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.
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 Tyrannosaurus (actually Vastatosaurus Rex, or V-Rex) has hands with three fingers, as an homage to the original King Kong (1933) in which the V-Rex 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.
(At around 42 minutes) When the radio operator aboard the S.S. Venture receives a radiogram via Morse code, supposedly telling the Captain that Carl Denham is wanted by the police back in New York City, the Morse code message in the soundtrack actually says "Show me the monkey." (In Morse, this is ... .... --- .-- / -- . / - .... . / -- --- -. -.- . -.--)
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. V-Rex confrontation sequence. He was given a "Special Thanks" at the end credits.
Contrary to rumor, Peter Jackson did not lose weight, because production of the movie turned out to be so enduring and challenging. In truth, the filmmaker intentionally lost the weight by diet and exercise, subbing meals from the on-location food truck for healthier ones he brought from home, and exercising regularly in his home gym. The fact that Jackson lost seventy pounds during the making of this movie, is really just a coincidence, as this was the time in his life when he chose to begin eating more healthfully and exercising regularly.
At the very end of the closing credits, the movie is dedicated to "The original explorers of Skull Island..." followed by the names of the actors and actresses who played major roles in the 1933 original.
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.
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, using make-up and prosthetic appliances, although one of the extras had authentic tribal scarring on his forehead.
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."
The movie had the most number of visual effects shots - around 2,400. It surpasses the record set by Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005), which had 2,200 shots, as well as the previous Lord of the Rings movies (FOTR has 560, TTT has 800, ROTK has 1,488).
For the New York City scenes, 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 one hundred people were working in the costume department alone.
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 S.S. 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.
King Kong is being described as twenty-five feet tall on his hind legs by the makers of this version, half as tall as the filmmakers of King Kong (1933) described their "fifty-foot" Kong. However, in proportion to people and objects in that film, the original Kong was actually around the same height (twenty to twenty-five feet) as the new Kong.
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.
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 wig during filming, rather than going through make-up to achieve the "'30s hairdo" look.
This was one of the last films personally green-lit and approved by former Universal Studios Chairperson 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.
(At around two hours and thirty-five minutes) 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.
(At around twenty-seven minutes) Jimmy (Jamie Bell) is seen reading "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad, and even has a conversation with Hayes (Evan Parke) about it. The book, and the story of King Kong have similar themes.
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 around one hour) As the Skull Island natives are attacking Ann, Jack, and Carl, look closely at the old witch doctor woman's right hand as she's chanting and approaching Ann: she's giving Ann the finger.
There were no gorillas in any zoo in New Zealand, for the production team to study; the nearest is in Melbourne Zoo in Australia. Michael Apted came to the rescue by letting them study over twenty hours of research footage he had shot while prepping Gorillas in the Mist (1988).
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.
After searching worldwide for the right boat to be the S.S. Venture, Peter Jackson found and purchased the Manuia, in the South Pacific island of Tonga. Several set pieces were added to the fifty 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.
Peter Jackson owns several 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 S.S. Venture) and some of the drums from the sacrifice scene (in use during the jig scene).
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."
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 lions, horses, cats, pigs, and elephants.
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".
The hand-cranked motion-picture camera carried around by Carl Denham, is a genuine 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.
(At around one minute) At the beginning of the film, there is a shot of a restaurant in New York City called "BG's Sandwiches." It is a nod to BG Hacker, who organized and catered the New York City premiere parties for Peter Jackson's production people on all three "Lord of the Rings" films.
Peter Jackson had a birthday during the production of the film. To commemorate the occasion, the cast of the film secretly shot a short film entitled "The Present" and screened it for Jackson on his birthday. The short involved a birthday present that was stolen from Naomi Watts and subsequently traded hands throughout the cast of the film before Lobo Chan (Choy) ultimately ran off with it. At the end of the screening, Chan ran into the room and presented Peter Jackson with the actual gift. In an interview, Jackson refused to reveal the contents of the box, saying that it shall "remain a mystery."
The Times Square set was built about twenty percent scaled down from the original. For this and most other New York City sets, only the first story was built in full scale. The rest of the stories 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.
During production, Peter Jackson hosted a video production diary, made specifically for the fan website, kongisking.net. Diary "entries", posted every two to three 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 e-mail in questions to potentially be answered in future videos.
(At around twelve minutes) In the dialogue near the beginning, when Carl Denham mentions that the actress "Fay" (Fay Wray) is filming something for "R.K.O." (R.K.O. Pictures) 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 hear the original three-note Kong motif, which was used many times throughout the 1933 film.
There are few changes in this film from the 1933 version. Jack Driscoll is a famous playwright, instead of first mate. Mr. Hayes, an African-American, is first mate instead, and along with Lumpy the cook, Bruce Baxter an actor, Preston Carl's assistant, Mike the Sound Editor, Herb the cameraman, and Jimmy a sailor, are original characters in the film. In this version, Mr. Hayes and Lumpy mention the legend of Skull Island, and it is implied that Denham never heard of Kong in this adaptation, but did in the 1933 version. Also the natives are more vicious, and it is implied they mistook Ann angering their god Kong after he roars when she screams after Mike gets killed.
(At around twenty-four minutes) When Adrien Brody is first taken to the animal cells on the boat to find sleeping quarters, a cage bearing the sign Sumatran Rat Monkey can be seen as he turns the first corner. This is a nod to Braindead (1992).
(At around one minute) In the beginning of the movie you see a worker on a steel part. Due to the camera angle, he appears to be working on top of the (not yet erected) Empire State Building. The camera is facing northeast over the Chrysler Building and Queens Bridge. The Empire State Building was opened in 1931.
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 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 the World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment's two restaurants (WWF New York and WWE The World), and then the Hard Rock Café.
Ann Darrow and Kong have different personalities from their 1933 counterparts. Ann, in this version, is much braver and more confident than her 1933 counterpart. Even though Ann is scared of Kong at first, she soon befriends him and treats him like a pet. She is also stubborn, as she refused to work for Carl Denham until Jack Driscoll is mentioned. Plus, she refuses to do more tricks for Kong which angers him, and it is implied she resigned from her job after seeing the way Carl Denham treated Kong on Skull Island and refused bribery from him. Kong is much more aggressive and frightening than his 1933 counterpart. Kong, in this film, does not warm up to Ann at first, but befriends her after saving her from the dinosaurs. It was implied Kong was going to kill Ann as he took her to a part of the island where there were remains of other victims which suggests they were sacrificed to Kong in the past. But like a normal gorilla, he is a vegetarian, as he is seen eating bamboo, and like other male gorillas, is a Silverback.
(At around seven minutes) 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).
Even though Captain Englehorn gave orders to turn the ship, he is the one who actually finds the island, because had the ship not turned, the crew would have missed the island, and continued going thousands of miles.
(At around nine minutes) 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 Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (1927) is on the anteroom wall behind him.
The make-up 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.
During the scene where Kong causes the crew to fall into the log pit, both him and Lumpy are seen together. Both characters are portrayed by Andy Serkis, though Kong in this scene is computer generated.
The name of the ship "S.S. Venture", is the same as the one in The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), used to transport the T-Rex between Isla Sorna and San Diego. Steven Spielberg named the ship in "Lost World" after the one in King Kong (1933).
Naomi Watts had a horrific fall on the New Zealand set. She fell from a height into a ditch, to the shock of the cast and crew. She thanked her rigorous practice of yoga for saving her from any permanent damage.
Almost all of the exterior shots of New York City, fail to depict the Chrysler building, which is very close to the Empire State Building, and at 1,046 feet, ought to nearly rival the great ape's last stand in height.
(At around two hours and thirty-five minutes) One of the Times Square shop signs reads "Joseph Berlinger & Co. Silks." This is a reference to Joe Berlinger, who co-directed three documentaries about the West Memphis 3, a trio of teenagers who were falsely imprisoned, for over a decade, for a murder they did not commit. While they were jailed, Peter Jackson was one of the most prominent celebrity activists fighting for the release of the three teens.
Some scenes in the film, especially during the voyage, are an homage to James Cameron's Titanic (1997), including the dolphins swimming in front of the ship, Ann standing at the rear of the ship, which Rose also did, before trying to kill herself, and the ship hitting rocks causing the ship to flood, is similar to Titanic hitting an iceberg. Plus, both films have a main male character named Jack.
(At around sixty-two minutes) Captain Englehorn, played by Thomas Kretschmann, saves Jack Driscoll from having his skull crushed by a native warrior by shooting the native. The pistol he uses is a somewhat rare German Luger P04 "Navy" model, clearly identifiable by its long six-inch barrel. This suggests that Captain Englehorn may have served as an officer in the Imperial German Navy in World War I.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
At around one hour and fifty minutes) 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.
At around two hours and fifty-five minutes) 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.
At around twelve minutes) 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 R.K.O.", 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) 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.
The three V-Rexes Kong fights are easily distinguishable by the constellation of their teeth. Incidentally, the first V-Rex to appear on-screen is also the first to be defeated, whereas the V-Rex Kong kills during the fight's climactic scene, is the second one to appear.