Go ape over the King Kong remake on the big screen
Photographer gets the big picture on the strange Skull Island
HOT on the heels of her Best Actress win at the Oscars for the psychological thriller Room, Brie Larson was on the Gold Coast filming Kong: Skull Island opposite Tom Hiddleston. In this Q&A, she talks about her character in director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’s acclaimed Vietnam War-era remake of the big-screen classic King Kong.
Q: What can you tell us about Mason Weaver and what qualities of the character resonated with you?
A: Weaver is a really cool character. She’s a war photographer but considers herself an ‘anti-war’ photographer and that’s gotten her into trouble because a lot of publications aren’t so crazy about documenting the dark side of the Vietnam War. So, the wheels are already turning when they’re on the ship on the way to the island. So, I saw this role as a chance to pay respect to the women who really did do this job and are still doing it. One of the fascinating aspects of the character for me was
that Weaver has a hard-earned reputation for being fearless and willing to do whatever it takes to expose the truth. But she speaks through her images, not with her voice. As a photojournalist, you’re not the one writing the piece that will accompany your photos. Once you take them, you then have to then hand them over to someone else to interpret. In reading the script, it seemed to me that there was this piece of her that felt misunderstood – she’s taking photos with one intention, but the media and the government are turning it into something else. So, she’s starting to recognise that a photo can only take you so far, and that capturing something terrible on film is not the same as doing something about it.
Q: What kind of effect does encountering something as extraordinary as Kong have on Weaver and what is their relationship in this film?
A: They have a very special relationship. Kong is the biggest thing on the island, yet he doesn’t choose to use his power in a way that’s harmful to her. I think that’s a real turning point for Weaver. You hear her talk about trying to get a Pulitzer from the photos she’s going to take, but very quickly she realises that there’s something on this island that’s big and precious, and worth so much more than a prize photo or the trappings of
American life. If that is her agenda, she’s no better than these guys trying to shoot him down. Instead, she feels she has to do whatever she can to make sure that this thing is protected. I think that’s why a sort of mutual understanding forms between her and the big guy.
What I love about the King Kong story is that he is a force of nature – he is nature – and we try to dominate it. But no matter how hard we try, nature always wins. That’s part of the classic iconography of Kong, but in our movie, you see this woman come at it from a slightly different angle. Weaver is saying, ‘We can’t dominate it. We need to respect it and work with it’. She realises that she has a chance to make a difference, and not for her own personal gain.
Q: Was that part of the character’s appeal for you?
A: In every film I’ve done over the last couple of years, that’s usually what I’m drawn toward – a character who is searching for something bigger than herself. It’s not just a notion of wanting something for selfish reasons; it’s the recognition that we need each other. These characters all encounter the same thing on Skull Island, but react in completely opposite ways – from wanting to dominate it to feeling a connection and empathy for it.
That’s the beauty of this story. At its heart, it’s about people with deep but opposing beliefs about who we are and our place in nature, and yet it’s critical that they try to communicate with each other – and that feels very relevant to our experience in the world today.
Kong: Skull Island is in cinemas now.
Brie Larson in a scene from the movie Kong: Skull Island.