Universal and Legendary Pictures first went public with Kong: Skull Island – an origin story for King Kong (who hasn’t been onscreen since Peter Jackson’s 2005 epic) – at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con. Legendary has since kept busy with recruiting the human who will face off (either onscreen or behind the camera) with one of cinema’s most legendary monsters.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who directed the 2013 indie The Kings of Summer is set to direct Skull Island, from a script by Max Borenstein (Godzilla) and John Gatins (Flight); however, the cast has been in flux. Tom Hiddleston remains onboard, but two of his prospective costars – Oscar-nominee Michael Keaton and Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons – had to drop out of the project, citing scheduling conflicts stemming from the movie’s lengthy shooting schedule (which got pushed back when the film’s release date changed).
Variety is reporting that Corey Hawkins (who plays Dr. Dre in the upcoming NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton), is in talks to join Hiddleston as part of the Skull Island cast. Hawkins has been getting buzz for his performance as the legendary rapper, after having played smaller roles in such films as Iron Man 3 and Non-Stop; he will soon appear on The Walking Dead season six, too. As such, Legendary Pictures, which is producing both Straight Outta Compton and Skull Island, reportedly wants to keep Hawkins in the fold as his profile rises.
Hawkins, assuming he closes his deal, looks to share the screen in Skull Island with Hiddleston, as well as Brie Larson (who’s in talks to play the female lead) and Russell Crowe, who is currently negotiating to take on a role that either belonged to Simmons or Keaton previously. Official plot details for the film have yet to be announced, though Simmons previously revealed that the film (at least partly) takes place during the 1970s.
So far, the cast for Skull Island could be reason enough to see the film, on its own. Casting Hawkins seems like a smart move in terms of getting an actor with both credibility and rising popularity; Larson is one of the more buzzed-about actresses of her generation; Hiddleston is already a geek movie god for his turn as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; and the Oscar-winner Crowe is (almost always) a welcome addition to any party.
Furthermore, the idea of exploring the history of the island that Kong calls home is rich with possibility. Vogt-Roberts is new to the work of directing big-budget tentpoles, which raises some concern about how well-prepapred he is to handle the challenges of Skull Island; then again, the same could’ve been said about Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, a year ago. As such, here’s to hoping Vogt-Roberts (and his collaborators) knock it out of the park and deliver a blockbuster experience worth seeing.
Kong: Skull Island arrives in U.S. theaters on March 10, 2017.