Stephen writes: Hi– I work in the publishing industry, and saw this report in the email version of Publisher’s Weekly. Thought you might find it interesting!
Book of the Day: Unauthorized Bio of Peter “Oscar” Jackson
With just eight films to his credit, New Zealand’s Peter Jackson is suddenly Hollywood’s “It” director thanks to his most recent film, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which, of course, won Academy Awards in all of the 11 categories it was nominated, including Best Picture and Best Director. St. Martin’s Press/ Thomas Dunne Books had Ian Pryor’s unauthorized biography, Peter Jackson: From Prince of Splatter to Lord of the Rings ($24.95; 0-312-32294-1) waiting in the wings to be released the day after the Academy Awards. Even if he hadn’t won the Oscar, he’d still be the man who helmed the second movie (after Titanic) to ever gross $1 billion worldwide.
Jackson’s newfound respect is a far cry from his cult film origins, beginning with his ultra-violent splatter comedies such as 1988’s Bad Taste, 1989’s Meet the Feebles and 1992’s Dead Alive (a.k.a. Braindead). Ian Pryor, who has written about New Zealand film for the last 15 years and who interviewed Jackson numerous times (although not specifically for this book), traces the 42-year-old director’s path from cult favorite to box office champion.
There’s some good, behind-the-scenes stories of how Jackson shot and released his early films and some of his epic battles with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) over many of his films (most notably, he was forced to cut 12 minutes from Dead Alive to avoid an X-rating). With his shock-jock reputation, he seemed like an odd choice to film the atmospheric and restrained lesbian true crime film, Heavenly Creatures, in which Kate Winslet plays a teenage murderess who later grew up to write Victorian murder mysteries under the name of Anne Perry. Jackson eased closer to the mainstream with 1996’s big-budget flop, The Frighteners, starring Michael J. Fox.
Although with 20/20 hindsight, it would seem filming The Lord of the Rings trilogy would be something any studio would jump at the chance to produce, the back story proves, fascinatingly, otherwise. Miramax originally agreed to film two movies at once, but began cost-cutting and told Jackson that he had four weeks to shop the project around to another studio before they reduced the project to one movie. Happily, New Line Cinema decided to fund the project as a trilogy, which Jackson would shoot over a 15-month period between 1999 and 2000.
While Pryor notes that Jackson put many obstacles in his biographer’s way (discouraging co-stars from giving interviews, requesting that the New Zealand Film Commission not release movie stills and sales information about the five films Jackson produced through the organization), Pryor still conducted more than 120 interviews for the book.
With Jackson’s vocal resistance, readers might suspect the unauthorized biography was a hatchet job, but it’s pretty even-keeled. The director is volatile, but he’s a pussycat compared to directors featured in Peter Biskind’s delicious sourball Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film (S&S). According to U.K. newspapers, Jackson’s reluctance to embrace Pryor’s biography is because he’s working with authorized biographer Brain Sibley, who’s created a cottage industry writing Tolkien movie tie-in books (such as The Lord of the Rings Official Movie Guide and The Lord of the Rings: Making of the Movie Trilogy, both from Houghton Mifflin).–Kevin Howell
Leo here – There’s probably a story here somewhere, though I guess I will start believing all this once I read it in the official biography as well…