Lord of the Rings trilogy director Peter Jackson, one of Entertainment Weekly‘s Entertainers of the Decade, shared some surprising memories of the past ten years. Asked, for instance, if there had been one particular day when he realized he might pull off the wildy ambitious trilogy, he said, via email, “Yes, in May 2001, in Cannes. We screened 20 minutes of Fellowship to a group of journalists and distributors. It was a huge relief that the screening went well, because the studio had not responded very positively to the footage and they told us to expect the worst. This is why we approached the event with a mounting sense of dread. We were frankly amazed the footage was so well received.”

Jackson admitted he and his fellow filmmakers felt an enormous amount of pressure making LOTR because the studio, New Line, was in precarious financial shape and betting nearly $300 million on his movies: “The fate of the company was hanging in the balance. It was a fear and a pressure that never went away: the idea that if the films failed, we would be personally responsible for hundreds of New Liners losing their jobs. It was a horrible thought — that people with mortgages and families would find themselves out of work because we had failed to deliver.”

And what does he think was his single worst decision of the decade? “To renovate our house whilst shooting three movies back-to-back. The renovations took longer than making the films. Our house was swathed in scaffolding for over two years. It was so bad that a local newspaper suggested that the neighbors might like to pitch in, in good Kiwi DIY style, to help us finish basic repairs and get rid of the eyesore. Flash forward to 2009 and renovations are still a work in progress. We realize now that they will never finish. The builders are very much ‘family’ now.”

For more about Peter Jackson, and other Entertainers of the Decade, check out the Best of the Decade issue, on stands now.

Photo Credit: Robert Smith/Retna Ltd.

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