King Kong by Peter Jackson

For a young New Zealand boy named Peter Jackson, the viewing of a 1933 black-and-white film one Friday night proved to be more than just an evening's diversionit quite literary became a life-changing event.

That defining Friday-night viewing stayed with young Jackson, and barely 3 years later, he set out to live up to his career decision. At the age of 12, he started work on his own version of the 1933 classic.

Jackson's mother donated an old stole, which provided the gorilla's fur. The garment was cut apart and was used to cover a paddled wire-frame body. The top of the Empire State Building was a painted cardboard model; to conserve the budding filmmaker's efforts, he didn't paint the back of the structure, since that side was never going to appear on camera.

The New York City skyline was provided via a painted bed sheet, which was more appropriation than donation, as his mother was never informed of the bed linen's use in his project.

That film was never completed, though the fur-covered figure, the Empire State model, and the skyline backdrop still exist. But the idea continued to preoccupy and even haunt Jackson.

Seeing Kong for the First Time

I first saw “King Kong” when I was eight or nine on TV in New Zealand. It made such an impact on me, such a huge impression, that it was the moment in time when I decided to become a filmmaker. I thought, I want to make movies. I want to be able to make movies like “King Kong.” It had that profound effect on me.

The Filmmaker as a Fan

The original 1933 “King Kong” is my favorite movie of all time. And for that reason, I wanted to remake it. I just thought a version of this wonderful story told with the technology that we have available to us today would be a really amazing thing. So I guess Im remaking “King Kong” as a fan who wants to see a high-tech version of this wonderful story.

Writing the First Draft

In 1996, my thoughts once again returned to “King Kong,” and this time, the obsession had advanced far enough that we drafted a full-length script. Our 1996 draft was written as a very Hollywood-y, sort of tongue-in-cheek adventure story, full of gags and one-liners.

Lessons from Lord of the Rings

One of the lessons that we learned with “The Lord of the Rings” movies was that the more fantastical your story, the more you should try to ground it in the reality of the world. We set our “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.

The Story

The movie is a story of survival, a story of relationships and love and empathizing for his huge beast. But it's told in a very down-to-earth, realistic way. We applied those lessons to doing a complete revision of the screenplay.

Setting the Story in 1933

My decision to keep the tale in its original time and setting, the Depression Era of 1933, was a simple one, based on two factors. I just wanted to be able to have the climax of the film, which is obviously the iconic sequence of the biplanes attacking Kong on the top of the Empire State Building, and I couldn't figure out a way that you could ever justify having biplanes attacking him if it was set in the modern day.

The second factor is that there's no real sense of mystery or discovery in the world anymore today. Yet in the 1930s, you could believe that there was one tiny, uncharted corner that had not been discovered by man yet, this one tiny, little speck of an island on the ocean that could have slipped through the net.

Realistic Approach to Fantasy

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. I think 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.

Reel Impact

“King Kong” has been part of my life for so long now. For 35 years, I have had this movie as my favorite film, and the fact that I'm remaking it now is an incredible dream come true, it's something I would of never thought would ever happen. It just really cemented my affection for “King Kong,” having been the person that gets to remake it.

Responsibility and Obligation

I feel very obligated to King Kong, because he really did start my career off, he kick-started me in the direction towards being a filmmaker. And in a way, if I can do him honor by telling his story well today, then I'm returning something of the favor that I owe him.