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 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 1:24 AM   
 By:   Ford A. Thaxton   (Member)

While this piece from the NEW YORK TIMES doesn't mention Shore or anything to do with the score, it does offer some rather big clues if you read BETWEEN THE LINES as to why he was replaced and WHO made that choice...

Call me a Cynic, but something tells me the folks at UNIVERSAL are very worried now after viewing their 207 Million Dollar Christmas Movie...

But I could be mistaken......

But, something tells me I'm not..

October 27, 2005
A Big Gorilla Weighs In

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 26 - In hiring Peter Jackson, the Oscar-winning director of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, to remake the monster classic "King Kong," Universal Pictures took a daring leap, paying him $20 million to direct, produce and be the co-writer of the film.

With seven weeks to go before the movie's release, the risks are becoming clearer. After seeing a version of the film in late September at Mr. Jackson's studio in New Zealand, Universal executives agreed to release "King Kong" at a length of three hours.

The film is substantially longer than Universal had anticipated and presents dual obstacles: the extra length has helped increase the budget by a third, to $207 million, while requiring the studio, owned by General Electric, to reach for the kind of long-term audience interest that made hits out of three-hour movies like "Titanic" and the films in Mr. Jackson's "Rings" trilogy.

Hollywood blockbusters have increasingly relied on big releases that bring in as much as half of their ticket sales on the first weekend. But long films receive far fewer showings per day, and the most successful ones, like "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001) by Mr. Jackson, which took in $315 million at the domestic box office for New Line Cinema, have remained in theaters for well over half a year.

The film industry and Universal could use a big seller.

Hollywood has been struggling this year at the box office, with overall revenue down more than half a billion dollars, about 8 percent, from last year's total, according to Box Office Mojo, an online tracking service. Industry experts attribute the decline to a migration of audiences to other forms of electronic entertainment, whether television, DVD's, video games or the Internet. Universal has had a mediocre year at the box office. The studio had a hit in the summer with the comedy "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," but has endured disappointments, like the drama "Cinderella Man," and has had lackluster results with films like "The Perfect Man," "Kicking and Screaming" and "Doom," which opened last week to a tepid $15 million.

Asked about the length of "King Kong," Universal executives said they saw it as an advantage in an era when jaded moviegoers are hungering for something extraordinary.

"This is a three-hour feast of an event," said Marc Shmuger, vice chairman of Universal Pictures, who described the film as a tragic love story between the ape and Naomi Watts, who plays Ann Darrow, an actress. "I've never come close to seeing an artist working at this level."

Set for release on Dec. 14, "King Kong" retells the classic beauty-and-the-beast tale first filmed in 1933, with its lasting image of Kong atop the Empire State Building, and remade in 1976. Along with Ms. Watts, it stars Jack Black, Adrien Brody and a 25-foot, computer-animated gorilla.

This time around, the picture depends upon another oversize talent in the person of Mr. Jackson, who was granted an unusual degree of control at a time when studios are trimming costs and tightening their grips on most productions. Not only did Mr. Jackson produce and direct, and also write with his longtime partner, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens, but his companies Weta Digital and Weta Workshop also created the physical and computer special effects in the film at Mr. Jackson's studio in New Zealand.

Twentieth Century Fox and Paramount took a risk in granting the director James Cameron a similar degree of control over his famously overbudget 1997 film "Titanic," and eventually came up winners. In that case, Mr. Cameron's three-hour epic, a love story set in the midst of the ship's sinking, went on to break box-office records and win 11 Oscars. With "King Kong," Universal executives say they are convinced that they have an epic of comparable worth, even though they were surprised by the length.

"I anticipated it would be long, but not this long," the Universal chairwoman, Stacey Snider, said. As recently as late September, she expected about two hours and 40 minutes, she said. But on Wednesday she expressed delight with the picture she's got: "This is a masterpiece. I can't wait to unveil it."

The increased length, Ms. Snider said, means that the movie will cost $32 million more than planned, adding to expenses that had already gone up $25 million from an original $150 million production budget.

Who will pay for these budget overruns has been the subject of intense negotiations over the last two weeks, with representatives of the studio and the director haggling over who was responsible, according to those involved in the negotiations.

Ms. Snider said that as of Wednesday, all had been resolved, with the studio more or less splitting the $32 million expense with Mr. Jackson.

In an e-mail message, Mr. Jackson appeared to disagree, saying instead that he would be paying for those expenditures, which were mainly associated with extra digital-effects shots. Referring to his partner, Ms. Walsh, Mr. Jackson wrote: "Since Fran and I believed in the three-hour cut and wanted to take responsibility for the extra length, we offered to pay for these extra shots ourselves. That's what we're doing." He did not say how much that would be, but said the extra effects shot would cost "considerably below $32 million."

A spokesman for Universal responded, "We are working together to cover overages."

In granting Mr. Jackson immense latitude, Universal relied not just on his skills, but also a huge fan base, much of which has followed the production through the director's frequent communications on a Web site,

But few elements of the film have been seen by the larger public, and even Universal executives saw a finished version of King Kong's face - with its expressive eyes, broadly fierce nose and mane of computer-generated hair - only in recent days.

Universal lost an opportunity to capitalize on a "Kong" revenue stream when an anticipated deal to release the film on Imax screens in December, at the same time the movie would appear in regular theaters, failed to materialize, and Imax chose to show Warner Brothers' new "Harry Potter" film, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

"We think 'King Kong' will be a big movie," Richard L. Gelfond, co-chairman of Imax, said, "but unfortunately we could not agree on deal terms, including the box-office split."

Ms. Snider said Imax could not guarantee space in its theaters at the time of Kong's release, and acknowledged that both the studio and Mr. Jackson were disappointed.

A spokeswoman for NBC Universal said Bob Wright, the chairman, has been told of the rising cost and length of "King Kong." "Bob is more than aware of what is going on with this production and other major productions, and he has enormous confidence in the leadership team at Universal Studios," said the spokeswoman, Anna Perez.

Ms. Snider said she did not think the three-hour length would be an obstacle for moviegoers. Three-hour epics, she said, are Mr. Jackson's "brand."

Exhibitors have long complained that very long films make it harder to draw audiences, though in this difficult year at the box office, they have complained louder about not having enough good films to show. Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office for theater owners, agreed that long movies posed problems. "But if it's a really fine film, it won't be a detriment to its success," he said.

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 1:41 AM   
 By:   Jon A. Bell   (Member)

Very, very interesting article, Ford -- thanks for bringing this to our attention.

My read on this? (Guessing...)

1.) The studio is absolutely terrified that they've paid for a $207 million, 3-HOUR-LONG "art" film... about a giant ape.

2.) When you're scared of a film bombing, one of the first things to get tossed is the score (a stupid, knee-jerk reaction, but a common one), and they brought in JNH because Shore's dark and perhaps "psychological" approach didn't bring enough "energy" to the film.

My prediction? Universal execs told Jackson (who later conveyed to JNH), to make the new score as "exciting" and full of energy as possible, because they're freaked out that audiences are going to completely balk at sitting through a 3-hour "King Kong."

Of course, I could be wrong, but...

-- Jon

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 1:54 AM   
 By:   Jameson281   (Member)

If Universal was truly worried, they'd be pressuring Jackson to get the film down to two hours, not agreeing to release it at three hours.

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 1:57 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

While this piece from the NEW YORK TIMES doesn't mention Shore or anything to do with the score, it does offer some rather big clues if you read BETWEEN THE LINES as to why he was replaced and WHO made that choice...

I hear ya. Oh do I hear ya. And although the tenor of this article is different from that of the other per "the Shore/Jackson dismissal..." post, a common denominator is that outside influences and potential/actual conflicts of interest work hand in hand.

Of course, I could be wrong, but...

What you have postulated seems highly plausible, if not probable. My feeling remains that if left to his artistic inclinations, Jackson would never, never have chucked the Shore score.

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 2:05 AM   
 By:   Jon A. Bell   (Member)

If Universal was truly worried, they'd be pressuring Jackson to get the film down to two hours, not agreeing to release it at three hours.

The problem is, a film that's designed and structured to be 2.5-3 hours long is probably going to feel completely truncated and misshapen if cut down to 2 hours. The only good way to do this is to cut entire scenes, not just shorten everything (which would make the film feel like a 2-hour "trailer" for itself.) And, cutting entire scenes may not work structurally, either. (One of the few directors who's able to do this is Jim Cameron, who was able to delete entire sequences from "Aliens" and "T2" without the original theatrical cuts feeling hacked up.)

I'm still maintaining an "Interview with the Vampire" score replacement situation here -- Universal may be scared that the "tone" of the film is that of a dark, old-fashioned adventure story, or even a twisted love story -- and what they want is a "Jurassic Park" roller coaster. So, if the Howard Shore score reflected the "dark" nature of the film, they might've wanted to toss it in favor of injecting as much "energy" and "excitement" into every scene of the film, even if if the film (overall) doesn't really need it.

-- Jon

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 2:10 AM   
 By:   SPQR   (Member)

Did Howard walk when his contractual clock hit "I AIN'T YER MONKEY NO MORE"?

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 2:33 AM   
 By:   Paul MacLean   (Member)

This remains a mysterious issue...but the score replacement is a strong indication that there are serious doubts -- and *worries* surrounding this movie.

In any case, its not on my "must see" list this year.


 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 2:39 AM   
 By:   Anonie_Mouse   (Member)

It was always a vanity project... and no matter who does the music or how many articles are written... the previews looked like a cartoon of giant CGI proportions.

Peter Jackson fell in love with his LOTR reviews.

Dud movie.

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 3:11 AM   
 By:   gumdrops1   (Member)

Call me a Cynic


 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 3:14 AM   
 By:   gumdrops1   (Member)

Sorry Ford. Couldn't help myself.

Anyway, this is totally ridiculous. $207 million cadrillion zillion dollars. The advertising budget alone will push this puppy past $260 million cadrillion zillion dollars, at the least.

What are these film makers thinking?

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 3:56 AM   
 By:   Ford A. Thaxton   (Member)

Sorry Ford. Couldn't help myself.

Anyway, this is totally ridiculous. $207 million cadrillion zillion dollars. The advertising budget alone will push this puppy past $260 million cadrillion zillion dollars, at the least.

What are these film makers thinking?

Good question...

Here is another bit of information

The 1933 film ran about 100 minutes according to IMDB

The 1976 film ran about 134 minutes according to the IMDB

This new version will ran about a 180 minutes..

Ford A. Thaxton

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 4:48 AM   
 By:   MMM   (Member)

"Did Howard walk when his contractual clock hit 'I AIN'T YER MONKEY NO MORE'?"

Forgive a criticism that some might think is petty (but I don't), King Kong is a Giant Gorilla. A gorilla is a Great Ape -- not a monkey. I know EVERYBODY seems to get this point wrong all the time -- even in million dollar ads -- but a pun is only a decent pun if it "works."

Because I spent thousands of dollars graduating with a degree in Physical Anthropology, specializing in hominid evolution, this mistake bothers me as much as when people refer to light-years as a unit of time. They are, of course, a unit of distance.

To save you the thousands of dollars I spent on my education, I provide the following summary:

An ancestor of the modern prosimian evolved into the primitive monkey.

When the land mass split into the separate continents of Africa and South America, monkeys evolved into two types: New World monkeys and Old World monkeys.

Old World monkeys include Baboons and Macaques. New World monkeys are pretty much any monkey you see hanging around organ grinders begging for change. They didn't evolve as much after the split of the continents.

Some of the Old World monkeys evolved into apes. The Lesser Apes include the Siamang and the Gibbon. More closely-related to humans are the Great Apes, which include Chimpanzees (two types), Gorillas, and Orang-utans.

Chimpanzees, as you know, are best suited to smoke cigarettes and appear in kiddie shows like "Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp." Gorillas are experts at smashing luggage and appearing in ultra-large versions in monster movies. Orangs hang around Clint Eastwood.

By the way, the belief that man evolved from apes is just plain mistaken. Apes, as we know them today, did not exist when man (hominids) became distinct species. Both apes and man evolved from the same common ancestor -- a very advanced Old World monkey that was, in fact, an early ape (or late monkey).

One evolutionary branch of this monkey-ape evolved into the apes we now see today in monster movies, commercials, and Clint Eastwood pictures. The other branch evolved into primitive humans, such as Australopithecines, Homo habilis, and then onto Homo erectus, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, etc.

Oh, and if you believe we all magically appeared (along with the thousands of accurately-dated fossils all sitting precisely where you would expect to find them stratigraphically-speaking and all equally-accurately datable by radiometric and other methods), due to the waving of a heavenly magic wand, please don't waste your time responding to this post, as I won't waste MY time responding to it.

Isn't it amazing what diverse (and FREE) knowledge you can pick up merely spending some time on a film music site?

Here's one of the best sites in case you want to know more (and see lots of neat photos!):

Oh, and one reason why there is NO Bigfoot or Abominable Snowman/Yeti or anything like that is that besides the fact that the concept is ridiculous from a common sense point-of-view, there is no way a big ape could possibly have survived for millions of years without leaving a very prominent fossil trail like all the other fossil apes/men we have tons of evidence for.

And before any of you say, "Yeah, but what about Gigantapithecus," please STUDY the evidence rather than just repeat the name of a species you have heard mentioned in "The National Inquirer." Because NO reputable anthropologist or paleontologist actually believes that that there is ANY chance at all of a large unknown species of ape wandering around in modern-day life. If you want to see something like that, watch the forthcoming KING KONG, or better yet, watch the original, or SON OF KONG, or MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, or for god sakes -- even KONGA!

And if any of you can figure out how to insert some of your own personal and/or professional knowledge into this film music forum, please do so. I would certainly love to learn about what you know while I concurrently learn about films and the music written for them!

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 5:23 AM   
 By:   Reeler   (Member)

"Anyway, this is totally ridiculous. $207 million cadrillion zillion dollars. The advertising budget alone will push this puppy past $260 million cadrillion zillion dollars, at the least."

Death to the hand-held shot, organic film. I cheer for the Blair Witch's and Halloween's who invest inferior amounts and make many times more. The LOTR series is impressive, but at the end of the day I want my natural settings.

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 6:01 AM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

This always happens. A director makes a smash hit, and then producers stand in line to throw money at him, assuming his next film will be a similar smash, and it rarely is. Billy Wilder followed SUNSET BOULEVARD with ACE IN THE HOLE. Michael Cimino created the marvelous THE DEER HUNTER, and followed it up by wrecking United Artists with HEAVEN'S GATE. Further examples abound.

I'm not expecting KING KONG to be un-entertaining; I'm sure it will be crafted very well. But it will never reach anything like the mythical status of the original. The whole thing is just a real vanity project.

At least, once Jackson finally gets it out of his system, he will be able to put his energy into more worthwhile filmmaking.

At least I hope so.

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 6:07 AM   
 By:   Jostein   (Member)

That was a great post, MMM smile Refreshing actually!

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 7:07 AM   
 By:   zooba   (Member)

In the old days Artists, directors,composers etc. seemed to have more loyalty and respect to collaborators. Case in point. In the Bernard Herrman Documentary, Herrman himself insisted that a Female Violinist, who performs a solo on the soundtrack, share his "Music by" Credit Card in the Main Titles. Can't remember the film exactly, but what a great expression of appreciation and respect. These days directors like Donner and Jackson don't fight for Goldsmith or Shore, the geniuses who helped put them on the map.

PING PONG BALLS, KING KONG'S BALLS. I'll rent it for 99cents a year from now.


 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 7:34 AM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)

The article was definitely an interesting read, though taken for what it is it seems to suggest that there were indeed creative differences between Shore and Jackson rather than studio meddling.
Because a studio that grants a director that much creative control and greenlights a three hour cut of a $200,000,000.- movie because it is gambling that it may become the next hoped for messiah-super-blockbuster is not very likely to interfere at the very last minute with the director's choice of a composer. If Universal got really cold feet at the last minute, more likely they would have insisted on a shorter running time and not on James Newton Howard.

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 8:07 AM   
 By:   gumdrops1   (Member)

I wish the studio had stepped in and replaced James Horner's score for TITANIC. I'm sorry, but I thought it was a weak effort. The music he composed for KRULL is the music he should of brought to TITANIC.

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 9:43 AM   
 By:   MMM   (Member)


Thanks for the complimentary words. We accrue so much knowledge in our lives, and so much of it stays within us and doesn't get shared, and that's not good. Since I'm not presently unearthing bones out in the African Rift Valley, the only time I get to discuss my fascination with hominid evolution seems to be in response to sad situations like the one we're presently in where ignorant and superstitious people want everyone to be as ignorant as them by teaching their discredited theories in our public schools. What a sad nosedive our country has taken, as intelligence and knowledge of all things scientific were one of our hallmarks.

I figured I'd get a bunch of people who couldn't even skim over my post and instead would have told me "this does NOT belong on a film music board!" While that will most assuredly happen at some point, I think if you can't learn a little something related to topics and posts that others have made on a film music thread, you're setting yourself up for a really tunnel-visioned life where all you know is one or two things, neither of them THAT important in the big scheme of things.

So I appreciate your comment. And if one person in the future ever criticizes somebody who uses that "monkeying around" pun in the context of a gorilla, chimp, orang-utan, or other ape, then I will have done my job!

I've been mostly out of the field of hominid paleontology for a couple of decades, and what ASTOUNDED me was when I recently took some peaks back into it and discovered the literally thousands of amazing fossils, tools, and other remains that have been discovered, cataloged, and inserted into the very complex evolutionary tree of hominids. When I was in college, we only had about 50 different specimens to study. Now it's incredible how much more we know.

What's interesting is how a lot of the new research has not thrown out the old so much as reshuffled some of it only slightly. Of course, this is what you would expect given the fact that the earlier fossils were well studied, so theories emanating from them wouldn't be expected to be TOTALLY different from things found later.

If you don't know the real story behind the fradulent Piltdown Man skeleton, which Bible-thumpers like to claim proves that scientists are wrong, it in fact shows that the scientific process of collecting and testing and retesting theories is what makes scientists so RIGHT most of the time. As opposed to the religious scholars who thought the earth was flat, or the Sun revolved around the Earth, or that the Moon couldn't have craters because God wouldn't design something like that, or that a big boat could fit all species inside it, and on and on.

When Piltdown Man was "discovered" -- it was placed somewhere so that it could later be discovered -- most scientists immediately thought it smelled "fishy." Why? Because it was completely opposite from all the evidence that came before it (and which came after it). Some people (especially in Britain, where they didn't have any good fossils of man), wanted to believe that what separated man from animal was his superior intellect. The Piltdown Man findings substantiated that "hope" because this showed a large-brained creature with an ape's body.

This sounded wonderful except for one small problem. Well, a LOT of small problems. Every other fossil of primitive man showed the opposite. A tiny little human that walked on two feet like us, only it had a brain not much larger than an ape's. People didn't want to believe that the big difference between us and the apes was that we walked on two feet rather than four (along with some other differences). They wanted even our way-back ancestors to be SMART!

The scientists in charge of the Piltdown fossils did not let other scientists inspect the bones first-hand, and it wasn't until the 1950s that people got to do that, whereupon they immediately declared it to be fraudulent. But in reality, they knew it was a fraud even before they investigated it thoroughly, because in order to believe that it was real, you would have had to throw out every other hominid fossil that had been found. Both evolutionary sequences were not likely to be true, so you either had one REAL fossil (Piltdown Man) and dozens of fakes, or else you had dozens of real fossils and one fake (Piltdown). Logic showed which was the fake even before first-hand testing did.

Piltdown Man is not the shameful find that scientists don't want to discuss, although that's what Creationists (I'm sorry -- I mean Intelligent Designers) would like people to believe. In reality, Piltdown Man showed that the scientific method DOES work by removing the lies and leaving the truth. The "belief system" that led to certain people accepting that Piltdown was real is actually the exact same belief system that the Creationists use: we have a belief that we want to prove, so we will ignore all the facts that would seem to disprove our theory and try to find one or two exceptions we can cling to in order to try to defend our theory.

The way science works is it says, "We will come up with a theory only after we've examined the facts, and if future facts make us alter or refine our theory, we will be at the mercy of the facts." I don't know about you, but that sounds like a SMART way to live. I don't mind getting facts that prove some of my ideas to be wrong -- I take that as a sign that I just became smarter by getting rid of stupid ideas and replacing them with less-stupid ones.

In my next evolutionary essay, I might delve into the recent fascinating discoveries of the mini-me (hobbit) skeletons that were found last year, that hint that a non-Homo sapiens hominid might have existed until relatively recent times. The moral and social implications of finding a near-human still alive would be quite incredible, but I won't tip my hat as to whether I believe in the theory or think it's all a lot of bunk.

And to keep this thread with at least one bipedal foot in the film music world, what's your favorite score having to do with the evolution of man?

For starters, we've got:

TROG (John Scott)

MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS (Universal library score from Gertz, Stein, Salter, Mancini, etc.)

2001 (some non-film composers, I believe)

2001 (did North score any of the prehistoric sequences -- I can't recall)

ICEMAN (you know -- what's his name)

NEANDERTHAL MAN (the great Albert Glasser)

ALTERED STATES (the lesser John Corigliano)

WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (Mario Nascimbene) (disregarding the fact that dinos and humans didn't coexist)

ONE MILLION BC (Werner Heymann) (disregarding the fact that enlarged lizards and humans didn't coexist)

ONE MILLION YEARS BC (disregarding the fact that dinos and humans didn't coexist, but NOT disregarding Raquel Welch)

DINOSAURUS! (disregarding the implied-in-the-movie fact that dinos and humans didn't live together, but that cavemen did FUNNY things all the time)


And of course CAVEMAN (Lalo Schifrin) (one of the funniest stupid-movies you'll ever see)

 Posted:   Oct 27, 2005 - 9:47 AM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)

And to keep this thread with at least one bipedal foot in the film music world, what's your favorite score having to do with the evolution of man?

For starters, we've got: TROG, MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS, 2001, ICEMAN, NEANDERTHAL MAN, ALTERED STATES, WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (disregarding the fact that dinos and humans didn't coexist), NE MILLION BC (disregarding the fact that enlarged lizards and humans didn't coexist), ONE MILLION YEARS BC (disregarding the fact that dinos and humans didn't coexist, but NOT disregarding Raquel Welch), and DINOSAURUS! (once again disregarding the implied-in-the-movie) fact that dinos and humans didn't live together, but that cavemen did FUNNY things all the time, and of course CAVEMAN (one of the funniest stupid-movies you'll ever see).

Of the movies you mentioned, my favorite score is clearly Corigliano's ALTERED STATES.

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