Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts goes deep on his Metal Gear Solid movie and Netflix's live-action Gundam
EW moderated a conversation with the Kong: Skull Island filmmaker during virtual gaming conference E3.
Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts is a big gamer and friend to E3. You might remember his past conversations at the annual gaming conference with illustrious game developer Hideo Kojima. During this year's virtual edition, Vogt-Roberts returned to E3 on Saturday for a moderated conversation with Entertainment Weekly to talk about his love of video games, the Metal Gear Solid movie he's developing with actor Oscar Isaac, his live-action Gundam movie in the works at Netflix, and more. But that was just a taste.
EW presents the full-length version of the conversation, including portions not included in the E3 livestream, that goes deeper into all of those topics.
"Metal Gear is something I've been trying to Sisyphus push up the hill for seven-plus years," Vogt-Roberts says. "That game and Kojima-san's world mean the world to me, and that's something that I'm very proud of what we're doing. I think it's very Kojima, punk rock, twisty. And then Gundam, likewise, is the godfather of otaku culture in a lot of ways without exaggeration. It is the grandfather to modern anime and thus most Japanese things that we love. It really is wild what Gundam was doing on television in an animated format in the '70s and the complexity and the weight of the stories they were telling."
And those are just the "nerd properties" he's working on that we know about, he teases. In addition to "a smaller $30 million thing" where he says he's "just going buck wild," he mentions, "There are other game things and other [intellectual properties] that I'm working on, but a big part of my driving force is to be a part of these things and to help rewrite the narrative of how people perceive these franchises and how they properly get translated."
Metal Gear Solid
As Vogt-Roberts mentioned, he's been trying to make a Metal Gear Solid movie, based on Kojima's iconic games, a reality for quite some time. At the end of last year, it was announced that Isaac, the star of Star Wars and Dune, would be taking the role of Solid Snake.
The first of the action-adventure stealth games published in 1987 followed Solid Snake, a military operative, infiltrating a nuclear facility to stop a terrorist attack without being detected. The franchise evolved into so much more.
"You're dealing with these characters that are walking, talking ideologies," Vogt-Roberts muses. "They all represent different slivers and ideas of this basic question: How do we make the world whole again? They are all trapped in the cycle of pain."
The moment from the games that still sticks with him to this day is the fate of Sniper Wolf in 1998's Metal Gear Solid.
"Up until that point, killing a boss [in video games] was always viewed as a victory. That was, 'Hell yeah! I'm passed it!'" he explains. "Instead you're met with this moment of somberness and regret."
While much of the story details are kept under wraps, his goal to "create a new type of action on screen that also is based in the quietness of the stealth, knowing that every step you take as you go further into the belly of the beast, further away from safety."
Something Vogt-Roberts has been "obsessed with for a long time" is the idea of translating "the active experience of playing a game" to the more "passive experience of watching a film."
"Those aren't one-to-one translations," he says. "So, I think you really need to understand when playing a game what it elicits from you, why it makes you feel certain ways, what the tone that it evokes is."
Vogt-Roberts is still in that Sisyphus push to make the film happen, but he acknowledges a big development was casting Isaac for the lead role. In 2019, the actor had fan cast himself during a Triple Frontier press junket. Vogt-Roberts says that was part of "a long distance courtship" going on between him and Isaac's agents. The director wanted the actor to play Solid Snake from the get-go, but Sony wasn't in a position to discuss casting for a while. That sound bite was like Isaac "sending smoke signals" to Vogt-Roberts.
As the Metal Gear Solid movie continues to shape up, Vogt-Roberts says he's "pretty full force in the world of Gundam right now."
Netflix announced this past April that he would direct and produce Legendary's first live-action Gundam movie, based on the wildly popular anime that spawned a worldwide giant mech robot franchise. Brian K. Vaughan is writing the screenplay.
"My goal is to for all of the people who might say, 'I don't know where to start [with Gundam],' I want to create this film and give them an access point where you can say, 'This is where you start. This is your entry point,'" Vogt-Roberts says. "Where Gundam fans say, 'Yeah, this is my Gundam.'"
The filmmaker notes the adaptation "may be an amalgamation of several of these different things, different timelines and what not," but his aim is to capture everything he loved about Gundam. And for newcomers to Gundam, he wants to incite the reaction, "This is something that I just didn't know know I wanted to be obsessed with."
For him, Gundam is about "the disenfranchising nature of war," even beyond what he calls "the amazing, hyper anime kinetics and operatic ballet that is the action" that he hopes to translate on screen in a way no one has yet. It's about "dealing with the brutality of war, fighting another generation's war and how relationships and love and conflict grew out of that," he adds. "It's just an incredibly rich franchise through and through."
While both Gundam and Metal Gear Solid are in active development, Vogt-Roberts says he's not sure which one he's making first. That is more up to the studios and less in his control. One thing is for certain: "I love both these things to death," he says.
Watch the full conversation in the video above.
- Meet the cast of Sweet Life: Los Angeles, HBO Max's new unscripted series produced by Issa Rae
- At 99, Norman Lear talks his one regret, the power of laughter, and the worst network note he ever got
- Watch Josh Duhamel's Harvey Dent team up with Naya Rivera's Catwoman in Batman: The Long Halloween clip
- Jeanine Mason and Roswell, New Mexico showrunner preview season 3 of the extraterrestrial drama