(Photo courtesy of Picturehouse.)  

We can’t get enough of Kong—as in The King of Kong , which we wrote about at SIFF and has,


The Kingmaker

Director taking vid-game doc to the next level.


(Photo courtesy of Picturehouse.) 

We can’t get enough of Kong—as in The King of Kong, which we wrote about at SIFF and has, for this Friday’s opening, received nothing but nice reviews. In addition to being featured in last Sunday’s New York Times, amiable Redmond schoolteacher Steve Wiebe is drawing all kinds of favorable publicity for the documentary. In fact, he just attended the theatrical premiere of the film in New York, joining locally raised 31-year-old director Seth Gordon (pictured above). So, I asked Gordon, who attended Roosevelt and Lakeside for high school before graduating from Yale, how’d it go?

“Totally terrific,” says the tired-sounding Gordon by phone, just having returned home to Los Angeles. “We’re very happy with how the film was received.”

And how Wiebe was received. The importance of having a goodwill ambassador for the film’s release, coincidentally during his summer break from teaching at Kirkland’s Finn Hill Junior High, can’t be overstated, says Gordon. KoK’s story of rival players on the old-school arcade game revival circuit comes down to the brooding, manipulative champ, Florida’s Billy Mitchell, against the ingenuous, regular fella Wiebe. It’s an underdog story, of course, and a precious commodity in Hollywood—the true tale where the nice guy doesn’t finish last. Gordon says filmgoers at the premiere “love seeing Steve. He’s like a natural born hero. He’s got nothing to hide.”

Gordon and his producing partner Ed Cunningham, an ex-UW football star who later played in the NFL, are developing the feature version of KoK for New Line. Of the screenwriter hired for the job, Gordon says, “We flew Michael Bacall up to the Seattle film festival…to get him to know [Steve].” Wiebe and the writer are in regular contact, as he is with Gordon and Cunningham, to help add extra detail to the story outline. “The only way we’re going to get [name] actors if is the script is really good,” says Gordon. “Some people pitched it to us a broad comedy cake, but not Michael.” In auditioning potential screenwriters, he recalls, “We’d say we’d like to emulate Little Miss Sunshine rather than Dodgeball.”

However, Gordon does warn of an unforeseen obstacle in KoK’s seemingly charmed trajectory (it was purchased by Picturehouse and New Line straight out of Slamdance, months before SIFF). With rumors of an imminent writers’ strike, he says, “The way Hollywood is operating is kind of on a paranoid fashion right now. People are scrambling to get things done.” Meaning projects with completed scripts have priority, and name actors are already attached to those scripts. The best-case scenario is then to finish the script this fall (strike or no strike), film next summer, then hope to reach theaters in the fall of 2008 “That would be fast track,” says Gordon.

Though, on a more proximate note, he’ll likely be conducting audience Q&A sessions here in Seattle for the second weekend of KoK’s release. We expect to have those details soon.

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