There are monsters, giant creatures and exotic sights aplenty in Kong: Skull Island, but it could have had pirates. Lots of dinosaurs. And maybe Gollum himself, Andy Serkis. That is, if Neil Marshall had taken his cinematic trip to Skull Island.
In 2013 it was reported that Marshall – writer/director of Dog Soldiers, The Descent and Doomsday – was trying to mount his own Kong movie, based on the novel Kong: King of Skull Island, which was officially licensed by the estate of Merian C. Cooper, who wrote, produced and directed the original 1933 King Kong.
The film rights to Kong have traditionally been tricky due to Cooper’s failure to properly secure them back in the day. (BirthMoviesDeath.com gives an excellent explanation here.) He did, however, copyright the novelization of the movie. So an official sequel (ignoring the Son of Kong sequel) was licensed, and in 2005 King of Skull Island was released, which was written by Joe DeVito (visit DeVito’s website for more official Kong stuff) and Brad Strickland.
The official synopsis: “In 1933, American showman Carl Denham returned from a mysterious, hidden island with a priceless treasure. A treasure not gold or jewels, but the island’s barbaric god, a monstrous anthropoid called ‘Kong.’ The savage giant escaped and wreaked havoc among the man-made canyons of Manhattan, but within hours of the giant ape’s death his body – and Carl Denham – disappeared. Twenty-five years later, the son of Carl Denham makes a shocking discovery that leads him back to the site of his father’s greatest adventure and to the answers that will unlock the century’s greatest mystery and history’s greatest miracle.”
Marshall acquired the rights and penned a screenplay with another writer, but Universal wasn’t interested at the time (remember, this was before the studio remade Godzilla and started seriously developing a shared universe for its giant monsters). In a 2015 interview with CHUD.com, he discusses his version, saying that it would have had dinosaurs, that he liked the idea of hiring Serkis to play Kong, and that, “We had pirates on Skull Island, and the origins of King Kong. And it was kind of about King Kong’s parents and Kong is just this little guy. And ours explained why there are giant gorillas on the island.” (Read the entire interview here.)
Marshall has been involved in numerous projects over the years that didn’t make it to the screen. When interviewed by this writer for Rue Morgue in 2006, after the North American release of The Descent, he discussed what could have been his next film: “I’ve been working on a project called Outpost, which I’ve had going for quite a few years now. It’s zombies on an oil rig – black comedy/horror in the Pete Jackson kind of mould.”
Marshall isn’t known for making comedies (the past few years have seen him directing episodes of serious shows such as Hannibal, Game of Thrones and Westworld), so the imagination reels a bit at the thought of him doing a splatter comedy. Nor is the filmmaker known for working in established film franchises (unless you count the TV gigs) or remaking someone else’s movie, however, aside from an interest in Kong, in the same Rue Morgue interview, he did identify one movie he’d like to take a crack at reworking.
“I’ve had a few tentative offers for films that I honestly didn’t want to remake because I didn’t think they needed to be remade,” he explained. “There’s only one film that pops to mind that I’d quite fancy remaking, and that’s a James Brolin film from the ’70s called The Car, which not many people have seen. I think I’d have fun remaking something like that.”
Perhaps Marshall got his ideas for epic car chases out of his system with Doomsday. Could there be a giant monster movie in his future?
Regardless, the Kong story Marshall wanted to adapt did end up as a nine-hour audio book that features an introduction by late effects god and Kong lover Ray Harryhausen (available here), and DeVito currently has a Kickstarter campaign going to create a new illustrated two-part novel, called King Kong of Skull Island, which, although making things kinda confusing, features some amazing artwork you gotta check out if you worship the King.