua Bay, a small village outside Wellington, which had only 800 people.
He met Fran Walsh, possibly the biggest influence in his life, when she answered an advertisement for a play Peter planned to direct. The play had no parts for women, but she stayed on anyway, painting the sets. The couple has been together for 18 years, and have two kids, Billy, 8 and Katie 7. Fran, of course, shares the writing credit for The Lord of the Rings trilogy and was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Song and Best Picture this year (she won all three), apart from an earlier nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Peter was turned down for a job at Kiwi production company Film Unit at 17. He bought the company many years later from the money he made from the first Lord of the Rings picture.
The Lord of the Rings was shot for 264 consecutive days entirely in New Zealand, 6,700 miles from Hollywood. ‘When you realise that every day you spend on a movie it will get better, it becomes difficult to take a day off. You start with a terrible film, and try to end up with an okay film,’ he said recently.
His pre-Tolkien films grossed less than $21 million.
What is the secret of his success? Elijah Wood, who become a global movie star playing Frodo, put this way to Entertainment Weekly, ‘He’s got a real child-like nature. He never gets irritated.’
Somewhere during the final work on Return of the King Peter says he was exhausted. He says he got recharged watching JFK (Oliver Stone), Goodfellas(Martin Scorsese) and Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg).
He is best known for wearing shorts to the shoot and going barefoot. In fact, his going barefoot is so legendary that Oscars host Billy Crystal took one look at Jackson’s feet and declared, ‘he’s wearing shoes.’ ‘I always dress formal to formal events,’ Jackson told Rolling Stone in a recent profile.
King Kong, his next film, will begin shooting in August. It will be set in 1933 and feature Naomi Watts, a gorilla, and, the Empire State Building. It is a subject he has been obsessed with since he was 9. Ironically, Universal canceled his contract to make King Kong in 1997, probably unsure whether he was the right man to re-make the classic. After his epic success, Universal issued a renewed invitation. As always, the film will be written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Jackson, the folks behind the Rings films. They don’t have a script as yet.
Will he make The Hobbit, Tolkien’s book before the Rings trilogy, as so many from Gandalf (Ian McKellen) onwards have begged him to? Jackson says he will do so some day when the movie rights to the book are less tangled. No doubt, The Hobbit will be an event we will all look forward to. Even if the Oscars had eluded him (thankfully, there is still justice in this world), Peter Jackson could be proud of creating more than 10 hours of classical film that will remain long after Middle Earth and this world lapse into history—Heptanesia Mumbaikar