Peter Jackson Interview: ‘The Lovely Bones’

On the sunny afternoon of December 14th, crowds of Wellingtonians filled Courtenay Place to celebrate the New Zealand premiere of The Lovely Bones. Peter Jackson’s latest flick is something quite different from his previous work, yet unmistakably his own. We caught up with the director – NZ’s filmmaking giant – during his hectic day to ask him a few questions…

FLICKS: What sort of films should New Zealand be making?

Good films. That’s all – nothing else matters. The reality is that a film industry is not based on its movies, but its movie makers, and a diverse group of talented writers, directors and producers will produce a diverse range of films. If they are truly talented, they will generally be good films. Just as it should be.

Who are your favourite filmmakers working today?

I have pretty predictable tastes – Scorsese is probably my favourite, and I’m glad Jim Cameron is back. Spielberg’s got great films still to come. Paul Greengrass is cool. Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam are always interesting, but rarely perfect. Quentin’s a wonderful nutter. Kiwi-wise, I’m looking forward to Taika [Waititi]’s career.

Are there any aspects of 3D projection could still be improved on, if so how?

Projection just needs decent light levels, to maintain contrast and stop the muddiness. It’s not difficult to achieve. Shooting in 3-D is much more tricky and very hi-tech. At least Avatar proves beyond doubt that a 2 and a half hour 3-D film is easy viewing if it’s shot properly. Eyestrain will come from badly aligned and calibrated cameras.

Do you ever get a chance to look back with fresh eyes on your past films? If so, do you ever wish you done something differently?

I don’t watch them. Each film represents the best movie I could possibly make at that time, and I’m happy to look back at them that way. No regrets.

How do you balance Hollywood business politics with being a creative filmmaker? Are you more at home being a producer or a director?

I have an LA lawyer who has represented me since Bad Taste and an agent who’s looked after me since Meet the Feebles. They look after me. As far as a producer or director goes, I really think of myself being a “film maker”. I can’t direct anything I don’t produce, since I need to make the final decisions on all things. I actually like the writing process best of all, since that’s the real creation of the movie.

How do you respond to the mixed, sometimes negative, critical reception of The Lovely Bones?

No point responding. It’s a very personal impression of the book, shot in a style that takes no prisoners and some people like it and some people don’t. Exit polls for the first weekend’s screenings were very good, so it’s finding it’s audience – which is obviously the people who like it, rather than the ones who don’t! Every movie needs an audience. Making a movie designed to please critics would be a pretty hollow exercise, and this movie wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve. I like it a lot, am proud of it, and have no excuses to make.

Considering the subject matter of The Lovely Bones’, what do you honestly believe happens when we die, if anything?

Honestly – I don’t have the foggiest! I’m interested in theories about energy within us that leaves when we die. Energy can’t be destroyed and there seems to be some science behind the idea that a tiny amount of weight leaves the body at death, which could be some kind of energy release or transfer. With “string theory” and 11 possible dimensions, etc, there’s clearly a huge amount of interesting science around this area that we barely have scratched the surface of.