In 2016, when Hollywood director Jordan Vogt-Roberts asked to film Kong: Skull Island in three locations in Vietnam, the government in Hanoi encouraged him and offered support. Officials in Hạ Long Bay, Quảng Bình and Ninh Bình provinces made the filmmakers, cast and crew feel welcome.
At a press conference attended by more than one hundred journalists, Vogt-Roberts said, "When we got out of the car [in Ninh Bình], we immediately saw a stunningly beautiful sight that we thought was not real. It was magical.” He continued: "Colors and shades of the mountain ranges will make audiences say ‘wow' when they are seen. We fell in love with Vietnam." The press and people of Vietnam appreciated Jordan’s respect and love for the country.
Heartthrob actor Tom Hiddleston said: "I have wanted to visit Vietnam since I was a teenager. I had a visa to visit during my summer vacation. Our trip was postponed because I was cast in my first film. But now I can fulfill my dream of seeing Vietnam." Crowds of young women waited outside the Metropole hotel, hoping to get a glimpse of Tom.
Samuel L. Jackson, the highest paid actor in the business, laughed about his young co-stars, Hiddleston and Brie Larson, receiving so much attention. It helped, too, that Brie Larson won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Room a few weeks later. She flew from Vietnam to accept the award and flew back immediately afterward to continue filming.
I visited the set in Ninh Bình to talk with the producers, director and cast. They loved their time in Vietnam. Samuel L. Jackson told Southeast Asia Globe that “of all the fantastical locations he has worked” in over his forty-year career, Vietnam was his favorite. Vogt-Roberts and the Kong producers persuaded the Vietnamese to allow special helicopters -- American helicopters -- film some of the shots in Hạ Long Bay. These shots are like none ever seen before. It was an audacious request: the last time American helicopters had flown over Vietnam, it was to drop napalm on villages.