Considering how often modern blockbusters try to out do each other with the scale of their spectacle, the longstanding Hollywood axiom that "Bigger is Better" has never been truer. And nowhere is it more evident than in the new adventure epic
The last King Kong film, you'll no doubt recall, was directed by one Sir Peter Jackson and released in 2005. The new film's principle point of difference is that the titular giant gorillla is bigger than he was in 2005 film. Like, way bigger - approximately three times the height of our Peter's Kong at around 30 metres tall. That's a big monkey.
It naturally begs the question - how does an actor go about interacting with a character that's as big as an office building? As lead Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager, Thor) tells TimeOut in Los Angeles, a tennis ball on a stick was no longer going to do the trick.
"Whoever I was with, it was mostly Brie [Larson], we would choose a tree or a cloud in the sky or the top of a mountain and we'd work it out with the camera operator and we would say 'Is that high enough? Is that high enough?' and once you've picked an eyeline that reads as believable, the rest of it is just pure imagination."
Hiddleston leads Kong: Skull Island as James Conrad, an ex-SAS black ops officer and expert jungle tracker who is hired to lead an expedition onto an uncharted Pacific island in 1973.
Also along for the ride is photographer Mason Weaver (Oscar-winner Brie Larson), the mysteriously-intentioned Bill Randa (John Goodman) and a military escort in the form of a platoon of American soldiers fresh from the Vietnam conflict, led by the hard-nosed Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson).
In person, Hiddleston very much comes across as the friendly, refined British type you might imagine to him to be. He says that Kong: Skull Island appealed because it reminded him of the films he devoured as a kid.
"This was pitched to me as a pure-hearted adventure story, the kind of films that I grew up loving - the Indiana Jones films - there's something very pure about the adventurousness of those movies. Jurassic Park, and also King Kong. The 1933 one is the one I remember one most of all. At that time I had never made a film like that, and the character I would play would be an adventurer, a hero, at that time I had never played a truly heroic character."
Hiddleston's early involvement in the project lead to the character being changed from American to British, which Hiddleston says was to play up the conflict between Conrad and Samuel L. Jackson's Colonel Packard. Packard's the one character in Kong: Skull Island who could be said to have a one-on-one moment with Kong, and it ain't exactly friendly.
"I've been doing that since I was a kid," Jackson tells TimeOut. "When I first saw King Kong or Godzilla or whatever, I went home and pretended that thing was there. I've been practicing fighting this thing for a very long time.
Despite his ease playing opposite a big CGI monster, Jackson says he never quite grasped Kong's true magnitude on set.
"Honestly, he was never as big as he looks in the f**king movie, I'll tell you that. He was never that big. Goddamn! When I saw the movie I was like 'Really? He was that big?'"
Jackson's character embodies Kong: Skull Island's other major point of difference to the Kong movies that came before - it's Vietnam-era setting. Colonel Packard is driven to destroy Kong by his frustration over a war that many saw as pointless.
"It was a time of turmoil in this country," says Jackson. "Kind of like is now. Without the fear of getting deported. But, you know, very volatile times I remember. There were a lot of things going on that made us aware of the war and that informed who I was when I was being Colonel Packard."
Brie Larson's war photographer character is also greatly informed by her experiences inVietman, but she has a slightly more empathetic view of Kong than Packard.
marks Larson's first on screen appearance since she won the Best Actress Oscar last year for
Whereas the female lead in a King Kong movie has traditionally been something of a damsel in distress, it was important to Larson that Mason Weaver be more than that.
"I had a lot of input, says Larson. "I studied war photographers and you see that everything has to be practical. What was interesting to me about it was that I feel like she's close to the truth. She's the voice of reason through this film."
Although Kong: Skull Island is a far cry from the intimacy of something like Room, Larson says she saw appreciated how the story evolved beyond the simple 'Beauty and the Beast' dynamic.
"I think that's a testament to where we are right now with filmmaking, instead we created a much more dynamic and complicated approach to it. It's the same thing that's interesting about Tom's character and my character not being love interests, it kind of changes the way that we perceive companionship and we perceive love and what is worth protecting and saving. It doesn't have to be reduced to just a romantic relationship."
Getting back to Tom, Hiddleston has just finished filming
in Australia when he speaks to TimeOut, and perks up considerably when asked about the film's director, New Zealander of the Year Taika Waititi.
"He was absolutely great. I think every director leaves their own fingerprint on what they make and Taika's fingerprint, his whole being, is about having fun and being light-hearted and warm-hearted. I think Ragnorak will be completely, kind of beautifully colourful and different and bonkers and I think that's all of Taika's own imagination.
"He loves the idea of Ragnarok - tearing down what's come before and having to make it anew. It's got his since of humour, his playfulness, his mischief. His relationship with Chris Hemsworth was an extraordinary thing to watch because they became very firm and fast friends and I can say with absolute confidence it will be Chris' funniest performance as Thor. They just really clicked. "
Who: Tom Hiddleston
What: Kong: Skull Island
When: In cinemas next Thursday