Peter Jackson, the independent filmmaker who brought Hollywood to Wellington and converted his homeland into Middle Earth, is officially a billionaire.
When “Forbes” published its 46th annual Billionaire List this week, Jackson’s name appeared for the very first time. That’s thanks to the sale last November of a stake in his Weta Digital effects studio, which had enriched the onscreen worlds of The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Game of Thrones, Planet of the Apes and many other projects.
The “Lord of the Rings” director is said to be worth US$1.5 billion ($1.97 billion), a sum that includes the US$975 million ($1.28 billion) he would have pocketed from the 2021 sale of Weta to Unity Software, an interactive 3D gaming business.
The Kiwi movie maker, along with his collaborator and partner in life Fran Walsh, owned a controlling 60% stake in Weta, which changed hands for US$1.625 billion ($2.14 billion) cash and stock.
He’s one of just three Kiwis to make the global list of 2,668 super-rich, alongside Graeme Hart and Richard Chandler.
It’s a long way to the top for Jackson, who crafted three of the all-time cult films long before his epic “LOTR” trilogy rained Oscars.
For his first feature-length project, the ‘80s sci-fi comedy-horror “Bad Taste,” Jackson made a marvel on a shoestring.
Jackson did it all — directing, producing, filming, writing, acting-in several roles, handling all the gory effects, and, with his silver tongue, talked all his friends into support roles, filming on weekends over several years.
Importantly, he completed the project, and the others that followed.
“Meet the Feebles,” the weird and wonderful adult puppetry film from 1989, with its junkie frogs, shagmeister rabbits and shit-spinning flies, is like nothing made before or since.
And then, in 1992, Jackson unleashed “Braindead” (or “Dead Alive” as it’s known in the United States), arguably the most audacious splatter film of them all, and a zom-rom-com that predates “Shaun of the Dead” by a decade.
With the “LOTR” films, Jackson earned billions for New Line Cinema, and scored himself a knighthood, to go with his best director and best picture Oscars, for “Return of the King”.
And with those gold statuettes, a monster pay day for each project he signed on to.
Fresh off the success of the Rings films, Jackson commanded US$20 million ($26 million) plus 20% of the box office take for directing “King Kong,” a lifelong passion project. When the giant ape earned about US$600 million ($791 million) at the 2005 box office, Jackson could boast one of the highest salaries ever paid to a director.
More recently, Jackson delved into one of his other lifelong loves, the Beatles, for the extensive “Get Back” documentary series, which he directed, produced and released in three parts on Disney Plus in late 2021.
Jackson and a small editing team painstakingly boiled down 60 hours of rushes into what we have today, roughly eight hours of material carved into a trilogy.