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HomeAwardsAward contender-Mike Hopkins, sound designer, King Kong

Award contender-Mike Hopkins, sound designer, King Kong

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King Kong director Peter Jackson, according to the film’s co-supervising sound editor Mike Hopkins, “is a complete stickler for being accurate, and everything he requested was finally possible—but it wasn’t easy.” The demands that got met encompassed everything from authentic tooting horn sounds of 1930s autos in the movie’s New York City sequences to that of countless trees destroyed by King Kong’s rampages through the jungle.Hopkins and co-supervising sound editor Ethan Van der Ryn “spent days and days recording old cars and Model Ts as well as the sounds of countless saplings being felled by the greenskeepers.”To get the deep growls of King Kong’s voice, Hopkins developed what he calls the Kongalizer. First, tape recordings were made of actual gorillas as references. Then, during the course of the shoot, Andy Serkis whose acting was motion-captured for Kong, did deep grunting and vocalizing sounds. These were put through the Kongalizer and then played back. “We pitched them down quite a bit, and then they were played back on headphones Andy wore and he would modify his performance based on the pitched-down growls of his own voice that he heard.”Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow had to vocalize some truly blood-curdling shrieks. “She was a real trooper and screamed for us a good number of times,” Hopkins recalls.Meanwhile, a group of Polynesian actors was hired to do the chanting for the island’s frenzied natives, and Hopkins and Van der Ryn went on a jaunt into the heart of Borneo “to get some real good jungle stuff.”The two are veterans of Jackson’s WETA production operation in New Zealand, and worked on all three of The Lord of the Rings movies. They’ve already won an Oscar for the center film of the triptych, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and will jet in from Auckland to await the results on the “night of nights” in early March.

Written by Jack Egan

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