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‘King Kong’ goes digital
Meet Kong. King Kong. You’ve seen him before, but never like this. He might look older than the 1933 original, but he’s still a hairy brute with a nasty temper and a weakness for blondes.
Director Peter Jackson’s King Kong could prove to be a box-office slump buster, though it isn’t due until Dec. 14. But its teaser trailer will be unveiled on TV Monday and in theaters Wednesday as War of the Worlds opens. The preview of the action thriller starring Adrien Brody, Naomi Watts and Jack Black will be seen on 10 NBC-owned networks just before 9 ET.
Jackson has reached into the same Oscar-winning bag of tricks he used on the Lord of the Rings trilogy to turn the tragic monster from a Depression-era puppet to a 21st-century digital terror.
Andy Serkis, the human behind the computerized creature Gollum in Rings, provides Kong’s movements and acted opposite the actors on the set. “There’s a connection between him and Ann Darrow that’s really important,” Serkis says. Watts takes over Fay Wray’s scream duties as the struggling actress who ends up in Kong’s clutches.
As impressive as he is in the trailer, Kong is still a work in progress, says Jackson, calling from his native New Zealand. “We are deciding on the length of his fur, how tangled it should be, how much gray to work around the eyes.”
Photos of silverback gorillas were superimposed on Kong’s image, and tweaks were made. “He’s not the Hulk of gorillas. That’s the charm of Kong,” the director says. “He is past his prime and isn’t the super-virile ape of 30 years ago.”
Serkis, who studied gorilla behavior in Rwanda, also does grunt work on Kong’s behalf. “We developed a Kong-alyzer that allows him to make a lot of gorilla noises through a machine,” Jackson says.
The primate stands 25 feet (real gorillas top out at 6 feet) and is 120 to 150 years old (30 is normal in the wild, 50 in captivity). The most notable feature on the battered beast is his snaggletooth. “We had the notion that Kong’s jawbone was smashed in an ancient fight and mended itself at a crooked angle,” he says.
Watts says her relationship with Kong is more evolved than in the original or the derided 1976 remake with Jessica Lange. “He’s not picking off my clothes or blowing me dry with his breath,” she says. “It’s much more tender. There is something incredibly attractive about his power and masculinity. And isn’t that what we all want in a man?”