This was one of the last films personally green lit and approved by former Universal studio chairman Stacey Snider before her departure to DreamWorks. She originally balked at the finished version, since one of her stipulations was that the final length not exceed 160 minutes. According to Peter Jackson, it was waived when she actually saw the film (at executive screenings) and said that it exceeded her expectations.
The scene where Denham, Driscoll and the crew fall into a pit filled with giant bugs is a reference to a scene in the original King Kong (1933), where the crew fell into a pit and were devoured by giant spiders, which was cut after many members of preview audiences ran out of the theater in horror during the scene. The original scene has never been found.
Besides studying wild gorillas in Rwanda in order to be able to mimic their movements and behavior; Andy Serkis also developed a close friendship with a female gorilla called Zaire at a zoo near London.
The tyrannosaurus has hands with three fingers (instead of the scientifically correct two) as an homage to the original King Kong (1933) in which the tyrannosaurus also had an extra digit, and is explained by the idea that the dinosaurs on Skull Island have evolved in the 65 million years since the two-fingered tyrannosaurus went extinct elsewhere in the world.
When the radio operator aboard the "Venture" receives a radiogram via Morse code, supposedly telling the captain that Carl Denham is wanted by the police back in New York, the Morse code message in the soundtrack actually says "Show me the monkey." (In Morse, this is ... .... --- .-- / -- . / - .... . / -- --- -. -.- . -.-- )
On April Fools Day 2005, Peter Jackson posted an elaborate practical joke, which he posted on a web diary. He "revealed" that they were already starting production on "King Kong: Son Of Kong" and "King Kong: Into the Wolf's Lair". Both films, supposedly to be released in 2006, contained the principal characters riding Son of Kong, strapping machine guns to his back and fighting Adolf Hitler's genetically mutated creatures. The film was going to be produced under the banner of "Big Primate Productions".
Considering the film's running time, it could have possibly been longer. According to the book The Making of King Kong, there was a scene written and filmed where Denham, Driscoll and the Venture crew build rafts to cross the swamp, only to be attacked by an aquatic creature (a "Piranhadon"). This scene ended up being included in the extended edition of the film. There was also mention of a scene where Lumpy the cook shoots a large flightless bird.
For this film, the roars of Kong were provided by Andy Serkis and lowered down in pitch to match the voice of a real gorilla. These were then augmented with the sounds of other animals to achieve the final effect, including horses, cats, pigs and elephants.
Adrien Brody was the first and only choice for hero Jack Driscoll. While Brody was under the impression that he was competing with other actors for the role, he was quickly informed by the producers that they were only interested in him. He signed on before the script was written.
As a personal favor for Peter Jackson, Bryan Singer - who was in Australia working on Superman Returns (2006) - spent two days directing the King Kong vs T-Rex confrontation sequence. He was given a special thanks at the end credits.
In the dialog near the beginning when Carl Denham mentions that the actress "Fay" is filming something for "RKO" and "Cooper," the Cooper of whom he speaks is Merian C. Cooper, who produced the original King Kong (1933). On the soundtrack at this point we even hear the original three-note Kong motif, which was used many times throughout the 1933 film.
Several pieces of dialogue in the movie are taken from the original 1933 King Kong (1933): * When Ann Darrow and Bruce Baxter are filming a movie scene on the deck of the S.S. Venture (with Carl Denham operating the camera), their "movie dialogue" (about "women on ships") is taken verbatim from an on-deck conversation between Ann Darrow and Jack Driscoll in the original film. *In a deleted scene, while filming Ann on the island, Denham instructs her, "Scream Ann! Scream for your life!" *Denham's "We're millionaires, boys" speech, after the capture of Kong. *Denham's "He was a king in the world he knew" speech, just before Kong is revealed in the Broadway theater. *And of course, the final line, "It was beauty killed the beast."
The Times Square set was built about 20% scaled down from the original. For this and most other New York sets, only the first story was built in full scale. The rest of the scenes were added digitally. Streets were also extended using digital effects, and the number of pedestrians and cars were doubled or even tripled in large scenes, using the same process applied to the battle scenes in the Lord of the Rings films.
The movie has the most number of visual special effect shots - around 2400. It surpasses the record set by Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005), which has 2200 shots as well as the previous Lord of the Rings movies (FOTR has 560, TTT has 800, ROTK has 1488)
Andy Serkis essentially had to play King Kong twice. First, alongside Naomi Watts in a makeshift gorilla outfit so his co-star had something to react to. Then, once principal photography was completed, he had to re-do his performance, this time in a motion capture suit.
The pages of script that Jack gave to Carl in the ship were actually part of Peter Jackson's personal copy of the King Kong (1933) script itself. As proof, Jackson revealed it in one of the film's post-production diaries "Pick Up Wraps".
Howard Shore had written and recorded much of the score for this film, but shortly before release, he departed from the project. Peter Jackson stated that because of "differing creative aspirations" between the two of them, they both thought it best for Shore to be replaced by James Newton Howard, who was given less than two months to write and record a new score for the entire film.
The hand-cranked motion-picture camera carried around by Black's Carl Denham, the movie maker, is an actual antique Bell & Howell 2709 which is also the same type of camera used in the original King Kong (1933) According to Peter Jackson's commentary on the extended version of the film, the actual camera was much too heavy to carry around. What you see for most of the film is a replica made out of foam.
The giant worms that attack Lumpy in the insect pit were derived from a recurring nightmare of one of Richard Taylor's workshop crew. Their motion was based on that of a man sealed inside of a sleeping bag.
There are no gorillas in any zoo in New Zealand for the production team to study; the nearest is in Melbourne Zoo in Australia. Director Michael Apted came to the rescue by letting them study over 20 hours of research footage he had shot whilst prepping Gorillas in the Mist (1988).
For the New York scene, the few hundred extras used each had three different costumes that they would wear for different exterior scenes. At one time during production, as many as 100 people were working in the costume department alone.
Peter Jackson owns a number of props from the original King Kong (1933) and put some of the items from his collection into this film. These items include Skull Island spears and a brightly painted shield (seen in the cabins of the Venture) and some of the drums from the sacrifice scene (in use during the jig scene).
After searching worldwide for the right boat to be the Venture, Peter Jackson found and purchased the Manuia, in the South Pacific island of Tonga. Several set pieces were added to the 50 year old vessel to make it resemble a 1930s freighter. Film crew were forced to abandon the boat during filming in March 2005 when it sprang a leak and began to take on water off New Zealand's Kapiti Coast. Emergency repairs were carried out and it sailed back to Wellington, where the remaining boat scenes were shot without further incident.
During production, Peter Jackson hosted a video production diary, made specifically for the fan website, kongisking.net. Diary "entries", posted every 2-3 days, were created by the same company responsible for the Lord Of The Rings DVD sets and gave an exclusive look at the production of the film, with other cast and crew members often acting as "guides". Eventually visitors to the website were invited to email in questions to potentially be answered in future videos.
Several of the Skull Island natives were played by Sudanese actors who did not speak English, and they were coached with the assistance of an interpreter. Conceptually, the natives of the island had piercings and scarification that were created as makeup and prosthetic appliances, although one of the extras had authentic tribal scarring on his forehead.
In the beginning of the movie you see a worker on a steel part. Due to the camera angle it is clear he is working on top of the (not yet erected) Empire State Building. Camera is directing NE over Chrysler Building and Queens Bridge. Empire State was opened in 1931.
When the thuggish Studio Executive refuses to continue financing Denham's film, he says, "It's not the principle of the thing; it's the money!" This is a saying attributed to legendary showbiz mom Rose Hovick, mother of Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc (who is given a Thank You in the credits).
In an early draft of the screenplay, Ann Darrow was the daughter of a famed archaeologist and Jack Driscoll was his assistant. Lord Darrow was killed in Ann's introductory scene by the Indonesian military in a cover-up attempt of his discovery of remnants of the Skull Island culture.
At the beginning of the film there is a shot of a restaurant in New York called "BG's Sandwiches." It is a nod to BG Hacker, who organized and catered the New York premiere parties for Peter Jackson's production people on all three "Lord of the Rings" films.
The makeup artists initially tried old-age stipple (applications of liquid latex to create natural wrinkles in skin with little to no prosthetics) on Vicky Haughton, but her skin was simply too good and healthy to wrinkle, so they went with prosthetics instead.
When Carl Denham puts a glass up to the door of the screening room to eavesdrop on the studio executives' conversation, a poster for Merian C. Cooper's 1927 silent film, Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (1927) is on the anteroom wall behind him.
The ice skating scene in Central Park was not in the original script. Peter Jackson asked Universal if they could shoot the scene when the film was in post-production. The studio liked the idea and gave him the go-ahead.
Jack Black has claimed that he did not wear any make-up at all in the entire movie after hearing a false rumor that Clint Eastwood never wears any make-up in his movies. He also wore a hairpiece during filming rather than going through makeup to achieve the '30s hairdo' look.
King Kong is being described as 25 feet tall on his hind legs by the makers of this version, half as tall as the filmmakers of King Kong (1933) described their "50-foot" Kong. However, in proportion to people and objects in that film, the original Kong was actually around the same height (20-25 feet) as the new Kong.
The exterior of the fictional Alhambra Theater where Kong is put on display is modeled after the Paramount Theater, built in 1927, at 1501 Broadway in New York City - particularly the lavish, ornamental marquee. In later years the Paramount would be home to World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment's two restaurants (WWF New York and WWE The World), and then the Hard Rock Cafe.
Peter Jackson likes to shoot animatics in pre-viz for most of his big action sequences. Before the film started shooting, he screened the animatic for his cast and crew, most of whom were in tears at the end of this screening.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, the producer and director of the 1933 version, planned on creating a single shot of Kong falling into the distance from the top of the Empire State Building. Unfortunately, technology at the time didn't allow for this shot and it looked unrealistic. The idea was scrapped. Peter Jackson paid homage to Cooper's original idea by creating this shot at the end in his honor.
Fay Wray was in negotiations to appear in the film before she died. Peter Jackson wanted her to deliver the legendary last line: "Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast." Instead, Jack Black's character now makes a reference to her as he is searching for a leading actress for his film, suggesting a "Fay" as a possible candidate. Colin Hanks's character responds by saying, "She's already filming something for RKO," which in reality was the original King Kong (1933). Black responds, "Cooper. I should have known," a reference to original Kong director Merian C. Cooper.
In the Broadway show, where Kong is the unwilling star, the "native dancers" are dressed in the same costumes as the Skull Island natives in the original 1933 King Kong (1933). (The men wear furry gorilla costumes, and the women wear grass skirts and coconut brassieres.) The theater orchestra (led by composer 'Howard Shore (I)') plays sections from Max Steiner's score from the original film. During the "native dance" number, the orchestra plays the music from Steiner's score that is heard in the original film during the Skull Island natives' sacrifice dance. When the fake "Ann Darrow" (played by Julia Walshaw, Naomi Watts's stand-in) appears on stage before Kong, the theater orchestra plays the music from Steiner's score that is heard in the original film when Kong first appears before Fay Wray.