In Peter Jackson’s King Kong, Brody plays Jack Driscoll, a playwright who finds himself dragged off to the treacherous Skull Island by Jack Black’s director Carl Denham, where he gets caught up in a love triangle between Naomi Watt’s actress Ann Darrow and a 25-foot gorilla known as Kong.
ComingSoon.net spoke to the New York native when he returned home, after spending months in Peter Jackson’s home country of New Zealand making the film.
CS: As a native New Yorker can you talk about watching the New York of 1933 show up on screen?
Brody: Well, what was most impressive was that it had this kind of luminescent, kind of period feel. I only saw that in the finished product. There are some of those shots with Ann and Kong that look just like they are out of a ’30s movie. They had this glowing, almost black and white aspect, which was beautiful. New York looks amazing. It was exciting for me, obviously, to get to play a guy who tries to save the city and try to get Kong out of the city. I grew up driving, racing cars in Queens and stuff. They were going to shoot that as a green screen sequence and I convinced Pete to let me drive it. I showed up one day, and he didn’t tell me he was going to let me do it and there was a taxi cab there with like six cameras mounted on it, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment. They built like a one level New York and gave me the keys and said we’re going to shoot this and go for it. I walked it with the stunt man and they let me drive it. It was so f***ing exciting. I would come back and the stuntmen were cheering, and Pete was like, “Okay, now this time you really push it!” I was like, “Alright.” I almost killed a guy. It was on the sidewalk and the door flew open on one of these shots. It’s not in the movie I don’t think. [smiling] It was f***ing amazing, and that experience was really cool. So to see that come to life with Kong chasing me in New York was a thrill.
Brody: Nobody really had that much dialogue except for Denham. This is kind of a homage to the original, but I think my character is the one character that changed the most. I had some apprehension about it, because when that’s the case, the change better be right, because everybody knows about those changes. I think it was very brave to create a kind of reluctant hero, leading man that’s not the typical kind of overtly muscular guy. It’s a guy just like Kong, pulled out of his own element and forced to go fight for the things that he loves. I think it was the right choice. The love story ends up being more truthful because the screenwriter would definitely be falling for the beautiful lead actress he is writing for and she already admired his work. The original lacked authenticity in that respect. He was a ship’s first mate, and the next minute he’s like, “Ann I think I love you,” and then he was in love with her. Where did that happen? That’s what I wanted to avoid. There was only a limited amount of time to make that work because everybody wants to get to Kong and see Skull Island and get that part of the action started. So you have to set that up, but you can’t spend too long setting it up.
CS: You and Naomi really work well together in this film. Is that something that you can feel while making a movie?
Brody: Yeah it felt good. There was chemistry. She’s obviously attractive, it’s a scene that makes a lot of sense, the writing was good. You never know anyway, even if it feels like you made a connection, you never know.
CS: Could you talk about doing all of the stuff on Skull Island, where you were reacting to all sorts of different creatures who weren’t there?
Brody: Well it’s a very different approach from what I am normally used to. It’s exciting, finally, to see it and to exist in another time, another realm where dinosaurs can exist. That’s the beauty of that work. It is much more technical, but it’s the same principal. It’s just a different process. You have to envision yourself in certain situations, and sometimes it is harder, because they are very extreme or you wouldn’t have any experiences to necessarily relate to. You let go of as much of yourself as you can, and you try and lose as much of your own inhibitions and block out everything else. That is what you are doing there except there is less there. But we had Andy for the Kong stuff. The stuff with the insect, there’s nothing there to hold on to, so you gotta run with it.
CS: In the brontosaurus stampede, were you just running against a green screen?
Brody: There were a few different set ups, but that was a complicated procedure. For the bronto stampede, we had terrain built outside and there were rocks and things and we knew where certain things were to take place, we had animatics. There were treadmill shots, where you’ve got to get high speed running that they have to do camera moves on and stuff. Pretty technical and all that.
Brody: It’s tricky. I did it with Ken Loach’s movie, which I had no script. They didn’t want to show me any of it. I said I have got to see at least some of the tone of the character, because he didn’t really want even to tell me that much. It was very hard to start, but what was important there was do the research, find out all you can, be as authentic as possible in an improvisational situation. I knew they had my best interest at heart and they have a good track record. I genuinely like Peter and Fran and Philippa, and I love the story. It was a no brainer, really. There was a script by the time we began shooting, but things were changing and we’d be able to contribute and work things out. So it was a different process, but it wasn’t negative, you have to figure things out along the way.
CS: Would you do it again now that it worked with Peter?
Brody: Not based on past experiences, but it depends on the role, and it depends on how well the filmmaker conveys what is needed from me. Even if it’s largely improvisational, if it is a character that I really want to explore, and I can go research it and nail it, I’m game. If it’s some kind of experimental thing, that’s interesting. I usually don’t come across that, and it’s not a way for me to jump into a project, so I probably wouldn’t do it very often. I haven’t done it very often. It’s good to read a script and be moved by the script. “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”, the film I did in the interim, is a beautifully written script and I jumped at that.
CS: How was it having all of the extra camera crews that were there shooting the “King Kong Production Diaries”? (Note: You can read more about the diaries in our exclusive interview with producer Michael Pellerin.)
Brody: They were there on a daily basis, constantly filming everything. Peter I think loves that and loves to capture the process and share it. He’s very generous in sharing his approach and style, and I think it’s fascinating stuff and people are obviously intrigued by that. He’s genuinely enthusiastic about it, and I kind of agree you don’t need to shroud everything in secrecy. I think it keeps people’s interest.
CS: Did it require any kind of adjustment having them there?
Brody: Personally, I like a period to rehearse without it necessarily being out there. You need to have a moment to make the mistakes before the actual moment that you are shooting. I have the right to say, “Guys, I would rather you let me have this on my own for a minute,” and I would only do that if I felt there was something that I needed to work on, but it was rare. It’s on the really kind of more introspective roles that I need a lot of space and quiet, if possible, because it’s very hard for me to think and everything kind of heightens when I am working, all of my senses are heightened. In this case you got used to it. It was nine months, so by the time it was over, cameras were just everywhere and Jack and I were cracking jokes. Part of the process, you know?
Brody: It’s been a similar thing for me. Life is weirder, I guess. The decision-making process is pretty similar. There are other considerations, but I feel very fortunate. It’s been a long haul to get here; I have been acting most of my life. I’m pinching myself often, because I do feel blessed to have the opportunities that I have, to do what I love.
CS: Is it harder to go out without being recognized?
Brody: Absolutely. No question. I went out a lot when I was younger and when you go out to nightclubs when you’re underage, it’s more fun. It’s nice to go out, but things are more complicated. It’s better to know what I know and to experience what I have experienced than to have never received that recognition and to never have had access to really interesting roles in major pictures.
CS: Could you talk about some of your other projects?
Brody: “Truth, Justice and the American Way” is all I’ve shot in between. It looks like I’m going to do “Manolete,” which I am going to be in Spain and I’m going to go train with some bullfighters. That’s the plan. Where’s Andy Serkis when you need him? That’s the only thing that I know that I should be doing. I don’t really like to talk about anything until they’re done. I was supposed to be the lead in “Thin Red Line,” and that was done and I didn’t know that until I saw it. So let’s not talk about things until I see it. Glad I saw this yesterday.