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Filmmaker Jackson bound to have big award year

By Kendis Gibson
CNN Headline News

Peter Jackson ranked No. 20 in Premiere magazine's list of Hollywood's most powerful last year.

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Peter Jackson
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(CNN) -- Expect to hear a lot about Peter Jackson -- if you haven't already.

The short, scraggly producer and director of "Lord of the Rings" trilogy is at times reminiscent of the hobbit characters he has brought to the big screen.

Jackson has devoted seven years of sweat, and perhaps tears, into bringing the fantasy epic to life. Each of the films has been honored by the critics, awards shows and moviegoers alike.

All three -- "Fellowship of the Ring," "Two Towers," and now "Return of the King" -- have been Academy Awards Best Picture nominees. Each has grossed more than $300 million at the box office.

But it is this year that now makes it seem as if the previous two were just preludes to the coronation of Jackson.

Already the winner of the Golden Globe for directing and best picture (drama), he's seen as the odds-on favorite to have a big Oscar night. Which begs the question, who is this new king of the Oscars?

Jackson came from humble beginnings, born in 1961 in a small town on New Zealand's east coast.

His love for movies started early when his parents bought a Super-8 movie camera when he was 8. He started shooting mini-movies with his friends. His now famous trademark was already present in those early movies -- the use of special effects.

At age 22, Jackson and a group of friends embarked on a four-year adventure in filmmaking.

"Bad Taste" was shot with a secondhand $250 camera, and the project started out as a joke. A friend persuaded him to enter the movie in the Cannes film festival, where he went on to win several prizes.

From that point, there was no stopping Jackson. His first successful professional film, "Braindead," came in 1992, followed by the critically acclaimed "Heavenly Creatures" two years later.

Jackson, left, directs actor Sean Astin, as "Sam," while making "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Soon he was tapped for his most ambitious and expensive movie to date, the J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy.

It was Jackson's idea to shoot all three "LOTR" films at the same time, and in his native New Zealand. As is now customary with Jackson, he co-wrote the screenplay with wife, Frances Walsh.

Today, Jackson is regarded as one of the most wanted directors around. He ranked No. 20 in Premiere magazine's list of Hollywood's most powerful last year.

And if he should, as expected, go home with a few Oscars on February 29, his Hollywood stock will no doubt rise.

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