This weekend Kong: Skull Island is expected to bring in a whopping $45-50 million at the box office. There is so much hype surrounding this next installment of the King Kong franchise, that we just had to bring you some awesome and little-known facts about this amazing spring blockbuster.
The last King Kong movie was released 12 years ago in 2005, and it starred Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Thomas Kretschmann, Adrien Brody, and Colin Hanks. This newest King Kong movie stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, and John Goodman. And there are masses of interesting details about the movie and its filming that you should know before heading out to the theater this weekend. Having a little background knowledge about a film can make it all the better, after all. For example, you may have more appreciation for the beauty of the other-worldly Skull Island after learning that the director went to the ends of the earth to find the perfect filming location, and you may have more appreciation for the actors after learning the challenges they faced while filming- even life-threatening situations and a 10-day swamp scene!
The following is a list of 16 crazy facts about Kong: Skull Island that are sure to have you thinking it is a cooler movie than you already do. Get ready for some fun surprises from behind the scenes of one of spring’s most anticipated movies, Kong: Skull Island!
16. The Filming Locations
Kong: Skull Island had an extremely high budget of $190 million, and one of the reasons for that was that it was filmed in some very far-away and exotic locales. The time and resources it would take to film in such places would be astronomical when you figure in travel costs for the entire cast and crew, and the set-up alone. The movie was filmed in Hawaii, Australia, and Vietnam. In Vietnam particularly, filming was quite unique because in the area that was chosen, which has been described as “otherworldly”, no Western movie has ever been shot there before. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing the scenery on the big screen, especially the scenes taking place in an area that was specifically chosen by producers for being nothing like anything we have seen before.
15. The Tallest-Ever Kong
As we know, there has been no shortage of King Kong movies over the years. Since the first one in 1933, there have been seven of them, with Kong: Skull Island being the eighth, and 2020’s Godzilla vs. Kong being the ninth. This Kong is the tallest yet of any of the previous Kongs (American, that is) , standing at 104 feet tall. Peter Jackson’s Kong in 2005 was 25 feet tall in comparison, and the overall tallest Kong ever was the Kong in the 1963 Japanese film, Kong vs. Godzilla. In that version, Kong was an impressive 147 feet tall! That is nearly as tall as a 15-story building! Here is a point of reference for the newest Kong, who like I said is 104 feet tall: in the 1933 film, he was 24 feet tall, in the 1976 film he was 55 feet tall, and in the 1985 film he was 60 feet tall. Godzilla is still taller, though.
14. The Actors Were Warned…
Before filming began, especially in Australia, the cast was warned that due to many dangerous factors in the environments they would be filming in, they could be killed. Poisonous plants, animals, and other things were prevalent in the shooting locations. They were given a book prior to shooting that contained safety information about everything in the area of Australia that could potentially kill them. Specifically, Kong: Skull Island‘s Australian scenes were filmed in Queensland’s Tambourine Mountain, Paperback Forest, and Tallebudgera Valley, all places that are home to brown snakes, funnel-web spiders, and the lawyer vine. Due to all of the scenes that have the actors running, where they could potentially be snagged by a thorn or get a rash, the hair and makeup people had plenty of waxing kits with them, since waxing is the only way to get rid of the itchiness of the rash.
13. The Gympie Gympie
One of the scariest threats out in the Australian movie location is something called Gympie Gympie. While it sounds more funny than dangerous, that could not be further from the truth. Gympie Gympie is one of the most poisonous plants on the entire continent of Australia, and its sting causes extreme agony. The pain has caused people to go mad, and the plant was even investigated as being a potential biological weapon. Brie Larson, who plays war photographer Mason Weaver in the film, said it was what worried her the most out of everything. In fact, the Gympie Gympie scared her so much, that she almost left at the beginning of filming. Can’t say I blame her.
12. There Are Literary References Throughout the Film
Who remembers having to read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in high school English class? To refresh your memory, it is the story of Marlow, the sailor who voyaged up the Congo River in the heart of Africa. It is a story that raises questions about racism and imperialism, and a central idea of the book is that there is actually very little difference between the “civilized” people and the “savages”. There are allusions to this literary work in Kong: Skull Island, and also to Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now. Regarding Heart of Darkness though, it is the story that inspired King Kong in the first place. Given that there are helicopters, napalm, psychedelic rock, and characters named Conrad and Marlow, you do not have to look far to recognize Kong: Skull Island’s references to Heart of Darkness.
11. It Is 100% Separate From the Other King Kongs
One question that has been on the minds of many King Kong fans regarding this newest Kong film is whether it is a sequel, a prequel, a reboot, a remake, or what. It is actually none of the above. It cannot be a sequel, since in 2005’s King Kong, Kong died when he fell off the Empire State building. It cannot also be a prequel (although that idea is more popular), because the first film took place in the 1930’s, while this one takes place in the 1970s. Kong: Skull Island is completely separate from Peter Jackson’s version that came out 12 years ago, and can most accurately be described as the start of a new Kong series. It is not a remake of any of the prior seven Kong films, either. According to bustle.com, “It is an original take on the classic story that is meant to serve as the foundation of a new shared universe between the massive ape and another iconic giant monster: Godzilla. Skull Island will take place in the same cinematic universe as the 2014 reboot Godzilla; after its release next March, there will be a Godzilla sequel due out in 2019, followed by the franchise’s climactic mash-up in 2020: Godzilla vs. Kong.”
10. The Inspiration Behind The Monsters
This monster is one of Skull Island’s many, and they were inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, which is a 1997 historical fantasy anime film. The creatures of Kong: Skull Island were designed to be beautiful and horrifying at the same time. The idea was that when you see a giant spider, squid, or water buffalo, you have a simultaneous wonder at its beauty, and fear for your life. They created this new world of Skull Island, and looked for the perfect inspiration for the unique monsters that live there. In the end, there was no one better to emulate in this aspect than anime legend Hayao Miyazaki. The filmmakers did not want the creatures to feel like replicas of monsters from Jurassic Park, or Star Trek, or anything you’ve seen before.
9. It Was Not Made For Western Audiences
This may come as surprise to you, since you would think that this movie being made for a Western audience would be a given. It is a total Hollywood blockbuster, with a cast and crew that is (mostly) American. But Americans, or westerners in general, were not the ones in mind when this film was created. This becomes very obvious when you realize that the dialogue (which is poorly written, according to some critics) is sacrificed in favor of the visual effects. More importantly, it is the Americans who are the villains in this movie. An anti-war movie, Kong: Skull Island sees the Americans as the bad guys who are invading Kong’s home in the same way that they invaded Vietnam. They are portrayed as blood-thirsty villains who kill first and think later, and would rather kill than find a better solution. If you think about it, in most action movies, the Americans are the heroes who invade communist countries, or countries known for terrorism. This film reminds us that Americans are not, in fact, always the good guys.
8. Vietnam is Selling Kong: Skull Island Tour Packages
That’s right! Now you can take the Kong: Skull Island tour in Vietnam. Exotic Voyages has arranged 10-day tours that visit the locations where the movie was filmed. Five of the 10 days are spent in either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City at the beginning or end of the trip, but the middle part of the trip explores Ninh Binh and Halong Bay in the north, and Quang Binh province in the central coast area. The cost of the tour is $2,055 USD per person, which isn’t too bad considering Vietnam is on the other side of the planet, and much of that price is to cover airfare. Though the tour is not officially associated with the movie, it would be pretty cool to see the movie, then visit the place that brings Skull Island to life.
7. It’s Basically a Vietnam War Movie With Monsters
Or so say some who have seen it. I suppose it could (and maybe should) be classified that way, even though the focus is more on the monsters and less on the war. Still, the setting and time in history cannot be argued, nor can the influence it has on the film. Although its fictional setting is an uncharted island in the South Pacific, we know it is actually filmed in the jungles of Vietnam, where the war happened. Also, Samuel L. Jackson’s character is a war-addicted Lieutenant Colonel, and accompanying him and the others are an escort of U.S. military who are about to be demobilized from Vietnam. There is also the fact that the movie features choppers dropping bombs on the jungle and soldiers running through it (both familiar images from the Vietnam War). In addition to being called a “Vietnam War movie with monsters”, it has also been dubbed the “biggest, goofiest, most fun Vietnam War movie ever”.
6. It is The Biggest Movie Ever Filmed in Vietnam
The small country of Vietnam is really making out good with this film. It already is famous worldwide of course, for the Vietnam War, but now it is becoming known for something positive: being the filming location for one of the year’s biggest blockbusters. Regionally, Vietnam is overshadowed as a filming location by China, which forms its northern border, and as of now, Vietnam is not recognized as an international filming location. The country is hoping that will change, and that they will see a growth in tourism like Thailand did after The Beach and several other big films were shot there. Kong: Skull Island was filmed in northern and central Vietnam, and producers took caution not to upset scientifically-sensitive areas, although a concrete road was paved in order to make access easier.
5. Nature is a Theme
One of the multiple themes of Kong: Skull Island is, simply, nature. Obviously, all of the locations both domestic and foreign (Hawaii, Australia, and Vietnam) are just gorgeous. But the theme of nature in this movie is more than just its beauty. The film’s director, Jordan Vogt-Rogers, said of nature in Kong: Skull Island, “A big part of this film is about the arrogance of man, about man and nature, and the way we coexist with our environment. Not just in terms of the way we grow and the way we’ve evolved, but in terms of our relationship with technology.” It should also be noted that unlike all of the other King Kong movies, this one does not see its characters migrating to the city at the end; it is almost wholly shot in Kong’s home.
4. Mythology is a Theme
Yet another theme of Kong: Skull Island is mythology. From the unique creatures to the landscape, mythological inspiration is central to this movie. Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who directed the movie, said of its mythological elements, “This film is about the loss of myth. We live in a time where everything’s accessible to us through our cell phones at any given moment. Part of the reason we set this in the ’70s is because that wasn’t the case, and this was actually the start of the modern technology that brought us here. Taking a bunch of characters and confronting them with myth, and their own arrogance, is a big part of Skull Island.”
3. The Island is a Character
Sound familiar? Like the hit show Lost, the island in this movie is its own character, as well. In Lost as in Kong: Skull Island, the island itself takes on a persona of sorts. And Skull Island, as you can imagine, is quite an important character. Actor Corey Hawkins, who plays Houston Brooks in the film, said in an interview that, “It really did feel like guerilla filmmaking”. Guerilla filmmaking, by definition, is form of independent filmmaking with low budgets, skeleton crews, and simple props. He added that the guerilla approach gave “…Skull Island a character of its own. Skull Island takes on a character.” As you can see, fans of King Kong have created their own versions of what Skull Island looks like, and while there are countless ways to envision the mythical place, they all do look eerily personified.
2. Tom Hiddleston Was Trained By a…
Navy Seal! Tom’s character, James Conrad, is a former British SAS Special Forces tracker, so it makes sense that he would need some very specific instruction to best portray such a man. So he trained with a former U.S. Navy Seal and two former British Royal Marines to get the job done. He said in one interview that he would get up at 4:00 in the morning to perfect his skill. He says, “If you undergo military training like that, it’s not just physical training. It’s also a psychological and spiritual training. I think inside all that strength training there’s also a training in courage and humility, and arrogance has no place in that. There’s something in the film that raises the question about the nature of warfare and the bravery of soldiers, and what soldiers have to witness and apply themselves to, which I hope is very respectful. Soldiers have seen things which make arrogance impossible.”
1. The Challenge to Film
It was certainly not an easy feat to bring 300 cast and crew members to the other side of the world, and to then film in places that there were not even roads to. But nevertheless, they made it happen, and the result will be amazing. According to director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, he traveled all around Asia looking for the perfect filming location, and he found it in the “perfect aesthetic” of Vietnam. Actress Brie Larson explained some of the difficulty like this: “They built our trailers from the ground up! They took what I think were old school buses, gutted them completely and put in plumbing and couches. It was amazing! The craftsmanship on those things was amazing. It was just little things. I think they even built roads for our trucks to get to these location because we were so remote.” Samuel L. Jackson says some of the filming areas were very remote, requiring up to two hours of travel some days, riding through mountains with little old ladies. But the cast seems to all agree that it was worth it- even the 10 days they had to spend filming a very cold and wet swamp scene!