Oscar winner Adrien Brody battles amnesia in The Jacket, fights a giant ape in King Kong, and takes down bacon-and-banana pancakes in New Zealand.

This month, Adrien Brody stars in The Jacket, a George Clooney-produced drama about an amnesiac Gulf War veteran who returns home to Vermont. But when Brody phones me from a timezone 19 hours ahead of my own, he's not calling from Vermont, but rather New Zealand, the faraway land the New York-born and Broadway-bred actor dreamed of as a child. He was there to film the December release King Kong, also starring Naomi Watts and Jack Black and directed by Lord of the Rings wizard and native New Zealander Peter Jackson.

Chasing a giant ape for 12 hours a day, five days a week doesn't give a guy a lot of downtime, but Brody filled his breaks with all the best that Wellington, Queenstown, and the lush hinterlands in between have to offer. Of course, it didn't hurt that his director, and, more importantly, unofficial guide, was none other than Jackson.

"I've always wanted to come here," says Brody. "New Zealand always seemed like the other end of the earth to me. Like as far away as you could go would be New Zealand."

After a career that began as a six-year-old dwarf in a summer camp production of Snow White and culminated when he became the youngest male actor ever to win an Oscar in the Leading Actor category (for his performance in 2002's The Pianist), Brody snagged the role of Jack Driscoll, the former fighter pilot who tracks the great ape and his gorgeous captive (played by Watts). And before he knew it, he was on his way to the land he once dreamed about.
 
King Kong, Peter Jackson, and New Zealand, huh? That's a powerful combination.
First of all, King Kong is one of the greatest­ fables and epic stories you can tell, and ­Peter is a genius, to put it mildly.
 
Where have you been filming?
In Wellington, in a town called Miramar. It's a sea town 10 minutes outside of the city center. Peter has a house here, and the movie studio is here, but it's more of a residential area.

Where have they put you up?
I'm camping out in [a movie trailer in] a parking lot at the moment, but technically I'm staying in Wellington. I have done some traveling since I've been here, though, mostly inland, farther north. South becomes colder, because it's actually toward the South Pole. I've also been up north to a region called Martinborough. I stayed up there in a cottage, and Peter Jackson has a lovely home up there, too, where he's building a castle with a moat. It's a fantastic place to go.