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It seems no one wants to go to Skull Island except for Tom Hiddleston. Legendary Pictures announced development on the King Kong prequel film during last year’s Comic-Con festivities, and since then the studio worked to acquire some pretty high-profile talent. Sadly, two of the film’s biggest stars, Michael Keaton and J.K. Simmons, have now dropped out, leaving Legendary scrambling to fill their spots.
The news of these departures was first reported by Deadline, and the trade reports that scheduling was the main reason fueling the actors’ decisions. Filming on Kong: Skull Island was originally set to begin in the fall, but was pushed till just before the end of the year. Keaton is currently filming The Founder, a biopic from director John Lee Hancock (of The Blind Side) about the founder of McDonald’s, while Simmons is busy working on an action-thriller called The Lake from Into the Storm’s Steven Quale. And both are still raking in the gigs.
Both these actors in Skull Island were such huge gets, as they were just coming off of a celebrated awards race. Though Keaton did not win the Oscar for Best Actor, his leading performance in Birdman earned him a Golden Globe and the film at large won Best Picture. As for Simmons, he walked away with both the Globe and Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Whiplash. Since then, both have become increasingly more in-demand. Simmons, for one, has a slew of projects in the works, including The Accountant with Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick, Kung Fu Panda 3 with Jack Black, and The Meddler with Rose Byrne and Susan Sarandon. Now, who will Legendary get to fill these immense shoes? Hiddleston, who is prepping for the release of his haunted house horror film Crimson Peak, is still on board the project. Along with the boost from the Marvel movies — he’ll reprise his role of Loki for Thor: Ragnarok in 2017 — the actor has enough star power to headline a film of this scope.
When the project was first announced, Legendary promised fans Skull Island would be a deep dive into the isolated homeland of the infamous King Kong. According to the press release, many films have touched upon the island, but the studio plans to go deeper into its treacherous wilderness. Hiddleston was announced in the cast a couple of months later, followed by the enlistment of director Jordan Vogt-Roberts of The Kings of Summer. Since then, Simmons revealed that Skull Island takes place in Detroit in 1971, though nothing else is known about the story. The film is currently set for release on November 4, 2016, and Deadline states that the studio doesn’t foresee any delays in the film’s production schedule as a result of Keaton and Simmons.