PLANET OF THE APES - MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN
MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN is Attar, the gorilla who is captain of the mighty ape army.
Were you a fan of the original movies?
Oh yes, I watched them as a youngster and was always intrigued about how they did the make-up. Coming into this project I really didn't know how they were going to do the make-up. The director told me that it was going to be very extensive and would take maybe about three or four hours. I was cool with that because I know that's what it takes to do a good movie. But it was actually fun after we started doing it.
What made it fun?
You know what, my job is like playing all day. So that is the fun part. I'm just like being a big kid being allowed to play different parts every day. To play a part like this big Silverback Gorilla is great. I was looking at some of the clips the other day and I couldn't believe it. The way we have put this thing together is fantastic.
What was the make-up like, step by step?
The first thing was I would shave every day to keep my face clean and smooth. They would put an astringent over my face to clean it up just a little bit more. Then they started laying on the latex. They put on like adhesive glue on my face. It was very safe and they assured me it wouldn't leave any marks or anything - that's all I was worried about, how I was going to look afterwards. They did the make-up section by section. So they put a piece that went around my head first. Then they would put on the top part of the forehead and then the hair, the mouthpiece and the chin. It was very tedious work for the make-up guys. But Rick Baker had his team so well groomed about what to do that it never felt like I had been sitting there for three hours and the make-up was actually very comfortable. It's made out of this foam rubber latex like material and I was never hot or uncomfortable in it. It was the most comfortable make-up I have ever had on in my life. That surprised me because my whole face was covered...except for my eyes. We were in the desert which was very hot but amazingly I was never too hot. I think Rick Baker is going to win another Academy Award(R) for this.
What about the ape suit?
That was also a nice job. The only time it got hot was when we were working inside the studio with the hot lights on you all the time. But I was not reeking with sweat every day because the costume was so good. But when they called 'wrap' the first thing I did was rip my nose and my mouth off. So they had to make sure that I really was finished.
What about going to the bathroom?
Ok, that was my main concern. When they were making the costume that was my first question. They said they were going to make a place for me so that going to the bathroom would be possible. So that saved me. But on one occasion I had my furry hands on at a time when I had to go to the bathroom...very badly. I ran to my trailer and I still had the paws on and I couldn't get the piece of my costume that allowed me to go to the bathroom. I was not going to wet myself in an ape uniform. So I was jumping up and down and hollering and screaming until finally someone came in to ask what was wrong. I asked them to get somebody from wardrobe who came along and saved my life. I just made it. That was the only time anything like that happened. I didn't have any other problems.
What about eating and drinking?
You had to eat with a mirror because they didn't want you to get food stuck in the hairs. Actually I was a very good eater. I didn't use a mirror most of the time because me and food have a love affair that won't stop. So I hardly wasted any food. They gave us straws to drink with so we didn't spill any drinks over ourselves
What was your reaction the first time you saw yourself in the costume?
It was shocking. I remember coming in at 5am and feeling sleepy. They made my make-up chair very comfortable so that I could stretch out and I woke like three hours later and looked in the mirror and the only thing that I could recognize were my eyes. I had my teeth in and the make-up on. That transformation was truly unbelievable. Even to this day when I look at myself on the screen I still can't believe that it is me.
How were the teeth?
They were great. I had them on when I went back to the studio to do some voice-over looping. I just popped them in. I had a lot of fun in the teeth. Actually a lot of the females liked me with the teeth in. I don't know why that is, you get some crazy women out here.
So what was the worst part?
The only scary part was when they made a mould of my face. They put on this goo and covered everything, eyes, nose and mouth. You have very little ventilation and have to sit there for five minutes. You really think at that point that you are going to die. That's all you think about - that you are going to suffocate. Then they pop it off. Actually I had to have an entire body mould made.
What was the coolest thing about being the ape?
I think the raw power that you have. There is a scene when Tim Roth - who is a great actor - and I were commanding the troops. You looked down and there was this whole ape army, ready to attack. That was the coolest thing, sitting up on a horse knowing you were in charge of all these guys. I felt so powerful, it was almost like that moment in GLADIATOR when Russell Crowe is commanding his troops and is on his horse going down the line. I watched GLADIATOR several times to get pumped up for my scenes.
How did the horses react to all these actors dressed in ape costumes?
At first they were kind of scared. They saw all these gorillas around them. But my horse was fine with me, I guess he knew my voice. The only problem I had was the chimps in the movie. I fell in love with one of them and I guess he felt the same way about me and I got into trouble because we were inseparable. We played all the time. He saw me without my make-up on and later when I was in full make-up he jumped on me and hugged me as soon as he heard my voice. It was amazing that he recognized me even under all that make-up. He got mad eventually because I wouldn't show him attention because Tim Burton told me I was ruining the scene by playing with him so much. The chimps are like little kids. When they don't get enough attention they scream. So I had to leave him alone for a little while.
Were the actors so comfortable that they actually forgot that they were in costume?
The funny thing is that Tim Roth, whom I adore as an actor, was sitting drinking some coffee one morning. He wasn't in his costume. And he called over to me 'Hey Michael, what's going on?' I looked at Tim and for about ten seconds I didn't know who he was. We never really saw each other without make-up. He wondered why I was staring, so I told him that I had forgotten what he looked like. 'Every time I see you, you are in costume.' Then I did another movie, THE SCORPION KING, with The Rock, and a couple of guys came up to me and said that they did PLANET OF THE APES with me. But I didn't know who they were out of costume.
They say that Helena Bonham Carter is cast as a very sexy ape, is that true?
She WAS sexy - even as an ape. I told her that. I said...'You are one fine woman'. You could still see that through the make-up. I said that to Tim Burton...'Man this woman is kinda fine'. Helena heard me talking about her and asked what I had been saying. I said she looked good. I still saw her beauty. She was so much fun to work with.
Did you work with Charlton Heston, who of course was the stranded astronaut in the original PLANET OF THE APES?
No, I was having some time off when he did his stuff. But I heard he was fantastic and that he enjoyed getting into the ape make-up because he had never done that before.
Did you keep any memento from the movie?
Yes I have my sword. I try to keep something from every movie.
The Statue Of Liberty ending in the first film was stunning. What about the ending this time, is it as amazing as they say?
This is ten times better. Tim Burton is a genius. I will tell you that right now. He thought of an ending and then made everybody sign a piece of paper so that we couldn't really talk about it. But I will tell you this much - I saw them filming the ending and I couldn't believe it. It is amazing.
What do you think about the possibility of a sequel?
I think a sequel would be good.
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