James Cameron may have owned this afternoon with his grand unveiling of Avatar, but today was also the day that Peter Jackson came out to play at Comic-Con – and he brought a few friends along for the ride. First Empire bumped into foghorn-voiced bigiature bigshot Richard Taylor and a crew from Weta in the queue for the Avatar screening (mystifyingly, he had two Fraggle Rock toys sticking out of his breast pocket). Then, at a world-first screening of District 9 introduced by Jackson, we sat just in front of two real-life Hobbits, Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan (disappointingly, they shared a tub of popcorn rather than lambas bread).
Jackson has produced District 9, a pulpy sci-fi thriller set in alien-infested South African slums, and introduced director Neill Blomkamp and star Sharlto Copley – both from Johannesberg – to the crowd with some sparky banter about the relative merits of their home countries. Jackson: “The New Zealand accent is much easier to understand – and we’re better rugby players too.” Copley, after dramatic pause: “Yes, Mr. Jackson.” Then the film unspooled to a rapturous reception; we don’t want to give anything away, but this summer sleeper is every bit as good as we hoped it would be, fresh, fun and stunning-looking considering its $30 million budget. Our favourite bit: the nutso alien rail-gun that Copley uses to blow away a succession of villains, and which caused some wild applause in the theatre. Judging by this, Halo fans lost out on a great movie when the Jackson-Blomkamp adaptation fell through.
At this point things got even more Jacksontastic, as we headed to the glitzy Salamar Hotel for an exclusive soiree with the director. Sitting on an extremely well-cushioned chair in a candlelit room, Jackson revealed that he’s just spent three days at Disneyland for his daughter’s birthday – “The happiest place on Earth,” he sighed mock-wearily — then held court on a variety of subjects, including his slate of upcoming projects, his favourite Mark Wahlberg performance (I Heart Huckabee’s) and his new range of model aeroplanes, Wingnut Wings – available to buy at www.wingnutwings.com, kids! Read on for the skinny…
THE HOBBIT “We’re about three weeks away from turning over the first draft of the script to the studio,” revealed Jackson. That’s the script for the first Hobbit movie – the second still only exists in the form of “an extensive treatment”. He said that he and Guillermo del Toro are particularly enjoying writing for the movies’ unruly mob of dwarves. “We have 13 dwarves to cast – it’s going to be a lot of fun. Though there’s 13 poor guys who are going to be walking around the mountains in summer wearing heavy costumes, sweating under their prosphetic make-up. It’s going to be tough. And logistically tough – imagine getting those guys through wardrobe at the beginning of each day and then shooting… They’ll be passing out from heat. It’s going to be tricky.” THE LOVELY BONES Jackson revealed that the trailer for his ‘70s set drama will be out via the Apple website on August 6 (and attached to prints of Julie & Julia on August 7), but gave us the world’s first look at the movie with a dazzling four-and-a-half minutes of footage. Opening with a close-up of a penguin in a snowglobe, it sees the young heroine introduce herself with the words, “My name’s Salmon, like the fish. First name Susie. I was 14 years old when I was murdered, on December 6, 1973.” She’s narrating from the afterlife – which we catch various glimpses of, including a giant ship bursting out of a bottle, an isolated pagoda set against a starry backdrop and a luscious cornfield – having been murdered by evil George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), who we see luring Susie into his underground den. Then there are shots of a vengeful Mark Wahlberg running down a street with a baseball bat, Harvey chillingly telling the police, “I didn’t see or hear anything… and that girl must have screamed”, and some final words from Susie: “I thought I’d lost everything. I didn’t know I could lose even more.” It seems The Lovely Bones has been almost forgotten about recently, but we predict that will change once the trailer drops. Trivia fact: Jackson revealed that the look of Susie’s afterlife was inspired by episodes of The Partridge Family. TEMERAIRE Rumour has it this will be Jackson’s next movie as director, a return to fantasy in which the history-buff will recreate the Napoleonic Wars – but with dragons. “That’s really exciting,” he says. “I’ve got some conceptual art that we’ve been working on and now am trying to figure out the best thing to do with that story. I’m wondering whether it should be some form of mini-series, because it’s six books and I really don’t like the idea of doing the first one as a big-budget movie and it not doing well enough at the box-office to make all the others. The six books make such a compelling series that I think a mini-series might be the way to go.”
TINTIN Wondering what’s going on with Herge’s intrepid reporter? Well, Steven Spielberg has just completed the first cut of The Secret Of The Unicorn, and Jackson will view it as soon as he gets back to New Zealand. “My role in it is mainly to keep an eye on the production and the effects shots, as Weta are doing the visuals,” he says. As for the second movie, he reveals that production is pencilled in for the second half of 2010, a year before the first one’s release. “I’ve got to get through The Hobbit first, then we’ll move onto that. At the moment we’re keeping our options open, but I am very partial to The Seven Crystal Balls/ Prisoners Of The Sun. I’m going to read them all again before deciding which to have a go at.” THE DAMBUSTERS The final stretch of the evening turned out to be an aviatics masterclass, as Jackson showed clips of his recently-shot two short movies, Crossing The Line and Over The Front, both of which feature duelling bi-planes. He explained that he’s also made a film for the Canberra War Museum in Australia, shot Cinerama-style with three cameras strapped to each other, and screened some video of him indulging in his favourite hobby, building old-school planes in a hangar a mile from his studio. His Howard Hughes-esque obsession with antique fighters stems from childhood viewings of 1966 combat epic The Blue Max, and is responsible for the upcoming remake of The Dambusters, which Jackson protégé Christian Rivers will direct. The big news is that it may well be in 3-D – as Jackson says, “I think a World War II bombing raid in 3-D would be neat.” He screened footage of his crew testing out the 3-D camera on some planes in a field, as well as some composites of fighters soaring against background plates from The Lord Of The Rings.
jobin Posted on Friday July 24, 2009, 10:49
Arrgggh we need something meaty about The Hobbit!!!! Please, give us Thorin or Bilbo news!!!
Leightwinst Posted on Friday July 24, 2009, 10:54
britesparc Posted on Friday July 24, 2009, 10:55
If Jacko needs a dwarf, I'll gladly sweat it out in New Zealand for a summer or so. And I almost guarantee I'll be cheaper than one of those "professional" actors.
crazymoviesdude Posted on Friday July 24, 2009, 11:04
Well that would be nice, but I'm contecnt with all that. I'm especially pleased to hear that District 9 is as ace as we imagine.
kingol Posted on Friday July 24, 2009, 11:50
"Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan (disappointingly...shared a tub of popcorn rather than lambas bread)."
Lembas bread. Lambas bread would be something entirely different. More meaty.
Sorry; I have my pedant head on today (and every day).
Blunderbuss Posted on Friday July 24, 2009, 13:01
I'm pleased that Temeraire is still on his radar. The novels by Naomi Novik are several kinds of excellent and it would be great to see them up on screen. I'd also agree with Jackson that they might be better suited to a mini-series than a movie. The whole 'Dragons & The Napoleonic Wars' set up has great cinematic potential, but a lot of the great incidental detail contained in the books would be lost if you tried to squeeze them into a 2 hour running time. Much better to give the stories the room to breathe over the longer running time of a mini-series...as long as its on HBO...
DustyOR Posted on Friday July 24, 2009, 23:14
The New Zealand accent is much easier to understand
That is baloney. I spent considerable amount of time traveling in both locales and did not have any trouble understanding the accent... even the Afrikaner accent in So. Africa....... If you want difficult, travel to the outback of parts of OZ............
Alec NW Posted on Saturday July 25, 2009, 00:28
Dammit Peter, The Calculus Affair is one of the best Tintin books, do that one! prisoners of the sun and crystal balls are the most overrated Tintin books ever. nothing likable about them. But then, what do I know, I only read them all 22345938475 times as a kid.
Plus, the idea of dominic monaghan chuckling with elijah wood at the front, chomping on their popcorn, is so sweet.
boredbluekoala Posted on Saturday July 25, 2009, 01:03
Theonering.net reports that Bag end has started being rebuilt in prep for filming (a slightly longer road around Hobbiton is all they said about any alterations) As for DamBusters, are they still going with the script written by Stephen Fry? That's a remake I wanna see. (also Flash Gordon, but I don't suppose anyone can convince Jackson to do that)
jimvc_1981 Posted on Saturday July 25, 2009, 05:06
Agree about the Calculus Affair - was always one of my favourite Tintin stories - The Blue Lotus is another classic... Hopefully Mr Jackson realises this!