Movies

Woody's trip into the heart of apes darkness

War For The Planet Of The Apes continues the wildly successful series of films that began with 2011's Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and 2014's Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.

In the wake of the viral outbreak that devastated much of the human population, the simian community led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) has grown more and more powerful.

But simmering tensions between the two species have begun erupting into conflict, and the ramifications will be dreadful for everyone.

US actor Woody Harrelson, 55, brings his wealth of experience to the Colonel, a new addition to the film series, in War For The Planet Of The Apes, which is currently showing here.

A driven military leader, the Colonel will go to any lengths in his fight against Caesar's forces, and has let his obsession with conflict drive him.

Here, Harrelson talks about his respect for writer-director Matt Reeves, his experience with performance capture and whether he'd want to be an ape in any future film…

How did Matt Reeves pitch the Colonel to you?

I liked the idea of the Colonel, I mean, s***, you'd rather be an ape in one of these movies, a loveable ape, like Bad Ape! (Co-star) Steve Zahn (who plays Bad Ape) knocks it out of the park!

Obviously, the part of the Colonel is kind of loosely based, or at least the concept is (similar to) Kurtz from (the 1899 novel) Heart Of Darkness, better known in (the 1979 film) Apocalypse Now.

I was a little worried that the character was too starkly evil, but that's the great thing about Matt, who has about 10 million things to do in a day, yet he'll take the time and work it over with you.

I had some ideas of how to make the guy a little more human. You want there to be a reason behind whatever looks to be, on the surface, evil. That also makes it more realistic to play him.

So that was our earliest conversation that I remember, and that conversation kept happening, we kept working on it, and Matt's great, he's a hard worker - if he says he's going to do something, he really does it.

As an actor who has worked with some special effects, but not with performance capture, how did you find it?

At first, it's a little daunting, because they've got all the dots on their face and the grey suit which makes it look like everybody's in spandex or something! And these mo-cap (motion capture) cameras hovering in front of their faces all the time, it takes some getting used to. But I've got to say, after a day or so, it's just how it is, it's normal.

And the actors are so good. I think Andy (Serkis) is one of the greatest actors alive. You accept them as apes, the way they move, everything. It's an amazing thing, because I never thought I'd be excited about something like this, but I do think now I'm really believing in motion capture.

Was it easier because you have the first two films to look at and convince you that they know how to do this?

When I saw the first one, I was, like, "Holy s***! I cannot wait to see the second one, that was incredible." Then boom, I watched the second one and that may even have been better than the first one, that never happens! I couldn't wait to see the next one, then got to be in it. So it's a lucky life. And when I did finally see this one, I was just blown away.

You said earlier that you wanted to be an ape. If the opportunity arose, would you want to come back and do that?

I think I would. I think people might know it was me, because my voice is recognisable, though they might think it's (US actor-director) Woody Allen, the way things go with me!

I would love to be actually a good guy in one of these movies if they do one. But while I can't imagine they wouldn't, this is a trilogy and War is number three, so who knows? The key thing is to make sure they do it right.

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