Peter Jackson Says He Won't Ape Original King Kong
By Melanie Carroll
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Reuters) -
Oscar-winning director Peter
Jackson will relive a childhood dream when he starts filming a
remake of the 1933 classic "King Kong" in his Wellington
hometown next week.
Speaking to reporters Thursday at his
studio in the New Zealand capital, the "Lord of The Rings"
director said his first attempt to film "King Kong" was as a
youngster. It involved a Super 8 camera and a cardboard model of
the Empire State Building.
"It's great to be able to finally get the film made. It's a film
which I've loved ever since I was a child. It really inspired me
to want to become a film-maker," he said.
A screaming, vine-swinging special effects extravaganza,
Jackson's "King Kong" will also be a character-driven
psychological study of a monster -- and, of course, a love
Jackson says he will pay homage to the original, which starred
Fay Wray, who died on Aug. 8 aged 96, and retain the "mystery
and romance of a bygone era." However, the characters --
including Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), Carl Denham (Jack Black (news))
and Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody (news))
-- will not be carbon copies of those in the original film.
"To put modern political beliefs onto something that was made in
1933 is obviously putting a spin on it that doesn't really
exist. It was a product of its time," he said.
"We're really just attempting to make a wonderful, mysterious
adventure film ... it's about gorillas, it's about dinosaurs,
and lost islands, and this relationship."
Watts said she accepted the part without seeing the script.
"This story is very simplistic and very human, so that's why I'm
here," she said.
Jackson already had in mind Brody and Watts to play their
characters, but decided on Black during the social whirl at the
Academy Awards (news
in February, when he won three Oscars (news
for his final installment of the "Rings" trilogy, "The Return of
Black said he had wanted to work on a Jackson film after seeing
the "Rings" films.
"I remember thinking while I was watching The Lord of The Rings:
'man, I've got to get an audition for whatever he does next',"
"Then I thought that's just stupid. Everybody's going to want to
be in his next film, better to just put it out of your mind."
"Then I got the call to come in and
talk with them about 'King Kong' -- you wait your whole life to
get a call like that."
Andy Serkis, who was the human model
and voice of the computer-generated Gollum in two of the "Rings"
movies, will do the same for the giant gorilla, as well as have
a "live" role of a cook.
Black, who stars in folk-rock comedy
act Tenacious D, and Brody both said they planned to play a lot
of music in between filming in Wellington.
Jackson, who suffers seasickness, will
use a number of land-based studio lots to film scenes, including
those featuring the tramp steamer Venturer, which brings the
giant ape to "civilization."
Special effects will be done by New
Zealand-based Weta Digital and Weta Workshops, which won Oscars
for their "Lord of the Rings" creations.
Hollywood turned down Jackson's
previous "King Kong" pitch before his overwhelming success with
the ambitious Rings trilogy. "The Return of the King," created
Oscar history by winning all 11 categories in which it was
"King Kong" is reported to be likely to
cost as much as US$130 million to make. Jackson spent $300
million making the three Rings films, which have grossed about
$3 billion worldwide.
Universal Studios is due to release
"King Kong" worldwide on December 14, 2005.
Kong Filming Set to Begin in September
September 2, 2004
Principal photography is set to begin
September, 2004 on the dramatic adventure
with Peter Jackson ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy) bringing
his sweeping cinematic vision to the iconic story of the
gigantic ape-monster captured in the wilds and brought to
civilization where he meets his tragic fate. Jackson assumes
directing, producing and co-screenwriting duties and surrounds
himself with a list of superlative filmmaking and acting
Jackson re-teams with longtime collaborators Fran Walsh and
Philippa Boyens, co-writing the screenplay with partner Walsh
and "The Lord of the Rings" co-writer, Boyens. The screenplay
is based on the original story by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar
Wallace, which became the classic 1933 RKO Radio Pictures
film, directed by adventurers Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack.
Jan Blenkin, Carolynne Cunningham, Fran Walsh and Jackson will
produce the film under their WingNut Films banner, with
Universal Pictures releasing
worldwide on December 14, 2005. As with his "Lord of the
Rings" trilogy, Jackson will shoot
on location in his native New Zealand.
Naomi Watts portrays Ann Darrow, an actress from the world of
vaudeville who finds herself out of a job in Depression-era
New York. Her luck changes when she meets Carl Denham, played
by Jack Black -- an entrepreneur, raconteur, adventurer and
filmmaker who is struggling to make a name for himself in the
entertainment industry. Bold, ebullient and charismatic,
Denham has a natural sense of showmanship and an appetite for
greatness, which ultimately leads to catastrophe.
Adrien Brody steps into the role of Jack Driscoll, a New York
playwright, who becomes an unlikely hero in a romantic
adventure story which will test his physical courage and his
Peter Jackson commented, "I'm thrilled to be working with
Naomi -- not many actresses could step into Fay Wray's shoes
and I have no doubt she will be equally as stunning in the
role of Ann Darrow." Watts will be starring opposite Brody in
a feisty love story which has been updated from that of the
original film. "Adrien is one of the most gifted actors
working today -- he is smart and charming and incredibly
versatile and I think he's going to be fantastic in this role,
which is unlike any he has played before."
Jackson has been wanting to work with Jack Black ever since he
saw him in High Fidelity. "Jack adds a wonderful
dimension to the role of Carl Denham. He's playing a maverick
visionary who is undone by the monstrousness of his own
Cast members also include Andy Serkis ("The Lord of the Rings"
trilogy), Thomas Kretschmann (U-571), Colin Hanks (Orange
County) and Kyle Chandler (Angel's Dance, TV's
Andy Serkis (who served as the live-action basis behind the
CGI "Rings" character of Gollum) will provide on-set reference
for the title character of King Kong.
Serkis also plays the character of Lumpy the cook, in service
aboard the tramp steamer Venture, bound for Skull Island,
under the command of Captain Englehorn, played by Thomas
Kretschmann. Colin Hanks portrays a production assistant to
filmmaker Carl Denham and Kyle Chandler takes on the role of a
1930's movie star cast opposite Ann Darrow.
Jackson added, "The fun part of my job is getting to work with
talented actors like Colin, Thomas, Kyle and Andy because they
bring so much more to a role than what is written on the page.
Colin Hanks is the perfect guy to play Denham's assistant,
Preston. He is so good -- you forget that you're watching an
actor -- which can be a little disconcerting."
"Thomas brings a quiet authority to the role of Captain
Englehorn. His droll sense of irony is the perfect
counterpoint to Denham."
Kyle Chandler is playing the role of Bruce Baxter -- a
nineteen-thirties 'movie star' who appears in the film Denham
is shooting. "It's a film within a film; Kyle brings enormous
charm and style to this role, managing to capture the quality
of some of the great legends of the era, such as Cary Grant
and Clark Gable."
also marks the return of Andy Serkis to New Zealand and will
reunite actor and director on another epic piece of fantasy
"I'm really looking forward to seeing what Andy Serkis does
with the character of Lumpy, the cook. This will be the first
time we will actually get to shoot extended drama sequences
together, in the full knowledge that Andy will not be 'painted
out' after the fact -- as he was with Gollum. But Andy hasn't
escaped that fate entirely. He will also provide valuable
on-set reference for the character of Kong and he has spent
weeks in the London Zoo and in the highlands of Rwanda
researching various aspects of gorilla behavior. It is not our
intention to soften Kong in an attempt to humanize him. The
power of the story lies in the fact that this is a savage
beast from a hostile environment and we will not compromise
Actors Evan Parke (Planet of the Apes), Lobo Chan and
Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) have also come onboard
as crew of the Venture, with Parke as Hayes, the first mate, a
hardened ex-infantryman from WWI; Bell as the ship's lookout,
Jimmy, a delinquent with a habit for getting into trouble; and
Chan rounding out the crew as Choy, the ever-optimistic
Jackson's creative team on
includes director of photography Andrew Lesnie
(cinematographer for the "Rings" trilogy); editor Jamie
Selkirk ("The Return of the King"); production designer Grant
Major ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy); costumer Terry Ryan (The
Hard Word, Paradise Road); and unit production
manager Anne Bruning, who last worked in New Zealand on The
Visual effects will be again accomplished by New Zealand-based
companies Weta Digital and Weta Workshop, recipients of
multiple Academy Awards® for their collective work on "The
Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Visual effects and miniatures will
supplement practical locations in creating primordial jungles
and '30s-period America.
Stacey Snider, chairman, Universal Pictures, said, "We are
thrilled to be joining Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh on the
heels of the landmark achievement of 'The Lord of the Rings.'
Peter and his team will bring their superior filmmaking,
unequalled vision and the latest in film effects to this
treasured classic. With the high-voltage casting of Naomi
Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody, Peter's brought on some of
the most talented young actors in Hollywood. There is
something unbelievably exciting about working with a filmmaker
on his dream project, as 'King Kong' is for Peter. I really
look forward to our collaboration."
Jackson noted, "I very much want to respect the iconography of
the original film, because I don't believe we should try to
change what worked. Our version of 'King Kong' will reflect
the same sort of dramatic sensibility we employed on 'The Lord
of the Rings' -- placing real characters, with real dilemmas,
in the context of a truly fantastical world. I'm determined to
give the film a gritty reality and to play the dramatic
elements of the story for all they're worth. Our movie is set
in 1933, and this is important because it means we can invest
the story with the mystery and romance of a bygone era. The
Thirties was a time of discovery, when we did not know the
full parameters of the world and literally, anything was