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What was it like working with Tim Burton?

Pretty difficult. Actually, not so much Tim but the make-up thing and the whole culture of the film because it's so effects laden. We were all very grumpy because those who were getting made up as apes would have to be up at 2am. We were all sleep deprived and we would finally get to the set and within half an hour I would be told I was falling apart so I would be hauled back to make-up where you just have to sit very still. It was very hard being an ape! I didn't want to eat or drink or go to the toilet. In the end I just conked out a lot of the time. But it was good having Tim direct because if he wasn't so adorable we would have died and there wouldn't have been a film because we would have killed someone. And he's fast and knows exactly what he wants and you don't have to do many takes. He was constant entertainment and we just sat there and watched him because you couldn't do much else.

Tim said you were his first choice for the role. Did he just call you out the blue?

Yes. I was in Australia when my agent called and asked if I would be prepared to play a chimp for Tim Burton. He then called me up the next day and asked me and I said 'absolutely, yes'. I didn't quite know what was involved then with the make-up. When I first thought about it, it was too late to do a U-turn. I remember thinking it was insane when I first put all the make-up on but luckily you get used to it, psychologically and physically. But the first time was exhausting, even though you are just sitting there.

What was the hardest thing about the make-up process?

First, you have your head cut out. You have to stay absolutely still for 60 minutes and all you have are nose holes to breathe through. You just have to trust people. I think that if you were prone to panic attacks it would be impossible. It's kind of like being buried alive every day but, thankfully, I got used to it.

Does it affect your skin?
It can. I had a couple of reactions early on so they sent me to a dermatologist because they thought they were going to get sued. They didn't seem to care about me just whether there was going to be any permanent damage. It turned out that the likelihood was that it would actually be doing our skin some good! One of the other actors had a very bad reaction to it and he didn't look a pretty sight. But he was under the make-up so much it didn't really matter.

Is it true that some of the dialogue had to be altered because of the masks?

Some words had to be. It was actually quite clear but we all sounded rather muffled. But the gorillas were virtually unintelligible. They had to take their teeth out off camera to say anything. I thought we were going to be subtitled at one point. The dinner scene took years to film because no one could hear anything. They shouted 'action' and no one could hear anyone else and it went on and on. And I started laughing and Tim started laughing and it was like when are we going to say something. Dining room scenes are terrible anyway, but a load of apes around a table are absolutely barbiturate. I think we actually went through a whole bag of film by the time we cut and we'd only go through half the scene.

Have you seen the original PLANET OF THE APES?

Yes. I thought it was really very good. I went to see it on Halloween and it's a very, very good film but totally different from our one. It had a really good script and we've got really good make-up. The movie also has a different attitude. Ours is not so serious and theirs was very much of its time. In this one, at least, we are much more ape-like. We actually looked at apes and thought we'll take some genuine ape behavior and shove it in.

Did you have to get fit for the part?

It was actually quite tough. I mean you wouldn't believe it. All right, I smoke and everything, but I'm quite physically fit and I'm quite bendy and strong. I did lots of gym once and you do have muscle memory so after a bit of work it all comes back. It's quite hard to walk around semi-squat all the time and I did do my back in. So yes, it did take a bit of getting used to but after a while I got so used to the way of walking that it was difficult to snap out of. It was fascinating going to ape school and looking at the sheer magic of movement they have.

Did you like being around the real chimps?

I love young chimps. They are so much more open and available than humans and they have such big hearts. Getting a hug from a chimp is really touching. Maybe it's like getting in touch with your inner ape. Perhaps it would be really nice for everyone to do it - particularly the English because they tend to get quite embarrassed about things like that. They also have this sense of awe and curiosity that is good fun and quite challenging to learn. It was like becoming a toddler again.

Did you and Tim ever sit around and wonder what you were doing?

Oh yeah, all the time. Waking up every morning was just unbelievable and so unpredictable. I couldn't believe I could be a chimp and I thought I was never going to be able to do this again. It was bizarre and nothing is normal about this job. I would just say things like 'Tim's God, Tim's God, he's got to be right and he'd better be right about this'.

Did you have any preconceptions about Mark Wahlberg?

Only in so far as I didn't really know what to expect from him. And I wondered what we would talk about and also a bit worried because he is such a rising star and they tend to be quite starry - they can have entourages and things like that. But he isn't like that and he's really down to earth. He was very easy to get along with.

What's the main difference working on American and English films?

Mainly it's the money. You just feel on American films that you can see the budget right up there in front of you and you get things like a personal trailer. You also tend to do that much less, perhaps only having one shot in a day. For such a huge production you can spread your time better.

Did you feel that being part of such a big production you were just part of the machine?

It didn't actually feel that big when you were there and I think that's down to Tim. He kept everything pretty light and quite intimate and because he has made quite a few films now he wasn't stressed and it didn't feel like we were part of some big machine. We also had a fantastic first assistant director, too. He was very organized and you felt he was in control and it put you at ease. A lot of directors don't always love filming and feel it can be pretty stressful. I don't blame them because they have got so much pressure and too many decisions to make.

Would you come back for a sequel?

Yes, I think I would. Obviously, if Tim was doing it.

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