Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Birthday, Peter Jackson

The master of imaginative visualisation turns 52

The trend of adapting films from various forms of literary works is as old as the art of film itself; countless literary masterpieces have been brought to the screens over the years. But ask any film buff who also has a taste for reading books, and they will tell you that the films usually never reach the heights that the books do — especially if the fiction contains elements of fantasy and imagination, let alone transcend it.
That is where Sir Peter Robert Jackson (born October 31, 1961) is a man in his own league. At awe of films since his childhood, his adaptations of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and its prequel’The Hobbit” have lived up to the ridiculously powerful stimulus that JRR Tolkien — one of the most gifted fantasy-fiction writers of all time — provided in his books.

Born in Wellington, New Zealand to a family of English immigrants, Peter Jackson was fascinated from his childhood days by Ray Harryhausen films, and TV series like “Thunderbirds” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. After getting a cine-camera as a gift from a family friend, one of his first attempts at film –at the age of nine — was to recreate childhood favourite “King Kong” using stop-motion models. While still in his teens, Jackson had made a World War II epic film and a James Bond spoof titled “Coldfinger”.
After working as a photo-engraver in a newspaper for seven years during which he saved money to make films, Jackson’s career began on a haphazard note. His first few features, splatter-comedy “Bad Taste” (1987), musical comedy “Meet the Feebles” (1989) and horror-comedy “Braindead” (1990) delved into a wide array of genres, but his prowess at filmmaking and powerful visualisation was already visible.
But it was his making of Tolkien’s “Lord of The Rings” that has immortalised Peter Jackson. The vivid, rich imaginative narratives coupled with an intricate story-line have made the novels an all-time classic, and Peter Jackson’s knack for attention to detail, shooting scenes from many different angles and playfulness brought the epic fantasy to life like no other. The closing chapter of the trilogy, “The Return of the King”, won a staggering 11 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. His first encounter with the author, while watching the 1978 animated part-adaptation film “The Lord of the Rings”continues till date, as he made LOTR’s prequel series, “The Hobbit” is being made into another three-film epic fantasy-adventure franchise, the first of which, “An Unexpected Journey”, has already met with critical and commercial success. The second part, “The Desolation of Smaug” comes out in December, while the third will be released next year.
Apart from this, Peter Jackson also has, to his credit, the remake of his first inspiration to filmmaking, “King Kong” (2005), being an executive producer for the Tintin franchise (directed by Steven Spielberg), a deal with Microsoft to develop games, three Academy Awards, (nominated for nine Awards overall), a Golden Globe, four Saturn Awards and three BAFTAs, amongst others. He was also awarded the Order of New Zealand — the highest honour of New Zealand — in The Queen’s Birthday and Diamond Jubilee 2012, making him ‘Sir’ Peter Jackson.