EXCLUSIVE: Michael Keaton and JK Simmons have exited Legendary Pictures’ Kong: Skull Island. Scheduling conflicts are believed to be the principal reason behind both actors’ departures. The project, which has Jordan Vogt-Roberts directing from a script written by John Gatins and Max Borenstein, pushed back its production start by a few weeks from the fall to before the end of the year. That, and the fact that it is likely to be a demanding shoot in terms of time, didn’t match with their other commitments. Tom Hiddleston remains on board.

JK Simmons

Legendary is currently out to cast to replace both actors pronto and does not envisage any delays to getting principal going by the tail end of 2015. Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni produce with Alex Garcia and Mary Parent, and Eric McLeod is exec producing. Universal Pictures will release the King Kong-inspired film in 3D and IMAX 3D on March 10, 2017.

The filmmakers have been promising Kong: Skull Island will fully immerse audiences in the mysterious and dangerous home of the iconic ape as a team of explorers ventures deep inside the treacherous, primordial island. Given the giant box office takings of Jurassic World, Universal will be hoping this reboot can deliver some more monster grosses of its own.

Keaton is repped by ICM and Anonymous Content. He stars in Thomas McCarthy’s Catholic Church child-abuse drama Spotlight and also voiced a role in Illumination Entertainment’s animated Minions. He is filming The Founder for director John Lee Hancock. Simmons is repped by The Gersh Agency. The much-in demand actor has Lorene Scafaria’s The Meddler, Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant and Kung Fu Panda 3 in the pipeline.