INT: Naomi Watts
As I was sitting around and waiting during the gaps between interviews at the KING KONG press day, I went outside to get some fresh air. Outside, I bumped into Naomi Watts who just happened to be doing the same thing. Usually when I meet or talk to a celebrity, it's in a very formal, structured environment. There are reps, managers, publicists present, etc. Here I was now on my very own. What am I supposed to say? Tell me about your upcoming projects? What was it like working with Peter Jackson? Surely I had something better than that. I'm thinking, "God, she's tiny... Should I leave? Does she want privacy? Should I play cool and ignore her? Obviously I know who she is cause I'm here covering this event... Let me take out my cell phone and pretend to--"
"Beautiful day out, no?," she says.
"Definitely. Too bad we can't enjoy it long."
"Back to work, right?"
"Back to work..."
With that she gave me a wink, a smile and was back on her way inside. Me? I still had s stupid look on my face and my cell phone open in my hand. We would meet later in the aforementioned formal atmosphere and I'd finally learn the answer to that burning question of working with Peter Jackson.
Was Peter Jackson the primary reason you signed to this film? Would you have done it without him? I don't think I could have signed on to this project, had it not been someone like Peter [Jackson]. I would've been concerned that it would've just been too much of an action movie and a damsel in distress, but when I first heard about it, and I heard that Peter was doing it, I thought, "Oh wow that's interesting." The guy who is pretty much the front runner in terms of the effects world, as well as the man who made HEAVENLY CREATURES, a beautifully complicated movie about very emotional stuff. So it seemed like a great idea, so then I went and met with him and his partner Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens, their writing partner, and I heard them speak about it, that it was the legendary KING KONG, but with a number of great new ideas and how they definitely wanted to change the female role into something much more than just a screaming beauty (laughs). Since Peter has such love for the material, what's the difference working with someone on their "dream project" as opposed to your normal film? Yeah, well that was another thing that just got me going. When someone has that must passion for a project, you know, it's great, it's just wonderful to be part of the excitement. He's just loved it for all that time and he's so invested. From that initial meeting in London when they invited me to dinner, he had images and he could just talk so wonderfully about the characters, and who Kong is, I just thought yeah, I want to do this. I want to work with a man with that much passion and vision. Was it contagious? Did you fall in love with the 30's version as well? Yeah, I did. I also knew that although he wanted to honor that version, he had so many great new ideas that would make it modern and its own thing. Can you talk about the shift or turning point in Ann and Kong's relationship where she no longer is the "damsel in distress" you mentioned earlier? I think when you see him take her from the altar, and then he's throwing her around and trying to find a place probably to pull her to pieces, and you see all those other things, the legs, that have been around her, the other women. And so clearly they have been shredded, and there are their bones as evidence, and she makes a great turning point there, she manages to get away. And it's not beauty killed the beast. It's something about this woman that is so different, and she kind of gives him a heart in a way. It's not her beauty, it's her heart. And their connection and his ability to love, which he probably never knew he had. So that's another turning point for him.
As an actor What emotion runs through your head when Ann shows love for Kong? It's not really...it's definitely not lust and like the 70s version. It's more pure and caring and paternal. I mean, in the way that they sort of see each other, and identify with each other, they're two lonely beings, and I think they kind of understand each other in a way, and they both struggled and had been through desperate times. And you know, like for instance, the first moment I think they make their connection is when, you know, instead of making the decision to pull her to pieces, he thinks she's kind of amusing, and he pushes her around a bit, you know, because of her days of Vaudeville, she kind of cottons on to what he's amused by, and this is gonna buy her more time. And all the time, she's thinking "Okay, I'll just do a couple pratfalls and think of a way out of this" but then she kind of sees what it is that is amusing him and finds that kind of fascinating, and he becomes like obsessed with it and wanting more and more and more, and she's beyond exhaustion and can't give any more and then he gets frustrated and starts smashing things, and then becomes completely embarrassed by his behavior and has to run away and hide. And she finds that odd, but kind of understands it as well. In fact, that's sort of the beginning of their connection. How important was Andy Serkis to your performance? Oh, so important! I couldn't have done it without him. What was the interaction like? Well he was a character, like playing opposite any other man. He didn't have any words, but he had a huge amount of expression, be it physical or emotional. So I was just reacting to him the whole time. And in as truthful a way as possible. Was he in a monkey suit? He wasn't in a monkey suit with fur all over it. He was in a special suit that helped him move a sort of way. It was more about giving him the structure and posture that a primate has. He had teeth in, because that helped him, and then he also had a microphone and this thing they called the Kong-a-lizer. That did something to change the vibration or the frequency in his own voice. But every thing that you see on the screen, is Andy Serkis. I mean, yes there's been some magical stuff happened in the post production, special effects, but all the emotion all the movement, you know, how you see that ferocious face turn from that to sort of a smile come over him and a light in his eye, that's all Andy. And that's what I was reacting to, so that was that's why it felt like a normal work space for me.
What did that Central Park scene mean to you? We shot that scene in the re-shoots, and it happened that I think after we finished shooting, Andy and Peter went into mo-cap, motion capture stuff, and I think Andy had the idea that wouldn't it be great to see them have their last loving moment? And Peter loved the idea, and I guess he built on it from there. And I think it just makes so much sense to go from, you know, all that chaos, and then have a moment of reprieve, and then obviously going back into the chaos again. And yeah, it worked really well, I mean, they sat me in this kind of piece of I mean, it's basically a seat with a piece of foam around me. And it's on a kind of I don't even know these technical names (laughs)! I was there for seven months, but they didn't stick. Anyway, they move you around slowly, you know, as you gently walk through the park, and then as we're falling, the chair moves a little bit more, and that same device worked for many other scenes, you know, when he's shaking me and you know, it changed speeds. The hand always remained the same, but the speed would change. Why does Kong do that to Ann; the shaking? It's like, you know, that's Andy again, all his time in Rwanda and in the London Zoo, studying the apes. They do this, it's like you know, it's just working it out, how does this work? You know, just like when you get a new toy, you want to work out all its bits and pieces and what it does, and does it wind up, does it jump up and down (laughs)? You know. Figuring it out. It's just odd behavior. Was there anything you could take away from the 70s movie, specifically Jessica Lange's portrayal? Things you liked or didn't like? Yeah. I mean, people do pooh pooh that movie, I think because of the sexual undertones. But I saw that a long time ago, and I was still very moved by her performance. I've always loved Jessica's [Lange] work, and you know, actually it reminded me even when the story falters, that the role is fabulous, and if it's done right, then if the movie if it still works, if the role works. And yeah, but Peter, his passion was for the original, and that's what he fell in love with at nine years old, and that's what made him want to be a filmmaker.
How do you handle the comparisons to Fay Wray, the pressure? I don't know. Because it hasn't happened yet, but you know, one of my fears in the beginning of taking on the part was that, oh this is such an iconic movie and iconic part, and how do you survive those comparisons that are naturally gonna be drawn? But then I also felt that I had done quite a bit of work beforehand. Maybe it won't be just this one role that people will think of me as. I'll continue to do lots of other diverse work as well. This is just different for me and it was fun. It's an adventurous film with all kinds of other elements. Love story, it's great humor and yeah, I hadn't thought of it very much. Was that you actually swinging around on vines during the V-Rex sequence? A lot of it, yes. That was one of the hardest things to do. Was the rest created using a CGI-version of yourself? They did a lot of digital scanning of me, and I had all those things all over me but I didn't do the full motion capture. I just did a tiny bit of just facial expressions, but there were some shots where they put my face on the CGI version. What about the juggling? Did you do the juggling? (Laughs) No, I didn't do the juggling. I did do some of the dancing though!
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