Peter Jackson has just landed a Lancaster bomber.

Let us rephrase: Peter Jackson has just been handed a Lancaster bomber and he's very happy about it.

Canvas has come with a gift - a scale Airfix kitset of the World War II aircraft used in the Dam Busters raids.

Jackson is producing a remake of the movie about the RAF mission so he probably doesn't lack for models of the plane.

But an Airfix one will soon be rare - the British model company is financially not long for this world. With it goes the boy's-own hobby heritage of many a model-making guy of Jackson's generation ...

"Hey, fantastic," he says with such enthusiasm you fear he might postpone the promised 40-minute interview and get out the glue and camouflage paint instead.

"It was our childhood, wasn't it, Airfix kits?" he sighs examining the box and explaining that this is actually the "Lanc" model after the ones which launched the bouncing bombs. "So there's a sequel after the dams break."

He was an Airfix kid. Still is, actually, saying he occasionally bids for old kitsets on eBay.

"I just remember that meant so much to me when I was 8 years old. I remember drooling over it in the shop and finally convincing my parents, saving up pocket money, to get it. So I've actually got a collection of those ancient old ones on the shelf because they are such a potent part of your childhood."

I picked up the kitset on the way to Park Rd Post, the custom-built, most lavish (think boutique hotel from Santa Somewhere inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright) of Jackson's various facilities around Miramar.

Yes, it is sucking up but it's also payback. The new authorised biography Peter Jackson: A Film-maker's Journey reminded me that I have been covering Jackson since his first feature Bad Taste (1988) and that my job since would have been far duller without him.

But there is an ulterior motive behind the gift. And it's not to get him to talk about Dam Busters, or any of his other upcoming projects. Our chat takes place a week before studio partners Fox and Universal back out of financing Halo, the Microsoft videogame-inspired movie which Jackson and partner Fran Walsh are executive producing. (Later he says he'd like to talk some time about how studio movie-making in Hollywood is about to change radically, which in hindsight sounds like something's up.)

No, our little Lancaster's mission is to hopefully help crumble some of Jackson's natural defences and talk about those parts of his life which aren't about movies. The biography by Brian Sibley, a British writer behind many of the companion publications to the Lord of the Rings films, delivers a thorough blow-by-blow account in its 578 pages, is big on gee-whiz exclamation marks, but small on revelations.

"How did the book read? I'm embarrassed about the whole thing. Is it all right?" asks Jackson.

Well, I don't know why you did it now, I tell him. You could have waited until you had achieved something, Peter ...

He laughs and says he's been dreading being interviewed about it.

"I always have had a slightly jaundiced view about people who promote books about themselves.

"I'm always embarrassed by those rugby player autobiographies which get written by journalists. I almost thought this is one of those, but never mind."

But he agreed to the tome - which arrives in a rare year when there is no new Jackson film or DVD in the pre-Christmas market - for a couple of reasons.

First, he thought it was time he had his say after a series of unauthorised biographies which he says he hasn't read though he figures mostly quote from clippings of him when he's been out trying to sell a film.

"It's like you're promoting a movie you're hyping; you're in hype mode. You're trying to make people come to your movie so you are in a certain frame of mind which is not necessarily the truth. It's a version of the truth.

"So many other people were writing books about me - I may as well get my version out so people have some degree of what the story was and the motivation for doing it."

Plus, he says, his leap from the splatstick of Bad Taste and Braindead through to the Oscar-nominated Heavenly Creatures and The Lord of the Rings trilogy might be common knowledge here, but out in the wider world he's possibly still a guy who came out of nowhere. And in movie terms he made it somewhere while getting famous just about everywhere. He'd like to tell people what that nowhere was like.

Second, Jackson found another good reason for doing the book during the 40-plus hours of interviews he did with Sibley - these days he forgets what happened as he went from teen fanboy movie nut to bona fide director to our beloved barefoot mogul.

When they were talking about making The Lord of the Rings trilogy he had forgotten so much "it all sort of blurred into one".

He collected all the film's daily shooting schedules to remind him about what they did each day. "I thought in 10 or 20 years I am literally not going to remember half of this stuff."

He also thinks the book may be educational for those young folks wanting to be the next Peter Jackson.

"It's just an interesting lesson for people who want to make movies ... it's more written for people who are interested in how you might have a career like that more than the general public."

Backing a dream

How you might have a career like his is to start out as the only child of unstintingly supportive parents like Joan and Bill Jackson. Both died in the years leading up to The Lord of the Rings. The book's accounts of how they backed their son's dream are both touching and funny.

In the three years of making Bad Taste on weekends, the twentysomething Jackson was living at home in Pukerua Bay and didn't know how to drive.

"But if I asked them to drive me and the guys to the house to make Bad Taste they would just do it and pick us up again at 4 o'clock in the afternoon and never complain, never query it."

There's Bill accompanying the shy young Peter to a job interview at the National Film Unit. He didn't get it and maybe a good thing too ("I'd still be in the lab processing film"). Instead he eventually bought the place.

There's Joan bringing scones into the Meet the Feebles set to supplement the shoot's inadequate catering.

Then she's knitting Braindead crew hats, emblazoned with the movie title. And there's more - alien heads baked in the oven, the kitchen table being turned into an editing suite, loans for camera gear ...

"What I think is remarkable about my mum and dad is they had no interest in films, really. None. And they had no knowledge of film-making and no real desire to be part of it and yet they just threw themselves into it, which I found remarkable. You know, it's one thing to support your kid but if you have an interest in what your child is doing it makes it a whole lot easier. But they just didn't have a clue about film-making or about what I was really doing."

Bill and Joan were English immigrants who arrived in New Zealand separately after the war. Demobbed from the British Army, Bill came under an assisted migrants scheme which obliged him to work for the Government for two years - he became a postie, sharing his round on the slopes of Wellington's Mt Victoria with a young poet called James K. Baxter.

Bill met Joan when he was playing football with her brothers in Johnsonville. They married in 1953 but Peter didn't arrive until 1961.

"My mum told Fran that they had been trying to have a kid for quite some years. It took them a long time to have a kid and I think for various reasons they couldn't have another. They got stuck with me."

And stuck with a boy who, as the much-repeated story goes, went a bit funny about movies and special effects after seeing King Kong on the telly as a 9-year-old.

That black-and-white TV set delivered other formative influences: Thunderbirds, Monty Python, Planet of the Apes and old silent comedies.

There began the Jackson paradox - this shy, solitary kid became a leader, somehow able to inspire others to take part in his grand ambitions, and to make Hollywood come to him.

"That is weird and I never thought it would happen. I did feel very solitary when I was a kid. I felt the loneliness without worrying about it. I was aware of the loneliness and I was aware I didn't have that many friends and I was aware a lot of what I did was things I was doing by myself which I was happy to do.

"And at that point I would have never have dreamt I would have ended up being in the centre of so many other people. But as it is it has sort of developed and become comfortable and it's okay. I don't mind at all now."

For a long time he wanted to be like Ray Harryhausen, the pioneering stop-motion animator who worked along in his garage. "Being this lonely kid - lonely is the wrong word because it sounds like I regret it; I was solitary _ I could see the solitary profession that Ray Harryhausen was doing and thought that could be pretty cool for me. But once I started to make movies where I had to pull in mates and tell them what to do, it just slowly developed over years and years ... ."

Jackson, it seems, spent most of his formative years either obsessing about or making movies. It certainly paid off. But looking back, did he miss out on anything growing up?

"I didn't do things that other people did, but I didn't miss any of them because I had no interest in them. I didn't go out Saturday nights and I didn't learn to drive cars when everybody else learned to drive cars. I didn't socialise. I didn't go to parties - I still don't go to parties if I can avoid it except when I have to. I was happy to stay at home in my dad's toolshed making things and that is what I wanted to do. I didn't miss anything that I regret."

The book gives little detail on the personal side of his partnership with Fran Walsh. Professionally, they met as Jackson started to turn his DIY Bad Taste project into a viable feature. Soon they were working on Meet the Feebles together with Walsh's then partner, playwright Stephen Sinclair.

The book gets their relationship beginnings out of the way in one paragraph, though as he sits on the couch in his Park Rd office, Jackson turns effusive as he remembers first seeing Walsh in the mid '80s on the set of Worzel Gummidge Downunder when he was delivering some props he had made.

"There was this incredible, strikingly beautiful girl with this dark hair hanging down who was sort of sitting there taking script notes. I didn't have a clue who she was but as someone who wasn't particularly interested in girls at that stage I thought she was really nice."

Sinclair and Walsh's relationship eventually foundered. As Jackson and Walsh worked on Heavenly Creatures, their friendship turned into something else.

"We had known each other for nearly three years at that time, which I've always appreciated. I always think relationships are so good if you have been friends for a while. We were friends for two or three years before it developed into anything more serious."

These days Jackson and Walsh are just about co-everythings on their films as well as parents to young Billy and Katie.

It's hard enough for most couples to balance their professional and family lives, but when both parents face the pressures of multi-million dollar projects, can they draw a line between home and work?

"Because Fran and I are together as partners some of these decisions actually go beyond films and are life decisions. Like if you've got [studio] Miramax laying the law down, saying, 'You've got 48 hours to decide if you want to make Lord of the Rings as one film.' When those sorts of situations develop you are not just dealing with it on a creative level - of saying creatively, 'Is that a good idea or not?' - you're actually thinking, 'We've got two children now. How are we going to feed our kids? How much have we got in the bank account? Where are we going to get another job? Is this a smart thing to do?' These decisions are not just based on the creative high ground, they are based on family situations as well. It's helpful.

"Both of us know exactly what each of us is going through at any given time - like if she is struggling to try to get script pages out on deadline while I am struggling to try to shoot some scene which is tough. I help her, she helps me. We both understand exactly what each other is going through.

"A partnership where one of the partners isn't in the film industry and the other partner is bringing all this pressure home, I can't see those relationships lasting. It has managed to make us survive and fortunately we are as strong today as we have ever been."

Worries about feeding the kids have long since passed. But does he worry about the pressure on them being the offspring of two such high-profile parents?

"Now that Billy is 11 years old - we've just been to LA - I am finding now the one thing that embarrasses Billy is when people recognise me in the street.

"He winces with embarrassment - not embarrassed about me, just embarrassed that these people are coming at his dad. He's just started to feel that.

"But no, they are both really grounded kids and I admire them for that. Billy has a very great sense of humour ... when he sees stories in the paper about me, which most of the time half of it's untrue, he chuckles at the funny bits [saying] 'God have you seen this, Dad?"'

Now his career's true story is on the page - with its accounts of how Jackson's setbacks turned to opportunities, those early run-ins with the New Zealand Film Commission on his early films toughening him up for dealing with Hollywood - how does Jackson feel? Has his journey given him a sense of perspective about it all?

"I've just come to realise that certain things happen that at that moment in time might feel like an absolute disaster. I've come to realise: 'Don't worry about it, step back, go home, see the kids.' Because if fate wants this to happen, it will happen. If it's not supposed to happen there'll be a knock on the door next week with something else.

"I guess if I have developed a belief in anything, it's fate. I just feel there is something steering your life which is some way out of your control and ultimately there is nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you meet the right people at the right time; sometimes the right things happen which interestingly enough often seem to be the wrong things."

And with that it's a wrap. A quick photo in the lobby and the barefoot mogul pads out to his car to drive to his next meeting, the Lancaster tucked firmly under his arm.

Peter Jackson: A Film-maker's Journey, $55, is published by HarperCollins on November 6.