Academy of Achievement Logo
Achiever Gallery
   + [ The Arts ]
  Public Service
  Science & Exploration
  My Role Model
  Recommended Books
  Academy Careers
Keys to Success
Achievement Podcasts
About the Academy
For Teachers

Search the site

Academy Careers


If you like Peter Jackson's story, you might also like:
James Cameron,
Francis Ford Coppola,
Ron Howard,
George Lucas,
Kiri Te Kanawa
and Robert Zemeckis

Related Links:
The One Ring
The Lord of the Rings
Peter Jackson Fan Club

Share This Page
  (Maximum 150 characters, 150 left)

Sir Peter Jackson
Sir Peter Jackson
Profile of Sir Peter Jackson Biography of Sir Peter Jackson Interview with Sir Peter Jackson Sir Peter Jackson Photo Gallery

Sir Peter Jackson Interview (page: 4 / 8)

Oscar for Best Director

Print Sir Peter Jackson Interview Print Interview

  Sir Peter Jackson

Talk about the decision to remake King Kong. We know it was a favorite of yours as a child, but it takes a lot of guts to do something like that.

Sir Peter Jackson: King Kong is, in my view, one of the great pieces of escapist entertainment. It has everything that's wonderful about escapist cinema. It's got monsters. It's got intrigue, adventure, action, lost islands, dinosaurs, gorillas, and then at its heart, it's got a wonderful love story. It's a very romantic story about a gorilla who's had no empathy with any other creature. His heart is lost to Ann Darrow, to this young woman, and it's a bittersweet sad story, whilst being this, you know, wonderful adventure.

I'm a huge fan of the first, original film, but that didn't make me feel like this film should never be remade. I don't think like that. The film is not in any danger, and the fact, you know, the production of our film ultimately inspired Warner Brothers to finally do a lovely DVD restoration for King Kong. It was no coincidence that it was released just as our film was coming out. They released a wonderfully restored version of King Kong, which had never been out on DVD in the U.S. before. So that was good. It was good that we caused that to happen.

Sir Peter Jackson Interview Photo
My feeling also is that there's a lot of kids today who don't watch black-and-white films. I mean, you ask for a show of hands of who has watched King Kong. Some people will put their hands up, but almost all of them will have watched the Jessica Lange version from 1976. That is their King Kong. That's the one in color that they see on TV. Hardly anyone would have watched the 1933 film. That's just the reality, whether you like it or not. It's just the fact that these films are not enjoyed anymore by kids who think they're old fashioned. They just have no patience for that sort of stuff.

I just thought this is a wonderful story. The time is now here, both from the point of view of nobody sees King Kong anymore, and the fact that the technology has now gotten so potent and so powerful, the computing power that we have, that Kong can be done in a totally photo-realistic way. And you know, we set out to preserve as much about the original film as we could in the sense of the 1933 setting, the Depression, which is a very important part of the story, and I didn't want to lose that. I wanted the Empire State Building with him being attacked by biplanes. So I wanted it set in the '30s again for that reason.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

How did you rebuild 1930s New York?

Sir Peter Jackson: We built a very small back lot of New York in New Zealand, a very small bunch of streets. There were only about 20-foot tall buildings, and then there we used the street stuff for the actors, and we would use CG extensions to make the buildings go higher.

The actual aerial shots where we are flying around the Empire State Building, that "all of Manhattan" is built on the computer, one building at a time. In fact, we didn't even have enough time. There's 78,000 buildings there, and we didn't have enough time to have a person model each building. We just couldn't have done it. We didn't have enough. Too many buildings and not enough people. So we developed a piece of software in the computer, and the computer constructed the city for us. We put in a bunch of architectural styles of different buildings: sandstones, brownstones and apartment blocks and business places and banks, and we put a street map of New York in, and we labeled each street in the computer with the type of buildings it would have, the sort of ranges of heights that we would need, and we would literally press the button, and the computer program went through and built the city for us. We'd written this piece of city-building software because we didn't have enough manpower to do the whole thing.

Sir Peter Jackson Interview Photo
The Empire State Building we obviously built very realistically, got the original blueprints of the building. The airplanes, the Curtis Hell Divers that don't exist anymore, they were the planes that attacked Kong in the 1933 film, and I thought we would find one in a museum somewhere that we could copy, but actually they're all gone. There is not one single surviving Curtis Hell Diver anymore. So we had to go back to the factory drawings we got out of the Smithsonian, or out of the Curtis factory, and we recreated the planes from the drawings.

It's a very loving homage to the earlier film and obviously with state-of-the-art modern technology. The character of Kong himself has so much poignancy. How did you make him so scary, yet so touching in his humanity, as it were?

Sir Peter Jackson: Kong is a wild animal. We wanted to not make him unduly cute. He's a terrifying, frightening animal who is unpredictable, full of rage. That was really the main priority for us was to establish him as a very frightening, scary creature, and then we were able to -- starting at that point -- we were able to then just peel away little moments of the facade at times, and reveal a heart and a soul and something more caring underneath that. And I think that Ann just -- Ann, who he had every intention of killing when he first takes her away into the jungle -- she manages to survive on something, some sort of cunning and wit that she has, but she basically sparks his interest, and while he's curious about her, she'll stay alive. She realizes if she can just keep him curious and keep him wondering and keep him entertained to some degree, then he won't kill her.

The tables really turn when you reach a point where Kong is now fearful that Ann's going to be taken away or be hurt. So he goes into a protective mode, and then at that point, the power shift has happened. Because what is interesting is Kong has an immense power over Ann, but in the moment in the story where he now is going to do anything he can to protect her, is the power has shifted to her, really, that Ann now has power over Kong, and that's ultimately his downfall, of course, because once he's in this super-protective mode -- that anybody who tries to take her away, he's going to come after them -- that is going to lead to his demise. It sort of has to, really.

The actor Andy Serkis has been at the center of these two great epics that you've made, providing the movements for Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, and for Kong himself in King Kong. We haven't heard much about anyone else doing that.

Sir Peter Jackson Interview Photo
Sir Peter Jackson: No. Andy has become somebody, an actor, who is very, very intrigued by motion capture, and for obvious reasons. I mean, he did Gollum, and now he's on Kong, and he just loves performance. He's a powerful actor just by himself. You see him in films and TV stuff that he's done. Andy is a very strong actor, and very full of aggression and rage and power, and he's actually pretty formidable, and he's just fascinated by channeling that, through the process of motion capture, through the computers, and allowing it to be translated onto the face of a completely different creature. I think he finds that fascinating, and it's an interesting way of shooting a film, and I think it's a way of filmmaking that's going to get much more common, rather than not, because it allows you to get performance out of any creature that you really want to get performance out of. You were always a little bit at risk, you know, if it was just animators animating the face of a creature. You're getting an animation, but you're not necessarily getting a great performance.

I think what we've shown, with Gollum and with Kong, is that at the heart of any great performance is an actor, is a human actor, and we've tried to develop a pipeline that allows everything that is good and strong about that actor's performance to be preserved and translated and captured and kept and contained within our CG performance, not dissipated. I think that's the lesson really. I don't think any other companies are doing that, other than us. Other companies seem to just animate their characters, but we try to have them driven by the spirit of a human being, and that spirit I think is important.

Sir Peter Jackson Interview, Page: 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   

This page last revised on Nov 25, 2013 11:39 EDT
How To Cite This Page