Peter Jackson has wanted to remake "King Kong" since he was a kid. And now that Universal Pictures has given the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker a chance to do so, a few folks from his "Lord of the Rings" cast are eager to land a part — any part — in the ape update.
"If I say often enough that I'm going to be in 'King Kong,' I'm hoping that Peter Jackson will take the hint," Ian McKellen said recently. "I think we should all be in there somewhere."
"I would like to make the same plea," Elijah Wood agreed. "Maybe when Kong is on the island, trudging around in the forest and the camera is passing at his feet, you'll see some hobbits in the distance frying some eggs and some bacon. I think that would be great."
As for their chances of making it in the forthcoming film, for which Jackson and wife Fran Walsh will reportedly pocket a cool $20 million, the New Zealand-born filmmaker has yet to confirm any cast choices. He has, however, expressed an interest in keeping it in the family.
"Whether it's 'King Kong' or films after 'King Kong,' I would love to try to bring some of my mates back," he said. "I love the idea of these directors like Martin Scorsese who have this little pool of actors they keep using in film after film."
And Jackson has approached at least one "Rings" actor about coming aboard. Andy Serkis, whose performance brought Gollum to life, could find himself back in a motion-capture suit and acting for the computer-generated "Kong" as the giant ape wanders through 1930s New York.
"We've had brief discussions about it, but nothing's confirmed," Serkis said. "But, oh God, that'd be great. I'd do anything to work with Peter again."
"A relationship between an actor and a director is always a little strange because on most films, you are working with people you have never worked with before, so you're strangers," Jackson explained. "On 'Lord of the Rings,' we have been together for four years now, so we have the most tremendous friendship and respect for each other."
A special-effects marvel when it was released in 1933, "King Kong" was the story of a fearsome but ultimately sympathetic giant ape discovered on a remote island that eventually runs amok in the Big Apple. There have been several Kong-related films since, like "The Son of Kong," "King Kong Lives" and "King Kong Vs. Godzilla," as well as the 1976 remake starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange.
"We are trying to honor the original film," Jackson said of his version. "We are going to approach it with very much the same feeling as 'Lord of the Rings,' trying to do it with integrity, to make it feel real and to make the emotions feel real."
Jackson originally started the "Kong" project in 1996, before "The Lord of the Rings," only to have Universal pull the plug. Back then he was known only for cult classics like "Bad Taste" and "Dead Alive." Though "Heavenly Creatures" had been critically hailed and launched the career of Kate Winslet, it didn't exactly rake in the dough. And his first foray into big-budget moviemaking, "The Frighteners," was something of a bust.
And now, even after the success of "Rings," Jackson says he isn't telling the suits at Universal "I told you so."
"It's hard to feel that," he said humbly. "And the entire group of executives at Universal that canned 'Kong' isn't there anymore because they subsequently all got fired themselves."
Based on a script written by Jackson, Walsh and "Rings" co-writer Philippa Bowens, production on "King Kong" will take place in New Zealand, with Naomi Watts ("The Ring") heavily in talks to head the cast. The movie is scheduled for release in December 2005.