Rock Center | December 06, 2012
>>> year's most hotly anticipated movies, "the hobbit ," is about to open in america. the story itself laid the groundwork for the hugely successful " lord of the rings " trilogy, which director peter jackson turned into a hugely successful film franchise . but as ann curry found when she visited peter jackson in new zealand , this billion-dollar enterprise really started when a monster movie drove a little boy to tears.
>> hitchcock's great quote about some people's movies are slices of life. mine are slices of cake. that sums me up. i'm someone that can happily buy a ticket and go to a film and come away thinking, wow, that was cool. those are the sorts of films that i hope i'm making.
>> reporter: big slice of cake, chocolaty, with lots of frosting.
>> and quite a few calories.
>> reporter: you may not recognize his face but you know his movies. sir peter jackson , yes, he's a sir, is the creative genius behind " king kong " and "the lord of the rings ." now a decade after he directed the trilogy comes "the hobbit ," filmed here in his native country new zealand . why did you fight so hard to keep the filming of this movie "the hobbit " in new zealand ?
>> my boys wanted to make my films here. i just regard myself as a new zealand filmmaker. i don't feel compelled to go somewhere else to do what i want to do.
>> reporter: we caught up with jackson just before "the hobbit 's" world premiere .
>> it's the greatest privilege in the world to have your hobby be your profession. it's a gift. i have to keep reminding myself of that when it's tough and tiring.
>> reporter: we got him to sit down and take a rare break.
>> last night, i had a look at the movie for the first time as a complete finished run of a film.
>> reporter: what did you think?
>> it was okay. a few little tweaks to do today, though.
>> reporter: still? and the premiere, as we speak, is tomorrow.
>> yeah, well, it's tomorrow. it's not today.
>> reporter: why do you have this reputation for always changing things at the last minute?
>> because you can always make it better. i could happily work on "the hobbit " for another six months. it's never perfect. and so we just simply take every available minute, second, up until the time that the film has to be taken away from us.
>> reporter: in complicating his perfectionist tendencies, jackson is having to follow the biggest success of his career. "the lord of the rings " earned him three academy awards . did you feel a pressure to outdo yourself?
>> it's the thing that made me hesitant to do "the hobbit " is that i didn't want to find myself competing with a film i'd made earlier. what i ended up doing, i think, was embracing the fact that "the hobbit " is a very different tone of story. it was written for children. it has a whimsy and a charm and a humor that doesn't exist really in " lord of the rings ".
>> reporter: it was his own childhood in a small seaside community that shaped his future. born in 1961 to english immigrants , joan and bill jackson , a housewife and a civil servant. he was an only child. at age 9, he woke up to the power of film when he found himself crying watching this scene in the original " king kong ." what was it about that movie?
>> it was an almost empathy for this innocent character taken from his home and dragged into the 20th century civilization. the film affected me to the point that it was the time that i decided that i want to do that.
>> reporter: without any formal training, jackson began making his own movies, using a super 8 camera that a neighbor gave his family. how did you figure out how to make a film?
>> you learn from watching other films. and then there was a magazine caught " famous monsters of filmland ." that magazine inspired more nerdy young kids to become a filmmaker than anything else. that magazine was responsible for warping a lot of young minds.
>> reporter: so reading that magazine, you came up with all kinds of ideas. and it sounds like your family had to suffer a great deal for your art.
>> well, my mother had to give up her oven so i could cook foam latex monsters. our little house would have horrific smell of rubbery sulfur, vulcanized rubber in it for days after i did a piece in the oven.
>> reporter: his parents let him drop out of high school to take a job to pay for film equipment. before long, he was making flasher films starting with "bad taste" where he and his friends made up the cast and crew.
>> come on in for a cup of tea .
>> reporter: followed by a dark comedy with puppets called "meet the feebles." and a horror movie "brain dead." throughout it all, his parents' support never wavered.
>> there was these incredibly gruesome movies i made, those were the movies my parents came to watch and somehow still managed to be very proud. you feel a passion to do this which in my in this case was rather odd, make mobsters and make little movies and cut them together and screen them on a sheet on my bedroom wall. if you have parents that don't question it, that don't regard it as being odd or strange, don't make you feel like a weirdo, i think that's really important.
>> reporter: his breakout film was "heavenly creatures" and his own version of " king kong " was hugely successful. but the "rings" trilogy put him on the map. and peter jackson has had a cameo in every movie he's directed, from "bad taste" to " king kong " and even the "rings" movies. in his latest film, he plays a dwarf. i understand there was a time when you did not like to wear shoes and would only wear really shorts.
>> i still don't really wear shoes. i wore shoes today just for you. for the last six or eight weeks, i haven't worn shoes.
>> reporter: the person you don't see is fran walsh , jackson 's partner who stays private to give their two children a normal life . they co-wrote all of the "rings" and "the hobbit " movies. but few know her influence or that she wrote and directed one of the "rings'" most iconic scenes. this schizophrenic talk with the character's self.
>> it's probably the most famous scene in the film. she should direct more movies. i trust fran more than i trust anyone else in the world.
>> reporter: with her by his side, he's making a movie-making empire in wellington. with special effects facilities, sound stages and a state-of-the-art production out, it's here that jackson pioneers was called performs capture which is how gollum is brought to life and even more so in "the hobbit " as he see in this exclusive clip.
>> what we've been able to do in the last intervening ten years is build a lot more muscle systems for his face. so basically what you're trying to do with performance capture is to allow every nuance of what andy does to be accurately transferred to the gollum puppet.
>> reporter: you smile. it's fun for you.
>> yeah, yeah, creating an emotional character who's completely unofficial.
>> reporter: jackson invited us behind the scenes . i recognize this scene.
>> oh, yes, the trolls.
>> reporter: and shared some secrets. as he's moving, that's what's happening on the screen. how does that work exactly?
>> all these guys i cover in these little dots. the spoon he has, all of these are being photographed live by a series of cameras all around the room. between them, all the cameras have a discussion and figures out who talks to who.
>> reporter: but how does he capture characters at vastly different heights? he invited me on screen to explain.
>> you want me to be gandolf.
>> i'm bilbo. what i have to do is if i look at the screen and i just point with my hands and -- that's where your eyes are, i get a mark up on the ceiling right there.
>> reporter: so your eyes are there. i'm looking there. this is tough on the actor.
>> i'm walking around and glancing back up at you and i'm going past you. it gets confusing because now we have to turn all the way around. and now we're really in trouble.
>> reporter: oh, dear. at the same time, a lot of the film is low tech, literally low.
>> on the days that we haven't got time to do any of this, if you were gandolf, you'd stand on a box. if i'm a hobbit , i'm on my knees. if you go behind ann's shoulder and ann look down at me, that's exactly how he did a lot of the film was done like this.
>> reporter: "the hobbit " is in 3-d and it's the first film ever shot at 48 frames per second, a more realistic look that will be tested in some theaters. but while jackson pushes technology, he doesn't forget his predecessors. and look closely, he's holding the structure of the model used in the original " king kong ".
>> this is one of the most precious things that i own. because the motion capture stage we have is just through the doors there, i wanted to make sure that everyone that comes into the stage is reminded of how animation began. the connection between me and that 9-year-old boy watching this movie in black and white on tv for the very first time, that connection is so close.
>> reporter: maybe it's the boy in him, but he also owns the car from the film " chitty chitty bang bang ." but none of that compares to what he has in his own back yard.
>> they get smashed up and taken to the dump. fran and i are sentimentally attached. we asked, can we keep the set? and they said, yes. so we dug a whole in a hill and put it into the hill and covered it over with dirt. and it's our sort of guesthouse now. elijah woodard's stayed there.
>> reporter: there's a big, round green door .
>> exactly as it is in the movie. it has all the props from the movie, too. when we had to recreate it for "the hobbit ," we had to build a brand-new one because that one was buried in the hill. so we had to recreate it. i couldn't throw that one away either.
>> reporter: why would he? after all, peter jackson has devoted a quarter f of his life by bringing it to the big screen . do you think you'll look back on these films, these six films, eventually, as your greatest legacy?
>> it's an interesting question. obviously if i said, yes, i'd be saying -- i'm assuming i'm never going to make anything that people regard with quite as good as that. but the realistic question is that may well be the case.
>> great story. our thanks to