From director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Kong: Skull Island re-imagines the origins of the powerful and mighty King Kong, while a diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers land on an uncharted island in the Pacific, very quickly discovering that it is as dangerous as it is beautiful. As the team sets out to explore the terrain, they must fight for their own survival in a place they never should have stepped foot into. The film stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Toby Kebbell, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and John C. Reilly.
At the film’s press day, actor Samuel L. Jackson talked about getting a feel for his character, Lt. Colonel Preston Packard, working with so much CGI, the most difficult CGI scene to shoot, the experience of working in such exotic locations, getting the military details accurate, and being a life-long fan of monster movies. He also talked about his desire to remake The Blob, and that he keeps asking about whether Nick Fury will be in Avengers: Infinity War.
Question: What was it like to work with so much CGI on this?
SAMUEL L. JACKSON: You’ve got great actors, like John Goodman, Tom [Hiddleston], Brie [Larson] and Corey [Hawkins], but as good as we can be, the film is no good, unless the big ape and the other things are fantastic and amazing. We asked the questions, all the time. We’d be like, “How big is it? Where is it? How fast is it?” Sometimes we got good answers, sometimes not so good.
What did they give you to look at, with Kong not there?
JACKSON: A mirror. No. There’s nothing there. We asked, all the time, “Where is it? How big is it? How fast is it?” And you’d get varying answers, depending on who you’d ask. Sometimes it’s just about the perspective of the camera and it has nothing to do with that thing being there, green screen, or anything else. It’s how you want to be perceived when it happens.
CGI wise, what was the most difficult thing to shoot?
JACKSON: The scene where he comes out of the lake and falls right in front of us. As many times as we asked the question, “How big is it?,” it was the one time where we were actually close enough to touch it. In the real, logical world, once Kong falls and hits the ground and gets knocked out, Packard would have gotten a rocket launcher and put one through his eye, or both eyes, because that’s who Packard is. But in the world of movies, you have to monologue and do shit.
How was the experience of shooting in Vietnam?
JACKSON: Vietnam is awesome! But the dock scene in Vietnam, where everybody is getting on the boat, is actually John Wayne Airport. That was part of a reshoot. That wasn’t even part of the original shoot. Vietnam was great. Hawaii was cool. Hawaii was basically us, doing all of the trekking through the high grass and the bamboo forest at Jurassic Park. We’d have to stop shooting sometimes because tour buses would go by. The Gold Coast was another terrain, where we did a lot of walking with the strains and the rivers. We were walking and walking and walking. And then, there were times you had to stop shooting there because five kangaroos would hop through the shot, and there are not supposed to be any kangaroos on Skull Island. And then, Vietnam was majestic and awesome. When we got out into the real countryside, where we did most of the stuff out there, you could see why an invading force would have a problem winning any kind of conflict in that place. If you weren’t born there and didn’t have any business there and didn’t have a spiritual connection to the land that was there, you wouldn’t be able to handle that terrain. It was a really, really, really cool and wonderful place to be. We also had those people that go out into the terrain to make sure there are no live mines or bombs out there, that didn’t explode in Vietnam. There are a lot of them.
When you were out on location and came across real creatures, were you okay with that, or do those types of things bother you?
JACKSON: I’m fine with stuff like that. I’m a country kid.
Were you a fan of monster movies, growing up?
JACKSON: Really?! For real?! Yeah, man, forever! I’ve always been a big thing with teeth chasing you fan. I’ve always loved King Kong, Godzilla, Mothra, and whatever was there to chase you and make you afraid. That was great! I’m still doing films that I wanted to see when I was a kid, or wished I could have been in. I think I’m finally going to do The Blob. It’s gonna be awesome!
Do you have a start date for The Blob?
JACKSON: No, not really.
What did you do to prepare for the military side of things?
JACKSON: I’ve worked with these military advisers on a couple of films, and representing soldiers in an honest and earnest way is really important because of what they do and the sacrifices they make. When you’re in certain formations or you’re doing certain things, I know, cinematically, sometimes people want you to do things that look awesome, but I don’t want to look stupid to people that have done that job, so I’ll say, “No, we can’t do that. These guys have to be over here and they have to do this, while these guys are over here and do that. We can’t walk in a formation like this because, if something comes, everybody will die.” You’ll get push-back because people talk about it cinematically, but if the guys standing there that have done the job before are looking at you funny, that’s important to me.
Did you find this character scarier than the actual monsters?
JACKSON: For me, it’s important that I do things that make sense to the audience and make sense to me. This is my homage to Gregory Peck. I’m Ahab and King Kong is the white whale. To have someone who does have a heart, who loves his men, and who becomes unhinged because of the improbability and impossibility of the task, and does believe, wholeheartedly, man’s been on this planet for a very long time and there have always been things on this planet that are bigger, stronger and faster, but we have ingenuity. We came up with spears, bows and arrows, bullets and bombs, so there’s a way that we can win. We can kill this thing, and then we can kill all of the other things, too, because that’s what we’ve always done.
What was Jordan Vogt-Roberts like, as a director?
JACKSON: He was fine.
As an actor, do you find fear useful in your work?
JACKSON: Sometimes I’m afraid that the person running the show is going to make me look stupid, but other than that, no. Movie sets are supposed to be a safe space to invade, explore, and do all kinds of things, and be okay when it’s over. That’s why people cry, die and come back. Fear is not part of the acting equation for me. I know how to pretend to be afraid and fearful, or to give a character a reason or an insecurity that allows him to be afraid of certain things, or facing certain kinds of things. That’s just part of the joy of being able to explore the human condition.
We know that Nick Fury is set to be in Avengers: Infinity War.
JACKSON: You know that?! How do you know that, and I don’t know that?! You know that, for real?!
Hopefully, that announcement was accurate. So, what are you most excited about with that installment of the franchise?
JACKSON: I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. I haven’t heard that. I keep asking, “Am I in Infinity War?”
You haven’t been given a shooting date then?
JACKSON: No. I don’t know.
You work seemingly non-stop. Is your love of the art the main motivator for you?
JACKSON: Yeah. I love acting! It’s a passion. Writers get up and write. Painters get up and paint. If I can get up and act, every day, I’ll be happy. It would be a wonderful thing. When I was a young actor in New York, I was always doing a play, auditioning for a play, or reading plays for people trying to get them put up. Acting is a real passion for me. It’s something I want to do. People are like, “Why aren’t you directing yet?” That’s not something I want to do.
Kong: Skull Island opens in theaters on March 10th.