War for the Planet of the Apes: Interview with Star Andy Serkis

Directed by Matt Reeves, War for the Planet of the Apes, the third panel of Fox’s reboot of its old franchise, will be released July 7.

Andy Serkis:  It’s an extraordinary privilege to work with such material.  Matt is able to be speaking to a huge audience and entertain, but at the heart of what we’re doing is trying to, you know, put ourselves under the microscope in a very honest way and show, you know, like Matt says kind of where our fames are, where our successes are but to really certainly as an actor and as a director to be in a position where you can speak to – we know that this film is going to succeed, be seen by millions of people so there is a responsibility but these films were always meant to in some way comment on the world that we live in.  It’s a brilliant and subversive prism, which allows us to really delve deep.  The more I see of it the more I see of what’s going on in the world when I think about Caesar’s journey, you know, we are on the brink of becoming a species that is unable to empathize, that the situations are so horrific that events are so bleak that it almost you become desensitized.

AS:  I was going to see Rupert Wyatt’s film (the first of the trilogy) that night at the cinema and I was within seconds of missing the film because I was hearing in real time the story over an hour and a half and or nearly two hours.  Matt has so clearly plotted out that mythic structure that the twists and turns, you know, Caesar’s conflict and yes, it’s war for the Planet of the Apes but it’s the war for Caesar’s soul.  That is so apparent and the references were exactly that.

They were Moses, they were also the big kind of mythic western stories, “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” “Jimbo,” your Kurosawa.  That kind of scale of storytelling is what Matt was after and he’s achieved it in a seamless, beautiful, honest epic but at the same time really emotional.  The great thing that Matt has done as a director and writer is that you don’t go on rooting for the apes or I’m rooting for the humans, you are wondering how both are going to survive, and you care for both and you hope that something positive will come out of this disastrous situation.



AS:  The technology hasn’t really changed radically.  It’s the same process.  I mean, what has changed which is an amazing sort of if you can grab it in the technology sphere is the artists who have been working on these films. They have become more and more attuned to how to honor the original actors’ performance which they’ve done with all the ape characters and the software that they’ve created now from rendering.  My son was watching “Ride” last night.  He was watching because they’re going to see it tonight so they’re going through the other two and we were watching “Rise” and or he was watching “Rise.”  You can see the huge difference in the integrity and the fidelity for the performances that the actors are giving now in its latest form.

Acting Challenge

AS:  I have adored playing this character.  It’s been one of the greatest acting challenges I’ve had in many ways on screen.  It’s been so varied and so emotional and to actually play a character from infancy through to mature adulthood all through his life, you know, is, you know, not only just that trajectory but also an evolving trajectory, you know, emotionally and with, you know, on this film he worked on how we discussed at great length how Caesar would speak, you know, because there’s a very fine line that we do go over where it begins to sound just like a guy, you know, just like chatting away.

There’s very specific challenges with each of the movies but, you know, I have to say hand on heart, you know, working with Matt on these movies for the last few years has just been one of the greatest privileges because Matt is a brilliant actor’s director.  You just can’t fathom the complication of shooting something like this but the scale which is shot with everything going on Matt is always about the detail, the emotional detail and the emotional journey in each part of the scene so to answer your question in a long, a roundabout way I would love to, you know, to carry on if that was to carry on but if equally this was to be the end I’ve got incredibly happy memories of a great piece of work.


Terry Notary

AS:  He is a phenomenal human being.  He’s a great artist and he’s an absolute perfectionist and not only does he, I mean, what he does on a day to day level is vast on the movie.  He’s a unique and masterful individual and a great guy and a very, very close friend.  You know, we’ve all become incredibly close but he is the master of what he does and not, you know, he’s not just ape man.  From the films he works on across the board, you know, he created all the Hobbits for the culture for all of the Hobbit movies, you know, orcs and elves and, you know, in such detail and finds physical language.  Actors absolutely adore him.  He is absolutely brilliant at what he does.  He’s a world leader.


Caesar’s Journey

AS:  You are always putting yourself the starting point.  Okay, how do I approach this?  The great thing about this character and the great thing about the technology is that for me as an actor is they all come – these things all come together in a character like Caesar because on the one hand here you are, you’re entering into a character which is an abstraction of yourself.  You know, you don’t get – your face isn’t onscreen if you are that character.  You are playing emotions or not playing emotions, you are chemically tricking your body and mind into feeling things so you’re going through something so you’re irrevocably changed by whatever character you play, you know, I always feel, you know, you can’t go back on those scenes because you’ve actually lived those things so there is a big, it’s a huge kind of commitment and for both Matt and I actually Caesar’s journey is a hugely emotional journey.  It was very dark.  It was intense and also it happened in a year where we both suffered personal loss actually and that was happening right in the middle of the movie so there’s a brutality to this shoot and a great sense of darkness and forebodingness and it was brutal, wasn’t it?  It was a really tough, tough shoot and some of the sets that we were shooting on, we were shooting on locations in snow.  It was a freezing cold, you know, Canadian winter.  We went through it.  It was a very, very, you know, it’s an experience that, you know, I’m quite glad to be out of the other side of but at the same time it all fueled Caesar’s journey bottled.  That is bottled in what came out in what you see.



AS:  Imaginarium is it’s a really interesting moment actually because we are this year we have worked on 3 films.  We have produced the horror film called “The Ritual.”  I’ve directed a film called “Breathe” which is a triumph of the human spirit over adversity and a beautiful love story about some pioneering living with a (inaudible) outside of the hospital.  This in the ’50s.  It’s a really potent, powerful film starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy and it comes out in October.  “Jungle Book” is continuing.  We’ve also been working with the Royal Shakespeare Company putting onstage for the first time performance capture into a theatrical setting.  We’re working virtual reality and augmented reality so there are lots and lots of different areas where performance capture is now becoming a common tool for next generation storytelling so what is fascinating is that the on video game now there are going to be I reckon in about 10 or 15 years time we will be watching not things which we just see on flat screens, on big flat screens but we’ll be watching events that we will be part of where augmented reality glasses, where part of it is real, part of it is performance capture, part of it is backdrop which is maybe cinematic, part of it is like a theatre piece.  These are the sort of things we’re involved in and trying to understand.  What is storytelling?  What is the next generation?  What is this common experience we want to have.  It seems to be that we want a more visceral experience and so it’s how we might bring those things together.