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Bringing out 'King Kong's' sensitive side

Peter Jackson plans greater character development for the remake of the 1933 classic, particularly for the gorilla.

September 03, 2004|From Times wire services

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Peter Jackson first tried to remake the film "King Kong" at age 13 -- using a cardboard model of the Empire State Building, a bedsheet painted with a New York backdrop and his Super 8 film camera.

How times have changed.

New Zealand's Jackson, now 40 and with three Oscars for the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, said the star-studded, multimillion-dollar remake will have some major changes from the 1933 original.

There will be much greater character development -- particularly for the "very battered [and] ancient ... gorilla."

"He's a very old gorilla and he's never felt a single bit of empathy for another living creature during his long ... brutal life," Jackson said.

Scriptwriters had put a lot of thought into exploring what would happen if a relationship formed between an aging, brutalized gorilla and a young woman.

The animal originally thinks he's going to kill her, "and then he slowly moves away from that and it comes full circle," Jackson said.

Australian actor Naomi Watts, who plays damsel in distress Ann Darrow, stood on the deck of the film's tramp steamer Thursday -- but declined a preview of the bloodcurdling screams for her part.

"I'm saving my voice," said Watts, who'll reprise the role made famous by Fay Wray.

Watts said she was "very sad" Wray didn't live to see the remake. She died Aug. 8 in her Manhattan apartment at age 96.

"Those are big shoes to fill," Watts told reporters, adding Wray "did a wonderful job" in a role that the late actress often said had typecast her.

"It is an iconic movie and an iconic role. Hopefully people won't suddenly see me as only this role," said Watts, who earned a best actress Oscar nomination for 2003's gritty drama "21 Grams."

The Universal Pictures "King Kong" remake is due for release Dec. 14, 2005.

The movie also will star Adrien Brody, an Oscar winner for "The Pianist," as romantic hero Jack Driscoll, and offbeat comedy actor Jack Black as raconteur and filmmaker Carl Denham. Andy Serkis, who was the human model and voice of the computer-generated Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings," will do the same for the giant gorilla, as well as have a "live" role of a cook.

Hollywood turned down Jackson's previous "King Kong" pitch before his overwhelming success with the ambitious "Rings" trilogy, which in March created Oscar history by winning all 11 categories in which it was nominated.

Jackson said it is "reliving a childhood dream" to direct the film on the back lot of his studios in a suburb of New Zealand's capital, Wellington.

"I have loved the film since I was a kid," he said. "It really inspired me to want to become a filmmaker because I saw the movie when I was about 8 or 9 years old ... and it just captured a feeling [of] fantasy and adventure and mystery."

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