Exclusive Interview: Richard Taylor

From Lord Of The Rings to King Kong, Peter Jackson’s right-hand man talks developing Kong and knowing Peter’s parents

The effects in King Kong came on dramatically from the first teaser trailer…
Yeah it’s always a funny one with the first teaser. When you’re on a film for a year or two, you know, even two weeks can advance the work considerably and in the case of Weta Digital where you’ve got 500 staff working, even the couple of months that have passed since that first teaser a great deal of deal of skill and expertise have been brought to bear on the work. Hopefully the audience will appreciate it with the overall film.

What were the biggest challenges you faced whilst developing Kong?
Kong has definitely been one of the greatest challenges on the project because it wasn’t just an easy design. It went through a year of initial conceptual artwork and 3D sculpture before we found a character that Peter warmed too and appreciated. But we don’t consider a character as locked down because what you discover when it enters the digital is all of the abstract elements, such as Andy Serkis’ performance and what that meant to the design. Also of course the development of the story and the cutting of the movie and how Kong as a character evolved. So the people at Weta Digital built a pipeline that allowed Peter to continue to develop and create and add his vision to the process.

How challenging was it to create the Skull Island environment, both with models and digital work?
The wonderful thing about the original is that Skull Island is a menangerie. We ourselves have tried to make sure that the world of Skull Island feels as populated as the original, but also add in what you would find in a normal rainforest of our world. Our philosophy from a design perspective was to deftly try to generate an ecology to the world, try and create a cultural reference back in history so that all the architectual structures, the forna and flora of the island have both a paleontological reference point but also a historical one.

So what kind of creatures have you populated the island with?
We’ve done a number of different dinosaurs. We’ve developed a Triceratops type creature. Triceratops is my favourite dinosaur so the opportunity to develop a bull-like creature with that sort of anatomical structure was very very exciting. The Brontosaur and the Raptors that we see in the trailer... But there was also great opportunity to develop other dinosaur-like creatures that have no basis in paleontological reality. The lovely thing about the brief that Pete gave us was that it allowed us a great licence to develop unique and different creatures.  So we have taken that licence and developed swamp creatures, other four-footed dinosaurs, huge insects and insect life. There’s been a wonderful freedom to flesh out the creatures of the original.

And you’ve added in giant Weta beetles...
Yeah the Weta.  We can’t miss out on getting a giant Weta in there.  We managed to get them into the Lord Of The Rings so we figured we had to get them into this movie. They’re just such outrageous and unbelievable creatures.  The very reason we named our company after them is that they’re just the coolest little monster you could hope to find in the real world. They’ve been around since before the dinosaurs.

What’s it like working with Peter Jackson? Is he as unflappable as he seems?
Seventeen years I think we’ve been working together now. Anyone that wants to see something made as well as possible is going to grow frustrated at times if things aren’t turning out as well as you’d planned.  But Peter realises that he’s not going to get the best out of people if he loses his temper and shows frustration.  It’s a really nice thing because it’s exactly how myself and my partner Tanya work. We’ve tried never to lose our cool with our crew because you do lose something when you lose your temper. But Peter is just an amazing strategist and making a large scale film requires drawing on all the best strengths within yourself and within the people around you. To win the campaign, he appreciates that staying even-tempered and respectful with the crew is going to garner the greatest results.  And knowing his mum and dad as well as I did that has to be attributed to his upbringing. He definitely has taken all of the greatest attributes of his parents into his own life.

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