The community of directors and filmmakers jumping into the realm of mega-budgeted blockbusters is only growing. Still, it remains a pretty small and elite company, especially if they all relatively recently came up together from the world of independent moviemaking. That appears to be the case for Jordan Vogt-Roberts, director of Kong: Skull Island, and his relationship with filmmakers like Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
Prior to Kong, Vogt-Roberts had been primarily known for the playful and eccentric The Kings of Summer. But when we sat down last month to chat with him, he was faintly wistful about saying goodbye to his first blockbuster. He describes the experience of making it—from pre-production all the way to the media tour of releasing it—as both the most exciting and anxious time of his life. It’s something that even before their work on the standalone Han Solo Star Wars movie that Lord and Miller could relate to. After all, they went from working in television and their first animated movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, to the 21 Jump Street Movies and then Star Wars.
Vogt-Roberts recalled their advice to him on Kong, and how much they likely took it for themselves on Han Solo.
“It was the best experience and the worst experience of my life,” Vogt-Roberts says of his trial by blockbuster fire. “And worse doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with studios or things like that. It’s just the amount of pressure I put on myself, the amount of responsibility of playing around with a cinematic icon, you go through every high and low you could ever imagine as a person, emotionally.
I remember talking to Phil and Chris, and granted what’s going on with them is a totally different story, but I called them early on and I’m like, ‘I’m freaking out. I feel like I’m fucking up this movie.’ And they just said to me, ‘Dude, if you don’t feel that way, then you are fucking up this movie. You should everyday feel like you’re fucking up, because that means you care.’ I promise you Phil and Chris cared every fucking day that they were on Han Solo.”
Lord and Miller were of course infamously fired from the Han Solo movie midway through production by Lucasfilm after an apparently striking difference of vision for the material between the duo and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. The pair has since been replaced by Ron Howard.
As for Vogt-Roberts, he acknowledges this ambitious spirit he shares with Lord and Miller is what contributed to him making a movie that he can hold his head up high about.
“I’m proud of the fact that regardless of what you may think of this movie, I don’t think it’s what anybody expected and I think it has a voice. And I think the only currency that these films truly have.”
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