So what tempted you on board King Kong?
What tempted me was that I got a phone call saying that Peter Jackson wanted to meet me. I can’t tell you how exciting working with him was, and him just coming off all of the success of the LOTR trilogy. I couldn’t have dreamt of a better situation for me right now as an actor. I got to work with a really brilliant filmmaker on a very creative, collaborative film. It was kind of like living out a childhood fantasy for him and myself, in that I grew up loving dinosaurs, so to actually find yourself in the most realistic environment that you could create for that was pretty amazing. Furthermore it’s a romantic lead. It’s a film that will touch and reach every kind of person from any different background, and it doesn’t sacrifice anything artistically. It’s a remarkable project.
Did you do any research?
Well, I’m playing a New Yorker. I play a playwright in the ’30s who is somewhat successful, and possesses a bit of class, so that was the biggest stretch, to possess the class and not be too contemporary. I wanted it to be very natural.
What about the physical aspect of it? You’re a bit of a hit with the ladies…
They don’t hate me!
Did you have trainer?
No trainer. I exercise normally. Part of what attracted me to this is that I’m not the overtly muscular kind of hero character. Here is a guy who is more of a thinker and not necessarily a doer, where he’d have to run out into the jungle and save the girl of his dreams. He might write something about that but not be forced into actually having to do that. So I think it worked in my favour to be not be too physically fit, because no playwright in the 30s would be.
How does your Jack Driscoll compare to the character in the original?
I think it’s highly unlikely that a real romance would have developed between Fay Wray’s character and the original guy. There weren’t enough likeable qualities there, and there was nothing that really connected them, and all of a sudden he was telling her he loves her. It was very important for Peter to make it be believable, and me being the playwright, there’s a good chance that I’m in close proximity with the leading actress. There’s room for things to grow a bit.
In the scenes where King Kong appears opposite your character, was it helpful to have Andy Serkis there?
It was fascinating, and definitely helpful to have someone there to connect to. He wore some apparatus to lengthen his arms so he can actually make the movements. I have a tremendous amount of admiration for him – it’s a very generous way of working, because a lot of his work is off camera. He’s not being filmed obviously, and then he had to spend months later on working with the effects department.
Is there anything from the shoot that’s really going to stick in your mind?
The most fun I had was when we did a scene in New York where I’m running away from Kong in a taxi cab. I grew up driving crazy in New York as a kid, so it was like art imitating life. They were going to do it all greenscreen, and in a sound stage, but we had the sets, we had the cars, and he put five cameras on the car and let me do all the stunts. There was a lot of risk. Every time I came back around Peter would be very excited, and tell me to go for it even more. It was the most fun single day I’ve ever had in any movie.
Did you go straight into another movie after King Kong?
Kong shot for nine months over the space of a year. It was about five months then a break, then four months. I did a film called Truth, Justice And The American Way. It’s based around the mysterious circumstances around George Reeves death. He was the guy who played Superman on TV. It looked like suicide. I play a detective. We fit that in the time in between. I had three weeks off, did that, then went back and finished King Kong. And now, I’m taking a break for a while.