John C Reilly, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson and the rest of the Kong: Skull Island cast have made their presence felt on the Gold Coast, where they were snapped zooming around Pacific Fair on motorised animal scooters.
Jon Eaves launched AniMalls, his ride-on scooter business, at Pacific Fair last month and has found himself booked out most days since then. Despite the scooters’ popularity, he wasn’t prepared for the cast and crew of a major Hollywood production to turn up for a ride.
Among the entourage were John C Reilly (Step Brothers, Chicago), Tom Hiddleston (Thor, The Avengers), Brie Larson (the favourite to win this year’s Best Actress Oscar for Room), Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton), John Ortiz (American Gangster), Thomas Mann (Project X) and director Jordan Vogt Roberts. They’re all on the Gold Coast to film Kong: Skull Island, a prequel to the classic monster movie King Kong.
“They had seen the scooters online, apparently, but they hadn’t had the time to try them out yet,” Jon says. “They must have had the day off on Saturday, because someone approached me at about 4pm and said they wanted to book all 10 of our scooters.
“I had to say I was sorry, but that was impossible, because they were all out in the centre on a rotation. He explained that they’d come in especially for it, and that he was with the cast of the new King Kong movie. I looked up and saw John C Reilly standing behind him with his white Stetson on, just staring right at me!
“I just got starstruck, I was overwhelmed, because it was John C Reilly! But they understood we were booked out, so we arranged for them to come back later at 5pm. It was a bit of an effort getting all the scooters back together, to be honest, because we were so busy, but we had them all lined up and ready by 5pm.
“It’s funny… when kids walk towards the scooters, they always have a spring in their step, because they’re looking forward to it so much. John C Reilly walked towards me and he had that same grin, that anticipation of the fun he was going to have!
“John walked straight up to me and said, ‘So which one’s mine?’ I pointed to the gorilla, and he gave me a confused look and said, ‘The gorilla? Why?’ I said, ‘Because of King Kong?’ There was this very awkward moment with a very famous person for a second where I thought I might have offended him, but luckily he got it. Then the rest of the cast came up, chose the ones they wanted, and they were off!
“Brie [Larson] was very much the ringleader; she got them all into formation, she told them who was going to be on what. Tom [Hiddleston] arrived late, but we’d set aside an Angry Birds scooter for him, so he was happy.”
Jon says the stars were happy to pose for plenty of pictures, and even followed his recommendation for their dinner plans.
“They were huddling around trying to decide on a place to ear, so I asked them what they had in mind,” Jon says. “They were thinking of the Australian Outback Spectacular or a place in Byron Bay, because they didn’t realise how far away those places were from Pacific Fair. I suggested Koi in Broadbeach, and they actually ended up there. Apparently they had a great meal!”
Contrary to the horror stories you sometimes hear about celebrities, Jon says the Skull Island crew couldn’t have been sweeter.
“They were truly all really nice people. You hear people say things about movie stars, but I just saw normal people, laughing and having the time of their lives.”
Photos of the stars on the scooters quickly went viral. Jon says it’s difficult to tell how much the publicity has helped his business at Pacific Fair, because the scooters were already booking out quickly.
“What has happened, though, is that our two other centres — we started at Strathpine Centre last week and we’re also at Sunshine Plaza — have gone crazy. People have looked us up on the internet, they’ve seen they can ride the AniMalls at centres closer to them than Pacific Fair, and they’ve gone there.”
Grateful for the publicity, Jon says he’ll be the first in line to see Kong: Skull Island — and he’ll be cheering on Brie Larson to win the Best Actress gong at next month’s Academy Awards.
“Honestly, I wish her the best of luck, because that girl can really ride a kangaroo.”