Helmer sez 'extending childhood' one of his motivations

Peter Jackson capped off a week full of accolades Saturday night, when he collected the Modern Master award Saturday night at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. Jackson had already picked up two Golden Globes, an L.A. Film Critics Assn. awards and 11 Oscar nominations for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

After a brief intro by Sean Astin, Elvis Mitchell led the aud through a career retrospective. Upon revisiting clips of “Bad Taste,” his aptly titled low-budget horror debut, Jackson quipped, “If the people of Santa Barbara want to change their minds about the Modern Master Award, I’ll shake hands and leave it at that.”

Jackson has often credited “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” with having shaped his sense of humor. In a surprise appearance, Python member John Cleese appeared to present a visibly stunned Jackson with the award, but only after some good-natured ribbing. “The idea that someone from New Zealand made these masterpieces,” joked Cleese, “is the artistic equivalent of someone from Bakersfield painting the Sistine Chapel.”

“I don’t feel like a modern master,” Jackson said. “I feel like a kid who started making movies at seven or eight with a Super-8 camera. The same things that motivated me then motivate me now: extending childhood and having fun.”

After the ceremony, Jackson celebrated with revelers at the Mar Vista Estate in Montecito, where a flame-thrower and hip-hop dancers entertained the crowd.

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