10/31/1961 (57 years old) Pukerua Bay, New Zealand
A major movie buff since childhood, this New Zealand native made his first indie feature, the aptly titled Bad Taste, over a four-year period in the 1980s. Equal parts gore, sci-fi and comedy, the super-low-budget film—which he produced, wrote, filmed, edited, starred in and created the makeup and special effects for—put him on the map when it screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Starting with his next picture, Meet the Feebles—an unrated backstage saga of the sordid lives of puppets—Jackson was no longer working solo. His multitalented wife, Fran Walsh, collaborated with him on the script as she would on all his subsequent projects, including 1994's Heavenly Creatures, which earned them an Oscar nod for best screenplay. His hot streak continued when Jackson finally got the green light for his dream project: the epic Lord of the Rings films. Shot from 1999 to 2000 and released over three successive years, the trilogy was a critical and commercial blockbuster. Jackson earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Director for the first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring. But it wasn't until 2003's climactic The Return of the King that he finally won Oscars (as well as a slew of other awards) for best director, and shared statues with his wife for best screenplay and best picture. In 2005 he helmed the remake of King Kong, but while the film wasn't a flop, it failed to be the hit it was anticipated to be. A period of down time followed (though he did pop up in a brief cameo as a demented Father Christmas in 2007's Hot Fuzz) until he directed the big-screen adaptation of the best-selling novel The Lovely Bones (2009). That same year his latest producing effort, the critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated District 9, hit theaters to much success. Jackson then shifted his attention to work on the two-part Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit, in which he serves as executive producer and writer. In his spare time, Jackson is an aviation enthusiast and owns The Vintage Aviator, which boasts a collection of classic aircraft. He's also a chairman of the Omaka Aviation Heritage Trust, which hosts biennial air shows. Jackson has been married to Fran Walsh since 1987 and the pair have two children.