EASTER EGG ISLAND
Director Jordan Vogt-roberts’ map to the buried treasure of Kong: Skull Island
JORDAN VOGT-ROBERTS’ Kong:
Skull Island, a fun, ’70s-set reinvention of King Kong’s origin story, may well boast the record for cinematic references, video-game winks and comic-book nods. “A great book is layered with symbolism and metaphors, just different textures,” suggests the affable filmmaker. “When I am designing a movie I just love the idea of creating layers, some of which are intentional things for the fans and others are for myself, acknowledging the influences that have been meaningful to me.” Here, the director calls out some obvious and not so obvious gems.
As the Sky Devils, a ’Nam war helicopter squadron, take off for Skull Island, Samuel L. Jackson’s lieutenant colonel Preston Packard can clearly be heard to say, “Hold on to your butts,” a line Jackson uttered to iconic effect in Jurassic Park. “I had [screenwriter] Derek Connolly put it in the script. I never thought it was going to stick. I didn’t say anything about it, Sam didn’t say anything about it. I tried so hard to get a Big Lebowski-john Goodman line but I couldn’t find the right place for it.”
RETURN OF THE ‘KINGS’
Hidden in the background of a street scene and nightclub in Saigon are Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias, the stars of Vogt-roberts’ coming-of-age debut, The Kings Of Summer. “That, to me, is a very personal thing,” he says. “I flew them out myself. An enormous amount of brain power and logistics went into doing that but that’s the stuff that matters to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if putting them in all of my movies ends up being my thing.”
Kong scoffing octopus was a piece of concept art that Vogt-roberts latched onto early. “It’s legitimately a slice of life, showing how difficult Kong’s existence is. On the other hand, it is a nod to the octopus fight in [King] Kong Vs. Godzilla, the Toho version. But for me it’s a tribute to
Oldboy.” Vogt-roberts later showed the scene to Oldboy director Park Chan-wook. “He thought it was funny, he made sure the lead actor [Choi Min-sik] saw it. He couldn’t believe we spent so much money. It is by far the most expensive
Oldboy reference on film.”
GOLD IS IN THE DETAILS
Keep ’em peeled in Marlow’s (John C. Reilly) dwelling. You will not only see a replica of the camera used by Carl Denham in the 1933 King Kong, but on the record player is the reference number given to the ark of the covenant at the end of Raiders. “Any time there was random text on screen, why not do something?”
GAME’S NOT OVER, MAN
Kong: Skull Island is stuffed with video-game ephemera. From mountains stolen directly from Journey (“My favourite piece of media in the last ten years”) to the Sky Devils logo
inspired by a crest in Zelda, Vogt-roberts is determined to raise the bar for film/videogame interactions. “Normally video-games are as influential in my life as films.”
During Empire’s podcast interview, Vogt-roberts
teased a hidden Alien reference. “The ‘A’ on the side of the ship ‘Athena’ is in the same font as
the Alien title font,” he now reveals. But he also threw some shade Prometheus’ way. As the soldiers run away from Kong, a soldier heading in a straight line is killed. Vogt-roberts, with his sound mixers, added the line, “Run to the side, you idiot,” referencing the moment where Vickers (Charlize Theron) is crushed trying to outrun a falling ship. “There are few movies that have gone from, ‘Holy fuck, this is incredible,’ to being so unfathomably frustrating,” Vogtroberts says of Prometheus. “So we just put in what the audience is saying in the theatre.”
STING IN THE TALE
“It went through a lot of variations,” says Vogt-roberts about the movie’s post-credits scene, where Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and Weaver (Brie Larson) discover there are more monsters than Kong. “There was a scene with Conrad and Weaver on a ship in the middle of the Arctic and — wait for it — Godzilla surfaces,” says Vogt-roberts. Presumably, though, Godzilla was unavailable for filming, the massive diva.
You’re going to hear him roar! Kong makes his point.