Kaiju History – Adam Wingard Could Have Made A King Kong Movie With Peter Jackson Years Before ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’

King Kong 2005
Kong (Andy Serkis) stoically stands his ground in King Kong (2005), Universal Pictures

Fresh off his record-breaking success with Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, it was reported Adam Wingard has to take a break from giant monsters for the time being to focus on his next projects. Due to that, writer David Callaham and director Grant Sputore are stepping in for him on the next one.

Kong-talk to the hand
Kong mends his wounds before a fight with a giant octopus in Kong: Skull Island (2017), Legendary Pictures

This news has to suck for people that aren’t fans of switching horses midstream, but Legendary Pictures will no doubt keep the MonsterVerse warm for Wingard while awaiting his return. The studio is happy with his results and are leaving the door open to working with him again.

That’s quite the notion fit to print when it was a wild ride just to get Godzilla vs. Kong made and released. The world ground to a halt in 2020 and no one knew how the film would look, when or where it’d come out, or how it would perform after the “disappointment” of Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

A powered-up Godzilla
A powered-up Godzilla releases an Atomic Breath ray in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), Warner Bros. Pictures

Lucky for Wingard and Legendary, that’s all water under the bridge now, but it’s no less striking when considering how far the former has come. As you’ve probably guessed by now, Wingard’s journey didn’t begin in the last five or six years.

Wingard began his quest to direct a movie with Kong – or at least one set in the continuity of one of the character’s films – in the early 2010s. What’s more, he had the backing of an Oscar winner who loves the giant ape just as much as he does, if not more so.

His first foray into the lost world of Kong and Skull Island was almost produced by Peter Jackson who had directed a mostly faithful remake of the 1933 classic with a key exception. Jackson expanded the story into the type of epic he became famous for because of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Adam Wingard roundtable
Adam Wingard in MonsterVerse Exclusive Interview – Director Roundtable (2024) | Fandango at Home, YouTube

When GVK was upon us and dominating the scene in 2021, Wingard recounted the project he and Jackson were discussing around 2013 just as he was beginning to break out as a fledgling genre director. “You’re Next was about to come to the theaters and I had just wrapped photography on The Guest,” he said to Den of Geek in ‘21

“Mary Parent [who oversaw Jackson’s Kong at Universal and is a producer on all the current MonsterVerse films] comes to me with an art book from Skull Island as sort of a gift saying, ‘Peter Jackson just saw You’re Next. He’s interested in you and [Wingard’s writing partner] Simon Barrett developing a sequel to his film called Skull Island,’” Wingard continued. 

The idea, which was received tepidly, was for a prequel set during World War 1. It didn’t go farther than that log-line pitch. “I don’t think there was anything beyond that,” Wingard explained. “The feeling I got was that the studio wasn’t really that interested in doing a World War I film.”

KONG in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wingard and Barrett decided to create a new pitch set in modern times. The former doesn’t remember much about it except for once scene and the liking Parent took to it. “I remember Mary talking about my pitch for Skull Island, and she seemed to remember thinking it was great. “I don’t remember it hardly at all.” Wingard added.

He continued, “I remember a couple of details. It was modern day. There was some sort of opening scene where characters were in a museum and they’re talking. Then at the end of the scene, it’s revealed that the museum has these giant King Kong bones.”

Wingard further explained, “He’s like this relic from the past and Skull Island is this sort of myth and nobody knows what happened to it. And somehow these characters are going back there.”

Kong dominates Skull Island
A full look at Kong in the new Skull Island anime (2023), Netflix

He recalled further, “I remember there was this whole element of the island being cloaked somehow by some sort of technology. Those are the main things that I can remember. I don’t remember what the plot was going to be about. Simon might remember better. Somebody should ask him at some point, because I’d be curious myself.”

Details might be scarce to this day, but as far as anyone knows, the closest approximation to Wingard and Barrett’s unmade pitch is, ironically, Kong: Skull Island. So, in a way, pieces of their idea made it to the screen, after all.

Still, everyone involved was “really bummed” the standalone Skull Island didn’t make it into production. 

Kong readies his newest weapon in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024), Legendary
Kong readies his newest weapon in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024), Legendary

“The whole thing actually got real when Peter Jackson and Fran [Walsh, Jackson’s wife and producing partner] actually wrote Simon and I an email apologizing to us saying, ‘Hey, we’re really bummed out that this isn’t going to happen,” said Wingard.

“‘It’s out of our hands. We’re off the film. It’s a real bummer, because we were really looking forward to making this our next movie and we wanted it to be with you guys. Best of luck.’ It was only then that it really felt real, when it was over.”

NEXT: Kaiju History – The Humble Beginnings Of The MonsterVerse Lay In A Failed Ambition To Present Godzilla In 3D

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