Sir Peter Jackson may be the most talked-about New Zealander in the world at the moment, but the premiere of the year nearly didn't come to pass – because the making of The Hobbit trilogy almost didn’t happen.
“I never wanted to do The Hobbit in the first place because the idea of having an ensemble of 13 dwarves terrified me,” admits Peter (51), who ended up in the director's chair after the original choice, Guillermo del Toro, stepped down in 2010 after film company MGM went bankrupt.
“When Guillermo left it was a surprise. We didn't have a green light and we didn't have a movie. I was there as a caretaker, but it wasn't like anything much could be done. The weird thing is, having ended up where I am, the fact that there's 13 dwarves in it is the great joy of the movie.”
Despite the initial difficulties, it seems Peter was destined to bring J R R Tolkien's book to life – just as he did with the author's Lord of the Rings trilogy.
“Making the movie has been a lot of fun, actually,” says Peter. “It was an incredibly painful couple of years leading up to it – that was such a stressful time that I got an ulcer. But even that was quite good because it gave everybody six weeks’ extra pre-production time.
The art department, wardrobe, costume – everyone was delighted I was laid up. They couldn't believe their luck! But since we started shooting it's been pretty plain sailing, touch wood. It's been a joy.”
Peter is notoriously private and rarely gives interviews, but he is known for having a close-knit team around him. Of all the team members, the one closest to him is his wife Fran Walsh, a screenwriter and producer who has worked with Peter on all his movies since Meet the Feebles in 1989.
The pair clearly have a great connection – Peter has even been described by Fran as a hobbit himself, due to his physical stature (he is 1.69m tall), and his tendency to go barefoot.
Peter and his team's success last week has undoubtedly cemented him as one of the world’s best filmmakers. But while Peter wouldn’t take the credit himself, he’s clearly delighted with his latest film.
“It's been fantastic,” he smiles. “I hope the fun we've had is a spirit that goes into the movie.” And those dwarves? “I like these guys now. They are the heart of the story.”