John Lithgow has signed on to join in 20th Century Fox’s Planet of the Apes prequel Rise of the Apes. Lithgow joins James Franco (Spider-Man/Milk) who is set to play the lead, “a young, driven scientist who becomes a crucial figure in the war between humans and apes.” Lithgow will play Franco’s Alzheimer’s-stricken father. and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) is set to play Caroline, the film’s female lead who is “a primatologist.” Don Cheadle (Iron Man) is also rumored to be on board. The Escapist helmer Rupert Wyatt will direct from a screenplay by Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa.
Lithgow is a two-time Oscar nominated actor for his supporting performances in Terms of Endearment and The World According to Garp. He has also been nominated for nine Emmys, four of which he won. His role as the villain on last season’s Dexter was one of the most talked about performances in the last year of television.
Fox has released the official plot synopsis:
RISE OF THE APES (tentative title) is an origin story in the truest sense of the term. Set in present day San Francisco, the film is a reality-based cautionary tale, a science fiction/science fact blend, where man’s own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.
The Apes will be created using CGI by the wonderful tram at WETA Digital, rather than the costumed actors we’ve seen in past installments of the franchise. The press release says that they will employ “certain of the groundbreaking technologies developed for AVATAR” and “will render, for the first time ever in the film series, photo-realistic apes rather than costumed actors.”
Fox’s Tom Rothman has said that it is “a kind of prequel story before the first story, with a return to the social thematics that mark the first one, but with an entirely contemporary setting – Earth 2009.” The film won’t have talking monkeys and will not end with chimps taking over Earth. Instead the film will be a hard science fiction film about humans that use science to create hyper-intelligent chimpanzees.
Principal photography is set to begin on July 5th 2010 in British Columbia, and the film has an announced release date of June 24th 2011. Rise of the Apes will hit theaters on June 24th 2011. The prequel/reboot is set to hit theaters on the same day as Pixar’s Cars 2, a week after Green Lantern, and a week before Transformers 3.