Jackson’s Weta Workshop To Drive Kurtz & Briggs’ ‘Panzer 88’?

There’s a whopper of a District 9-sized story making the rounds in Los Angeles these last few weeks since the madness of the annual San Diego Comic-Con. Namely, that Peter Jackson’s famed Wellington based visual effects company, who garnered numerous Oscars for the Lord of The Rings trilogy; Avatar; Kong, and most recently Neil Blomkamp’s D-9 amongst others, is about to come onboard the Peter Briggs directed supernatural indie flick, Panzer 88. Deets inside.The much-sought-after WW2 horror piece, about a German tank crew on the run from a malevolent supernatural entity in the snowy Russian wastes, turned heads with the announcement in the trades of legendary Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz’ attachment back in February. We at B-D had been following news on the project at the time and ran a piece on it; since then, several intriguing stories have come to light.

Attending Comic-Con as a panel guest, Briggs was spotted breakfasting with Weta Workshop’s unmistakable (and freshly knighted in the New Zealand Honors List) Richard Taylor at a hotel bar miles from the Convention center, and were deep in conversation with one another for several hours. Later the same day, as one of a dozen guests on the standing-room-only “Comic Book Sunday” event, the Hellboy co-writer and one of his two collaborators on Panzer 88, Aaron Mason (both pictured on the panel to the right), spoke at length about the genesis of the project, marveling at how they had to “pinch themselves” every morning at Gary Kurtz’ involvement (Briggs has maintained for years in interviews that The Empire Strikes Back is his favorite movie of all time.) The duo revealed how other producers had also vied for the project (at this point, an executive also on the panel from Sean Daniel’s company, who produced the recent Joe Johnston Wolfman movie, chimed up and attested they too had badly wanted to do Panzer 88 themselves), until Briggs continued, hinting to the packed hall that something “maybe even bigger” was brewing, “right here, at Comic-Con”. After a pointed look from Mason, Briggs instantly clammed-up, grinning that he’d “said enough already”.

What makes the Con anecdotes more intriguing, is that Gary Kurtz was verified seen speaking with Peter Jackson himself in London, England the month before, at the John Landis hosted 90th birthday BAFTA tribute for Ray Harryhausen. Given Jackson’s never made any secret of his hero worship of Star Wars (he wrote a glowing forward to Lucasfilm’s giant “Making Of Star Wars” book a few years ago), and his love of all things First and Second World War, the synchronicity of the news of both Kurtz and Jackson, and Briggs and Taylor meeting in two different countries so closely together certainly raises an eyebrow.

Kurtz himself makes an unprecedented Convention appearance in the next few days: appearing for the very first time alongside George Lucas, at Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando. We’re surely going to be paying very close attention to any further Panzer 88 news that might become public this next week…