Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Moulding a Monster – Peter Jackson talks about King Kong

“The classic movie is always going to be the classic movie and ours is going to be the remake of the classic movie. But it is such a wonderful story and a wonderful premise that I would just love to have a go at doing a remake and obviously with modern technology there's the reason to do it.”

It is the miracles created by the digital technology age – computer wizards can now create a giant gorilla that is utterly convincing – that convinced Jackson that the time was right to return to King Kong. High tech has made the word 'impossible' redundant among film makers. If that wasn't the case, Jackson figures there would be no reason to remake King Kong.

“With modern technology and computers you can obviously do an incredibly photo-realistic gorilla. Take all the elements of the story…Kong fighting dinosaurs on the island, Kong taking Ann up the Empire State Building and the biplanes and all that stuff…and imagine it being very realistic! It's exciting just to think about that. So that's a reason to do it,” he says.

Jackson first tried to get King Kong up and roaring back in the middle of the 1990s. He had a script and the interest of the Universal studio bosses. But then there was an attack of cold feet because there were rival productions underway of Godzilla and Mighty Joe Young. So the idea of a new Kong got the thumbs down.

Now though it's been decided that the time is right to give flesh and bone to Peter Jackson's dream and a brand new script has evolved from what Jackson originally had in the mid 1990s.

“It's 100 per cent, page one revision,” he says. “I don't think there's a single line of dialogue that's the same. The characters have changed hugely.”

He's honest enough to confess that he and his team had found fault with their original script. “We read it again when Universal started talking to us about resurrecting our version of Kong. We had sort of forgotten about our old script and certain bits of it were ok but we generally disliked the tone of it, the flippancy,” he explains. “We could see back in 1996 that we were desperately trying to write a Hollywood, Indiana Jones type of film, and we didn't actually like it. The one thing that the Lord of the Rings had taught us that we did not know in 1996 is that fantasy is best told in a very realistic way. The lesson we took in re-writing Kong last year was that the best fantasy experience in the cinema is one in which you utterly believe in what's happening and in which the characters believe in what's happening.

“We had written the kind of a much more light weight, kind of silly Hollywood type script and we didn't like that and we rewrote it. That is what intrigues us about Kong.”

In between the 1933 movie and Jackson's epic there was the 1976 version of King Kong, starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange. Not surprisingly, Jackson has not taken anything from the more recent film, which had less than stunning success at the box office. “The 1976 film has actually dated worse than the 1933,&rdquo
; says Jackson. “It's so seventies, it's unbelievable.”

Although the film pays homage to the original, Jackson has developed a whole slew of new characters for this version. “Adrien, Naomi and Jack play the three main characters who are there as in the original film. But in the original Kong they are just about the only characters that you really get to know. There are a few odd sprinklings of dialogue among other characters but it's really centred on them.

“We wanted to develop more of the ship's crew and the filming crew who are on the island to make a movie, so that we got to meet more people. It's always a good idea if you are going to kill them off too. We realised that we had a lot of dino fodder to deal with here. We are going to have a lot of these people get eaten and die horrible deaths during the course of the event and it's always more powerful if you get to know somebody before you bump them off.

“I'm not saying who gets bumped off and who doesn't but we are developing a lot of these supporting roles with the point of view that you are going to care about them a lot more if they are actually in danger on the island. Quite a few of them are not going to make it back.”

As you can see as you wander around Mount Crawford on which has been created the ancient, trivial world of Skull Island, the detail in Jackson's movie is astounding. An entire team for example is working on the computerised creation of the mighty Kong. “We are really taking a bull gorilla, a Silverback, and making him look very ancient. I wanted Kong to look old because he has been around for a while. I wanted him to look pretty battle scarred, so we are giving him some very distinctive scarring where Tyrannosauruses have raked their claws across him.”

And a hugely important factor is that this King Kong is going to be very scary indeed. “I wanted him to be very frightening,” says Jackson. “I think that's a much more interesting thing to do with the character. When you start with the most terrifying, vicious looking gorilla you can imagine and then you start to reveal his heart, you start to peel the layers away and you start to see his soul and his heart. He is the furthest thing away from cute that you could imagine and I think that's the more interesting approach to take. So he's frightening.”

Apart from striking terror in the audiences, King Kong should also break hearts and Jackson is creating moments in the movie in which movie goers are expected to weep.

“Hopefully it will happen more than once but certainly I hope it happens at the Empire State Building at the end,” he says.

After the incredible global success of Lord of the Rings, the level of expectation is immense. The entire movie world is keenly anticipating the arrival of Jackson's adventure. So he doesn't even try to pretend that there isn't any pressure on him to deliver the goods.

'I guess there are external pressures on it being a follow up to Lord of the Rings, but that doesn't worry me too much. I want to make movies and I guess there is a certain sort of expectation. The pressure is two fold. One is I want this to be a good remake of King Kong so I want people that like King Kong, that respect the original film, to think we did ok. That's obviously important. And I also just want to make a good movie. That is always the pressure on a film maker; you want your movie to be as good as possible, no matter what it is. It's not easy to make a good film so that's always the pressure.”

Naomi Watts interview – Three Monkeys Online

Kong is King

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