The Frighteners was regarded as a commercial failure. In February 1997, Jackson launched legal proceedings against the New Zealand Listener magazine for defamation, over a review of The Frighteners which claimed that the film was “built from the rubble of other people’s movies”. In the end, the case was not pursued further. Around this time Jackson’s remake of King Kong was shelved by Universal Studios, allegedly because Mighty Joe Young and Godzilla, both giant monster movies, that had already gone into production. Universal feared it would be thrown aside by the two higher budget movies.
Peter Jackson won the rights to film J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic in 1997 after meeting with producer Saul Zaentz. Originally working with Miramax towards a two-film production, Jackson was later pressured to render the story as a single film, and finally overcame a tight deadline by making a last minute deal with New Line, who were keen on a trilogy.
With the benefit of extended post-production and extra periods of shooting before each film’s release, the series met huge success and sent Jackson’s popularity soaring. The final installment, The Return of the King itself met with huge critical acclaim, winning eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The film was the first of the fantasy film genre to win the award for Best Picture and was the second sequel to win Best Picture (the first being The Godfather Part II).
Universal Studios signed Peter Jackson for a second time to remake the 1933 classic King Kong, the film that inspired him to become a film director as a child. He was reportedly paid a fee of US$20 million upfront, the highest salary ever paid to date to a film director in advance of production, against a 20 percent take of the box-office rentals (the portion of the price of the ticket that goes to the film distributor, in this case Universal). The film was released on 14 December 2005, and grossed around US$550 million worldwide.
Jackson completed an adaptation of Alice Sebold’s bestseller, The Lovely Bones, which was released in the United States on 11 December 2009. Jackson has said the film was a welcome relief from his larger-scale epics. The storyline’s combination of fantasy aspects and themes of murder bears some similarities to Heavenly Creatures. The film was an anticipated Best Picture Oscar contender, but ended up receiving poor reviews and middling box office returns. It currently holds a 32% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes.
Jackson is the main producer on The Adventures of Tintin, directed by Steven Spielberg. He is officially labeled as producer but helped Spielberg, before he began working on the script for The Hobbit. He also supervised Weta Digital on the post production of the film. In December 2011, Spielberg confirmed a sequel to his 3D movie will be made and are said to be based on The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun. He explained the Thompson detectives will “have a much bigger role”. The sequel will be produced by Spielberg and directed by Jackson.
Jackson’s involvement in the making of a film version of The Hobbit has a long and chequered history. In November 2006, a letter from Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh stated that due to an ongoing legal dispute between Wingnut Films (Jackson’s production company) and New Line Cinema, Jackson would not be directing the film. New Line Cinema’s head Robert Shaye commented that Jackson “…will never make any movie with New Line Cinema again while I’m still working at the company…” This prompted an online call for a boycott of New Line Cinema, and by August 2007 Shaye was trying to repair his working relationship. On 18 December 2007, it was announced that Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema had reached agreement to make two prequels, both based on The Hobbit, and to be released in 2012 and 2013 with Jackson as a writer and executive producer and Guillermo del Toro directing.
However, in early 2010, del Toro dropped out of directing the film because of production delays and a month later Jackson was back in negotiations to direct The Hobbit; and on October 15 he was finalised as the director, with New Zealand confirmed as the location a couple of weeks later. The film started production on March 20, 2011. On July 30, 2012, Peter Jackson announced via his Facebook page that the two planned ‘Hobbit’ movies would be expanded into a trilogy. The third film will not act as a bridge between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films, but would continue to expand The Hobbit story by using material found in the Lord of the Rings Appendices. The films are The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (2014).
Jackson was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2002. He was later knighted (as a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit) at a ceremony in Wellington in April, 2010.