You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Universal going ape for ‘Kong’

Jackson pic looking at Christmas 2005 release

Peter Jackson has committed to next direct “King Kong,” Universal’s remake of the 1933 classic.

He’ll begin work on the script as soon as he completes “The Return of the King,” the third installment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. U execs are already monkeying around with a Christmas holiday 2005 release date.

Jackson has wanted to remake “King Kong” for nearly a decade, and he and partner Fran Walsh are well on the way considering they wrote several drafts of the film for Universal, the last in 1997. Jackson, Walsh and “Rings” co-writer Philippa Boyens will start rewriting as soon they complete post-production on the trilogy finale, which should be in late October.

The major surprise is that Jackson will take on such a logistically complex film on the heels of the exhausting “Rings” trilogy. In a recent Daily Variety interview, Walsh expressed a determination to make “King Kong,” but said she and Jackson would first tackle a smaller project like their arthouse hit “Heavenly Creatures.” The project they considered most likely was “As Nature Made Him.”

The change of heart is understandable, though. Jackson constructed Weta, Ltd., a state-of-the-art production and special effects studio in New Zealand to make “Rings.” By doing “King Kong” right away, he can provide employment for a staff of 300-500. Like the “Rings” trilogy, “King Kong” will be shot in New Zealand, and all of the post-production and special effects work will be done there. Production will begin mid-2004.

“No film has captivated my imagination more than King Kong,” Jackson said. “I’m making movies today because I saw this film when I was 9 years old. It has been my sustained dream to reinterpret this classic story for a new age.”

Jackson did not expect the ape epic to take this long; he was eager to make it six years ago. Studio brass didn’t want to rush to beat Disney’s “Mighty Joe Young” or Sony’s “Godzilla.” So the ape hung around while Jackson and Walsh moved on to simultaneously shoot three installments of “Lord of the Rings” for $270 million at New Line.

After “The Fellowship of the Rings” became a global smash that drew 13 Oscar nominations, including one for best picture, Jackson was courted by every studio in Hollywood. Universal Pictures chair Stacey Snider was eager to bring Jackson and Walsh back for “King Kong.” That desire was only strengthened by “The Two Towers,” a best picture nominee that outgrossed the first film. “Towers” has generated a $335 million domestic gross and is approaching $900 million worldwide.

Jackson and Walsh decided “King Kong” would be their next film over the past week or so, and U brass set to work out a deal with Jackson’s ICM agent Ken Kamins and attorney Peter Nelson. The Jackson camp had far more dealmaking leverage than it did the first time the helmer tried to resuscitate the great ape. Now, the entire movie can be shot without leaving home in New Zealand, with facilities and a veteran creative team that even George Lucas might envy.

“We are confident that Peter and Fran’s execution of ‘King Kong’ will amaze moviegoers,” Snider said. “Anyone who has seen the first two installments of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ knows that Peter will bring Kong to life as a real character. His vision for the tragic tale of the misunderstood creature, with its poignant character development and technological wonder, will make ‘King Kong’ compulsory viewing for any real movie lover.”

More Film

  • David Picker dead

    David Picker, Studio Chief Who Acquired James Bond Novels for UA, Dies at 87

    David Picker, who headed United Artists, Paramount and Columbia’s motion picture divisions and was known for forging relationships with groundbreaking filmmakers and material, died Saturday in New York. He was 87 and had been suffering from colon cancer. MGM tweeted, “We are saddened to hear that a member of the United Artists family has passed [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International

    'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International Box Office With $30 Million

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” led the way at the international box office, summoning $30 million when it opened in 71 foreign markets. The supernatural thriller collected $26.5 million in North America for a global start of $56.5 million. “La Llorona,” based on the Mexican folklore about the Weeping Woman, [...]

  • Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona'

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Wins Worst Easter Weekend in Over a Decade

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” ascended to the top of domestic box office charts, conjuring $26.5 million when it opened in 3,372 North American theaters. “La Llorona” is the latest horror movie to outperform expectations, further cementing the genre as one of the most reliable box office draws. Even so, [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content