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Set Visit: Story and interviews with the filmmakers of Kong: Skull Island

02.01.2017

Production on KONG: SKULL ISLAND had started in October 2015 and would last until March of '16. A few lucky journalists, myself included, were invited out to Hawaii in December so that we could speak with some of the cast and crew and check out what was being shot at that time. For those seeking solace from the Winter, might I suggest Hawaii? It's not terrible.

Filming on this particular day took place in Kualua Park, right outside of the ranch. This location has become home to a lot of major productions lately, including JURASSIC WORLD. It's easy to see why, as mountain upon mountain is covered in lush greenery. It's beautiful to look at, but can also be ominous when the wind blows just right. I couldn't help but find myself looking toward the massive jungle and half-expecting Kong to just materialize.

Our first stop was at base camp, right along the beach. This Forward Operating Base of sorts was littered with trailers and a massive tent to house the crew when lunchtime arrived. For now, it was filled with tons of concept are that Executive Producer Alex Garcia would walk us through while explaining the bullet points of the story.

STORY BREAKDOWN WITH EXECUTIVE PRODUCER ALEX GARCIA

Alex Garcia: "We open on the aftermath of a WW2 dogfight. A pilot crash lands on this island - a US pilot - stands up, sees another plane crash - the plane he's been fighting with. Japanese pilot starts running at him. They get into a death duel, running through the jungle, two mortal enemies going to kill each other. Until they're interrupted by this seemingly impossible, much larger force [on a cliff face]. And everything of their world, the warring faction, the whole war, all of that . . . is instantly nullified by [Kong]."

As Garcia paints his own portrait of the prologue of the film, I look over the concept art which is absolutely gorgeous. It's APOCALPYSE NOW meets KING KONG. In today's cinema where big-budget films generally tend to underwhelm with their overly-fabricated locales and dull landscapes, the island itself as depicted in the concept art is truly a wonder to behold.

Alex Garcia: "[We then] come into the 70s. The beginning of that program landsat. One of the things we liked about that period is [that we were] coming out of the haze of another conflict - Vietnam. You have a team of people brought together, some of whom are military - seemingly just for assistance through the survey, although we come to understand that there was some suspicion that there may be something [at Skull Island] that you would need a military force for. Unlike Godzilla, we meet Kong pretty quickly in our movie. They start a survey, they're coming over the island, dropping these seismic survey instruments that function almost like charges - they land and rumble and create waves that they then measure. And they disturb the peace, and the sheriff of the island, Kong, rises up, and has a whole confrontation with the choppers. Everybody is stranded. We have two separate groups of people who are trying to figure out how to get to the other side of the island where refueling choppers are coming, and in theory, get off. Sam Jackson is playing Packard who is the colonel who leads the helicopter squadron - one of the most illustrious squadrons out of the war. He's never lost a man, which is why when Kong bangs down this choppers it's, to him, soul crushing. He's a guy who's not ready to go home, so when the mission comes up, he convinces his guys to come with him on this last hurrah and then loses many of them after they're excited to go home, he now has a vendetta against Kong."

Now that the gist of the story had been laid out, we had the chance to speak with director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Instead of sitting down at one of the tables, Jordan led us behind the massive tent in order to take advantage of the cool ocean breeze. The interview that followed proved to be just as telling as the previous one. While Alex gave us the backbone of the story, Jordan provided the soul. He understood the kind of film he was trying to make, and after reading these highlights, I think you might find yourself just as excited as I am!

INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR JORDAN VOGT-ROBERTS

Regarding the move from low-budget films to KONG: SKULL ISLAND:
"Filmmaking's filmmaking, to some degree. For me, when I would do short films for $10 and then as you slowly work up to then doing web shorts and doing actual commercials and TV shows, I think it's like a sport - you train your muscles. When I made the jump to my first movie, there were definite differences. You need to get ready for the endurance of that long of a shoot, and then you're tracking characters over a longer period of time so there are new things you learn along the way. The core of what you're doing is trying to tell a great story. We have incredible effects people and incredible people surrounding me that are a dream, but I'm also a nerd about stuff like that. The reason I got into this is I grew up watching weird 'Making Of's on the Discovery channel. Movie magic! I just love that stuff! For me, I love learning everything about how something happens. There are definite differences, but the core of what you're trying to do is the same. I'm in the woods again, just shooting stuff!"

Whether or not he grew up a fan of King Kong:
"I knew the iconography of Kong well before I'd ever seen the '33 movie, because when you're a kid, you're not watching black and white movies from the 30s. I had a 16 inch plastic King Kong thing that my dad had bought at a garage sale that was in my room as a kid, and so I knew what that was. When you were growing up, before nerds took over and genre became such a big thing, you just had Kong and you had Godzilla. You had those two things and even if you hadn't even seen that many of the movies, you knew exactly what it was. So the iconography of Kong was always really important to me - had always been sort of seared in my brain - and then later when I saw the '33 version I fell in love with it. But there was no part of me necessarily that was like, 'It's my dream to make a King Kong movie!' Because that's a huge task. We're playing with film history and we're really seriously trying to honor that, because all of special effects almost stems back to that film. They were making that at a time when the special effects were so revolutionary, but they were still telling an amazing story. It was about people and there was just a great narrative interwoven in that. There's a lot that we have to sort of honor. The iconography of Kong has always been a huge thing for me."

Regarding big-budget films today and how SKULL ISLAND will be different:
"I feel there's a lot of action and a lot of composition that's completely interchangeable, like, 'That could be in 9 movies!' We want to make a lot of [imagery] that really can only exist in the confines of the movie we're making. This is our Skull Island. This is our Kong. You couldn't find these sequences, this imagery, in another movie."

Regarding the creatures of Skull Island:
"The creatures are a big thing. Jurassic World obviously owns the dinosaur thing right now. If Kong is the God of this island, we wanted each of the creatures to feel like they're individual gods of their own domain. Miyazaki and Princess Mononoke was actually a big reference in the way that the spirit creatures sort of have their own domains and fit within that. A big thing was trying to design creatures that felt realistic and could exist in an ecosystem that feels sort of wild and out there, and then also design things that simultaneously felt beautiful and horrifying at the same time. Where if you look at this giant spider or water buffalo, you stare at, a part of you says, 'that's the most amazing thing I've ever seen' and 'oh my god, that's going to kill me right now, I need to run for my life!'"

On keeping the mystery of Kong:
"I think if you struggle to name me one good prequel movie that exists on the planet, then you probably can't! Generally they're not good for a reason. There's a lot of background mythology peppered into [Skull Island] as we create our own new mythology. Really, there are not that many good prequels. As soon as you try and over explain something, it tends to lose its magic. So we're not trying to go in and be like, "This led to this and this led to this!" We want to still have a wonderful sense of mystery and use it in a way to make our island and our creature and Kong's character feel bigger, because you understand some of it, but we're not trying to pull back the curtain on everything."

Now that the filmmakers have broken down the basics of the story for KONG: SKULL ISLAND, join us for our next segment where I detail some of the scenes being shot, as well as highlight our interviews with Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, and Tom Hiddleston!

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT KONG: SKULL ISLAND!

INTERVIEWS WITH SAMUEL L. JACKSON, BRIE LARSON AND TOM HIDDLESTON!

Source: JoBlo

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