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Peter Jackson's version of "King Kong" is now in need of a new ending

Peter Jackson's version of "King Kong" is now in need of a new ending

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They're all headed to New Zealand.

Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody. Not to mention Academy Award winning director Peter Jackson. All of them gathering in New Zealand so that -- bright & early Monday morning -- they can begin work on Jackson's dream project: A big budget remake of the 1933 motion picture classic, "King Kong."

"Kong" really something that the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy director has dreamed of filming for years now. Decades even. To hear Peter tell the story , he's been trying to make his very own version of "King Kong" off the ground since he was a child & was monkeying around with his Dad's 8mm camera.

Mind you, seven years ago, Jackson came within inches of getting his "Kong" remake made. But -- at virtually the last minute (After Peter's FX house, Weta, had put in months into pre-production on the project) -- Universal Studios suddenly decided to pull the plug on that film. Fearing that -- after audiences had seen Sony's "Godzilla" and Walt Disney Pictures' "Mighty Joe Young" remake -- they would have had their fill of monster movies.

That eventually proved to have been an incredibly costly error on Universal's part. Why for? Well -- once "Kong" got cancelled -- Jackson set to work getting another dream project of his up on the big screen. Maybe you've heard of these flicks? "The Fellowship of the Rings"? "The Two Towers"? "The Return of the King"?

As you may have heard, the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy racked in an ungodly amount of money. The combined worldwide box gross of these three films is over $2.8 billion. And -- given that Universal was now desperate to get back in bed with Peter -- the studio wound up paying through the nose for Jackson's services. According to the trades, the deal that Universal Studio cut with Peter calls for Jackson to recieve an upfront $20 million fee for directing this "Kong" remake PLUS 20% of the film's total box-office gross. This is the sort of production deal that Steven Spielberg & James Cameron can only dream of. Which perhaps gives you some idea of Peter's considerable clout in Hollywood right now.

Plus Jackson won the right to film this special effects extravaganza wherever he liked. Which -- of course -- was back on his home turf of New Zealand. He also got to pick whichever special effects house he wanted to work on "Kong." Which -- of course -- was Peter's own company, Weta. Plus Universal ponied up $110 million to cover the cost of "Kong" 's production. Plus Jackson got his choice of actors.

So it sounds like Peter Jackson got everything he wanted on this movie, right? Sadly, no. The one thing that Jackson really wanted -- which was to has some sort of connective tissue between his "Kong" remake and Merian Cooper & Edgar Wallace's original version of the movie -- suddenly slipped away last month when Fay Wray passed away last month at the age of 96.

Don't believe me? Then take a look at this excerpt from the "Kong" screenplay. Which Jackson put together with his "Lord of the Rings" writing partners, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Prior to Wray's death, the following was to have been the final scene of Peter's picture.

EXT. FIFTH AVENUE - MORNING

CROWDS are gathering to STARE at KONG'S BODY ... we only see his HAND on the edge of frame.

A POLICEMAN ushers people away ...

POLICEMAN
Come on folks ... it's all over. The airplane's got him.

PUSH IN ... to an OLD LADY standing in the crowd. She shakes her head sadly ...

OLD LADY
It wasn't the airplanes ... it was beauty killed the beast.

The OLD LADY turns and slowly walks away from CAMERA.

FADE TO BLACK.

THE END

Three guesses who the unnamed OLD LADY in the above scene was supposed to have been.

Yeah, if Fay Wray had just hung on for a few more months, she would have occupied a truly unique spot in move history. She woudl have been the woman who the giant ape fell for in the first version of "King Kong" as well as having the last word in the new version of the movie. Pretty neat idea, don't you think?

So what happens now? Well, the word out of Weta is that Jackson is currently casting about for a new ending for his "Kong" remake. There's also talk that Peter may wind up dedicating this film to Fay. As a gracious gesture to what might have been.

But -- for now -- Jackson is concentrating on getting his "King Kong" remake off on the right foot. Look for this Universal Picture -- minus its would-have-been-really-cool cameo by Fay Wray -- to finally bow in theaters on December 14, 2005.

Anyway ... I thought you folks might enjoy hearing about this intriguing Hollywood tale before you head off for the long Labor Day weekend.

Speaking of which ... JHM won't be officially updated again 'til Tuesday morning. But -- over the next three days -- we'll be highlighting the work of one of the site's best columnists, Matthew Springer. So be sure to drop by JHM on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. When you catch up on some of Springer's classic "Essential Geek" columns as well as brand new story that Matthew wrote just for the site's special "Spotlight" event.

That's pretty much it for now, folks? Have a great three-day weekend, okay? See you on Tuesday!

jrh

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