EXCLUSIVE: J.K. Simmons, the journeyman actor who’s hot as a pistol after his turn in the Damien Chazelle-directed Whiplash, has been set to join Tom Hiddleston in Kong: Skull Island, the Legendary Pictures tent pole that Universal Pictures has set for March 10, 2017 release. Jordan Vogt-Roberts is directing a script by John Gatins and Max Borenstein that focuses on the wild island home of the iconic ape King Kong.

whiplashGersh-repped Simmons seems an easy guy to root for. He has turned in great performances of every stripe for years, so good as the patient father of a pregnant teen daughter in Juno, and so deliciously evil as cellmate from hell Vern Schillinger in HBO’s Oz. Playing the taskmaster trying to coax greatness out of a young drummer (Miles Teller) in Whiplash, he has got Oscar heat and has been on the radar since the film premiered in Sundance last January. Skull Island‘s produced by Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni, with Alex Garcia exec producing.