Phase9 Entertainment


How long did it take to bring the project to fruition?

It was a funny scenario because I think I got involved with it roughly from the spring of last year. The thing about this kind of big studio thing is that we really didn't get the green light for the film until a couple of weeks before we started shooting. In my mind there is only so far you can go until you have the green light on a film so, in reality, even though there had been work already done, you couldn't really do anything . It really didn't get underway until Halloween in 2000. It was the quickest shoot I have ever done, especially when you consider the size and scale of the film. Even people who worked on the film thought it was coming out next summer, not this one.

How long was the actual shoot?

It was 80 days in total and that's amazing. Some films like this can take up to 120 days. But I had a very good group of people who pulled it all together. Speed on a project like this isn't a negative. It's like pushing a boat over a mountain - it can be deadly, especially for the actors who have to finish at 2am and then put a full day in, but it keeps the momentum going and encourages a lot of spontaneity.

A number of other directors were attached to the project before you like James Cameron, Oliver Stone and Roland Emmerich. How did you get involved?

I don't know about the other directors although I've heard various things myself. It kind of reminded me a little bit of Batman when there were lots of rumours but I never pay attention to that stuff. They just brought it to me and I guess it was a timing thing that I got it.

How did it come about that Richard Zanuck, who green lighted the original movie, became involved with your version?

It wasn't my idea and I don't know whose it was. The studio brought him to me and when I met him I just fell in love with him really. He's an amazing guy who has been through so much and seen so many things. He's a smart and supportive man. I like to meet people who have been through the full range and are still great people. He was the person who was really the most helpful for me on the film. He just walked round the studio and he says that's where this happened and it's amazing to be around him.

Did you have explicit ideas on how the apes should look and behave?

I started doing a little bit of ape research. That was one of the key differences I wanted to make from the first Apes film. The first one is obviously just a complete reversal of real apes because they act so human. They still had some of their ape-like tendencies but we wanted to do more of a mixture and this is why we all went to ape school where we had experts and behavioral people. We brought in chimps, not that we wanted the actors to behave completely like apes, but to observe their movements and use a percentage of that. Depending on the scenario, I wanted different levels of ape-like behavior from actors. The Tim Roth character is intent on keeping ape purity and so he behaved more like an ape. It was very important and we were always trying to find the right mix of ape and human characteristics.

Is it true that you are afraid of apes?

Chimps mainly. That's what I thought was funny about the original Planet of the Apes - the chimps were the good guys. If you do any research on ape and ape culture, chimps are by far the most frightening. They're serial killers! I think that for me they are the scariest because they have been deemed the cutest. Growing up, most people think chimps are really cute but I just find them the most disturbing - much scarier than gorillas or any other type of primate.

Have you ever gone near a chimp?

Oh yeah. That was part of the whole thing in this. Everyone had to go to ape school and that meant chimps as well. There is nothing quite like that interaction between people and animals. You can't describe it. You just have to sit there and look at a chimp and interact with it. I don't know if anyone else felt the same way I did, but it really creeped me out because they are incredibly strong. They draw you in but they could easily rip off your head. I found that very unnerving and disturbing.

Why did you cast Helena Bonham-Carter as a chimp?

She was someone who struck me as having a chimp-like quality. I'm delighted and grateful she did the role. She's a beautiful woman and is willing to get up at 2am and wear all that make-up and be prepared to have bad skin. It was always very important for me right at the beginning to have really good actors like Helena. Ultimately, the film isn't about apes, it's about people, and in a certain way that energy of having good actors on set playing apes is vital. She is amazing. I hadn't seen all of her films but I knew who she was and what she could bring to the part.

Why did you cast Mark Wahlberg in the lead role?

Unlike the first movie, with the apes in this we wanted to make it a little crazier and the film needed something in the leading role that I find is very rare these days. It's almost like an old-fashioned movie performance. I like a lot of old movies and sometimes you see a performance that is real solid. I just felt I needed that kind of anchor to serve everything else. Mark is somebody who I think is genuinely talented; I could see him doing lots of different things. What this needed, and what he provided, was a real gravity to the role. From the very beginning, he was the one in my mind because I saw he was capable of delivering this quality.

Did you approach Charlton Heston and Linda Hamilton, who played Nova in the 1968 version, to play cameos or did they get in touch with you?

We approached them. I think Richard Zanuck made the first call and what was great was that Charlton had always said he would never appear in any sequels - although he did have a tiny bit in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. What was amazing was that because our Planet of the Apes is about reversal in the material and isn't a remake as such, I think he got the idea and it was great he did it. It was perfect for the spirit of the film.

Did you ever have any doubts it would be a commercial success?

Yes, I think whenever you are doing a movie, the cost of these big Hollywood films puts the pressure on. I always find the pressure pretty abstract because you start thinking that if everybody could make a hit movie then everybody would do it.

If Roddy McDowell were alive today, do you think he would enjoy the film?

I think he would have. I have met him and I think he would have approved immensely and I think he would have been a part of it somehow.

Of all the films you have made to date, which one do you think could be remade in 30 years' time? How do you think you might feel?

I don't know - I can't even watch my own films. It takes me five years to look at one of my movies and see it objectively. I just can't watch them straight away because I'm not objective. At the beginning I'm forced to see it a million times but after that I have to leave the room. It's a very emotional experience that you get over, but it takes time.

Do you ever go to the movies, apart from premieres?

Believe me, I was barely invited to my own premiere. I got through the line and I get there and the film's been going on 15 minutes already. You'd also be surprised to know how many times I can't get on to the film lot. I don't go too much to the cinema, especially when I'm working because it's the last thing you feel like doing. But when I'm not working, I try to see things just to keep current.

What do you think about DVD format?

I like it but I think I'm going to stop doing commentary because I am a terrible commentator. I grew up watching movies not knowing anything about them and I always felt like, "wow", because you see something you like and there was surprise and magic to it, an unknown quality. To me, what was great about films was that you couldn't 100 percent put your finger on how certain things were done and DVD tells you almost too much. But as a format, I love it and love the extras.

What was the last film you saw on video or DVD?


A lot of your films involve attacks on humanity. Are you rebelling against society?

I have an anti-authority complex that I have had from the very beginning. I have been pretty quiet about it in my life and I didn't wear anarchy T-shirts or anything. I always felt society was a certain generalization that tried to put people into categories and tried to diminish everybody's individuality. I grew up in suburbia and I didn't like it. I tried to resist and I was kind of sad and angry and defiant.

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