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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Peter Jackson Goes Ape

New Zealander Peter Jackson is in post production on his first post-Lord of the Rings film and the star of this film has even bigger and hairier feet than Frodo Baggins (or Peter Jackson for that matter). King Kong is due in cinemas later this year. I was lucky enough to sit down with the star and chat about the film, the history of Kong films, and the women of Kong.

Earl Fando: It's good to have the chance to chat with you Mr. Kong. Do you mind if I call you King?

King Kong: Actually my name is Frank.

EF: Frank? I thought you were named King Kong.

KK (Frank): Nah. It's like the Lassie movies. The first dog was named Lassie and lasted a couple of films, and then bit the big chewy bone. It's been all replacements since. It's all guys now as well. Bob, Eddie, Sam, Tim...Dogs in drag. At least I get to play the role straight.

EF: So, there was an original Kong?

KK: Yeah, well sort of. The first ape in the role was named Sid Kong. His nickname was King and, well, I don't have to spell it out for you.

EF: I always wondered how they came up with the title.

KK: Those creeps Merian Cooper and Edgar Wallace took all the credit. Cooper said that the title was the name of one of his old girlfriends. Ol' Mr. Kong was the source though.
Sid even came up with the closing line during a pre-shoot rehearsal.

EF: You mean...

KK: (Dramatically) "Twas beauty killed the beast!" Even Sid thought it was hammy, but the critics acted like Shakespeare had flown down from heaven to do the script. Sid might have gotten some credit if not for the accident.

EF: Accident?

KK: You know what I'm talking about! He fell off the frickin' building.

EF: Ah, so the plane attack was real.

KK: No. Unfortunately, he just had a cramp. All that climbing, and no stunt apes. They wrote in the planes later. In the original script he was supposed to have died in a motorbike accident. Sad to say that fall was one of the only shots they used of Sid in the whole picture...that and the close-ups.

EF: That explains why Willis O'Brien was brought in to do the stop-motion work.

KK: Yeah. Plus, where are you gonna find another 40 foot-tall gorilla?

EF: True. That does beg my next question. You're kind of...well, normal-sized.

KK: Sid was a unique individual. Yeah, it's all special effects now. All the Kongs have been normal-sized since then. Andy, the guy who played Son of Kong; Dave, the guy who did Mighty Joe Young...

EF: Dave was Joe?

KK: I can't blame them. Mighty Dave Young? I don't see it.

EF: You were saying?

KK: ...and Steve, the guy who was in King Kong vs. Godzilla.

EF: What about the 1970's Kong?

KK: That was Rick Baker in an ape suit, man. Donald Trump could have spotted that one through his thick do.

EF: Grape Ape?

KK: You're pushing your luck, pal. Remember, I may be erudite and charming, but I'm still a gorilla.

EF: So, how was the production?

KK: It was OK. The catering was good... a lot of fresh fruit and berries. Of course, I had lobster every day.

EF: What about the film?

KK: I liked the rushes, although I hate to watch myself work. Quite frankly, I think I have a funny looking nose. Still, Pete got a really good performance out of me...very manic, yet controlled. I will say those green screens freaked me out at first, but of course, I'm used to the stage.

EF: You started in the theatre?

KK: Don't sound so surprised. I'm pretty versatile for a Silverback. I've done Ibsen, Chekov, and even Beckett.

EF: Waiting for Godot?

KK: Of course.

EF: One last question. How does Naomi Watts compare to Fay Wray?

KK: Naomi was great. She's not the screamer Wray was, but she makes up for it in other ways, if you know what I mean.

EF: Really?

KK: Hey, I may be a gorilla, but I'm not blind. It's only too bad that all our scenes together were special effects shots. Like all Kongs, I dig the blondes, man.

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