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Peter JacksonWhen Alice Sebold's best-selling novel 'The Lovely Bones' was being adapted to the big screen by Peter Jackson, speculation ran rampant about what the 'Lord of the Rings' director would do with the story of a young girl's brutal rape, murder and subsequent journey through the afterlife.

Jackson's film, which was released on Dec. 11, 2009, received mixed reviews, but garnered acclaim for its acting (from leads Saiorse Ronan and Stanley Tucci, who was nominated for an Academy Award) and imaginative filmmaking, particularly the sequences in which Susie Salmon roams the "in between" and tries to make sense of her death.

With the release of 'The Lovely Bones' on DVD this Tuesday, Jackson took a few moments to speak with us about those afterlife sequences, the marketing of the film, and the challenges of directing a guy who plays a murderous pedophile -- oh, and we managed to sneak in a question or two about 'The Hobbit,' too. (Read just the Hobbitsy bits here.)

The DVD and Blu-ray of 'The Lovely Bones' are available on April 20. Peter JacksonWhen Alice Sebold's best-selling novel 'The Lovely Bones' was being adapted to the big screen by Peter Jackson, speculation ran rampant about what the 'Lord of the Rings' director would do with the story of a young girl's brutal rape, murder and subsequent journey through the afterlife.

Jackson's film, which was released on Dec. 11, 2009, received mixed reviews, but garnered acclaim for its acting (from leads Saiorse Ronan and Stanley Tucci, who was nominated for an Academy Award) and imaginative filmmaking, particularly the sequences in which Susie Salmon roams the "in between" and tries to make sense of her death.

With the release of 'The Lovely Bones' on DVD this Tuesday, Jackson took a few moments to speak with us about those afterlife sequences, the marketing of the film, and the challenges of directing a guy who plays a murderous pedophile -- oh, and we managed to sneak in a question or two about 'The Hobbit,' too. (Read just the Hobbitsy bits here.)

The DVD and Blu-ray of 'The Lovely Bones' are available on April 20.

The movie takes more of a fantastical tone than the book, which is at times more matter-of-fact. Was that intentional?
It doesn't take too much more of a fantastical tone. The book includes a little bit more of a graphic description of her murder, so the balance of the book is probably different ... but when it came to the movie we very much wanted a PG-13 rating. I can only shoot a film based on what I want to see, and I just would never want to watch a 14-year-old girl being murdered, so I just couldn't film it. I had no interest in filming it. So when we wrote the screenplay, we developed the concept that Susie thinks that she flees and escapes at the point of her death, and it's not until later that she realizes that she actually fled her death and that she was in fact, killed rather than runs away. We used it to tease the audience and to put a little bit of question mark into the film, but it was our way, in a sense, of structuring it differently to not have to have to show the murder on screen. Otherwise, the fantastical aspects are what appealed to us when we read the book. We really liked the way in which it's narrated by Susie from the afterlife.

Saoirse Ronan in The Lovely BonesWas wanting a PG-13 rating also the rationale for not really referencing the rape?
Yeah, yeah. To us [the film] was about the meaning of love, and Susie's choice about love before revenge. We didn't want the film to be stigmatized in any way that would be unfair in any way to our intentions. Once you deal with any topics like that a movie can become very stigmatized quickly, and plus the fact that the rating would make it an R-rating almost immediately, there's nothing you can do about it, so ... We have a teenage daughter who's 14, Katie; and Fran [Walsh, Jackson's wife] and I wanted to make the movie for our daughter to be able to watch it. We just felt as parents we wanted to make the film for girls of Susie's age. I mean that's what we really felt a lot of the audience for this movie should be. So we certainly didn't want to go anywhere that would lead to it being R-rated.

But the movie was marketed as a crime thriller. Did you agree with that choice?
Well, the studio does a lot of research and screenings, and they do a lot of questionnaires, and it's sort of an area of expertise that we don't really have that much involvement in -- but certainly they felt that the way to market the movie was as a thriller, as a crime thriller, as Susie's sort of trying to solve the murder, which is one aspect of the story. But obviously, there are other elements to the story as well. I don't know. Maybe, I'm not really sure if it was a good thing. I don't know.

The depiction of heaven was interesting. Was that your idea of heaven?
Technically, we don't see heaven, really. Technically, heaven [in the film] is the sort of the golden light that appears at the end of the cornfield, the barley field -- that's the closest that we get to it. But the "in-between," we wanted it to be very much Susie's subconscious, almost a dream-like state ... We came up with a system of metaphors which we quite liked, which are not supposed to be things people understand watching the movie. When people dream about a house, they say that the house often represents a person, so we had Susie imagining this creepy house which we have as Mr. Harvey, and she ultimately has to go into that house to solve the mystery of what happened to her ... When she's in the house, she gets the revelation that he's murdered other children before her, and she sees that imagery because she's now having access to what's in his mind ... So we were more interested really in the afterlife being a way to tell the story through metaphor than we were about it being an afterlife in a life-death kind of way, if you know what I mean.

Do you personally believe in an afterlife?
I don't know. I literally don't know. I mean, I like to keep an open mind, but I do think there is some form of energy that exists separate to our flesh and blood. I do think that there's some kind of an energy that leaves the body when it dies, but I certainly don't have religious beliefs particularly. I don't believe in organized religion, but I'm interested in the scientific side of it. There's areas of science that are connected to the energy that drives people that we don't understand.

Stanley Tucci in The Lovely BonesHow did you direct Stanley Tucci, who plays a pedophiliac murderer?
Stanley's got kids, and he was very uncomfortable initially ... In terms of directing him I had the easy job, but Stanley had the hard job. There were times where he had to really think and believe in Mr. Harvey and those guys. We did some research, Stanley and us, and [these types of murderers] are like sociopaths who feel that they have absolutely no emotional connection with any other living person, and they also feel an almost smug cleverness that the police are never going to catch them. They like teasing the police ... these guys have this really arrogant belief in their own intelligence that they're going to outsmart everybody because they're super intelligent. So we came up with a template for what Mr. Harvey would be like, and then Stanley had to go there. We spoke to some FBI guys who deal with serial killers, and one of them actually came to visit Stanley, and he interviewed Stanley in character as Mr. Harvey and tried to crack him. And this wasn't filmed or anything, it was just part of the research for the movie, and Stanley stayed in character the whole time and had to answer the questions of this interrogation. It was very interesting actually to see that kind of stuff. We helped Stanley get his head there, but you know, I think at the end of the day, Stanley was very happy when I said "that's a wrap" and he got to go home and have a hot shower and wash that guy out of his system.

Ian McKellen as Gandalf in Lord of the RingsIs it true that filming on 'The Hobbit' has been delayed until the end of the year?
Well, it's not really been delayed, because we've never announced the date. I mean it's sort of interesting because the studio [MGM] has never greenlit 'The Hobbit,' so therefore 'The Hobbit' has never been officially announced as a "go" project, nor have we ever announced a date. But there's so much interest that people -- newspapers and magazines, of their own account, say, ah, it's likely to film in May, it's likely to film in June, it's likely to film in September. People make this stuff up. And then if it's not filming in June, you get a story saying, "'The Hobbit's' been delayed." But it's never actually been announced.

We've just delivered the script. Literally last week, we delivered the second of the two screenplays -- the first draft. So the studio's got both scripts now, which is a milestone; and if anything was holding it up, it was us doing the screenplays, because we'd just been writing as fast as we can, but it took us this long to get them finished. So we take whatever responsibility there is for the speed. And we're now in the process of budgeting the films, and then hopefully we'll get to a budget the studio [people] are happy with, and they'll greenlight the movies and we'll announce the shooting dates. I'd be pretty optimistic that we'll be shooting before the end of the year. I would imagine October, November, we'd be shooting by. I'm not announcing it, though.

When would you get down to the final stages of casting Bilbo Baggins?
We haven't signed any actors up yet, because we couldn't do that until they greenlight the movie. But I would imagine that if we get a green light within the next month or two, we would be hopefully making some casting announcements by, I guess, the middle of the year. We've done a little bit of auditioning, but we haven't really done any meetings with actors or anything yet. We've just been totally committed to the scripts. Everything's a little bit later than what people assume it is. I think people think we've been sort of doing secret casting.

You keep reading announcements like, "They're definitely going to have these three actors from the previous films ..."
I know, I know. No, there's no definite ... I mean, any character that's returning from 'The Lord of the Rings,' we obviously would love the same actors to play. But even those actors haven't been approached yet, or there [haven't] been any deals done. And the studio wouldn't organically do any of that until they've greenlit the film.

Will you be dropping by Comic-Con this year to talk about any of your projects?
I don't know. I don't think there's any reason for me to go this year particularly, but probably the following year I would imagine would be more likely.



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