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KING KONG

About The Production
For a young New Zealand boy named Peter Jackson, the viewing of a 1930s black-and-white film one Friday night was more than just an evening's diversion—it quite literally became a life-changing event.

The filmmaker remembers, "I first saw King Kong when I was about eight-or nine-years-old on TV in New Zealand. And it made such an impact on me, such a huge impression, that it was the moment in time when I had decided I wanted to be a filmmaker. I thought, ‘I want to make movies. I want to be able to make movies just like King Kong.' It had that profound an effect on me.”

To have chosen King Kong as an entrée into the world of filmmaking shows just how discerning and imaginative Jackson was, even as a child. RKO's 1933 masterpiece was a cutting-edge film by the era's standards, utilizing a combination of groundbreaking visual effects (stop-motion animation, rear screen projection, multi-plane glass paintings, detailed tabletop miniatures) to realize the fantastic story of a giant ape captured in the wilds of a forgotten island and brought back to New York City, where he meets his tragic fate. During its initial release, the title smashed national attendance records and earned more than $1.75 million for the financially strapped RKO (pulling it back from bankruptcy), who periodically re-released King Kong up until the 1950s. In 1991, King Kong was selected to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress' National Film Preservation Board (which is dedicated to the film preservation efforts of American film archives and historical societies). The cultural significance of the mythic tale continues to fuel the imagination of film historians, artists and authors to this day, more than seven decades after its initial theatrical release.

That defining Friday-night viewing stayed with young Jackson, and barely three years later, he set out to live up to his career decision…and at age 12, he started work on his own version of the 1933 classic. His mother donated an old stole, which provided the gorilla's fur; the garment was cut apart and used to cover a padded wire-frame body, and voilà—a stop-motion Kong figurine. The top of the Empire State Building was a painted cardboard model (to conserve the budding filmmaker's efforts, he did not paint the back of the structure, since that side was never going to appear on camera). The New York City skyline was provided via a painted bedsheet (admittedly more appropriation than donation, as his mother was never informed of the bed linen's involvement in the project).

Sadly, the film was never completed, although the fur-covered figure of Kong, the Empire State model and the skyline backdrop still exist. But the idea continued to preoccupy Jackson.

Jackson's ongoing collaborator, screenwriter Philippa Boyens, comments, "I think for a lot of filmmakers—not just Peter—but for a lot of others, the original King Kong is one of those landmarks when you saw cinema reaching for the impossible and trying to do something extraordinary. In terms of the actual story—a giant gorilla, and then putting that giant gorilla in New York?—is about as brilliant as cinema gets in terms of its ability to tell a story differently than reading a book or hearing it orally. I think that relevance for today's audience is still there—and Kong is again reaching for that.” Flash forward several years, when the director had already triumphed as a singular new voice in filmmaking with several projects, most notably the confident entry of 1994's inventive and acclaimed Heavenly Creatures (which received an Oscar® nomination for Best Screenplay).

In 1996, his thoughts once again returned to King Kong and this time, the obsession had advanced far enough that a full-length screenplay was drafted. Jackson remarks, "Our 1996 draft was written as a very Hollywood-y, sort of tongue

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