Sexta, 31 Outubro 2014 01:01

Happy Birthday, Sir Peter Jackson!

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Sir Peter Jackson celebrates his 53rd birthday today. Photo credit: Peter Jackson.

Happy birthday to Sir  Peter Jackson, who celebrates his 53rd birthday today! He was born in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 31, 1961. He grew up in Pukerua Bay, a small town near Wellington. Peter started his journey to his future career in 1969, when his parents were given a Super 8 camera for Christmas. Peter seized the opportunity, and the camera, and began making short films with his friends. Inspired by Ray Harryhausen films and his favorite film, King Kong, Peter was already making his own stop-action animation films by around age 9. The young filmmaker also make a World War II film that included special effects, created by poking holes in the film to simulate the flash of gunshots. He eventually made a 20-minute short film entitled The Valley that won him his first film award.

Peter did not have formal training in filmmaking, but learned editing, makeup, and special effects through his own experimentation. He left school at the age of 16 and went to work as a photo engraver for a newspaper. After a couple years of saving, he was able to buy the 16 mm camera that he used to start shooting a film that would eventually become Bad Taste (1987), his feature-length film debut and an instant cult classic. Bad Taste was shown at the Cannes Films Festival in May 1987, resulting in the sales of rights to the film in 12 countries.

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‘Heavenly Creatures’ showcased Peter Jackson’s creative style and received critical acclaim with an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Photo credit: Wingnut FIlms, Miramax Films. Photo via fantomas-cinemascope.blogspot.com.

In 1989, Peter’s next film was released. Meet the Feebles, co-written with Fran Walsh, Stephen Sinclair, and Danny Mulheron, was a musical comedy with Muppet-like puppets. The film also marked Peter’s first collaboration with Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger, special effects artists who would later work on all of Peter’s films. Next to release was a that film took a number of years and numerous rewrites to reach the screen. Braindead (1992, released under the title Dead Alive in North America) was a horror comedy film with a bit of a twist on the usual zombie plot, featuring a variety of special effects and gory makeup. Following Braindead’s success, Peter was finally able to leave his day job and focus entirely on filmmaking.

1994 marks an important turning point in Peter’s directing career. His film Heavenly Creatures, based on a real-life sensational murder case in 1950s New Zealand, played to widespread critical acclaim, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and inclusion on numerous top ten lists that year. Heavenly Creatures helped open doors for Peter’s first big-budget Hollywood film, The Frighteners (1996). Peter convinced Universal Pictures to allow him to shoot entirely in New Zealand. The effects for the film helped propel Weta Workshop, born out of the effects work on Heavenly Creatures, to grow to a full blown special effects company, incorporating costumes, makeup, physical effects, and digital effects.

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Michael J. Fox led the cast of ‘The Frighteners’ (1996), Peter Jackson’s first big-budget Hollywood film. Photo credit: Universal Pictures, Wingnut Films. Photo via fanpop.com.

Peter’s journeys in Middle-earth began in earnest in 1997, when he secured the rights to film The Lord of the Rings from producer Saul Zaentz. The project was originally with Miramax, but eventually Peter ended up working with New Line for what became the trilogy of films. Principal photography began on October 11, 1999, and wrapped on December 22, 2000. The films met with widespread success at the box office, among fans, and with critics. The success of The Lord of the Rings films culminated in 11 Academy Awards for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King including Best Picture and Best Director. The film won every category in which is was nominated, and was the first fantasy film to win Best Picture. The film and Peter’s direction won numerous other awards that year. An abbreviated list of accolades includes the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) for Best Film and Best Adapted Screenplay, the Director’s Guild of America award for Outstanding Directing – Motion Picture, the Director’s Guild of Great Britain award for Outstanding Directing – International Film, and Golden Globes for Best Film – Drama and Best Director.

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‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ (2003) met with popular and critical success, sweeping the Oscars in all 11 categories in which it was nominated. Photo credit: New Line Cinema, Wingnut Films, The Saul Zaentz Company. Photo via lotr.wikia.com.

The success of The Lord of the Rings was important to the entire nation of New Zealand. In 2002, Peter was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM), and promoted to Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) in 2010, for services to film. In 2012, Sir Peter was appointed to the Order of New Zealand, New Zealand’s highest honor, making him Sir Peter Jackson ONZ KNZM.

With the conclusion of The Lord of the Rings, Peter thought that his days in Middle-earth were behind him, and he turned his attention to other projects. In 2005 he realized one of his long-standing dreams as a director with the release of his remake of King Kong. Peter cites the classic 1933 version of King Kong as his favorite film, and one of his chief inspirations as a filmmaker. The Lovely Bones, an adaptation of Alice Sebold’s best-selling novel, was released in 2009. The story is a on a much more intimate scale than the huge epics Peter had been working on, and he reported that the smaller scope was a bit of a relief. Peter stepped fully into the producer role for District 9 (2009), directed by Neill Blomkamp. The science fiction film was a box office success, and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Peter was one of the producers on The Adventures of Tintin, directed by Steven Spielberg. Before beginning work on The Hobbit, Peter also contributed to the film as a director, alongside Spielberg. The film did well, and a sequel has been planned.

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Peter Jackson directs actress Saoirse Ronan on location for ‘The Lovely Bones’ (2009), adapted from Alice Sebold’s best-selling novel. Photo credit: DreamWorks SKG, Film4, Wingnut Films. Photo via arbiteronline.com.

Then came The Hobbit. Originally, Peter was set to serve as a writer and executive producer for the two films, with Guillermo del Toro directing. Delay after delay in the start of production led Guillermo del Toro to bow out of the project in early 2010. Finally in October of that year, Peter officially took the director’s chair for a return to Middle-earth, with shooting once again to take place in New Zealand. The Hobbit films went into production in March 2011. Much of the creative team from The Lord of the Rings returned to work on The Hobbit, including screenwriters Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh, conceptual designers John Howe and Alan Lee, art director Dan Hennah, cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, composer Howard Shore, Richard Taylor and the teams at Weta Workshop and Weta Digital, At the end of principal photography in 2012, Peter announced that the planned two-film series would instead become 3 films. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey had its world premiere in November 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand, with huge crowds in attendance in person and around the world through live streaming across the Internet. The first film in The Hobbit franchise would eventually earn more than $1 Billion US worldwide. The second installment of the series, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug premiered at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre in December 2013, and also found considerable box office success, bringing in over $9.58 Million US around the world. Fans await the opening of the last Hobbit film – likely to be the last Middle-earth film for the foreseeable future – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, set to premiere in London on December 1, 2014.

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Peter Jackson and Martin Freeman on the Bag End set during filming of ‘The Hobbit.’ Photo credit: Warner Bros, New Line Cinema, MGM. Photo via dailymail.co.uk.

Sir Peter, on behalf of all of us who have followed you on this journey: Thank you for bringing Middle-earth to the screen! We at Middle-earth News wish you the happiest of birthdays! Our birthday wish for you, in true hobbit fashion: May the hair on your toes never fall out!

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imageAuthor: Valdis Valdís is a classic nerd, with many geeky interests, but her life-long love of Tolkien rules them all. She was completely hooked the first time that she read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings at age 8. Since then, she has read the books at least once a year, and delves into Middle-earth at every opportunity with a fervor that would make any dwarf proud. She also deeply loves Peter Jackson’s films, and defends them staunchly when need arises. When reality forces her out of Middle-earth, Valdís is a university professor, a wife, mother of two daughters, and servant to two cats.

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