Skip to main content
Select Source:

Jackson, Peter

Jackson, Peter

October 31, 1961 Pukerua Bay, North Island, New Zealand

Filmmaker

Peter Jackson made a name for himself in the movie industry with a small collection of gory, low-budget horror films including Dead Alive and The Frighteners. He worked from his native New Zealand, more than six thousand miles from Hollywood. To many, Jackson may have seemed like the least likely person to be chosen to direct one of the most lavish and big-budgeted film projects ever attempted. He may have seemed even less likely to succeed in such a venture, but succeed he did, in grand style. Jackson spent seven years of his life creating the three Lord of the Rings films, which are based on the beloved classic fantasy novels by J. R. R. Tolkien (18921973). Each installment of the trilogy earned the devotion of millions of fans, close to $1 billion worldwide at the box office, and multiple award nominations. With the final film, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Jackson hit the award jackpot. The film swept the 2004 Academy Awards with eleven victories, including best director, best adapted screenplay, and best picture. With these three films, Jackson went from being a filmmaker admired by a select group of fans to one who is regarded by many as one of the world's top directors.

An active imagination

Jackson was born in 1961 on Halloween, October 31, an appropriate birthday for a boy who would grow up to make exceptionally scary, blood-soaked films. Growing up an only child in a town near Wellington, New Zealand, he found his imagination fired by watching such television shows as Monty Python's Flying Circus and Batman, and old monster movies like the 1933 version of King Kong. At the age of eight, Jackson began playing around with his parents' 8-millimeter camera, making home movies. At age twelve, he and some friends shot a short World War II film, using Jackson's backyard as the set. Perplexed as to how to create realistic gunfire in the film, Jackson hit upon the idea of making holes in the strip of film in the frames where the guns would be fired; when the film was projected, the holes appeared as a flash onscreen. This special effect was the first of many Jackson would create throughout his career: as a filmmaker he became famous for his elaborate, complicated special effects.

"To me [the Lord of the Rings trilogy] embodies what I love about movies. I love movies for their escapism, for the fact that you go into the cinema and you just give yourself over to the film and allow it to sweep you away."

When Jackson was seventeen years old, he left school to find a job in New Zealand's movie industry. To support himself, he took a job as an apprentice, a beginner learning a trade, in the photo-engraving department of a newspaper, the Evening Post. Among his first purchases once he started receiving paychecks was a used 16-millimeter

The Creation of Gollum

Many of the computer-generated creatures in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy have incredibly lifelike features. They seem to live and breathe, in some cases to think and feel. One such creature, Gollum, exhibits as much emotion and complexity as any of the human actors, and for that, actor Andy Serkis (1964) is responsible. In a unique pairing of human performance and computer-generated images, or CGI, Jackson hired Serkis to provide not just the voice of Gollum, but the creature's facial expressions and body movements as well.

In the films, which depict the long and painful journey of the hobbit Frodo to destroy the One Ring, a ring that makes its bearer all-powerful and must be destroyed to prevent its misuse, Gollum is a deformed, stooped, hairless creature who once was a ring-bearer like Frodo. He began life as a hobbit named Smeagol, and his years possessing the ring corrupted him in both mind and body. Gollum joins Frodo and his friend Sam for a portion of their journey, longing to steal back the ring, which he calls "my Precious."

Serkis originally agreed to the role of Gollum thinking it would involve a few weeks of voice-over work. He told Michael Fleming of Daily Variety, "I remember thinking, a voice-over? Why can't I get offered a decent acting role in a major movie? ... This didn't seem that involved." He soon realized, however, that his contributions to the character would go far beyond Gollum's reptile-like hissings. By the end of the three films' production, Serkis had worked more hours than any other actor in the films. And his extraordinary contributions brought him high praise from critics and fans, with many suggesting he should be nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.

Serkis began by acting out the role of Gollum with his costars, creating the character's physical style. Animators observed Serkis's performance, using his movements as the basis for the Gollum they created on computers. Serkis then went through each of Gollum's scenes again, this time wearing a high-tech motion-capture suit. Sensors covering the suit transmitted details about Serkis's every move to the animators' computers, enabling the graphic artists to digitally recreate Serkis's physical motions with startling accuracy. Serkis performed his scenes a third time to capture Gollum's voice and to give the animators a starting point for Gollum's facial expressions. A team of forty animators then spent untold hours refining the creature's movements. At Serkis's Web site, the films' creature supervisor, Eric Sainden, explained the complexity of the computer-generated Gollum: "There are around 300 different muscles or more on Gollum. He has a full skeleton and a full muscle system that's all driving what you see on his skin.... The facial system we're doing has about 250 different face shapes...." The result is a believable, realistic Gollum, what Peter Jackson described at Serkis's Web site as "probably the most actor-driven digital creature that has ever been used in a film before."

For Serkis, his months of work creating Gollum have yielded an unusual legacy, summed up in Daily Variety: "The performance is signature Serkiseven though the actor was erased from every scene."

camera. Soon, with the help of some friends, Jackson had begun making a short film about aliens from outer space who dine on human flesh. He spent weekends and holidays for several years working on this film, spending his own money to finance it. It eventually became clear that the film, titled Bad Taste, would be a full-length effort. Jackson cowrote the film and served as director, producer, cinematographer, editor, make-up artist, and even actor. He also served as fundraiser, successfully applying to the New Zealand Film Commission for a grant to complete post-production work. When the movie was completed, the commission felt enough confidence in it to take it to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France. Audiences there reacted strongly, some loving it and some despising it. However, even its detractors could see evidence of a unique, talented filmmaker. As Stephen Rebello of Variety wrote in 2003: "Wade through the spilled guts, shove aside the cracked skull and exploding sheep in 1987's Bad Taste, and you're bound to see the flair of its twenty-six-year-old director." Bad Taste was sold for distribution in thirty countries, giving Jackson a big enough paycheck to allow him to quit his job at the newspaper and become a full-time filmmaker.

A blood-spattered film catalog

At a screening for Bad Taste, Jackson met Fran Walsh. Finding that they shared a dark sense of humor and similar taste in films, the two began a writing partnership that blossomed into a long-term relationship. They have two children together, Kate and Billy, and have cowritten the screenplays for nearly all of Jackson's directorial efforts. Jackson's second film, 1989's Meet the Feebles, continued his tendency to push the boundaries of good taste. Richard Corliss of Time magazine described it as quite probably "the first all-puppet musical-comedy splatter film," tipping the kid-friendly world of Jim Henson's Muppets on its head. The puppets in Meet the Feebles get caught up in drugs, sex, and mass murder. The movie is filled with disgusting displays of bodily functions and fluids. While some movie-goers were no doubt repulsed by the film, others appreciated Jackson's sick sense of humor.

For his next film, Jackson took on a standard of the horror film genre: the zombie movie. In Braindead, which was released in the United States in 1992 as Dead Alive, a woman is bitten by an infected monkey and turned into a zombie. The film features a growing crowd of the walking dead, destroying a town and attacking citizens. Brain-dead displays extraordinary levels of gore and violence, but the filmmaker never takes himself or the film too seriously, injecting heavy doses of campy humor and silliness. The film's hero, for example, tackles a herd of zombies with a lawnmower. Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman wrote that the film "manages to stay breezy and good-natured even as you're watching heads get snapped off of spurting torsos." Jackson has labeled this blending of comedy and gore "splatstick," a term that can be applied to most of his early films.

In 1994 Jackson directed a film that surprised his hardcore fans. Heavenly Creatures, while still displaying a fascination with the darker side of humanity, is a departure in terms of style, avoiding the over-the-top gore of his other films. Depicting the true story of two New Zealander girls, Pauline and Juliet, whose intense friendship and obsession with the fantasy world they create lead them to kill Pauline's mother, Heavenly Creatures attracted the notice of critics and filmmakers around the world. Jackson's fans knew he was intensely creative and skilled at weaving lighthearted humor into scenes of gruesome violence. But with Heavenly Creatures, he revealed an ability to convey subtle and complicated emotions. The story is told from the girls' point of view, and Jackson draws viewers into their world, creating a sense of identification while also confronting the horror of their actions. Cowritten with Walsh, Heavenly Creatures received an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay. It lost the award to Pulp Fiction, but the film earned such positive attention that it led to greater opportunities for Jackson as a filmmaker.

With The Frighteners, Jackson returned to his comedy/horror roots, but this time he had the support of a large Hollywood film studio (Universal), a major star (Michael J. Fox), and a big-name producer (Robert Zemeckis). Determined to stay in his home country, Jackson insisted that the movie be made in New Zealand. His homegrown visual-effects studio, Weta Workshop, created close to six hundred computer-generated special-effects shots for the film. Fox plays a con-man who communicates with the dead and is reluctantly drawn into a hunt for a deadly spirit on a killing spree. Intended as a Halloween release, the film became a victim of schedule juggling and came out in the summer of 1996. It failed to connect on a large scale with audiences, though Jackson's fans happily added it to the list of reasons to marvel at the New Zealander filmmaker.

A gigantic risk

Jackson and Walsh, longtime fans of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, wanted to make a fantasy film and considered the classic trilogy to be the model for all fantasy literature. Wondering why it had not been attempted before, theyand their writing partner Philippa Boyensbegan working on a screenplay with the backing of Miramax, the Disney-owned film studio. Problems arose when Miramax became worried about the projected cost, suggesting the trilogy be compressed into one film. Jackson began looking for another studio to finance the film. With a projected cost of nearly $300 million for three films, and with nothing in his past experience to suggest that the New Zealander was the right director for the Tolkien masterpiece, Jackson's pitch was a tough sell. Taking on a great risk, New Line Cinema agreed to back the films, counting on the widespread fan base for the books to bring people into theaters. It was decided that the three films would be shot at the same time, something that had never before been attempted in the history of film. The decision arose from the studio's desire to cut costs, but Jackson came to feel it was the best approach: "I felt that in order to do the tale's epic nature justice, we had to shoot it as one big story because that's what it is," he explained at the Lord of the Rings Web site. "It's three movies that will take you through three very unique experiences but it all adds up to one unforgettable story."

Tolkien's novels, first published in the 1950s and read by millions of people in many different languages, transport readers to a distant time in an imagined realm called Middle-earth. An epic battle of good versus evil, The Lord of the Rings features a varied collection of creatures, including hobbits, elves, dwarves, and humans, waging war against wickedness. The films boast a huge cast, including Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellan, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, and many others. The actors spent well over a year in New Zealand shooting the film, far away from their homes and families. They learned how to ride horses, sword fight, and speak Elvish, a language invented by Tolkien. Language coaches were brought in to develop a unique accent for a language that had existed only on the page.

Jackson and his crew went to great lengths to create the Middle-earth universe as described by Tolkien, paying attention to every last detail. "From the beginning I didn't want to make your standard fantasy film," Jackson stated in an article at the Lord of the Rings Web site. "I wanted something that felt much, much more real. Tolkien writes in a way that makes everything come alive and we wanted to set that realistic feeling of an ancient world-come-to-life right away with the first film, then continue to build it as the story unravels." In the same article, Blanchett, who plays Galadriel, the elf queen, recalled the vivid world the filmmakers had created: "By the time I started working, there was such a strong and real-life sense of the various cultures, their histories, and their hopes for the future. It was really like becoming part of a whole different universe. I've never experienced anything like it before." The special-effects experts at Weta deserve much of the credit for the films' richly textured universe. The first two installments each have eight hundred special-effects shots, while the third part includes more than fifteen hundred. Such shots are perhaps most crucial to the gigantic battle scenes, which are populated by thousands of computer-generated creatures.

A huge payoff

Jackson understood from the beginning that he had a dual purpose with these films. He felt a tremendous obligation to remain faithful to the books, knowing the intense devotion felt by many Tolkien fans. He also knew, however, that the films had to entertain and make sense to moviegoers who had not read the books. At the film's Web site, Jackson recalled that he, Walsh, and Boyens combed through the books when writing the screenplay; in addition, "every time we shot a scene, I reread that part of the book right before, as did the cast. It was always worth it, always inspiring." The first part, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring came out in December of 2001 to great acclaim. Not only were most Tolkien fans impressed by the care Jackson lavished on the film, but millions who had not read the booksand many who had no interest in the fantasy genrewere entranced as well. The film earned more than $850 million at the box office worldwide and garnered numerous award nominations and several victories. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was released one year later, in December of 2002. Despite the challenges of the second filmwhich starts abruptly where part one left off and ends without any tidy sense of resolutionThe Two Towers succeeded phenomenally. Its worldwide earnings exceeded $900 million, and it too received a number of important awards.

Before the release of the third installment, expectations soared. When Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King came out in December of 2003, millions of fans breathed a sigh of relief. The conclusion of the trilogy proved as engrossing as the first two segments, and many reviewers wrote of its intense emotional impact. At the film's Web site, Jackson acknowledged the satisfying sense of closure the final film gives: "The journeys these characters have been on, what they care about, what they've been fighting for, what some of their friends have died for, all leads to the events in The Return of the King. " As many expected, Return of the King swept the 2004 Academy Awards, winning the Oscar in every category in which it had been nominated, including best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay, and best visual effects. The film also won best director and other awards at the Golden Globes ceremony and from the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA).

In the midst of the release cycle for the three Lord of the Rings films, Jackson was often asked by journalists what project he would tackle next. He generally replied that he and Walsh were looking forward to working on another small film on the order of Heavenly Creatures. But when the offer came for him to direct a remake of King Kong, hardly a "small film," Jackson could not refuse. The original 1933 version was the movie that had made Jackson decide, at the age of nine, to become a filmmaker. He had been offered the chance to direct a King Kong remake once before, in the mid-1990s, but funding had fallen through. When the chance came along again, he leaped at it. Having traveled with him to Middle-earth and back, millions of Jackson fans eagerly anticipated the next ride.

For More Information

Periodicals

Corliss, Richard. "Peter Jackson: Lord of the Cinema." Time (April 26, 2004): p. 100.

Fleming, Michael. "Oscar Hopeful Serkis 'Towers' over CGI Brethren." Daily Variety (November 22, 2002): p. 2.

Flynn, Gillian. "Gory Days." Entertainment Weekly (March 22, 2002): p. 63.

Gleiberman, Owen. "Dead Alive. " Entertainment Weekly (March 5, 1993): p. 40.

McLean, Thomas J. "'King' Maker.' Daily Variety (December 19, 2003): p. A6.

Rebello, Stephen. "Peter Jackson's Bad Taste. " Variety (December 8, 2003): p. S92.

Web Sites

"Andy Serkis: The Lord of the Rings. " Andy Serkis. http://www.serkis.com/cinlotr.htm (accessed August 1, 2004).

The Lord of the Rings. http://www.lordoftherings.net (accessed August 1, 2004).

"Peter Jackson: The King of the Rings." BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/film/3429373.stm (accessed August 1, 2004).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jackson, Peter." UXL Newsmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jackson, Peter." UXL Newsmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/general/culture-magazines/jackson-peter

"Jackson, Peter." UXL Newsmakers. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/general/culture-magazines/jackson-peter

Jackson, Peter 1961–

JACKSON, Peter 1961–

PERSONAL

Born October 31, 1961, Pukerua Bay, New Zealand; son of William (an accountant) and Joan (a factory worker) Jackson; companion of Frances "Fran" Walsh (a writer and producer); children: Katie, William (Billy). Education: Studied at Kapiti College, Wellington, New Zealand. Avocational Interests: Collecting historical accounts and World War I model airplanes.

Addresses: Office—WingNut Films, Ltd., Camperdown Rd., Miramar, P.O. Box 15–208, Wellington, New Zealand. Agent—International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Manager—Key Creatives, 9595 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 800, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Publicist—Carol Marshall, PMK/HBH, 8500 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.

Career: Director, producer, screenwriter, and special effects technician. Affiliated with WingNut Films, Ltd. (film production company), Wellington, New Zealand, and with Weta Digital, Ltd. (special effects company), New Zealand. Made films as a child.

Awards, Honors: Audience Award, Fantafestival, 1989, and International Fantasy Film Award nomination, Fantasporto, best film, 1990, both for Bad Taste; Best Direction Award, Fantafestival, and International Fantasy Film Award nomination, best film, both 1991, for Meet the Feebles; Film Award, New Zealand Film and Television awards, best director and (with others) best screenplay, International Fantasy Film Award, best film, Silver Scream Award, Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival, and Grand Prize, Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival, all 1993, for Braindead; Metro Media Award, Toronto International Film Festival, and Silver Lion, Venice International Film Festival, both 1994, Film Award, New Zealand Film and Television awards, best director, Grand Prize, Gerardmer Film Festival, Academy Award nomination (with Frances Walsh), best writing, screenplay written directly for the screen, and WGA Screen Award nomination (with Frances Walsh), Writers Guild of America, best screenplay written directly for the screen, all 1995, ALFS Award, London Critics Circle Film awards, director of the year, and ALFS Award nomination, film of the year, both 1996, all for Heavenly Creatures; Television Award, New Zealand Film and Television awards, best director, 1996, and Audience Jury Award, Fantasporto, 1997, for Forgotten Silver; Catalonian International Film Festival Award nomination, best film, 1996, and International Horror Guild Award nomination, best movie, 1997, both for Robert Zemeckis Presents: The Frighteners; honorary degree (with Frances Walsh), Massey University, 2001; named companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, 2001; Special Achievement Award, National Board of Review, Southeastern Film Critics Association awards, best director and (with others) best adapted screenplay, and Boston Society of Film Critics Award nomination, best director, all 2001, American Film Institute Film Award (with others), AFI movie of the year, Golden Satellite Award (with others), International Press Academy, best motion picture, Saturn Award, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, best direction, Florida Film Critics Circle Award, best director, Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award, best director, Sierra Award, Las Vegas Film Critics Society awards, David Lean Award for direction, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Film Award (with others), British Academy of Film and Television Arts, best film, Best Foreign Film Award, Australian Film Institute, Robert Award, best American film, MTV Movie Award, best movie, Academy Award nominations, best director, (with others) best picture, and (with others) best writing, screenplay based on material previously produced or published, Golden Globe Award nominations, best director and (with others) best motion picture—drama, Directors Guild of America Award nomination, outstanding directorial achievement in motion pictures, WGA Screen Award nomination (with Frances Walsh and Philippa Boyens), Writers Guild of America, best screenplay based on material previously produced or published, Golden Satellite Award nomination (with others), best adapted screenplay, Saturn Award nomination (with others), best writing, Bram Stoker Award nomination, Horror Writers Association, screenplay, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award nomination, best director, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, best director, Young Artist Award nomination, Young Artist Foundation, best family feature film—drama, USC Scripter Award nomination (with others), Hugo Award nomination, best dramatic presentation, Childrens' Award nomination (with others), British Academy of Film and Television Arts, best feature film, Film Award nomination (with others), British Academy of Film and Television Arts, best adapted screenplay, Empire Award nomination, best director, Bodil Award nomination, best American film, Amanda Award nomination, best foreign feature film, and Online Film Critics Society Award nominations, best director and (with others) best adapted screenplay, all 2002, Nebula Award (with others), Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, best script, DVD Exclusive awards, including Director Award and DVD Premiere awards for best new, enhanced, or reconstructed movie scenes and (with others) best audio commentary in a new release, all 2003, and Czech Lion Award nomination, best foreign language film, all 2003, all for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; named "Man of the Year 2002," Empire (Australia), 2003; appeared on "Power 100" list, Premiere, 2002, 2003, and 2004; special citation, Toronto Film Critics Association, 2003, for "Lord of the Rings" trilogy of films; Dallas–Forth Worth Film Critics Association Award, Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award, Sierra Award, and Online Film Critics Society Award, all best director, Young Artist Award, best family feature film—drama, MTV Movie Award, best movie, DVDX Award, DVD Exclusive awards, best new movie scenes, Best Foreign Film Award, Australian Film Institute, Academy Award nomination (with others), best picture, Golden Globe Award nominations, best director and (with others) best motion picture—drama, Golden Satellite Award nominations, best director and (with others) best adapted screenplay, Directors Guild of America Award nomination, outstanding directorial achievement in motion pictures, Golden Laurel Award nomination, Producers Guild of America, motion picture producer of the year, Saturn Award nominations, best direction and (with others) best writing, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, best director, David Lean Award nomination for direction, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Film Award nomination (with others), British Academy of Film and Television Arts, best feature film, Childrens' Award nomination (with others), British Academy of Film and Television Arts, best film, Empire Award nomination, best director, Amanda Award nomination, best foreign feature film, Robert Award nomination, best American film, Online Film Critics Society Award nomination (with others), best adapted screenplay, Hugo Award nomination, best dramatic presentation, USC Scripter Award nomination (with others), and DVDX Award nomination, best audio commentary, all 2003, and Nebula Award (with others), best script, 2004, all for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award, San Diego Film Critic Society Award, Southeastern Film Critics Association Award, and Toronto Film Critics Association Award, all best director, and New York Film Critics Circle Award, best film, all 2003, Academy awards, best director, (with others) best picture, and (with others) best writing, screenplay based on material previously produced or published, Golden Globe awards, best director and (with others) best motion picture—drama, Saturn awards, best director and (with others) best screenplay, Directors Guild of America Award (with others), outstanding directorial achievement in motion pictures, Golden Laurel Award, motion picture producer of the year, WGA Screen Award nomination (with Frances Walsh and Philippa Boyens), Writers Guild of America, best screenplay based on material previously produced or published, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, Chicago Film Critics Association Award, Sierra Award, Florida Film Critics Circle Award, Dallas–Forth Worth Film Critics Association Award, Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award, and Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award, all best director, Film awards (with others), British Academy of Film and Television Arts, best film and best adapted screenplay, Online Film Critics Society awards, best director and (with others) best adapted screenplay, Boston Society of Film Critics Award nomination, best director, David Lean Award nomination for direction, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, MTV Movie Award nomination, best movie, USC Scripter Award nomination (with others), Directors Guild of Great Britain Award nomination, outstanding directorial achievement in international film, Empire Award nomination, best director, Bodil Award nomination, best American film, Robert Award nomination, best American film, all 2004, all for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; Modern Master Award, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, 2004; Young Artist Award nomination, best family feature film—drama, 2004.

CREDITS

Film Director:

The Valley, 1976.

Bad Taste, Blue Dolphin, 1988.

Meet the Feebles, 1989, released as Just the Feebles, 1995.

Braindead, WingNut Films, 1991, released as Dead Alive, Trimark Pictures, 1992.

Heavenly Creatures (also known as Himmlische Kreaturen), Miramax, 1994, longer version released as Heavenly Creatures: The Uncut Version, 1994.

Robert Zemeckis Presents: The Frighteners (also known as Frighteners and The Frighteners), Universal, 1996.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (also known as The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: The Motion Picture), New Line Cinema, 2001.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (also known as The Two Towers), New Line Cinema, 2002.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (also known as The Return of the King), New Line Cinema, 2003.

King Kong, Universal, 2005.

Film Producer:

Bad Taste, Blue Dolphin, 1988.

Meet the Feebles, 1989, released as Just the Feebles, 1995.

Ted and Venus, 1991.

(With others) Valley of the Stereos, 1992.

(With Jim Booth and Hanno Huth) Heavenly Creatures (also known as Himmlische Kreaturen), Miramax, 1994, longer version released as Heavenly Creatures: The Uncut Version, 1994.

Jack Brown, Genius, Senator Film International, 1995.

Robert Zemeckis Presents: The Frighteners (also known as Frighteners and The Frighteners), Universal, 1996.

(With others) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (also known as The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: The Motion Picture), New Line Cinema, 2001.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (also known as The Two Towers), New Line Cinema, 2002.

Executive producer, The Long and Short of It, 2003.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (also known as The Return of the King), New Line Cinema, 2003.

King Kong, Universal, 2005.

Film Work; Other:

Special effects technician, editor, costume designer, and makeup designer, The Valley, 1976.

Cinematographer, special effects technician, editor (with Jamie Selkirk), and makeup effects, Bad Taste, Blue Dolphin, 1988.

Special effects technician, The Lounge Bar, 1989.

Camera operator, Meet the Feebles, 1989, released as Just the Feebles, 1995.

Second assistant director, Ted and Venus, 1991.

Stop motion animator, Braindead, WingNut Films, 1991, released as Dead Alive, Trimark Pictures, 1992.

Assistant director, Deadly Bet, 1992.

Stunt double, Grampire, 1992.

Production manager and first assistant director, Married People Single Sex, 1993.

Second unit director, Jack Brown, Genius, Senator Film International, 1995.

Additional visual effects, Contact, Warner Bros., 1997.

Executive soundtrack producer, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (also known as The Return of the King), New Line Cinema, 2003.

Film Appearances:

The Valley, 1976.

Derek/Robert, Bad Taste, Blue Dolphin, 1988.

Undertaker's assistant, Braindead, WingNut Films, 1991, released as Dead Alive, Trimark Pictures, 1992.

The Last Dance, 1993.

(Uncredited) Bum outside theatre, Heavenly Creatures (also known as Himmlische Kreaturen), Miramax, 1994, longer version released as Heavenly Creatures: The Uncut Version, 1994.

(Uncredited) Man with piercings, Robert Zemeckis Presents: The Frighteners (also known as Frighteners and The Frighteners), Universal, 1996.

(Uncredited) Albert Dreary, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (also known as The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: The Motion Picture), New Line Cinema, 2001.

(Uncredited) Rohirrim warrior, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (also known as The Two Towers), New Line Cinema, 2002.

Bus driver, The Long and Short of It, 2003.

(Uncredited) Mercenary on boat, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (also known as The Return of the King), New Line Cinema, 2003.

Television Work; Series:

Special effects technician, Worzel Gummidge Down Under, Channel 4, 1987 and 1989.

(With Paul D. Barron) Executive producer, Ship to Shore, Nine Network, c. 1993–1996.

Television Cinematographer; Movies:

Romance on the Orient Express, 1985.

"Cloud Waltzing," Harlequin Romance Movie, Showtime, 1987.

The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank, 1988.

"Out of the Shadows," Harlequin Romance Movie, Showtime, 1988.

Television Project Manager; Movies:

Hercules and the Circle of Fire, syndicated, 1994.

Hercules and the Lost Kingdom, syndicated, 1994.

Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur, syndicated, 1994.

Television Work; Specials:

Director (with Costa Botes) and executive producer (with Jamie Selkirk), Forgotten Silver, [New Zealand], 1995.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Forgotten Silver, [New Zealand], 1995.

Host, A Passage to Middle–Earth: The Making of "The Lord of the Rings" (documentary), Sci–Fi Channel, 2001.

Himself, Quest for the Ring (documentary), Fox, 2001.

Himself, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Return to Middle Earth(documentary), The WB, 2002.

Himself, Making the Movie (also known as Making the Movie: The Lord of the Rings), 2002.

Himself, The Lord of the Rings: The Quest Fulfilled, 2003.

Himself, DNZ: The Real Middle Earth, 2004.

Himself, Journey to Middle Earth: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Arts and Entertainment, 2004.

Himself, The 100 Scariest Movie Moments, 2004.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

Himself, The 74th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2002.

Himself, First Annual Spaceys, 2003.

Himself, 2003 MTV Movie Awards, MTV, 2003.

Himself, The 76th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2004.

Himself, The 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards, NBC, 2004.

Himself, The 2004 MTV Movie Awards, MTV, 2004.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Himself, The Buzz, YTV, 2002.

Himself, "Kuninkaan paluu—tarun paeaetoes," 4Pop, [Finland], 2003.

Himself, Frids film, TV Danmark (Denmark), 2003.

RECORDINGS

Videos:

Himself, Good Taste Made Bad Taste, 1988.

Himself, The Making of "The Lord of the Rings," 2002.

WRITINGS

Screenplays:

(With Tony Hiles and Ken Hammon) Bad Taste, Blue Dolphin, 1988.

Meet the Feebles, 1989, released as Just the Feebles, 1995.

(With Stephen Sinclair and Frances Walsh) Braindead, WingNut Films, 1991, released as Dead Alive, Trimark Pictures, 1992.

(With Walsh) Heavenly Creatures (also known as Himmlische Kreaturen), Miramax, 1994, longer version released as Heavenly Creatures: The Uncut Version, 1994.

Jack Brown, Genius, Senator Film International, 1995.

Robert Zemeckis Presents: The Frighteners (also known as Frighteners and The Frighteners), Universal, 1996.

(With Frances Walsh and Philippa Boyens) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (also known as The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: The Motion Picture; based on novels by J. R. R. Tolkien), New Line Cinema, 2001.

(With Frances Walsh and Philippa Boyens) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (also known as The Two Towers; based on novels by J. R. R. Tolkien), New Line Cinema, 2002.

(With Frances Walsh and Philippa Boyens) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (also known as The Return of the King; based on novels by J. R. R. Tolkien), New Line Cinema, 2003.

King Kong (based on the 1933 and 1976 films of the same name), Universal, 2005.

Teleplays; Specials:

(With Costa Botes) Forgotten Silver, [New Zealand], 1995.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

International Director of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 2, St. James Press, 1996.

Pryor, Ian, Peter Jackson: From Prince of Splatter to Lord of the Rings, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2004.

Periodicals:

Entertainment Weekly, August 2, 1996, p. 41; September 11, 1998, p. 109; October 2, 1998, p. 12; April 30, 2004, p. 20.

Film Comment, May/June, 1995, pp. 31, 33–34, 36–37.

Movieline, December, 2002, pp. 80–83, 91.

Premiere (United States), August, 1996, pp. 33–37; February, 1999, p. 40.

Time, April 26, 2004, p. 100.

Village Voice, November 15, 1994.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jackson, Peter 1961–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jackson, Peter 1961–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jackson-peter-1961

"Jackson, Peter 1961–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jackson-peter-1961

Jackson, Peter

Peter Jackson

New Zealander Peter Jackson (born 1961) started out his career making popular, but gruesome and supremely gory films about zombies and other supernatural creatures that became cult favorites. He became known around the world, however, when he directed the movie versions of the three "Lord of the Rings" books written by British writer J. R. R. Tolkien. He won an Academy Award for Best Director for the last of the three movies, The Return of the King, and the three movies garnered over 20 Academy awards in all. A multi-talented filmmaker, Jackson has done just about everything that can be done in the moviemaking business, including director, producer, cinematographer, editor, special effects, make-up artist, screenwriter, puppet maker, camera operator, stop motion animator, and actor.

Born to Bill and Joan Jackson in New Zealand on October 31, 1961, Jackson was raised in Pukerua Bay, a small town west of Wellington. He was an only child and therefore was forced when very young to make up his own games and stories to keep himself entertained, something that would serve him well later, for he developed his imagination very early on. For Christmas in 1969 Jackson's parents received an 8mm camera, an instrument Jackson soon got his hands on and rarely let go of after that. In 1973 he began making narrative movies, the first a World War II film he made with some friends. Showing his knack for inventiveness, he began experimenting with special effects, for example, simulating gunfire by punching holes in celluloid. Jackson left school at age 17 hoping to get a job in the New Zealand movie business. He was only able to get a small acting role in a Swedish movie, however, so to pay bills he got a job with the Evening Post as a photoengraving apprentice.

First Full-Length Film Premiered at Cannes

Jackson continued to make films throughout his youth and saved up money until he could afford to buy himself a Box 16mm film camera, a piece of equipment that would allow him to make more-professional-quality films. In 1983 he began a ten-minute short film, called Roast of the Day, which ended up, because of the myriad ideas Jackson kept coming up with, to be a full length feature film. As Jackson later told Gillian Flynn of Entertainment Weekly, "I was a photolithographer at a Wellington newspaper—but I always wanted to make movies. So I got some friends, and we started filming during weekends. It took us four years. I ended up playing two characters [because] I ran out of friends." At the same time he was filming this project, with the help of his friends, he applied to the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) for money to help with the post-production work. No one got paid to be in or work on the film, but editing it was going to cost more money than Jackson made at the Evening Post.

The only person at the NZFC to appreciate the film was Jim Booth, and he found enough money to help fund the film's completion. The film, ultimately titled Bad Taste, premiered at Cannes, where critics loved it and the film sold to over 30 countries. A contributor to the VH1 Website dubbed Bad Taste "a delightfully repulsive romp that truly lived up to its title. An alien horror comedy that offered up almost unprecedented servings of blood, gore, dismembered anatomy, and a degree of cannibalism not seen since the Donner Party's last family outing." In addition to the satisfaction the film's success gave Jackson, it also enabled him, more importantly, to become a full-time moviemaker. In fact, after the film's success Booth left the NZFC and joined Jackson in starting up the production company WingNut Films.

Jackson's next film, Meet the Feebles, has been described as an acid-taking muppet movie. It would be Braindead, a zombie film that was released internationally and received much acclaim and many awards, that would ultimately energize Jackson's career. Braindead also brought the New Zealander to the attention of producers of the sixth film in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series. Jackson spent a lot of time working on a script for the film series, but took so long that by the time he delivered it to the studio the movie was already in production, with someone else's script. Although disappointed, Jackson remained determined to be successful. In contrast to his professional ups and downs, his personal life advanced in 1987 when he married Frances Walsh. The couple went on to have two children: Billy and Katie, and Jackson is reported to write his screenplays in collaboration with his wife.

Heavenly Creatures Released to Much Acclaim

The next film Jackson did was entirely different than anything he had done before. Rather than gore and effects, he focused on psychology in the thriller Heavenly Creatures, a story based on the true-life relationship between two girls in an obsessive relationship. The girls, living in a fantasy world of their own making, decide to kill one of the girls' mothers because the woman was attempting to separate them. While the film has the dark side characteristic of many of Jackson's films, it also contains an element of humanity that was lacking in his previous efforts. Rather than depicting the girls as evil lesbian killers, as they had been portrayed by the press, he attempted to reveal the seductiveness of their made-up world by contrasting it with the crueler one they actually inhabited. Heavenly Creatures was the film that launched actress Kate Winslet in her career, while Jackson was nominated for an Academy Award with his wife, Frances Walsh, for Best Screenplay, and won awards at the Venice and Toronto film festivals.

Jackson's next movie was The Frighteners, starring Michael J. Fox as Frank Bannister, a psychic investigator. Entertainment Weekly described the film as "A smart, subtle movie disguised as a dumb, noisy one," and added that it "grabs you by the hair and drags you along." The film was well received and aided Jackson in achieving his next coup, one that would draw on all his talents as a filmmaker and director.

Tackled Epic Lord of the Rings

When it was announced that Jackson, the king of the gruesome horror flick, was going to direct the Lord of the Rings trilogy, many were surprised. There had been several suggestions for the movie running around Hollywood, including one suggestion to condense all three books into one film, another to film two of the three parts of Tolkien's classic work. Finally producers decided to film three movies back-to-back, one per book, and release the films over a three-year span. The movies took over 15 months to film, the cast moving to New Zealand for the length of filming and becoming as close as their characters were. Jackson wanted to film all three installments of the story together so that the actors and everyone else working on the films would feel that these movies were one story. As a Time magazine reviewer explained, Jackson's "triumph was to oversee a production as mammoth as his early films had been intimate, and to keep the grand scheme in mind while enriching each screen moment. Moviemakers appreciated the breadth and depth of his commitment. Moviegoers reacted in awe. And studio execs learned that once in a while it's a good bet to trust a director's passion and vision." The movies starred Elijah Wood as Frodo, along with Cate Blanchett, Viggo Mortensen, Christopher Lee, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Ian Holm, Dominic Monaghan, John Rhys-Davies, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Sir Ian McKellen, and many, many more.

Reviewing the completed work, Richard Alleva wrote in Commonweal that The Lord of the Rings "may or may not please votaries of J. R. R. Tolkien's prose epic, but it is a godsend to anyone like me. . . . This movie isn't merely an adaptation; it's a coup d'etat. . . . Jackson, master of technomagic and generalissimo of a thousand technicians and actors, has made of Tolkien's deliberately archaic epic a fresh, bracing revel." The films were overwhelmingly admired and each of the films won many award. The Fellowship of the Rings won four Academy Awards and was nominated for nine others, including Best Picture, Best Writing, and Best Director. The Two Towers won two Academy awards and was nominated for four more, including Best Picture. Some people were surprised that the second movie did not receive more awards, but it was thought that the reason the second movie garnered less awards was because by that point people were waiting for what they were sure was going to be an amazing last film. And so it was. As Entertainment Weekly said, "All hail The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King! I can't think of another film trilogy that ends in such glory, or another monumental work of sustained storytelling that surges ahead with so much inventiveness and ardor." The Return of the King was nominated for 11 Academy awards and won them all, tying with Ben-Hur and Titanic for the most Academy awards won by a single film. Jackson won the Best Director award for Return of the King and the film won for Best Picture. Together, the three films grossed nearly $3 billion.

Looked to the Future with King Kong

Following the success of Return of the King, many were curious to see what Jackson would do next. By 2005 he was working on a remake of the classic 1933 film King Kong, which he credits for inspiring him to be a filmmaker in the first place. Jeff Giles interviewed the director for Newsweek and explained: "Jackson hopes to bring the Kong myth to a generation that's allergic to black-and-white movies, confuses King Kong with Godzilla and never saw the original, just the campy '70s remake."

Books

Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 49, Gale Group, 2003.

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 27, Gale Group, 2000.

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 2: Directors, 4th edition, St. James Press, 2000.

Newsmakers, Issue 4, Gale Group, 2004.

Periodicals

America, February 2, 2004.

Commonweal, January 30, 2004.

Entertainment Weekly, July 26, 1996; March 22, 2002; November 15, 2002; December 19, 2003; January 9, 2004; May 17, 2004.

Newsweek, August 18, 2003; February 9, 2004; December 6, 2004.

Time, April 26, 2004.

Online

"Peter Jackson," Cinema.com, http://www.cinema.com/search/person–detail.html?ID=2716 (February 20, 2005).

"Peter Jackson," House of Horrors,www.houseofhorrors.com/jacksonbio.htm (February 20, 2005).

"Peter Jackson," VH1 Web site, http://www.vhi.com/movies/person/84517/bio.jhtml (February 20, 2005).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jackson, Peter." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jackson, Peter." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/jackson-peter

"Jackson, Peter." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/jackson-peter

Jackson, Peter

JACKSON, Peter


Nationality: New Zealander. Born: Wellington, New Zealand, 30 October 1961. Family: Unmarried; current partner co-screenwriter Fran Walsh. Career: Started making films when given Super 8-millimeter camera by parents at age eight; made amateur fiction shorts, including The Dwarf Patrol, Curse of the Gravewalker, The Valley; left school at age seventeen, failed to get job in film industry, joined local newspaper as photo-engraving apprentice; named top New Zealand photo-engraving apprentice three years running; bought 16-millimeter Bolex, 1983; started making feature film Roast of the Day on weekends with friends and colleagues; renamed Bad Taste, film took four years to shoot; finally completed after funding received from New Zealand Film Commission, 1986, enabling Jackson to quit newspaper job for full-time filmmaking; set up own studio, Wingnut Films, in Wellington, with computer-driven special effects division, WETA; after three low-budget features, international acclaim for Heavenly Creatures led to deal with Universal to make next project in New Zealand with U.S. funding. Awards: Metro Media Award, Toronto, and Silver Lion, Venice, both 1994, and Oscar nomination, Best Screenplay, 1995, all for Heavenly Creatures.Agent: UTA, 9560 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 500, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.


Films as Director and Co-Screenwriter:

1987

Bad Taste (+ pr, ph, ed, multiple roles)

1989

Meet the Feebles (+ pr)

1992

Braindead

1994

Heavenly Creatures

1995

Frighteners (+ pr)

1996

Forgotten Silver (+ co-sc)

2001

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (+ co-sc, pr)

2002

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (+ co-sc)

2003

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (+ co-sc)



Other Films:

1995

Jack Brown, Genius (Hiles) (sc, 2nd unit d, exec pr); Good Taste (interviewee)



Publications


By JACKSON: articles—

"Meet the Feebles," interview with Alan Jones in Starburst (London), May 1991.

"Peter Jackson: Heavenly Creatures," interview in Cinema Papers (Melbourne), April 1994.

"Gut Reaction," an interview with Tom Charity, in Time Out (London), 25 January 1995.

"Earthly Creatures," an interview with Michael Atkinson, in FilmComment (New York), May-June 1995.

"Heavenly Creatures: Writing and Directing Heavenly Creatures," an interview with Frances Walsh, Peter Jackson, and Tod Lippy, in Scenario, Fall 1995.

"Cryptically Acclaimed," an interview with Michael Helms, in Cinema Papers (Fitzroy), December 1996.

"Scary Rollercoaster Ride," an interview with P. Wakefield, in Onfilm (Auckland), no. 11, 1996–1997.

"Realismens fiende," an interview with Kari Andresen, in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 39, no. 1, 1997.

"Pure fantasie," an interview with Ronnie Pede and Piet Goethals, in Film en Televisie + Video (Brussels), February 1997.

"It Was Close Enough, Jim," in Onfilm (Auckland), no. 10, 1997.


On JACKSON: articles—

Clarke, Jeremy, "Talent Force," in Films & Filming (London), September 1989.

Clarke, Jeremy, "Photolithographers from Outer Space," in What'son in London, 13 September 1989.

Floyd, Nigel, "Kiwi Fruit," in Time Out (London), 12 May 1993.

Maxford, Howard, "Gore Blimey!," in What's On in London, 12 May 1993.

McDonald, Lawrence, "A Critique of the Judgement of Bad Taste or beyond Braindead Criticism: The Films of Peter Jackson," in Illusions (Wellington, NZ), Winter 1993.

Salisbury, Mark, "Peter Jackson, Gore Hound," in Empire (London), June 1993.

Feinstein, Howard, "Death and the Maidens," in Village Voice (New York), 15 November 1994.

Charity, Tom, "Gut Reaction," in Time Out (London), 25 January 1995.

Cameron-Wilson, James, "Natural-born Culler," in Times (London), 8 February 1995.

Cameron-Wilson, James, "The Frightener," in What's on in London, 8 February 1995.

Atkinson, Michael, "Earthly Creatures," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1995.

Williams, David E., and Ron Magid, "Scared Silly: New Zealand's New Digital Age," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), August 1996.

Filmography, in Segnocinema (Vicenza), January/February 1997.

Grapes, D., "Filmmakers Aim Broadsides at 'Passionate' Commission," in Onfilm (Auckland), no. 10, 1997.


* * *

After his first three features, most critics thought they had Peter Jackson neatly pegged: an antipodean maverick whose films made up for their zero-budget limitations with comic gusto and creative ingenuity; films whose gross-out excesses of spurting bodily fluids and splattered guts made George Romero and Sam Raimi look like models of genteel restraint. Jackson's work, in short, seemed to be comprehensively summed up by the blithely upfront title of his debut film, Bad Taste. And then came his fourth film, the award-winning Heavenly Creatures, and suddenly all the assumptions had to be revised. Jackson himself, noting a hint of surprise behind the acclaim, pointed out that like all his work the film stemmed from his "unhealthy interest in the grotesque." But if there was continuity in terms of themes and preoccupations, Heavenly Creatures showed Jackson was also capable of emotional complexity, subtlety, and sophistication—qualities no one would have suspected from his previous films.

Far from striving to disguise the ramshackle, garden-shed genesis of his early work, Jackson gloried in it, making an amateurish, peculiarly New Zealander domesticity central to his humour. The Astral Investigation and Defence Service team ("I wish they'd do something about those initials") who foil predatory aliens in Bad Taste are as far from their jut-jawed Hollywood counterparts as could be imagined; inept, nerdish, and post-adolescent, they shamble around bickering over trivialities or moaning about filling in time-sheets. In Braindead, whose showdown erupts in a bland suburban home, the hero demolishes a horde of flesh-eating zombies, not with flamethrower or pump-action shotgun, but with a rotary lawnmower—"a Kiwi icon," according to the director. It comes as no surprise to read, in the end-titles for Bad Taste, a credit to "Special Assistants to the Producer (Mum and Dad)."

Both Bad Taste and Braindead (whose farcical brand of ultra-physical violence Jackson dubs "splatstick") spoof well-established and much-parodied formulas within the horror genre, respectively the space-invaders movie and the zombie movie. Meet the Feebles is more audacious in its choice of target: the hitherto sacrosanct world of Jim Henson's Muppets. Hijacking the standard Muppet narrative framework of backstage shenanigans, Jackson gleefully subverts the perky ethos of the puppet troupe with lavish helpings of booze, filth, sex, and drugs, culminating in one of his trademark bloodbaths. He also pushes the unstated logic of Muppetry to ends that Henson would shudder to confront; if Miss Piggy can get the hots for Kermit, why shouldn't an elephant have sex with a chicken? (The resultant outlandish hybrid is wheeled on—literally—for our delectation.) Jackson further outrages Muppet conventions by making the frog character in his film a Vietnam vet with a heroin habit, while Kermit's counterpart as stage director is an effete, English-accented fox who mounts a big production number in praise of sodomy.

This fascination with outrage, with the consequences of pushing beyond the bounds of convention, carries through into Heavenly Creatures, Jackson's finest film to date. Based on an actual New Zealand cause celèbre of the 1950s, the Parker-Hulme case, the film traces the progress of two fifteen-year-old schoolgirls into an increasingly unhinged world of ritual and fantasy. Instinctive loners, Pauline and Juliet bond together to turn their outsider status into an exclusive, hermetic society tinged with lesbianism and peopled by personal icons—Mario Lanza, James Mason—along with figures from their medieval fantasy kingdom of Borovnia. Drawing on real case documents (Pauline's diaries and the girls' own Borovnian "novels"), Jackson creates a mood of intense pubescent obsession sliding steadily out of control until—as the borders between the two worlds elide—it culminates in brutal murder.

Determined not to present his heroines as the "evil lesbian killers" they were branded by contemporary press accounts, Jackson not only portrays them with sympathy and insight, but captures the richly creative energy of their shared fantasies. Their behaviour is seen as a reaction to the imagination-starved society around them, since 1950s Christchurch, all garish pastels and agonised gentility, appears no less bizarre and unbalanced a world (and a whole lot less fun) than the one the girls create for themselves. Yet the killing—of Pauline's uncomprehending, well-meaning mother—shares none of the sick-joke relish of Jackson's previous films; it is shown as clumsy, painful, and distressing.

Jackson firmly denies that Heavenly Creatures represents a bid to be seen as a "serious filmmaker" who wants to do "arty mainstream films." "People immediately assume that filmmakers do things because of a grand plan. . . . I do intend to do other splatter films," he told Cinema Papers. "I have intentions of doing all sorts of films. I have no interest in a 'career' as such." As if to prove it, he reverted to splatstick mode with The Frighteners, an Evil-Dead-style horror-comedy made (thanks to backing from Universal) on a less shoestring basis than his earlier films.

Jackson's achievement in staying put at home and persuading the Hollywood money to come to him bodes well for his country's film industry. Most successful New Zealand directors (Roger Donaldson, Geoff Murphy, Jane Campion, Lee Tamahori) have used their first major hit as a springboard for Hollywood. Jackson, remaining true to his roots, has set up his own production base (Wingnut Films) in his home town of Wellington. "I choose to stay in New Zealand earning a fraction of what I could make in Los Angeles because I want to do whatever I feel like doing. . . . The freedom that I have in New Zealand is worth millions of dollars to me." So far, the tactic has worked. By 2000 Jackson was working on his huge, three-part adaptation of Lord of the Rings, with a possible remake of King Kong next in line—all in his native country. The $260 million budget for the Tolkien trilogy is a far cry from the small change it cost to make Bad Taste. But the spirit isn't perhaps so different: armor for the 15,000 extras is being knitted out of string—by the septuagenarian ladies of the Wellington Knitting Club.

—Philip Kemp

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jackson, Peter." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jackson, Peter." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/jackson-peter

"Jackson, Peter." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/jackson-peter