Exclusive: When we think of recurring characters in peter jackson’s film franchises, names like frodo, gandalf, gollum and sauron stand out. add john, paul, george and ringo to that list.
After a crop of five Emmy Award nominations for his three-part Disney+ documentary The Beatles: Get Back, Jackson tells Deadline that he’s preparing another film project featuring surviving Beatles members Paul McCartney. and ringo starr.
“I’m talking to the Beatles about another project, something very, very different from coming back,” Jackson told Deadline. “We are seeing what the possibilities are, but with them it is another project. It’s not really a documentary… and that’s all I can say.”
The reveal comes after Jackson emerged from four years spent curating 130 hours of audio and 57 hours of video shot by Michael Lindsay-Hogg for the Beatles breakup documentary Let It Be. It wasn’t as long a dive as in middle earth, but close enough. it also didn’t dent their fan base or enthusiasm to do more with the surviving members of the band.
“It wasn’t as intense as doing three Lord of the Rings in a row, but it was four years with a pandemic in the middle of it all,” he said. “We’re never in a position where we have to do something, but we do have some things leaking out.”
it’s been almost a decade since he directed the third installment of the hobbit, and jackson followed it up with the world war i documentary they won’t grow old. Like Get Back, the making of the docu involved a painstaking process to restore footage and audio. Jackson said there’s a big narrative movie on the docket, too, and like the Middle-earth movies, Jackson’s ambitions will test existing technology. Which means that part of his job is to develop the tools to bring his vision to life.
“One of them could be on a large scale, but it’s so technically complicated that I’m trying to figure out how exactly I’m going to do it,” Jackson said. “It’s a live-action movie, but it needs technology that doesn’t exist right now, so we’re in the middle of developing the technology to allow it to happen. I’m trying to anticipate what it might do, even before it exists. They’re not fantasy epics, but they’re pretty interesting.”
As for the Emmy nominations, Jackson said he was pleased with Jabez Olsson’s editing nomination (Jackson got one for Best Director and Get Back is nominated for Best Documentary Series) and Jackson was encouraged for the two sound mixing nominations. the latter, he said, “is always a category that people don’t hold in the highest regard, I guess that would be one way of putting it, apart from people who work in the fields. get back is all about the sound, restoring the sound and developing the artificial intelligence stuff to separate the music tracks. we did a lot of innovative work, so it’s great that the guys who did that work are part of the emmy nominations. I’m very happy with that.”
As for his editor, Jackson said, “Jabez and I spent all four years in the trenches together, so I’m really happy for him.”
Jackson felt that the positive results and strong reviews validated his decision to make creative decisions based on being a fan of the band and not favoring one Beatle over another, as some previous work has done.
that informed his decision to go against the plan to deliver a six-hour cut for disney+ and a dvd, and make the latter 7.5 hours, with a separate rooftop concert cut for imax. Being a superfan also sparked his idea to make it possible for McCartney to duet with his late songwriting partner, John Lennon, during McCartney’s recent tour.
“I submitted a six-and-a-half hour cut earlier, and people were like, ‘It’s a little long, can you cut it down to six hours?’ I had the final cut,” Jackson said, “but I think you have to be careful not to be a rogue operator. but then we had the dvd talk, which was a win. disney hadn’t made or released a dvd or blu-ray at first, and i assumed i would do a longer cut because there was a lot of great stuff for that we didn’t have the space. I was told, ‘no, there’s no market for extended cuts anymore.’ No one at Disney was particularly enthusiastic about an extended cut.”
one of the great treats for rabid fans of lotr was seeing the dvd cuts of the extended version of the three films, each containing 30 minutes or more of precious footage that made theatrical releases they were too long. jackson didn’t get paid to make those dvds; instead, he kept all the props and costumes, which he has in wellington, new zealand.
this was a different situation.
“I went rogue and without telling anyone, apple corps, disney or the beatles, i decided to put up scenes we had taken,” jackson said. “I thought the cuts from six and a half hours to six were good because they had to do with pacing. but without an extended cut, this great stuff would go back into the archives, into the vault for another 50 years. so i started working with jabez which is why we delivered late. we were stacking scenes back into the cut. The funny thing is that no one knew it was going to be 7.5 hours, until we delivered it to them. they were expecting a six-hour outage. and they never said a word, not a single note or word from anyone. they might have been talking to each other behind the scenes, but no one expressed any surprise. somehow 7.5 hours was all. I did it because, as a Beatles fan, there was a lot of material where I would have felt wrong from a music history standpoint for it to go back into the vault. I thought, ‘if there’s not going to be the extended dvd, which I was putting things aside for, I should go back to the movie.’ that’s what I did.”
the effort to separate lennon’s vocal tracks from that rooftop concert in “i’ve got a feeling” so mccartney could sing along with lennon’s image on the screen behind him for the got back tour, It was also pure Beatles fandom, and it haunted Jackson for a while.
“I had that idea when I started working on Get Back four years ago,” Jackson said. “We had access to all that footage, and to do something like that, you need the footage. the shots have to be right. i didn’t mention it to paul. I thought, ‘If I suggest Paul sing onstage with John, he’s going to think I’m some idiot geeky fanboy.'”
still, jackson went to the mccartney concert at dodger stadium three and a half years ago, in case he mustered up the courage to ask.
“When he said ‘I have a feeling,’ I sat there with my phone,” Jackson said. “I held it very still and filmed it, with the idea of taking it to the cutting room and making a mockup, a simple CGI proof of concept. Instead of proposing something to him, I thought it would be better to show him what he will look like. then the pandemic hit, he wasn’t on tour anymore and there was no point in doing a demo for him.
“So, the next 18 months I worked on get back and then paul was rehearsing to go on tour again, and I thought, ‘either I have to suggest it to him or I don’t.’ I chickened out because I thought, ‘How many outlandish suggestions like this have Paul gotten over the years? I don’t want to sound too geeky.’ Finally, I thought, ‘I’ll regret this for the rest of my life if I don’t even suggest it.’ I sent him a text. I didn’t send him the mockup version, just a text trying to describe it to him. 10 minutes later he replied: ‘yes, this is a fantastic idea; let’s do it. then there was a frantic race to restore the missing frames in that long shot of john from let it be. but paul loved it.”
jackson also generated the imax version of the rooftop concert. While the lindsay-hogg film was seen as a promotional film, jackson tipped his hat to the amount of footage he shot.
“The best thing about documentaries is you don’t have to film anything,” Jackson said. “I’ve always been the guy in the cutting room who always found the process of shooting a movie to be very stressful. In a way, my idea of heaven is taking pictures of someone else. and michael lindsay-hogg filmed incredible footage. he should get more credit here than he has. People seem to react to Michael when we introduce him, they make fun of him a bit, like this guy behind the camera. I admire you. he was doing a job and that’s what they hired him for. he was pushing to make the best movie he could. It’s a perfectly acceptable movie. if you watch it now, it’s not the depressing movie people thought. the way to think of him is that he not only got them to let him be, but he filmed all the footage we see in get back. that’s all yours and michael deserves a big shout out.”
here’s the lennon-mccartney duo that meant so much to jackson: