His name might not be Kong, but on December 13th a giant ape will roar on to DVD shelves with The Asylum Home Entertainment’s release of King of the Lost World – based on the classic novel The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
In an interview with MonstersandCritics, screenwriter David Latt and director Leigh Scott discussed their reasons for adapting Doyle’s novel, how their movie differs from the other giant ape that hits the big screen in the same month, and what it took to bring this modern telling of adventure and suspense to the screen.
Asylum’s take on the classic story moves it into a modern setting and follows a commercial airliner that crashes deep in the heart of the Amazon. After dealing with the ordeal of the crash, the handful of survivors find that they also must face the dangers of a mysterious and very hostile world that is inhabited by giant scorpions, dragons, and a simian beast that just happens to stand over ten stories tall.
Latt, who also wrote and directed an updating of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds for The Asylum, used Doyle’s classic novel as a blueprint for his take on the story, but also made sure that he had room to put his own spin on the tale.
“I approached King of the Lost World the same way I approached Invasion ( aka H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds) … I was inspired by the story, by the themes, and by the characters…but, at the end of the day, it’s a modern adaptation, dealing with modern themes and modern technology,” the writer explained. “The Lost World is just great fun! It really has no limits on where you can go with it. A lost world? A land that time forgot? Giant creatures? This story will get re-told for centuries.”
Although the movie does follow Doyle’s basic premise, there are some differences that fans of the novel can expect. These changes include redesigning some characters, Summerlee is a girl for an example, and the creatures that the survivors run across having a more fantasy type element to them. The film also doesn’t spend much time, if any, in England. Instead, the film concentrates on the group landing in the Amazon and quickly starts their adventure.
Scott says King of the Lost World will have enough gore to please Asylum fans
The more adventure-feel of the movie is a bit of a departure for Scott, who is known for his horror films, but also sees the director returning to classic literature to find a story he believes still holds interest with today’s audience. Scott has already made an updated version of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein called Frankenstein Reborn, and he drew inspiration from past werewolf movies for his recent film The Beast of Bray Road.
The director and the writer both agreed that classic stories have elements that will continue to appeal to an audience no matter how many times they are retold or updated. There is also an advantage to taking a classic novel, with a built in audience, and working it into a film that fits how The Asylum makes its movies – geared to audience enjoyment and with a good solid story.
“The Lost World is one of those books, like Frankenstein, that has not only been adapted several times, but has influenced a ton of related works,” Scott said. “Our story is set in the modern day. We kept a lot of the characters and tried to capture the feel of the book more than anything else.”
“We approach the classics as we approach all our films (we’ve made almost two dozen): is it entertaining? Is there an audience? Can we do it?” Latt explained. “As a writer, the classics are helpful because they offer a great story structure – as a producer they work because of the built in awareness.”<!–page–>
Latt and Scott have the movie quickly get to the Lost World
Unlike other Scott films, this movie will be more action/adventure oriented, along the lines of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with more CGI special effects, minimal gore and a somewhat lighter tone. These elements presented new challenges to the director, who normally writes his own screenplays, but Scott said the different genre is what helped draw him to the project.
Scott also admitted it was harder to work on a movie where he didn’t write the script, but that Latt and Carlos De Los (who helped write the screenplay) were open to making changes as the movie was filmed. The director, who is known for making changes to the script on the set, said this flexibility helped him in shooting the film.
“We made a lot of changes on set, and yeah, it was harder to work from not only someone else’s script, but from a novel that we decided to stick a lot closer to than we did for Frankenstein. In the end though, The Asylum gave us the flexibility to make the best film we could, and it wasn’t like the script was a hindrance in anyway,” Scott said. “Latt and Carlos wrote a really solid film with great characters. The problem was fitting some of the action and set pieces into our budget and schedule.”
Latt, who is also a director, didn’t mind giving Scott the freedom to create on the set, and is proud of the work the director has done with Asylum’s past films. Latt describes Scott as “one of the most talented individuals” he knows and said he had “full trust and confidence” in Scott’s abilities as a director. Letting Scott direct the film also gave Latt the ability to take some time off and be with his wife during the birth of their son.
In addition to the challenges of adapting a famous novel and working with another writer’s script, Scott also had to deal with the troubles of working with CGI created special effects, although he said he did push at one point to “go with a guy in a suit Godzilla style.”
He also shot the movie in a location that was different from his past films – such as Frankenstein Reborn which had a very urban feel to the movie. The director said he did find the CGI special effects easy to work with, and was even pleased with where they ended up shooting the movie.
The survivors find there is more than creatures to fear
“Well, the monkey is CGI so it makes the shooting a lot easier, but it makes post a bigger challenge,” Scott said. “We had this really cool location in San Diego County that actually looked like the Amazon. It let me break out the wide lenses and do a film that was more epic in feel. It is tempting to shoot everything really wide because you have so much space and it looks great, but you still have to get personal with the characters so the audience has something to identify with.”
Scott and Latt are also not worried about the audiences identifying their movie with a certain other monkey flick coming out in December – although their film was shot on a smaller budget and doesn’t even follow the same plot as King Kong.
The director said he believes their film will succeed in entertaining audiences, and will deliver a good story with great characters because of the amount of work the cast and crew put into the picture. He said he also isn’t scared of the comparisons between the two films.
“I look forward to comparisons to that ‘other’ monkey movie. Ours is very different and is pretty close to the book (The Lost World). The monkey in our film isn’t a major player. It’s referenced a lot, but really comes into the finale and kicks some ass. Also, our monkey is mean this isn’t beauty and the beast,” Scott joked. “At the end of the day, it comes down to me, my crew and the actors. As long as we have a camera, film, and some lights, the budget isn’t a huge deal. Sure, the budget for this film was like three times that of Frankenstein, but it simply meant better locations, more shooting days and some better food.”<!–page–>
Scott (right) prepares for the next scene
The movie’s rating and tone will be another difference that audiences can expect from the two “monkey” movies. Both Scott and Latt are not shy about their love for the R-rating, and feel that a movie shouldn’t have its story cut to pigeon toe it into a certain rating.
Although the movie is an adventure-type genre, audience can expect the same kind of blood, action and even some gore that fans of The Asylum’s movies love. The director made it clear that he does expect the film to receive an R rating, and that he is happy with that direction.
“This is a fun adventure film. It’s violent and dark in spots. I like to compare it to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in terms of tone,” Scott explained. “There’s some blood, gore and nudity. It wouldn’t be an Asylum/Leigh Scott film without those elements, but it’s nowhere near as dark as the other two (Frankenstein Reborn and Beast of Bray Road).”
With King of the Lost World set to be released to DVD on Dec. 13th, Scott and Latt are already at work on future projects. Latt is planning on directing something soon, but did not reveal what that project might be. Scott is in post-production on his latest horror film, which he also wrote. This time the director plans to send audiences running for the nearest church with The Exorcism of Gail Bowers – his own unique take on the exorcism genre.
Latt says the movie has an action and adventure tone
He also has a vampire tale in the early stages, which he says will complete his own personal take on the classic monster trilogy (Frankenstein, werewolf, vampire). After that, the director plans to shift gears again by making another adventure film that draws on classic literature characters such as Sherlock Holmes.
“Up next, I’m shooting an exorcism film where we are focusing on making it as scary as possible,” Scott joked. “I’m talking pee your pants scary.”