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Acting Like an Ape for 'War for the Planet of the Apes'

Posted on Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 2:24 PM

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Photo by 20th Century Fox

I finally got to see War for the Planet of the Apes yesterday and was struck by how much screen time is given to the apes over humans in the movie. Like I said in my Reader Review, I guess this is appropriate given how things go in the Planet of the Apes timeline, but it placed a heavy burden on making sure that the apes didn't look like the wolves in The Day After Tomorrow.

A recent article in The Verge discusses that very issue, with comments from ape movement choreographer and actor Terry Notary (who played Rocket in the movie):

I recently spoke with Notary about shedding human habits, becoming an ape on-screen, and his cast’s strange, silent, quadrupedal hikes through the Vancouver woods.

What does it take to play an ape?

When actors come in, they say, “Well, what do I do? How do I be an ape?” And it's not about doing anything. It's about figuring out who you are as a person. We have to become something in order to fit in and survive in this society we've developed, right? So one of the best things about becoming an ape — or any character, really — is that you have to de-condition.

We do this one exercise where we sit and stand out of a chair. We'll start to become aware of the natural tensions that some people drive with their hips, or with their knees. So we'll undo all these tensions and create a neutral body. And then you're not bringing in any baggage, any stuff that's gonna make this character the same as the last character you played. And you can actually start to pepper in those little things that work for the character from this clean place. It's untainted.

Click the Read link below to view the full article.

It's a fascinating look into the effort that was taken to insert as much reality and craft into making the movie. Gone are the days when movie companies dress up a bunch of extras and tell them to run around making noises!

I do have to say that the end result is fantastic! The lead ensemble of apes all have different mannerisms and expressions, and there are many times when facial closeups are done to convey emotions etc that are quite traditional when human actors are being filmed. You end up (almost) forgetting that you are watching chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans...

War for the Planet of the Apes opened in theaters on July 14th, and is still going strong in theaters. Screens were added in its second week, and it beat newcomer Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets for the #4 spot in the Weekly Box Office Report. If you haven't seen it yet, it's well worth watching! Check out the Showtimes page for where and when it's playing near you.

Photo above by 20th Century Fox.

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