In August 2015, movie news websites picked up a report that Toby Kebbell, who had successfully taken a few steps down the evolutionary ladder in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as the villainous Koba, would be joining Kong: Skull Island, Legendary’s reboot of the giant gorilla film, in an unspecified role.
And as the Internet is wont to do, dots were connected. With Koba already under Kebbell’s belt and another motion-capture performance as the orc Durotan in Warcraft in the can, why shouldn’t he take on the role of King Kong, previously played by his Apes co-star Andy Serkis? Speculation eventually became Wikipedia fact — seriously, Kebbell’s page lists his role as “Kong” — but the truth is a little more complicated.
Speaking with EW in the lead-up to Warcraft, which opens on June 10, Kebbell addressed the speculation.
It turns out that while Kebbell assisted with some of the facial work on the character, Kong will be primarily played by actor, stunt coordinator, and mo-cap guru Terry Notary, who worked extensively with Kebbell on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Notary has made a reputation for himself as a movement coach in films like The Hobbit trilogy and both newer Apes films.
For Kong, Kebbell and Notary collaborated, but the latter will do most of the acting. “I gave some facial reference — certain subtleties, certain looks,” Kebbell said. “Terry and I worked on stuff together and created what Kong needed.”
Kebbell’s main role in the film is that of a human, Chapman, a major in the Air Force, who spends most of his time with Samuel L. Jackson’s character. But Kebbell understands the confusion on the Internet. “I think it’s just an assumption because I’ve done motion capture,” he said. “I think people kept pitching [the rumors] out as well, so that someone has to come forward.”
“I was just there as backup for pieces that Terry really wanted to get details on,” Kebbell continued. “It’s a real honor to be asked by someone who’s a great performer, to come and help support their performance. It becomes a symbiotic thing, and it’s more like buddies asking each other to help. If we were mechanics and he was having a problem with his sprocket set, it’s more like he borrowed my sprocket set than me playing King Kong.”
Kong: Skull Island hits theaters on March 10, 2017.