Despite playing a former SAS soldier and undergoing a rigorous military training regime for ‘Kong: Skull Island’, its (human-sized) star Tom Hiddleston admits he’s not tough to be a real special forces operative.
“I was trained [for the film] not by the SAS,” explains the star who plays grizzled tracker James Conrad in the film, “because I probably would be dead by now. Because my physical fitness is nowhere near the level required. But I was trained by a former United States Navy Seal called Anthony Genova who now works in the film business.”
Genova is the man responsible for getting Chris Pratt into shape for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, and he helped transform the usually slender Hiddleston into something approaching a military physique.
Conrad is recruited by Monarch to lead an expedition on Skull Island, and they find him propping up a bar searching for a new mission after hostilities in Vietnam have ceased.
“I found it helpful to have some kind of physical discipline,” Hiddleston adds, “at least to make some small step towards what the SAS have to measure up to.”
Another Kong star who had to go through a physical transformation was British star Toby Kebbell (‘A Monster Calls’, ‘Warcraft’), but his metamorphosis into Kong himself was achieved with CGI trickery. He also plays Jack Chapman, a Major in the Sky Devils’ helicopter crew who lend air support to the expedition, but he says he was called on late in the day to play the giant beast having played apes before in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’.
“At the end [of shooting, the filmmakers] said ‘we were going to do an animated version [of Kong]’,” Kebbell explains.
“ILM has done this incredible version, they’ve done some reference work with Terry [Notary, another ‘Planet of the Apes’ alumni], but actually we want him to be more of a monster, more upright, less ape-like’. So [I did] everything including the roar and things like that.”
John C. Reilly who plays Hank Marlow, a marooned WW2 fighter pilot who helps the expedition, also revealed that he improvised most of his lines – all of them hilarious – in the film.
“That’s something I’ve come to do on almost every film that I do now,” Reilly explains.
“Some directors like you to be word perfect and I like doing that too, but it seems like most situations I find myself in, they’re asking me to illuminate the character a little bit more, or put things into my own words.”
‘Kong: Skull Island’ is in cinemas now. Watch a trailer below.