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Feature: King Kong
New Zealand’s pride and joy tells us about re-writing his Kong script, loving the original, and that ’70s movie version…
Peter Jackson is talking about a magnificent obsession as he stands at the site of a massive, ancient temple that he has had constructed on Mount Crawford, just outside of Wellington on New Zealand's beautiful North Island.
The Oscar-winning director is discussing, in animated and articulate fashion, the very thing that caused him to devote his energies to making movies. When he was just nine years old, Jackson, an only child who was brought up in a small coastal town in New Zealand, saw the film that changed his life... Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack's legendary 1933 sensation, King Kong!
Behind him scores of native extras are preparing to go through their paces for yet another crucial scene and enormous water machines are set to create a tropical storm. It's already late at night and, although he has been working all day, Jackson not only makes the time to talk with the visiting press, he does so in way that sucks us into his dream.
His eyes blaze with passion as Jackson recalls the very moment that he first saw the epic tale of the great ape, who is discovered by western outsiders on a remote island that time has forgotten, and taken back to New York as an object of curiosity before the colossal creature faces its fate high on the top of the Empire State Building. "It was on TV on a Friday night here in New Zealand and the very next day I started making little stop-motion films. I got some Plasticine and I started to film some little movies which then took me all the way through my teenage years."
Jackson agrees that this was one of the most significant landmarks in his life. "It is absolutely true that when I saw King Kong it did make me want to become a film-maker. I've no idea whether I would still be making films if I hadn't seen King Kong. So it did get me going," he says.
The director needs no prompting whatsoever to elaborate on those special qualities that have made King Kong become a cinematic icon. Almost before the question is formed he's explaining his reasons why this remarkable film has lasted the test of time.
"What the original Kong is, is a wonderful blend – possibly the most perfect blend – of escapism and adventure and mystery and romance. It does everything I think that good escapist cinema should do. It transports you and takes you places that you are never going to see and experiences that you are never going to have and it has that wonderful mixture of emotion and fantasy. It's all that that we are trying to capture with this film. I want to try to do a version of Kong that basically catches the wonderful, mysterious adventure."
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