The various merits and issues of Kong: Skull Island have been debated endlessly on this here internet (to the point where even director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has gotten in on the action). If there is one criticism everyone seems to agree on, it’s that Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson (two very good actors) really don’t have all that much to do in the monster flick, this despite being the supposed leads of the picture. Recently I spoke with Dan Gilroy, writer/director of Nightcrawler and one of three credited writers on Kong: Skull Island, at the press day for his upcoming film Roman J. Israel Esq. During our conversation, Gilroy revealed that in his Kong draft, Hiddleston and Larson actually had far more backstory and character moments than what appears in the final cut.
“There was stuff that they cut out that I would have liked” Gilroy stated. “You can imagine more character stuff… Brie’s character had a whole thing. Tom’s character had a whole thing. I thought there was time for it and room for it to be explored… But it’s a good movie, you know.”
Gilroy elaborated – “Brie’s [character] was somebody who was really war weary and had taken photographs for far too long. She didn’t believe in anything – so the first time she saw Kong, it was like an awakening. She comes [back to life]. Tom [Hiddleston]’s character was a guy whose unit had been attacked by a big monster out of Vietnam – so he was in search of this thing. Instead of them approaching him at the bar and giving him a job, I had him like, ‘I want on board.’ I like those characters a lot… but they didn’t want to go with that.”
Gilroy’s brief character descriptions actually seem far more fleshed out than what ended up in the two-hour feature. Giving Hiddleston’s James Conrad some sense of urgency and drive would have done wonders for the slowish first act – and I’m a little shocked that Larson’s war-weary photographer was scrapped. That would’ve given the Oscar-winning actress an interesting arc to play, instead of just staring wide-eyed at Kong and taking one or two pictures of an ISLAND OF DINOSAURS. Kong: Skull Island is definitely still a fun movie (Kong vs. Giant Squid… enough said); but with a little more effort put in with the principal cast, it really could’ve have sung. Hopefully the reaction(s) to Kong: Skull Island can have a positive impact on the upcoming Godzilla: King of the Monsters and the ‘battle royale’ Godzilla vs. Kong.
For Gilroy’s full thoughts on Kong: Skull Island and his initial draft of the screenplay, watch the video above.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters opens March 22, 2019. Godzilla vs. Kong is tentatively set for 2020