Image of Gandalf (left) is trademark of The Saul Zaentz Company d/b/a Tolkien Enterprises under license to New Line Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved. King Kong image is copyrighted 2005 by Universal Studios. Click on respective image to visit official web site of each movie.
What would you say to the notion that Peter Jackson made The Lord of the Rings movies as a stepping-stone to doing King Kong? Sound far-fetched? About as far-fetched as George W. Bush using the Presidency of the United States as a warm up for his dream job of becoming the commissioner of Major League Baseball?
Well, it may be stretching a point, but Peter Jackson readily admits that the original Kong inspired him to become a filmmaker.
“I first saw King Kong on TV when I was about 8 or 9 years old,” Jackson recalls. “And it made such an impact on me, such a huge impression, that it was the moment in time when I had decided I wanted to be a filmmaker. I thought ‘I want to make movies. I want to be able to make movies just like King Kong.’ It had that profound affect upon me.”
In fact, Jackson actually took his first stab at filming King Kong at age 12, constructing his own stop-motion, wire-framed gorilla, with a cardboard Empire State Building, plus the New York City skyline painted on a bed sheet. Sadly, that version was never completed, but these artifacts of the production still remain as evidence of Jackson’s early effort.
“King Kong has been part of my life for so long now,” he says. “For 35 years, I’ve had this movie as my favorite film, and the fact that I’m remaking it now is an incredible dream come true. It has really cemented my affection for King Kong,”
And working on Lord of the Rings helped show Jackson the way to do Kong, he says. “One of the lessons that we learned with The Lord of the Rings movies was the more fantastical your story, the more you should try to ground it in the reality of the world,” he offers. “We set King Kong in the 1930s, but we’re making it a very realistic 1930s. We wanted to make it feel very grounded, and the adventure on Skull Island is very gritty. It’s a story of survival. It’s a story of relationships and love and empathizing for this huge beast. But it’s told in a very down-to-earth, realistic way.
“I think because something has fantasy elements in it doesn’t mean that you have to approach it with a fantastical style as a filmmaker,” he explains. “It’s much more interesting to approach fantasy through the door of reality and make it as real as you possibly can. That gives it the veneer of the real world, which makes the fantasy all the more extraordinary.”
The film is rated PG-13. It looks like a must-see for most boys and girls, but it may be too intense for kids under 7 or 8.