Peter Jackson's directing evolution

By Alistair Gray

Peter Jackson is a busy man.

In just over 30 years the Kiwi director/producer has flourished from being a wannabe filmmaker with a penchant for splatter and gore, to being a bonafide Oscar-winner with one of the most enviable writing partnerships in the industry.

Renowned for a raft of critically and commercially successful movies, Jackson's repertoire extends from slapstick horror to epic, big-budget fantasy adventures.

With his latest foray behind the camera The Lovely Bones about to hit cinemas, we take a look at the filmic evolution of Peter Jackson.

Brain Dead

Jackson's homage to splatter, slapstick and gore. Brain Dead, 1992, was his third and last venture in to the horror sci-fi genre before taking an artistic leap into drama with Heavenly Creatures.

Described as one of the grizzliest and most shockingly violent films ever made, Jackson worked with Fran Walsh who would later go on to become his wife and writing partner.

The storyline sees a young man's overprotective mother following him on a date to the zoo where she is bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey and turns into a zombie.

Her doting son has to contain his mother while fighting off hundreds of the undead creatures.

Jackson won his first best director award from the New Zealand Film and TV Awards for this film.


Heavenly Creatures

Written by Walsh and Jackson, and considered to be his finest work.

Jackson was the first director to faithfully tell the story of the Parker-Hulme murder that occurred in Christchurch in 1954.

When the intense relationship between Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker is threatened by Pauline's mother, the two girls decide to kill her in a Christchurch park before returning to their picnic spot.

Portraying the characters with empathy, the film doesn't take sides and instead shows the beauty within all characters without social commentary on their motives.

Jackson's first change of scene from the gore/splatter films and perhaps one of the more beautiful and honest films he's made.

Both Walsh and Jackson were Oscar nominated for their writing on this film.


The Lord of the Rings

The defining moment of Jackson's career.

A Kiwi director with a love of horror and gore was at first a puzzling choice to direct what some have called a 'sci-fi bible' and possibly the biggest undertaking in cinematic history.

Written by the familiar partnership of Jackson, Walsh and Philippa Boyens.

After the scripts were written the original financiers were concerned with the large amounts of money needed and suggested cutting key scenes and merging characters. Jackson rejected their offer and began searching Hollywood for new backing. New Line Cinema came to the table with a whopping budget of US$297 million.

The films easily made this back, bringing in a staggering US$2,954,933,388.

Jackson filmed all three simultaneously, shooting at different locations all around New Zealand.

His attention to detail in these films was intense and he was personally involved in almost all aspects of bringing middle-earth to life.

His own Weta Workshop was responsible for the makeup and effects in the movies.

Won individual Oscars for best writing, best picture and best director for the third instalment; The Return of the King.


King Kong

In 2005 Jackson undertook the recreation of his favourite film King Kong.

Jackson's attention to detail was remarkable, going to lengths to recreate the 'spider pit' scene that was deleted from the original movie because it was then deemed too scary.

The budget was pushed from US $150 to $207 million making it one of the most expensive films ever made.

It made worldwide grosses of US$550 million. Directed, written and produced by Jackson with help from Walsh, Boyens and his own Weta workshop.


The Lovely Bones

Jackson's latest big screen offering based on the best selling novel by Alice Sebold.

It tells the story of 14 year-old Susie Salmon, who is raped and murdered by her neighbour and watches from heaven as her family struggles to come to grips with her death.

Susie watches from heaven as her family fall apart from grieving and her killer continues to live his life as normal.

Like Heavenly Creatures, The Lovely Bones looks set to explore empathy, love, isolation and loss and other existential themes without taking a stance on the characters' motives.

With a stellar cast, including Mark Wahlberg, Rachael Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon and Saoirse Ronan, the film looks set to be a box office hit.


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