Here’s something most movie fans might not know about Peter Jackson: Yes, he really does own his own Stormtrooper costume. Unfortunately, he opted not to bring it with him to his very first Comic-Con International in San Diego — meaning that unless he can procure another suitable disguise, he probably won’t get the chance to wander the convention floor and do some shopping, though he’d very much like to. “It’s very frustrating because I am the sort of guy who’d love to go and buy stuff. I do buy models and collectibles, and it’s frustrating not being able to do that.”
Rather than adding to his collection, Jackson’s here promoting the South African-set science fiction thriller “District 9,” the feature directorial debut of South African Neill Blomkamp due out Aug. 14. The pair met a couple of years back when Jackson was set to produce the big-screen adaptation of the popular video game “Halo,” which Blomkamp had been hired to direct; when that project fell apart, Jackson encouraged Blomkamp to make a movie independently and signed on to produce what would become “District 9.”
Jackson said he knew just from Blomkamp’s short films, one of which inspired “District 9,” and the commercials he had directed that he possessed a singular talent. “This was a guy who knew how to use a camera, he understood visual effects, he wasn’t scared of science fiction,” Jackson said in an interview this morning at San Diego’s Hard Rock Hotel. “There was a courageous sense that you could feel. I think that’s one of the things about filmmaking. You’ve got to be brave. You’ve got to take risks and not be too conservative and nervous, and you could sense that in the work that Neill had done.”
Of course, the Oscar winner has plenty of other projects in the works. Up next is “The Lovely Bones,” set for release Dec. 11. Jackson screened a four-and-a-half minute montage from the film last night for a select group of invited guests. “There is a trailer being released in two weeks’ time, but I didn’t really want to show a trailer because everyone will get to see that in two weeks. The four-and-a-half minute piece actually shows a bit more of the tone of the film. [Getting the tone of the film right] was the hardest thing we’ve ever done in our lives,” Jackson said, alluding to he and his writing partners, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, who collaborated on adapting Alice Sebold’s bestselling novel, about a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family from heaven.
“It was a very difficult film to make — not technically, we had fantastic actors and we had everybody working really brilliantly on the movie,” he said. “But it’s a very personal film. I was a little bit worried when I finished ‘[King] Kong’ that I was getting stuck in a big-budget, visual effects, monster fantasy type of thing and I just felt that I know how to make these sorts of films now, I know how to spend $200 million of someone else’s money and put a lot of effects on screen and make a big three-hour epic. I’ve figured that out. What I really wanted to do was to go back and do something that was different to anything I’d done and to challenge myself a bit more.”
Not that he’s stepped away from big-budget spectacle entirely. He’s still working on the script for the first of the two “Hobbit” films (set to be directed by Guillermo del Toro), which is about three weeks away from being delivered to the studio. He said despite the fact that people assume the film is greenlighted, “that’s not really true. It has to be shot for a particular budget and the studio has to be comfortable with that and they have to like the script. So, there is a process involved and we’re about to go into that process. Once we’ve got the script, we can then budget and schedule it and at that point we can go out and cast the movie. Everybody thinks we’re casting it secretly and we’re talking to people, which is not true either. We haven’t offered any actor a role yet because they always ask to see the script, obviously, and you can’t offer an actor a role until you’ve got dates that you can tell them when you need them. We kind of have to get the script down so the machinery can roll. The casting will begin in a couple of months.”
And “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,” the upcoming first film in a planned trilogy based on the popular Belgian comic, which Jackson is also producing? “[Director] Steven [Spielberg] has just finished his cut of the film he directed, the first one, so I’m going to get a look at that next week,” he said. “He seems to be very pleased with it. The stuff that Steven directed is this very early form of pre-vis, the figures are very crudely animated in the sense that it’s just the live motion capture. Once we’re happy with the cut, then the rendering begins and the time-consuming aspects of it start, which will take us two years. But the creation of the movie is almost complete.”
Jackson is scheduled to participate in a panel with James Cameron at 6:30 p.m. in Hall H tonight.
– Gina McIntyre
Photo: Peter Jackson in 2006. Credit: Getty Images