On December 1st, 2015, I was lucky enough to be invited by Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures to join other journalists to observe the filming of Kong: Skull Island and interview members of the cast and crew in Hawaii. Note the interview may go into spoiler territory - just a head's up! No photos were allowed on set. A few of the interviews are rather lengthy so relax and make yourself comfortable for some fun reading. All interviews were transcribed by Noah Percival.
- Chris Mirjahangir
Reporter: So on a scale of one to ten with ten being in the past your character's hatred of snakes, how much does he hate Kong? How much does he hate the gorilla in this film?
Samuel L. Jackson: Not at all. He doesn't until he encounters him and it all happens because of what happens to the people he's with.
Reporter: So he has good reasons?
Samuel L. Jackson: Well he didn't know the thing is on this island until he got there.
Reporter: Is it primarily his experiences in the war?
Samuel L. Jackson: It's a war experience. You have an enemy, you fight the enemy. When they get here the enemy is presented. Once the enemy presents itself then you assess the threat and how you deal with it and what needs to happen. Eliminate it or save the people that are still around. The solider concept.
Reporter: We've heard a little bit about the background of your character, how would you describe it?
Samuel L. Jackson: He's black. He's tall. He's old. He's been in the army for a longtime, he's a lifer. He believes in his men's lives and sanctity. God and country.
Reporter: What drew you to the project?
Samuel L. Jackson: Money.
Samuel L. Jackson: The first guy they wanted actually decided not to do it because he wanted to stay home with his family and you know it's kinda cool I was next in line. I like movies like this, I like adventure stories, I've always liked King Kong movies. I like big things that roar and scare people. Running from things and shooting back at them.
Reporter: Have you seen all the Kong movies?
Samuel L. Jackson: Pretty much.
Reporter: Do you have a favorite? Besides the first one?
Samuel L. Jackson: Everybody loves the first one. I don't have a favorite.
Reporter: We've been driving past a lot of these sets and locations from the original Jurassic Park.
Samuel L. Jackson: I never got here. I never got to come here because the set that I was supposed to work on got destroyed in the hurricane that season, and that set got destroyed, and I never got here. Hence my arm hanging in some anonymous place.
Reporter: Have you shot in Hawaii before?
Samuel L. Jackson: We did some pick up shots on Snakes on a Plane.
Reporter: How do you like it?
Samuel L. Jackson: It's nice location! Weather's good. Part of the reason for taking this job was missing winter this year so that's pretty much going to happen. Leave here, go to Australia middle of summer, go to Vietnam always summer. Gonna not be bad!
Reporter: Is it a huge challenge to be acting opposite air and to have to imagine this creature that doesn't exist, or did your experiences with the Star Wars movies and so forth give you just a great background for that type of work?
Samuel L. Jackson: I guess I've been practicing to do this pretty much my whole life. You know, you go to a movie like this when you're a kid you go to a Godzilla movie, you go see Mothra, you go see all those things. I'm an only child so I spent a lot of time in my room fighting things that weren't there anyway. I just ask somebody, how big is it? How fast is it? Where is it? I'm good.
Reporter: We were actually talking on our way back from the set that you're picking on so many big ass monsters, we're like, what's next?
Samuel L. Jackson: Really?
Reporter: The sharks and the snakes.
Samuel L. Jackson: Not so big. Just a lot of them.
Reporter: Are there any other challenges you want to do?
Samuel L. Jackson: I'll take them as they come. I still read comic books and I still live in sort of a fantastic world a lot of times in my head. I watch a lot of those movies from the past. I watch a lot of Asian films, they continually create new and different kinds of monsters to have. I'm always up for those kind of things. Hydra, Cyclops, whatever they got.
Reporter: You've always had really great taste in comic books. Can I ask what you're reading now? Or what you like these days?
Samuel L. Jackson: I've been reading Southern Bastards.
Reporter: Is there anything that you've seen so far or experienced that audiences will experience that you think is going to stand apart from other giant monster movies?
Samuel L. Jackson: I actually do think that the fact that we're on location and not in a studio. I shot Tarzan almost two years ago and we did all that in an air conditioned bug-free jungle. So this is totally different. It's out in the elements. It's happening and you can actually see that and I think the difference will be very palpable to an audience. The fact that you're actually out here doing stuff. I think the scope of what this island actually is, in this particular place, when we encounter various things, people will be as surprised as I was when I was reading about it or when you're there and you're in the midst of something and you realize this is not what that is, it's something else and I think the element of surprise is there.
Reporter: You and Tom Hiddleston had great chemistry in The Avengers. It's cool to think we'll have a chance to see you butt heads again in this movie. Can you talk a little about that, like what accounts for your chemistry you guys have, like why do you think you work in combination with each other so well?
Samuel L. Jackson: We respect each other's abilities for one thing and the fact that he's an accomplished actor who understands ensemble play, understands nuance, he has very good command of language. I think I'm somewhat of a wordsmith and I can analyze who my character is, who his character is, what our relationship should be or could be. When we mesh and when we don't. I think we're very capable at playing off each other because we understand dominance and submission in terms of when one's supposed to be in one place or another place. I enjoy watching Tom running around with his chest out.
Reporter: You guys also seem to have a healthy sense of humor.
Samuel L. Jackson: It helps. It always helps to be able to laugh at this stuff and understand what it is and the nature of it. I do tend to approach things a lot of times from a audience standpoint. From what if I'm sitting in an audience, what do I want to see me do? Or what don't I want to see me do? I don't want to see myself do something stupid like look at something very dangerous and kinda stick my finger in his face and go "Hey there little buddy!"
Reporter: A lot of times these monster movies have featured an evolution for humanity. What do you hope the movie is going to talk about to audiences as far as its theme?
Samuel L. Jackson: I think probably the misunderstanding of what one beast's purpose is in nature as opposed to another, and that we live in a world that we control a little too much, and when we get rid of one thing it allows another thing to proliferate and we put things out of balance, and how we do that and what the consequences of us doing those things are. Hopefully this will speak to that and people will understand that.
Reporter: Would you say your character in some ways falls within the tradition of some of these great upstanding, driven, single-minded military men that we saw in movies like Apocalypse Now?
Samuel L. Jackson: There's a little bit of Duvall in there, but not that much. I think that my character is that standard for people seeing something that they don't understand and identifying it as the enemy and not realizing their part in antagonizing that particular thing and that you're responsible for making that thing do what it does. I mean the thing was doing nothing until you got here, and here you are and now the thing's doing something so what do you think you did to annoy it? Other than show up in its house and decide to disturb everything.
Reporter: Have you seen much of the concept art?
Samuel L. Jackson: I saw the book they passed out.
Reporter: What'd you think?
Samuel L. Jackson: It's pretty.
Reporter: What'd you think of the other monsters and stuff aside from Kong?
Samuel L. Jackson: It's going to be great if those things are accomplished! Like I said that'll be something that audiences will be revived by to realize the size and scope of what these things are is a lot bigger than what most people have imagined in other films. I think it's kinda cool to have a whole group of people walking on something and all of a sudden that thing kinda stands up and you realize that you're on the horns of something as opposed to a log.
Reporter: How would you describe the dynamic of your character compared to Tom's character and how does he view him, and how does he also view Brie's character who we've learned is also a photographer?
Samuel L. Jackson: Brie to me is a photo journalistic Jane Fonda, you know, Hanoi Jane. Her portraits of solders haven't been so flattering in terms of what we know as the image of a Vietnam solider was compared to the solders that we have now in Afghanistan and what people thought the soldiers were doing in Vietnam. She's sort of responsible for the image that goes back home that causes people to have specific reactions to those soldiers, so not so favorable with me.
Tom, I respect him as a fellow military man but there's something about him that's kind of freewheeling and not so in the lines of what military bearing is supposed to be in terms of camaraderie, in terms of following orders, and the order of how things should be in terms of his thinking. It could be because he's a foreigner and it could be just because I think of him as some kind of loose cannon mercenary kind of guy who just does things for people who have the right price. It's like me asking him why he's still in Vietnam if the war is over. He's there for a reason. He's either there to profit or do something else.
Reporter: Can you tell us about the choice your character makes that goes from having your unit go come back and avenge the people you lost against the ape and maybe even endangering them more?
Samuel L. Jackson: It's a drive. It's very akin to Ahab and the Whale. At a certain point you got to stand up to this thing that has done so much destruction to you and your people and he has this idea that... this thing is not what's going to save humanity 'cause that's what everybody else's idea is. This is the thing that's standing between us and these other things that are a threat to humanity. We've evolved to the point that we're the line in the sand. This thing's not the line in the sand, we are. If us in our infinite, advanced technology, and mental state can't stop a mindless gigantic ape then our evolution has been for naught. So that's part of where he is in that particular place, and like you've said he does have to exact some measure of revenge for the people he's lost. That's just the nature of how we operate. Eye for an eye!
Reporter: Old Testament justice!
Samuel L. Jackson: Yeah!
Reporter: Thank you so much!
Samuel L. Jackson: Thank you!