Kelly Johnson (left) and Tony Barry in Geoff Murphy's 1981
film Goodbye Pork Pie.
The legacy of Sir Peter Jackson has again been questioned
- with legendary Kiwi film-maker Geoff Murphy saying his
commercial focus marked the end of a golden era for New Zealand
Murphy, 75, whose beloved films include Goodbye Pork Pie,
Utu, and The Quiet Earth, said Sir Peter was a phenomenal
director whose big-budget success was beyond belief.
However, his influence had meant New Zealand's national
cinema was "kind of shunted sideways, because Peter doesn't
make New Zealand films, he makes films for Warner Brothers".
Murphy made his comments at a Massey University graduation
ceremony earlier this week. He was in Palmerston North to
receive an honorary Doctor of Literature degree for his
contribution to the film industry.
His comments come in the same week Viggo Mortensen, who
starred in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, described the
filming process as sloppy and Sir Peter's use of special
effects as overdone.
Murphy told assembled students that at the start of his
career in the late 1970s the NZ Film Commission came into
existence with a call to film-makers to "give us our own
"And for a few golden years there we did, in fact, do that -
we gave the country its own heroes and they loved it.
"This other fellow turned up, a fellow called Peter Jackson,
and he stole the film industry off us, a bit like the Grinch
that stole Christmas."
After a series of smaller films Sir Peter went to Hollywood
and pulled off the biggest movie deal in history in the form
of The Lord of the Rings trilogy - all to be filmed in New
Murphy spent a decade directing in Hollywood, including on
films such as Young Guns II and Steven Seagal train thriller
Under Siege 2, before returning home.
He said Sir Peter securing the Rings deal was "fairy tale
stuff", and he had stayed flavour-of-the-month in Hollywood
That was "an extraordinarily difficult act", but a downside
was the marginalisation of New Zealand cinema. "The films he
makes have got very little to do with us culturally. It's
easy to tell a New Zealand film - films like Smash Palace,
Once Were Warriors and Boy.
"You can tell at a glance that The Hobbit is not one of them.
That's not to put the achievement down ... that achievement
Last night Murphy stressed to the Weekend Herald that he was
not blaming Sir Peter for a decline in New Zealand cinema.
"His arrival on the scene has dominated to such an extent
that in most people's perception, New Zealand film industry
means Peter Jackson. He has done something that doesn't have
any relationship with our own cultural development, or very
"In fact, in some ways I'm blaming the industry itself
because no one emerged to challenge his position, in the
sense that around the time of The Lord of the Rings the New
Zealand film industry was not making Goodbye Pork Pies and
Murphy said Sir Peter's level of popularity in Hollywood
could not last forever, and he hoped eventually the
film-maker would start making New Zealand films again.
"Nobody stays flavour of the month for long, and Peter's been
flavour of the month for about 14 bloody years, he can't last
much longer over there.
"It's inevitable that that business will collapse ... and
then he might come back and make New Zealand films, that
would be a bloody good thing."
Matt Dravitzki, spokesman for Sir Peter, declined to comment
on the speech.
- Nicholas Jones, NZ Herald