Movie Picture

King Kong:Lord of the Rings Oscar-winning helmer Peter Jackson will be living out a childhood dream when principle photography ramps up on his remake of, the mother of special -effects extravaganzas, the 1933 classic King Kong in his hometown next week.

During a Thursday press-conference from his New Zealand studio, the "Lord of The Rings" director said his first attempt to film "King Kong" was as a youngster. It involved a Super 8 camera and a cardboard model of the Empire State Building.

"It's great to be able to finally get the film made. It's a film which I've loved ever since I was a child. It really inspired me to want to become a film-maker," he said.

A screaming, vine-swinging special effects extravaganza, Jackson's King Kong will also be a character-driven psychological study of a monster -- and, of course, a love story.

Jackson says he will pay homage to the original, which starred Fay Wray, who died on August 8 aged 96, and retain the "mystery and romance of a bygone era." However, the characters -- including Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), Carl Denham (Jack Black) and Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) -- will not be carbon copies of those in the original film.

"To put modern political beliefs onto something that was made in 1933 is obviously putting a spin on it that doesn't really exist. It was a product of its time," he said.

"We're really just attempting to make a wonderful, mysterious adventure film ... it's about gorillas, it's about dinosaurs, and lost islands, and this relationship."

Watts said she accepted the part without seeing the script.

"This story is very simplistic and very human, so that's why I'm here," she said.

Jackson already had in mind Brody and Watts to play their characters, but decided on Black during the social whirl at the Academy Awards in February, when he won three Oscars for his final installment of the "Rings" trilogy, The Return of the King.

"THAT'S STUPID"

Black said he had wanted to work on a Jackson film after seeing the "Rings" films.

"I remember thinking while I was watching The Lord of The Rings: 'man, I've got to get an audition for whatever he does next'," Black said.

"Then I thought that's just stupid. Everybody's going to want to be in his next film, better to just put it out of your mind."

"Then I got the call to come in and talk with them about 'King Kong' -- you wait your whole life to get a call like that."

Andy Serkis, who was the human model and voice of the computer-generated Gollum in two of the "Rings" movies, will do the same for the giant gorilla, as well as have a "live" role of a cook.

Black, who stars in folk-rock comedy act Tenacious D, and Brody both said they planned to play a lot of music in between filming in Wellington.

Jackson, who suffers seasickness, will use a number of land-based studio lots to film scenes, including those featuring the tramp steamer Venturer, which brings the giant ape to "civilization."

Special effects will be done by New Zealand-based Weta Digital and Weta Workshops, which won Oscars for their "Lord of the Rings" creations.

Universal balked at Jackson's previous "King Kong" script (but even a casual read will reveal just how thoroughly it was cannibalized then put to work in both The Mummy and The Lost World: Jurassic Park) before his overwhelming success with the phenomenally successfully Rings trilogy. "The Return of the King," created Oscar history by winning all 11 categories in which it was nominated.

"King Kong" will reportedly cost as much as $130 million to make. But, Jackson spent $300 million making his three Rings films, and they’ve grossed around $3 billion worldwide – making the director a good bet by any measure. Universal is slated to release his "King Kong" on December 14, 2005.