Peter Jackson is coming to the end of a stay in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth that has dominated a quarter of the 53-year-old director’s life, right into middle age. The result: three Lord Of The Rings films and two installments of The Hobbit that have grossed $4.89 billion in worldwide box office.
By the time The Battle Of The Five Armies, the finale to The Hobbit trilogy, plays out, Jackson’s six films may reach $6 billion, and better the current hardware haul of 17 Oscars including Best Picture for Return Of The King, and 35 other noms. Unless James Cameron has something to say about it with his new Avatar trilogy, we may never see anything again in our lives to match Jackson’s cinematic accomplishment, all done with the same creative team.
If he’s feeling the weight of that, he wore it well at Comic-Con. Mostly, he battled jet lag after the long trip to San Diego from New Zealand, where the last film waits for him to finish. He’s tired enough when I enter his hotel room that he suggests I get in bed next to where he’s resting. Then he thinks better, unsure he can stay awake unless upright. I tell him I had the same problem the night before at a very funny live Chris Hardwick-hosted game show my son was desperate to see, only to nudge me again and again for snoring too loud. Our chat started with middle-age sleep apnea and moved to Middle Earth, how close The Beatles came to doing The Lord Of The Rings with Stanley Kubrick, and how Jackson will handle leaving Middle Earth, a place he almost didn’t get to visit at all.
JACKSON: So you almost ruined your son’s time by snoring? I once flew coach class from New Zealand to London, and my friends informed me they’d gotten a ticket for the theater at the West End stage. My friend had to elbow me because not only could they see me from the stage, they could probably hear me as well. When I worked as a newspaper photo engraver in the only job I ever had, many years ago, I’d get the train home to Pukerua Bay where I was staying with my parents. An hour ride, 16 stops and almost always I’d have automatic wake-up, seconds before we pulled into my station. Travel makes you tired more than anything, and Friday was my daughter’s 18th birthday and we celebrated here.
DEADLINE: One of those tiny gorgeous kids we watched grow up in glimpses during Lord Of The Rings films?
JACKSON: She was 3 when we made The Fellowship Of The Ring. Katie and Elijah Wood were talking today and they figured out she was 3 when he first met her. She’s 18. Kids, more than anything in life, chart time for us.
DEADLINE: Movies and sports do it, too. It’s easy to be cynical, but I am so charmed by these Comic-Con people and how the proceedings bring out the child versions of themselves. Total lack of cynicism. Do you get to appreciate that still?
JACKSON: There’s a certain reality to me going out now. I’d get six paces, no further, and it would be selfies, and nothing else. In the old days, people asked you to sign something, and half would be too nervous to ask. Now, there’s an aggression to it, like they want you as a trophy on their web page. It’s a social coup to nail you on their cell phone. It changed everything. I get six paces and then can’t walk another. But I went anyway, yesterday, found a way to walk all the way around the convention center.
DEADLINE: How did you manage that?
JACKSON: Oh, I got myself a secret identity. I became the Evil Jester. You can look at the photos on my Facebook page. (more…)