Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes audiences back to the beginning of the saga that first enthralled audiences with the 1968 movie, Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston. Based on the 1963 novel by Pierre Boulle, the series spawned five more films through 1973. Now, 20th Century Fox, star James Franco and director Rupert Wyatt are rebooting the franchise and setting the action in San Francisco at the dawn of when the titular Apes took over the planet.
As seen in the film’s trailers, gone are the actors in ape suits. In the 2011 Apes film, special effects and the wizardry of performance capture have taken the emotions of the ape conquerors and made it more powerful and present.
The apes are led in an astounding performance by Andy Serkis, who previously brought Gollum to life in the Lord of the Rings films.
As the stars of the film sat down to discuss Rise of the Planet of the Apes, above all else, a theme emanated from James Franco, Freida Pinto and Tom Felton: Without Serkis’ sizzling turn as Caesar the chimpanzee, the film would have felt completely empty.
Franco portrays a scientist who has created a super drug that researchers believe will alleviate all that ails mankind. It is agreed that it will be tested on apes and we all have a pretty good idea how that goes! Pinto is Franco’s colleague-love interest and Tom Felton stars as Dodge Landon, a less than savory character with a serious attitude problem when it comes to the monkeys that surround him.
Movie Fanatic: James, how did you see the relationship between the ape Caesar and your character, Will?
James Franco: When Caesar comes to live with Will, at first it’s almost like a Kramer vs. Kramer situation where a young man is forced into a parent role not knowing anything about being a parent. But in addition to that, because Caesar is so smart, Will also looks to him as an example of the drug in action. He’s both raising Caesar as a son and as a positive example of the drug effect. As the movie progresses I think the father-son relationship takes over and Will becomes even more humane and less of a scientist. He starts to care about Caesar more than the success of his drug.
Movie Fanatic: The apes in the film are astounding. Talk about the stunning work of Andy Serkis.
James Franco: Andy Serkis has created this new kind of performance. He fell into, I mean he was cast as Gollum just for his voice and then Peter Jackson realized what a great physical performance he was giving and that he should try to capture that in some way. So, Andy kind of fell into this performance capture technique world and has really pioneered it. So Rupert (Wyatt, director) wanted him immediately.
Movie Fanatic: How does that shake things up for you as an actor?
James Franco: While we’re acting he is not in an ape suit. He’s in these grey pajama looking things with sensors all over his body and he has dots on his face that will help the effects team read his expressions on the computer. So, everything Andy’s doing is captured. You would think that acting opposite something like that and trying to think they were a chimpanzee would be very difficult. But, from the first scene we had together on, it’s been easy. He allows my imagination to take over. I can really treat him as if he were a chimpanzee.
Movie Fanatic: Now Tom, after a decade with the Harry Potter universe, what attracted you to Rise of the Planet of the Apes and were you worried about playing another unsavory character?
Tom Felton: For one, the story was just an epic tale. It just seemed to have everything that a good story should have really. The idea that when Caesar gets into the ape enclosure and the more I read about Dodge, the story thickened even further. The thing that attracted me to the character was how he provided Caesar’s first interaction with a human that was negative. He was so trustworthy. Every human before that had always been so nice to him. He had no reason to doubt humans for any reason. [Laughs] Single-handedly, my character kind of puts that trust to an end.
Movie Fanatic: What was the experience like for you starring opposite Andy Serkis as Caesar?
Tom Felton: When I heard that Andy Serkis was doing it, I was extraordinarily excited. Not only am I a huge fan, but I knew that he was going to make it a lot easier for me in the fact that I could react against someone. It’s terrifying seeing a human act that primitive. That massively helps my role.
Movie Fanatic: So Freida, how does your character join Will’s story in Rise of the Planet of the Apes?
Freida Pinto: Will and Caroline, at that point in Caroline’s life, is just a man who walks in with a chimpanzee. As time progresses, they fall in love because of their similar interests. She really loves the fact that he cares for a chimpanzee that he almost treats him like his own son -- like a human. She loves chimpanzees. She’s dedicated her life to them.
Movie Fanatic: How did you find the work across performance capture actors such as Mr. Serkis?
Freida Pinto: I feel because it is Andy Serkis, it doesn’t make it difficult at all. The mannerisms are so on and his facial expressions are so bang-on -- even though he has those green dots on his face [laughs]. Nothing ever interfered in my performance with Andy. At times, my heart would really break watching him doing what he was doing.
Movie Fanatic: What do you think audiences should take away from Rise of the Planet of the Apes?
Freida Pinto: I really hope that they think about it and realize that we are not very different from our primate brothers and sisters. We just have to learn that they are born to live in a different environment and we are born to live in a different environment and exploiting them is going to do us no good.