PLANET OF THE APES
While many cast members credit Rick Baker's make-up magic in helping shape their performances, their simulations of ape behavior did not rest on the make-up alone. At Burton's request, stunt coordinator Charlie Croughwell brought in experts, including stunt player Terry Notary (a former Cirque du Soliel performer) to teach the actors and extras how to be ape-like. Notary conducted a special "Ape School" for dozens of
performers, to help them incorporate ape movement into their performances. Croughwell. Notary and their team covered every primate activity: walking, weapons handling, even eating.
"We needed to loosen up the actors to approximate real ape body language," Notary explains. "A primate is a very liquid animal; he spirals into a chair. Generally speaking, they are very direct and grounded. They're easily distracted but when they're focused on one thing, the focus is total. In essence, we had to teach actors how to find their own sense of being primal, to tap into their own inner ape."
In addition, Notary and his team worked the actors in small groups and had them interact and prod each other, so they have to start building history together.
Prior to beginning work with the cast, Notary conducted some basic research . "I played with chimps for hours. I observed apes in the zoo for days and just pretended that they were humans in costume. You soon find yourself realizing how similar apes are to humans. We developed a series of basic movements and some that were species- specific."
To represent his highly-evolved, semi-civilized speaking apes, Burton wanted performances that were about twenty percent ape and eighty percent human, which, says Notary, "is
very subtle. Beyond the obvious walk, you must portray the nuances of an ape — like the way you turn your head, or sit, or pick something up — but you are also a fully developed character who speaks."
Some actors, like Tim Roth, were eager students of ape behavior. "I like physical acting," says Roth, for whom Notary stunt doubled. "I like to push a character physically
as well as intellectually. Ape School gave me a behavioral dictionary for Thade, who often goes berserk. Terry watched my performance to make sure no movement was 'too human,' and I watched his stunts and coached his work to make sure it's truly in character. We had a good back and forth thing."
Helena Bonham Carter had a little trouble, initially, with the Ape School curriculum. "I
flunked," she confesses. "I had to go back and learn how to be still. I had to learn an economy of movement, but to be immensely focused. To stop intellectualizing and instead make everything physical and be present and alive in the moment, which is completely ape-like. Apes are more sensual and tactile than we are. They've got a much better sense of smell, and their intuition is much greater. But their focus is absolutely one hundred percent, which is very useful for me as a human being.
"Actually," she concludes, "it wouldn't be a bad idea if everyone went to Ape School ."
Michael Clarke Duncan spent three days a week at Ape School and three days a week horseback riding. "As a Silverback gorilla, I walk differently than Thade, who is a chimpanzee. His legs are more bowlegged; mine have slightly-bent knees, but with an upright back, leaning forward with rounded shoulders."
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who plays another silverback gorilla Krull, brought a lifetime of training as a martial artist to the role. Tagawa focused on being a gorilla that represented 600 pounds of pure power. "Apes move with the grace of a quadruped, and can stop on a dime," Tagawa notes. "They are mostly upper body, so when they walk they propel themselves pulling themselves forward — apes are definitely front-wheel drive. For the horseback riding, I had to<
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