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Son of Quint's KONG reports part 1: The Live Version! KONG! Ann! Skull Island!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here typing on my very nice and pretty Powerbook in Wellington, New Zealand. Specifically, I'm sitting in the big A Stage of Stone Street Studios as the crew of KING KONG slowly returns from lunch. I've been here since the 5th of February and I'm leaving tomorrow, a full 4 days earlier than planned at the insistence of Paramount to catch the last day of shooting on WAR OF THE WORLDS. I know you hate me. Hell, I hate me.

I got the OK from Peter Jackson last Friday to write up my experiences from the past 3 weeks on the set of KING KONG, so I am starting with the only real "live" report I can file. I have been taking detailed notes every day I've been on set, so I'll arrange those into something coherent, hopefully, very soon. Just a warning, though... I've got SXSW coming up, so the reports may be a little longer in coming than the previous series I did. I'll try my best to keep them coming, though.

If you didn't catch my last series of Kong reports, you can read them by clicking the below links:




On my last full day on KONG last year I was saying my good-byes to the crew and cast and eventually got to Peter. He started apologizing for not putting me in the film, something I never expected or asked for, but something really cool nonetheless. They had been shooting only Venture stuff when I was there last time, he said, so there was no place to put my friends and I in the film.

When we were out for the pick-ups for RETURN OF THE KING Barry Osborne put us in Orc outfits and had us run around behind Orlando Bloom right before he took down the Oliphaunt, so I guess that set a precedent... Anyway, the point of the story is that when talking to Peter he said, "Well, when you come back in February we'll put you in the movie." Not "Well, IF you come back in February..." but "WHEN you come back in February..."

Who could turn that down?

So it was that I scrounged and scrimped and saved and stole to afford the amazingly expensive Summer season airfare to get back to one of my favorite places in the world and watch a Giant Monkey wreck havoc all around me.

Which brings you to the present. I've seen a great many things that I'll detail in some following reports, most of which involve Ann Darrow and Kong himself and yes, I was forced to shave and cut my hair (which made me look 12 years old, by the way) and was put into the film... but again, I'll get into that stuff later.

Right now I'm sitting behind the wooden backbone of the Skull Island set at the off-set monitors, which is a row of 3 monitors about 12 inches each that show the video feed from a different camera. One monitor is what A camera sees (which is currently a wide shot looking to the left of Kong's lair, a dark stoney place with vines and tree roots that snake down the walls and some kind of dense foliage which is slowly creeping in), B Camera is a centered wide shot and C camera is on the left featuring the right side of the stage.

This seems to be the battered wife scene. Naomi's stunt double is doing a bunch of falls that are a result of Kong (who isn't there, yet, of course... he'll be put in digitally later) poking and prodding her. Apparently she has been entertaining him with dancing and pratfalls and various other movements for quite a long time. She's exhausted and can't keep it up, which throws Kong into a rage. He keeps poking her and knocking her around... standing her up, but she collapses with exhaustion. Peter talks about how this scene came about at the beginning of the newest video diary, which you can watch by clicking this here text!

Andy Serkis is on the bullhorn giving the stunt woman her direction. It's pretty scary. They're also using a very primitive drum beat through the playback to keep the mood of the scene, I guess. When they get the next take up, I'll try to get as much of what Andy is shouting at the stunt woman down for you guys as I can. Right now I can see Peter conversing with Pierre Vinet, the still photographer who has been with Peter since BRAINDEAD... I got some great stories about that shoot from him that I'll pass along to you good folks in a future report. Pierre's a crazy French Canadian dude that rules the Earth and always has something funny spilling out of his mouth.

The next take is up. Scene 128G.

"And Push! Get up! Get up! Start pulling away... pulling. He raises his right fist... and SMASH! GET UP! Lifts her up and STANDS HER UP and PUSH! GET UP! And hands coming in... NOW. He's going berserk! Smashes his left fist down! Right fist down! He's moving over to the side of you, he turns his back and goes into the jungle! He's going berserk! He's tearing up vines and trees! He's going Mad! He goes back to you! Smashes your right side... Look at me! LOOK AT ME! Don't look at me in the eyes! He pauses... He starts to lower his fists. He looks you in the eyes... the rage is gone. He starts moving away, he starts moving away slowly. He grabs onto one of the rocks and swings around... and he's gone."

I missed a few lines in there (it was mostly Kong circling Ann), but you got most of it... you get the idea. I think they're checking the gate (making sure there are no hairs or dust on the lens or in the camera) for this scene... and it's clean.

The next set up is closer, but still featuring her back since we can't see her face since she is not Naomi, after all. Peter just walked by me headed for the stage. On the monitors are crew redressing and preparing for the next series of shots. Julia Walshaw, a very nice young woman, is standing in for lighting. She's Naomi's stand-in and I've chatted with her quite a lot on this round of visits. She's a student studying marketing and part time dancer, in case you were curious. Naomi better watch out because Julia's just as beautiful as Naomi with her blonde hair and deep blue eyes! She may try to take over all Thark-style and claim the role of Ann as her own. Jarrette Moats, one of my friends accompanying me on this trip, says (and I quote) "Julia is the prettiest girl in the world." He's got the monster of all crushes on her. She pops up towards the end of the Day 100 production diary.

Anyway... I guess I should take this time to talk a little bit about Andy Serkis' role now that he's only doing Kong stuff as Lumpy, the cook, has wrapped. This is the first time I've heard him give any sort verbal commands. It's usually Peter giving direction through the bullhorn. Typically, you'll find Andy in a "Taylor made" gorilla outfit. Stop laughing... it's not what you think (ie ROBOT MONSTER without the deep sea helmet). It's hairless and black nylon looking. It has the shape and muscle structure of a gorilla's body with these special arm extensions that allow him to walk and run on his knuckles like a gorilla. You'll never see any of this, of course, barring the behind the scenes on the DVD, but it's used solely for Andy to be in character and help Naomi (or in this case, her stuntie) work with all the blue screen... give them something to react off of.

He also has this Brittany Spears microphone on his head that feeds into a computer that in turn feeds to a bunch of speakers. It turns Andy's voice, his grunts and breathing and growls, into creepily accurate sounding large monkey sounds. It's really a sight to see. Andy really transforms into a gorilla when doing this... scratching himself on the top of the head, forearm... very monkey like. He's not in the full suit today... yet... just standing off set giving the stunt woman the direction she'd need. The Day 100 diary has a little bit of everything... you can also hear his grunts and breathing in the diary.

Now the cameras are like this:

B camera is an overhead shot (crane) of the stunt woman, C camera is at ground level catching her falls and impacts closely and the A camera is wandering aiming up high, which is where I'd guess Kong is. This one's probably a clean pass for effects since none of the Ann action is caught here.

The stunt woman is really throwing herself around. I stepped up onto this set last Friday and the rocks were very soft and squishy... I think made of rubber, but that still looks like it hurts. At one point she strikes out at Kong and shouts "There is no more!" That really sets him off.

After a brief excursion we are back at A Stage.

Naomi is on now, in Skull Island Ann Darrow (as the toy will undoubtedly be called) mode... thin pink dress and (now dirty) white robe. I'm not sure where in the series of things this scene is (128L), but she's running one direction, then Andy growls very loudly and she skids to a stop...she turns, away from camera and looks at a massive blue screen (ie Kong) for a moment before running in the opposite direction. Caro Cunningham, first A.D and producer and resident onset mother hen, calls for cut.

They're setting up for a new shot... I think it's an insert of Naomi on the ground after one of her pratfalls while entertaining Kong because they keep showing the stunt double's fall on playback. The stuntie is doing all sorts of maneuvers... back flips, front flips... pratfalls that'd make Bruce Campbell proud... (slate #128M)...

Naomi falls on her back, looking up at one camera... her breathing is labored. She sits up slowly, looking at Kong with wide eyes before standing once more. Of course, Andy's grunting and monkeying around the whole while. Take two is less wide-eyed and more of a personal connection with the eye contact.

Michael Pellerin, the guy who puts together the diaries and the one of the men responsible for those fantastic EXTENDED EDITION DVDS for the LOTR films is led to where I'm sitting by Peter's assistant, the super cool Matt Dravitzki (featured for the first time in the much linked Day 100 video diary... he's bound for super stardom now... He'll leave all us little people behind, just you wait and see! Michael's apparently a huge fan of the site and wanted to meet me. Considering I think the EE's are the coolest DVDs on the market, I'm more than flattered, so we bullshit in between takes of Naomi running around. I show him some super cool EPISODE 3 stuff I have on my computer and some neat little SIN CITY goodies and watch him geek out.

It's a wrap for the day. I'm off to spend my last night in my Wellington bed snug as a bug in a rug. (I'm actually posting this on my first night back in the states, but the statement was true when I wrote it...) I hope you liked the Live Update version of my KONG reports... I'll be back with some more in-depth reports as soon as I can. 'Til then, squirts, this is Quint bidding you all a fond farewell and adieu!


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