At the turn of the new millennium, there was no bigger name on the lips of fantasy cinema fans than Peter Jackson, the filmmaker who was daring to adapt J. R. R. Tolkien’s influential book trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Releasing each instalment in consecutive years from 2001-2003, Jackson had an almost instant effect on the course of Hollywood cinema as production companies flapped around in efforts to compete with its grandeur.
Having an indelible effect on contemporary cinema, Jackson’s contributions to the industry since the release of the trilogy have failed to reach similar heights, releasing a remake of King Kong, and the movie adaptation of The Lovely Bones before returning to Middle Earth with the disappointing Hobbit films.
Despite successive failures, the impact of Jackson’s approach to filmmaking would forever change the landscape of the industry, with recent favourites Game of Thrones, The Witcher and even Dune by Denis Villeneuve, owing much to the New Zealand filmmaker and his hands-on approach to fantasy
Starting off in independent filmmaking, Jackson has long-fostered a love for practical effects, creating the gooey horror films Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles and Braindead that each dealt with gruesome prosthetics long before The Lord of the Rings. In fact, Jackson’s preference for practicality goes way further back than his debut project, recalling one of his earliest film experiences that remains his favourite movie of all time.
Sitting down in front of the TV aged just nine years old, Jackson: “saw this giant monkey hanging off the Empire State Building. I got goosebumps,” describing, in You Gotta See This, the very first time he watched King Kong by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack.
Playing two scenes over and over again, the T-Rex fight and the finale at the iconic New York landmark, Peter Jackson was inspired to make movies of his own. Remembering his love for the film, the filmmaker recalls, “The day after I saw King Kong for the first time, I got out my parents’ stop-motion camera. I made myself a clay brontosaurus and a big gorilla and started filming using frame-by-frame animation…You could say filming that ape had been a long-standing ambition of mine”.
Remaking the film in 2005 with Jack Black, Naomi Watts, Andy Serkis, Adrian Brody and Jamie Bell, Jackson realised his childhood dream and created a competent ode to the original film that heightened the horror aspects of the classic from 1993.
Describing the original as “escapism at its very best,” Jackson is clearly a huge lover of the original film, adding “The story entirely revolves around the suspension of disbelief – and in this case, I don’t want to be a believer”.