Quint and Peter Jackson, Part II: THE LOVELY BONES!!!
Published at: Sept. 14, 2006, 5:19 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of my mega-interview with Peter Jackson. This one focuses on our discussions about his next directorial effort, an adaptation of the novel THE LOVELY BONES. The story is told from the perspective of a young girl who is murdered. From her own heaven she watches how her death impacts the lives of her friends, family and even murderer. It's pretty heavy stuff and a promise of a return to Jackson's dramatic realm. His HEAVENLY CREATURES is fantastic and hopefully LOVELY BONES ends up at that level of quality.
He touches a little upon his relaxed writing schedule. He talks more about that in another section, all about the producer side of things and his "break" after KONG. That piece should go up with all his talk about THE HOBBIT, but to hold you over here's the section of the interview all about THE LOVELY BONES! Enjoy!!!
QUINT: Let's talk a little about LOVELY BONES. I trust you and Fran and Philippa to be faithful to the material, but I'm curious how much you're changing the structure since you mentioned earlier that the end of the script you've come up with isn't what you imagined it would be when you started...
PETER JACKSON: Yeah, well... we still haven't ended up where we want to end up yet, either. We're in the process. We have a draft of the script now, but we haven't really developed it in the traditional way. Because we haven't been driven by a usual production structure... Normally we do a 12 page treatment and then we do a first draft and then a rewrite and then a polish. We kind of have a really stringent procedure. We've been much, much more organic than that. We've done treatments of sorts and then expanded bits and then changed other bits... (laughs) We've sort of been very unorthodox and very organic. It's actually very worthwhile. We do have a 120 page script now that does exist and we could go out and shoot, but in my mind it's still just an early draft and we'll carry on its organic process.
The process of adapting, I find, and I guess with LORD OF THE RINGS and with KONG to some degree, as an adaptation of sorts, that you have to... There's a spirit that any book has. There's a spirit of it and then there's the nuts and bolts, page by page structure of it. And what I find that what seems to happen is you obviously start to change the structure because a book is structured in a way that suits the book and a movie has to be different. LORD OF THE RINGS is structurally very, very different from the books.
But there's nothing to stop you retaining the spirit. You end up in a situation where people fell they've seen a faithful adaptation, which in some respects, if you really analyze word by word, it's not faithful at all depending on what your definition of faithful is. LORD OF THE RINGS was incredibly different from the books, but it's regarded as being very, very faithful when they're actually not. But they did capture the spirit and the tone of Tolkien, which was very important to us.
We read THE LOVELY BONES and it profoundly affected us very emotionally and very deeply and we don't want to lose anything of why we were affected by that book. We want to retain and figure out a way to put onscreen everything that was powerful and strong about our response to that book. So, therefor it is going to be something that, hopefully, will capture our response to the book.
But in terms of the mechanical. It's like any adaptation. We're changing the order of things, we're moving things around. What we did a lot on Tolkien and we're doing it to LOVELY BONES, we're sometimes taking dialogue from halfway through and putting it at the beginning or we're taking a speech that's happening towards the end and putting it in the middle. You use material in the books, but you're using it in a way that you're melding it to film.
THE LOVELY BONES in itself... I think everybody who reads that book has a different experience. It's just one of those moments where it is so original and it is about death and it about how death affects you and what your response to it is. The characters within the book are responding in different ways. We obviously have all experienced death and it's a very personal thing and you react to it in a very individual way. Therefor I think the response to reading the book will be equally very individual.
This is going to be an adaptation of LOVELY BONES that is our personal response to it. It might not necessarily be the same as what other people experience from the book because it's just one of those novels that you put a lot of your own personal life experience as you read. You can't help but think of how these characters are reacting and how you would act and how you have acted in similar situations. That's really where we've been spending this time. We've been personalizing the book so that it's very much about our own emotions and feelings. What people will see when they finally see this film is going to be our response to that book. Which, I guess, any adaptation does to some degree, but this one is slightly more personal.
QUINT: When I picked up the book I had no idea what it was about and looking back on it now it seemed to go into some pretty dark, graphic territory, but for some reason I don't think it was as graphic as I remember it, at least not in terms of seeing the murder. The family's reaction to the death is so raw that it had a great impact on me, making me remember a much more graphic scene, I think.
PETER JACKSON: It also has wonderful humor. That's an aspect we're retaining. It's very important. The last thing I want to do is a maudlin, grim film. I've done a film like that and I'm not going to do it now. One of the things that appealed to us as well as the fact that the victim, Susie, in heaven, who is one of the few victims, I guess, but Susie herself, who is the principle victim in the story, she has no self-pity at all, which leads to some wonderfully funny observations. She doesn't feel sorry for herself at all and she's the person that's been killed. We liked that. That's was very attractive to us.
One of the interesting things of this book, I'll tell you, is it does force you to front up and address what you think is going to happen to you after you die. One of the things that's very interesting about this book is... we talk about this all the time and in a funny kind of a way we would love to think that we're being as authentic as we can in terms of showing what happens to you after you die, yet at the same time we have absolutely no idea what's going to happen to us.
It's all guesswork, but we don't want it to be the Hollywood version of what happens to you after you die. We're trying to thing: when we die, what experiences are we going to go through? What are we going to see? What are we going to feel? What's our world going to be like when you move on to something beyond this particular realm of existence? It's something you don't normally have to confront that much... other than privately in the middle of the night...
But we're trying to portray a world that we think that's going to be what happens, whether we're right or wrong we have no idea. And this world contains quite a bit of humor. We actually don't think that it's particularly serious when you die and move on. We think there's a lot of humor and a lot of irony and a lot of interesting observations looking at your life. The book explores that, too. We probably go even a little bit further than the book. That's one of the fun things of the process.
It's going to portray what happens after you die in a way that, as far as we're concerned, is the most authentic portrayal of it that we can possible come up with with the limited resources that we have in that area.
QUINT: Without putting yourself under that dreaded deadline, do you have an idea of when you'd like to lens the film?
PETER JACKSON: Um... no, but I would imagine probably next year, some point next year we're going to shoot it, for sure.
QUINT: Are you planning on doing any stateside shooting?
PETER JACKSON: Yeah, yeah. We did visit Pennsylvania, the Norristown area where the book's set. We went to have a look at that and it certainly made me feel very strongly that we should be shooting some location stuff there. It's a very distinctive area. I did think about doing a New Zealand shoot and faking that part of the world, but it's really very different than what we have in New Zealand and it's very distinctive and it is an integral part of the book. At the moment, I would be thinking about certainly doing some weeks of location shooting there. We'd probably do studio shooting back here in New Zealand.
QUINT: For the main character, the murdered young girl, are you thinking of going with an unknown actress like you did with Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet for HEAVENLY CREATURES?
PETER JACKSON: We haven't really thought about it. There are some very good young actresses out there now and in some respects we haven't thought too much about it because we've been uncertain about exactly when we'd shoot. We are dealing with that 14 year old age group. When we first started thinking about a couple years ago, we've had the rights to the book for 2 or 3 years now, when we first started to think about it we were thinking about 10 or 11 year olds. By the time we get around to shooting it, they're going to 14!
I think we're going to wait a little bit longer until we have a definitive start date because it is an age where people are growing up very fast.