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Latest 'Apes' Presented New CGI Challenges

12 Nov, 2014 By: Chris Tribbey

CENTURY CITY, Calif. — Actor Andy Serkis can only shake his head when people ask him if he wants to do more “real” acting outside of the motion-capture, CGI-heavy roles he’s best known for.

It’s those motion-capture roles where Serkis is most comfortable, and where he’s done his best work, he said: As Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films; as Kong, the giant gorilla in 2005’s King Kong; and, most recently, as Caesar, the increasingly intelligent chimpanzee in Fox’s reboot of the “Planet of the Apes” franchise.

“It’s the most liberating tool for an actor,” Serkis said of motion-capture technology, speaking during an event for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, out now on Digital HD and on disc Dec. 2 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “It gives you the ability to do anything. You, as an actor, can play anything. It has huge applications.”

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) can attest to the impact of motion-capture film technology. When Reeves decided to take on directing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, he did it because of Serkis and his work as Caesar in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

“I’d never had that level of emotion with a CG character before,” Reeves said. But he did have a demand: major changes to the script. He wanted the film to focus more on Caesar, and how the apes’ society was slowly evolving and progressing.

“We don’t have to worry about what happens, it’s about how we get there,” Reeves said. “[And] this is how it goes wrong.”

While Rise of the Planet of the Apes was mostly shot on stages with greenscreen, Reeves wanted Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to look as real as possible, taking much of the shoot to Golden Ears Provincial Park, east of Vancouver, Canada. The motion-capture technology used for the first film was taken outside for the first time, which presented all sorts of new challenges.

“It was rainy, it was freezing. It was crazy,” Reeves said.

Dan Lemmon, visual effects supervisor for the film, said shooting on location instead of in a warm and comfy studio set forced the film’s crew to work at a break-neck pace: “Rather than having tens of days to set-up, we had tens of minutes,” he said.

Much of the crew had no experience with motion capture, yet pulled off the look and feel of the actors playing apes due to the direction of Reeves, Serkis said. “It was a very testing situation for everyone, and it was really, really well handled,” he said.

Part of why Dawn of the Planet of the Apes looks so good can be credited to the actors’ acting as the apes, according to actor Toby Kebbell (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Wrath of the Titans), who plays the scarred, antihero ape Koba.

“It becomes addictive,” Kebbell said of getting into his role, earning laughs with stories about acting like an ape while doing mundane tasks like grocery shopping. “You give yourself away the moment you stop being the ape. It’s the most work you’ll do as an actor. It’s more like theatre than any other job I’ve ever done.”

The story, look and acting behind Dawn of the Planet of the Apes combined to help the film pull in nearly $708 million at the worldwide box office to date, and Fox is looking to build off that success with the film on Digital HD and on disc.

“At 20th Century Fox we’re incredibly proud of this movie,” said Mary Daily, president and CMO at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “I’m really hopeful people will embrace it on digital in their homes the way they’ve embraced it in theaters around the world.”

On Dec. 2, Fox releases the film on 3D Blu-ray Disc, Blu-ray and on DVD, with the Blu-ray versions featuring about two hours of bonuses, including deleted scenes with optional commentary tracks by Reeves, featurettes and photo galleries.


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