Part Two of Quint's KING KONG set reports hit! Check it out!!!!
Published at: Jan. 24, 2005, 1:13 a.m. CST by staff
Ahoy, squirts! Quint back once again with another peek behind the curtain of Peter Jackson's KING KONG. Welcome to the second of three reports summing up my experiences on the set of KING KONG. I call this one SON OF Quint's KONG reports, or alternatively Quint's KONG REPORT LIVES! Look for the final, climactic report in a few days... I'm thinking of calling it Quint's KONG REPORTS VS. GODZILLA. Has a nice ring to it...
You may have noticed in the last report that I've sprinkled a bunch of links to Kongisking.net and the video diaries there. I love those things, as a fan and as a lazy writer. By just referencing this particular video diary you can see for yourself what the cast getting thousands of gallons of water dumped on them looks like, without me having to do any real hard work! You get to see the event visually and that means I can just gloss over it! Doesn't that work out well? All I have to do is fill in the details and give a peek at what didn't make the video diaries.
Anyway, this report is going to focus on Jack Black playing Carl Denham and his relation to Colin Hanks' character, Preston, Adrien Brody's character, Jack Driscoll and the rest of the crew. Look for the final and last report to hit with a focus on Naomi Watts' Ann Darrow getting smoochy-smoochy with Jack Driscoll.
I was out in NZ in September and October this past year, right smack dab in the heat of the US presidential race. Unfortunately for me the TV at the house we rented picked up only what the rabbit ears could catch, so I thought I was going to miss the first debate between Kerry and Bush. However, shitty cable or not this place I rented was amazing... Since I was out there for a month it was considerably cheaper to rent a house than stay at a hotel, so my friends and went in on this great house in Seatoun. Check out this amazing view from the picture window in the living room:
God, I love Wellington... Look at that... Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, no debates... Luckily, Matt Dravitzki worked his magic and whisked my friends and I in front of a TV that had cable, which happened to be in the actor's greenroom at Stone Street Studios. We watched the debates with the American crew and a few of the cast, including Colin Hanks, Kyle Chandler (Bruce Baxter) and John Sumner, one of Carl Denham's film crew, a local actor with a lot of interest in American politics.
As you can imagine, the room was fairly anti-Bush, but Bush himself wasn't helping his cause with that debate. Everyone in the room had their jaws on the floor when Bush at one point made the statement: "You rule a country with fear-r-reedom." I literally had to ask Kraken, "Did he just say fear-eedom?"
This was the first time I introduced myself to Colin Hanks, but I kept the AICN part of it out. I guess it felt weird to be in the actor's greenroom and announce myself as being a reporter, so I just gave him my name. We ended up quoting David Cross at each other during the debates, usually whenever Bush talked about terrorists that hate our freedom. "They're freedom haters, we're freedom lovers... Don't tell Canada..."
This was also one of the only points where I got to chat with Kyle Chandler who plays Bruce Baxter, an actor working with Carl Denham. He was decked out in silk PJs and slippers with a messy bedhead hairdo. Kyle was also really nice and asked us, as Americans who've spent some time in Wellington, what are some of the attractions to see. The only thing I really suggested (outside of driving around Seatoun, Breaker Bay or catching an All Blacks game) was to hit The Tug Boat for lunch and get some Garlic Mayo fries... hmmm... I heard later he took my suggestion and took his family there, which is cool.
Anyway, Baxter is a new character added by Pete, Fran and Philippa. Later on in the trip I was having tea with Fran, the world's biggest sweetheart, in case I haven't said that often enough, and she was telling me that when they met with Fay Wray before she died they heard stories of Bruce Cabot, who played Jack Driscoll in the '33 KING KONG. He was apparently a notorious skirt-chaser and at times that hobby took precedence over his acting.
So the idea was hatched to take the character of Jack Driscoll and divide it into two characters. One being Bruce Baxter, based more on Cabot, a happy go lucky actor who loves to chase skirts, the other being Jack Driscoll, who'd be less chauvinistic, which would make the romance between him and Darrow easier to buy. Driscoll has also been changed from first mate of the Venture to a writer working for Carl Denham. I can't be sure, but it seems from what I saw shooting that Driscoll is more on the quiet charmer level than the boisterous "Women have no place on a boat" level.
After the debate everybody broke for lunch. On the way to catering I was attacked by two rambunctious hairballs. Two very cute and happy dogs ran up to me, tails wagging, followed close behind by a PA. Turns out these were Naomi Watts' dogs. I ran into these cute little buggers one more time during my visits, but strangely enough never spoke with Naomi herself. Odd how things work out sometimes. Anyway, it was steak and chips day at catering, so, I loaded up on my "freedom fries" before heading over to the stages to watch the rest of that day's shooting.
Preston and Denham are arguing. Apparently, Colin Hanks took Jack Black's map to Skull Island and inspected it. Black pulls him out of the mess hall and takes it back. Preston (Hanks) is worried and angry.
Preston (referring to the guy who gave the map to Denham): "He said (some amount that I missed) men died on that island, that something tore them apart!"
Carl Denham: "He was crazy, at sea for a long time!"
Preston: "Did you read the small print? It says don't go there! What about Bruce? What about Jack? They trust you and you're using them."
Carl Denham: "They're on the goddamn payroll!"
The rest of this conversation was actually quite vicious and really showcased how much Black can pull out the douchebag in Denham. He continues to tear down Colin's character, saying that the only reason he brought him along was because of charity, not because he likes or believes in him. Colin crumples in this scene, absolutely has any fire in him extinguished and gives up the map. Once Denham has what he wants, he starts to build Preston up again, telling him that of course he has talent and is loyal, but he has to decide. "Are you afraid or are you a filmmaker?"
After this scene I see why Jackson thought it important to cast someone like Jack Black in this role. The way they've set up Denham is much more dark than originally done, but he's still not supposed to be someone you dislike. They need someone very likable to play this role to keep him from being a really despicable character. Jack's basic personality is very difficult to dislike, he just kind of radiates a mad kind of joy. I'm sure some will disagree, but I think the majority like the class-clown character.
(Pssssttt! By the way, that's a new pic... or maybe not... looked new to me... damn!) Remember in the last report when I was talking about the Venture being beached on a rock? Well, before they hit that sucker, they're at sea for a long, long time. The crew loses hope of finding this island, the validity of the map is put into question. I saw a scene shot with Jamie Bell, who plays a young crewman named Jimmy, as he's lounging on the deck reading Joseph Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS. He looks up from his book and talks to someone (not sure who it is as what I saw was a close-up, but I think it was Hayes, played by Evan Parke). I didn't have any ears (headphones that allow me to hear what the boom picks up) for this scene, but he says something like, "Why doesn't he just turn back?"
Even Denham starts getting a little paranoid and has a really nice back and forth with Jack Driscoll about it as Driscoll is looking over the map (for the first time? Can't tell). Denham believes Capt. Englehorn and the crew is going to "dump me in Rangoon and claim it for themselves!"
Jack Driscoll "Claim what? Listen to yourself. Carl, you dragged us out here on the pretense of making a movie!"
Carl Denham: (Grabs the map) "This is the movie, goddamnit! Do you have any idea how huge this could be? The last remnant of a dead civilization. It's gonna vanish, Jack. This island is sinking. It's going to disappear from the face of the Earth, don't you get it?"
Jack Driscoll: "No. How would I get it? You didn't tell me, buddy. Pal. Friend."
Carl Denham: "You're damn right I didn't. Do you think I was born yesterday? I learned this business the hard way. No one had the guts to back me, so I backed myself."
Jack Driscoll: "Based on what? A scrap of paper?"
Carl Denham: "This is real. This exists."
Jack Driscoll: "Maybe it does. Maybe it wasn't meant to be found."
I really like the above conversation. You only get the second half of it, but I just love the idea of Skull Island sinking, the last place of magic on the Earth is slowly disappearing. That one small tweak gives the film a sense of urgency to get to the island that is stronger than the original. Now or never, you know?
Jack played the scene with a very nice mixture of paranoia, excitement and distress. Towards the end of the conversation he loses a bit of hope himself. He leans on the rail and mutters, "It's over for me. I'm finished" right before the foghorn sounds (or rather PJ shouting out "Foghorn!").
From what I gather, the fog signals their arrival into the waters of Skull Island, almost like the bridge between the rational world and the fantasy world dominated by Kong. Over the course of the 4 weeks I was there, they got reaction shots of the Fog surrounding the ship from every major and minor cast member. The fog machines running, you'd hear Peter's voice coming through the sound system. "Fog... It's creepy, very spooky... There's the wall!!! A wall ahead!!! You're looking at the wall - you can see it looming up! Three... two... one... HIT! There are rocks! Rocks everywhere! Rocks off to the side... aaaaannnd... CUT."
I can't wait to see exactly what the rocks look like, but I'd imagine they'd be quite sharp and nasty lookin'. I know some crew (like Hayes) and some of Denham's people (specifically Ann Darrow and Jack Driscoll) have a moment when they're looking at giant stone faces materializing in the fog. The faces I would gather belong to giant statues built thousands of years in the past, kings or Gods of some ancient civilization and mark the edge of Skull Island. Which is interesting by itself, if the island is sinking then they could literally be sailing over the edge of the island with these giant statues the only part left that breaks the surface of the water.
One of the characters we see during the impact is Lumpy, the cook (Andy Serkis). Now, I didn't see this shoot, but on playback they rolled Andy's takes done on a previous day. He's sitting on deck, puffing at his nub of a cigar, of course, with his big bitch of a knife in one hand and a head of cabbage in the other. He's placed various bits and pieces around the cabbage to make it resemble a face. He gave it eyes, a nose and is cutting a mouth on it with his knife. He's happy with his work, muttering the whole time how beautiful she looks and how lonely he is. He leans in close and then is jarred about as the boat collides with the rocks, his new lady friend tumbling from his hands and out of the frame.
I have no idea if that was a funny just for the crew or if it'll be a funny for you guys next December, but I can tell you that I found it very amusing.
It was while seeing this stuff that my friends and I were joined at the monitors by a lovely young lady named Jessica, who turned out to be Jack Black's lady friend. It was also the day that Colin Hanks walked up to me and said, "OK. Are you Quint?" I told him I was. He nodded his head. "I thought so." He knows the site as well, it turns out (and I've heard his father is a regular reader as well), so be careful what you write in that talkback or you may have the wrath of Hanks to deal with and you most certainly don't want that! I've seen things... dark things...
We ended up sitting and talking with Jessica, Jack and Colin for about half an hour between the set-ups. All manners of topics were under discussion. They had seen the EE of ROTK and Jack kept going on about the huge mouth on The Mouth Of Sauron. He also brought up Michel Gondry and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. JB had apparently worked with Gondry before and it was in this conversation that Colin broke out into song (Light and Day by the Polyphonic Spree). Also brought up was HEAT VISION AND JACK (JB had nothing but positive things to say, which is cool because that pilot was awesome and would have made an amazingly trippy series), David Cross again (JB did some Mr. Show and Colin and I had his newest album on our minds), the Tenacious D movie (moving forward at New Line, supposedly shooting in the Spring with Jack and Kyle hitting the studio shortly before to come up with the soundtrack which will double as their next album) and Tex-Mex (which Austin is the King of, by the way... Chuy's, Trudy's... hmmm...).
One of these instances he was running a caption contest in which Thomas Kretschmann as Capt. Englehorn had a screwball comedy type of surprised expression on his face crouching right next to a roaring T-Rex. Pierre had combined the model element and a photo he took of Kretschmann and decided to have people onset come up with captions for the pic. Mine was, "Peter, I'm sorry! I promise I won't blow my lines again!" Not too good, but hey... I was under a time crunch. Give me a break!
Now, before I end this one I have to present you with the last sketch I'm going to share from my book. This comes from Carter Nixon (the guy that chased down "Gandalf" in the funniest production diary so far) and it's the most detailed depiction of the finale of the film you're likely to see from now until next December. Carter's amazing artistry really cuts to the core of the scene and the character of Kong. He's even able to transport you inside the Empire State Building where you can feel what it must be like to be in the building as Kong is climbing up the side, just through his artistry and talent of drawing. Now, prepare yourself. You're about to be transported back to '30s New York...
It's a thing of beauty, isn't it?
So that about does it for this one. Keep an eye out for the third and final report with lots of Ann Darrow goodness, plus some stuff involving natives and a description of an animatic I was shown that features Kong fighting a trio of carnivores with bad attitudes. It's one of the coolest things I saw on the whole trip, so don't miss it!! Look for that report sometime Wednesday. 'Til then, this is Quint bidding you all a fond farewell and adieu.