Ian Pryor, Peter Jackson: From Prince of Splatter to Lord of the Rings: An Unauthorized Biography (Thomas Dunne Books, 2003)

Ian Pryor's Peter Jackson: From Prince of Splatter to Lord of the Rings: An Unauthorized Biography is that rarity, an unauthorized biography that doesn't trash its subject. While Ian Pryor was unable to get Peter Jackson's permission to write about him, despite efforts over a number of years, he doesn't seem to hold a grudge, and he still admires Jackson and his work. He says on page 325: "Peter Jackson's tale is about the confluence of talent, positivity and willpower. His gift is that of being blind to the kinds of barriers that would normally give pause." and a little later: "Jackson is a shrewd, highly motivated man for whom moviemaking is life, and whose relationships are defined almost entirely by family and work." Certainly not harsh words!

Peter Jackson: From Prince of Splatter to Lord of the Rings is mostly a professional biography. That is, while it has a little information on Peter Jackson's family and childhood, it concentrates on detailed examinations of his films.

The appendices to Peter Jackson: From Prince of Splatter to Lord of the Rings rival those to The Lord of the Rings in completeness. The include a detailed filmography, discussion of works that inspired and influenced Peter Jackson, Jackson movies as yet unmade and a brief history of moviemaking in New Zealand. There is a general print and Internet bibliography, then a detailed list of sources for each chapter. Strangely, though, there is no index.

The book is illustrated with photos of Jackson, his parents and his colleagues, as well as publicity pictures and movie stills.

There are only two things that annoy me about this book. The first is the cutesy fantasy bits. I won't describe them in detail, but they involve Peter Jackson clones and a steam-driven guitar, among other things. I suppose that artistically I can maybe sort of vaguely see why someone would think they were appropriate comments on someone who makes fantasy movies, but I thought they nearly spoiled the book, and were out of place in a serious work.

The second annoyance is not as acute. It involves Peter Jackson's relationship with Fran Walsh. Ms. Walsh is consistently referred to as his "partner." Now, I understand Pryor's desire to respect the private lives of his subjects, but I find it odd that he never mentions that Jackson and Walsh are married to each other. He states that Ms. Walsh had to miss an event because she was awaiting the birth of her and Jackson's first child, but never mentions the birth of the second one at all. The daughter appears, fully formed and with a fictitious name, in the final fantasy section. Perhaps I'm showing my age, but I would think it less intrusive to mention their marriage and the birth of their children (a line for each event would have sufficed) than to leave the whole subject hanging sort of accidentally.

You can find out more than you thought humanly (or even elvishly) possible about The Lord of the Rings on the Web by starting here.

[Faith Cormier]

For more information on why this work is unauthorized, see interviews with Ian Pryor here and here.