10 Things You Didn't Know About... Peter Jackson
When The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies arrives on DVD & Blu-Ray next week (April 20th) it will mark the end of director Peter Jackson's 15-year relationship with the work of author J.R.R. Tolkien. With six films and a whopping $5.8bn in box office receipts to his name, Jackson has turned Tolkien's novels into one of the biggest film franchises of all time and put New Zealand firmly on the film-making map.
The concluding part to his Hobbit trilogy sees Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom and the rest of the film's star-studded cast return for the explosive final chapter of Tolkien's fantasy epic, featuring a battle scene that is, at a staggering 45 minutes in length, one of the most elaborate battles in cinematic history.
Even the most hardcore fans of the Tolkien films wouldn't begrudge the director's assertion that he won't be making any more of them – 15 years is along time to be working on anything - but there's no getting away from the fact that they have turned Jackson into a household name and the unofficial 'face of New Zealand'. He's been knighted, won a whole bunch of Oscars, BAFTAs and other awards, and has become one of the most famous directors on the planet, so he needs little introduction from us, but we went rummaging through the archives and dug up some of the lesser known things about New Zealand's most famous export.
While you're waiting for the film to arrive next week you can check out the trailer below. Underneath, you can find 10 things you may not know about Peter Jackson...
His first film cost less than £135,000 to make
Funded by two grants from the New Zealand Film Commission, Jackson made his first feature film, the 1987 splatter-horror film Bad Taste, for a much more modest budget than the estimated $800m production budget afforded to the Hobbit trilogy. Initially given a budget of just $30,000 NZ, Jackson then received a further $235,000 NZ for post-production, enabling him to finish the movie and premiere the film at the following year's Cannes Film Festival. Bad Taste was a surprise hit with the critics, earning the director a distribution deal in 12 countries and kick-starting his career as a director. The film has since become something of a cult classic thanks to its ridiculously over-the-top special effects and gory death scenes.
He was turned down for a job by New Zealand's National Film Unit...
At the age of 17, Jackson applied for a job at the state-owned National Film Unit, which largely made documentaries and educational films for New Zealand's schools. However, his application was unsuccessful and he ended up making a series of self-funded short films instead. Don't worry though, because...
...then he bought the company
Years later, using the proceeds from the Lord of the Rings films, he purchased the company from its then-owners New Zealand Television and renamed it Park Road Post. “Revenge”, as the old Klingon proverb goes, “is a dish best served cold.”
He started making films when he was 8 years old
Jackson's love of films began at an early age, having been inspired by Merian C. Cooper's 1933 film King Kong, one of his favourite movies. At age 8 he received an old 8mm camera and began shooting anything and everything in set, building sets in his parents' garden and making his own mini-features.
As a child, he once cut up his mother's fur coat to make a model of King Kong
As part of his set-building activities, Jackson was in need of some material with which to make a model for his own remake of King Kong – a film he would later remake with a proper Hollywood budget – but back then resources were a bit tighter, so he repurposed one his mother's old fur coats in order to make his own version of the oversized primate.
The Tolkien family aren't fans of his work
This has actually become a fairly well-known fact in recent months, having cited the Tolkien estate's dislike for his adaptations as one of the reason that he definitely won't be making any more films based on the author's work. There is one exception though, in the form of the author's great-grandson Royd Tokien, who has been quoted describing the films as “magical” and saying of Jackson's work “nobody else could have done such a brilliant job.”
He and the cast of The Hobbit got through a reported 140,000 cups of coffee during production
According to the caterers who worked on the films' production, the cast and crew tore through an heart palpitation-inducing 140,000 cups of the brown stuff during the course of the three movies. It's no wonder the director complained of sleepless nights while making the films...
He shares a birthday with Vanilla Ice
Peter Jackson was born on Halloween (October 31st), meaning he shares a birthday with the famously bad rapper, as well as actors John Candy and Rob Schneider, plus Adam Horowitz - better known as Adrock from the Beastie Boys.
He wanted Martin Freeman for The Hobbit so badly he suspended shooting on the film for two months while the actor made Sherlock
According to Jackson himself, Freeman was such a perfect choice for the role of Bilbo Baggins that he ended up suspending filming for eight weeks while the actor worked on the BBC's detective series:
“We were in trouble, I was really panicking. We all were. We looked at other actors, possibly. But unless we got this bit of casting right we knew we were going to be in enormous trouble... I was having sleepless nights. We were probably at six weeks away from the beginning of the shoot, and still hadn't settled on anyone else. I was tormenting myself by watching Sherlock on an ipad at about 4 o'clock in the morning (the second episode of the first season because I love the show). And I was just sitting there thinking 'God, there is nobody better'. When I got up that morning I called Martin's agent in London and I asked if we could find a way to accommodate Martin's schedule in our shoot. And fortunately the answer was yes. So we did something very unusual, we started to shoot for about 4 or 5 months and then Martin had to go and do Sherlock. We literally stopped the shoot for two months, eight weeks.”
Remember 'Evil Santa' from Hot Fuzz? Yep, that's Peter Jackson
Bizarrely, Jackson makes a cameo in Edgar Wright's film (he is on friendly terms with the director), appearing in disguise as a thief dressed as Santa Claus who attacks Simon Pegg's character, Nicholas Angel, stabbing him through the hand with a knife. Check it out for yourselves below...