war for the planet of the apes behind the scenes

We’ve seen a lot of crosses and apes being crucified. How important is that biblical imagery to this film?

Clark: I went to Catholic school — reporters come to me and say they see a lot of Noah in this. and I’m like “Really.” Moses — of course. Jesus has been referred to. We’re not making a bible story. We are the most practical minded people ever. Our production designer James Chinlund — he will say things like this to me: apes don’t dig. So it’s not meant to be a cross — but if it’s perceived as a cross, that might be an interesting conversation but that’s not the intent. the intent it serves in the movie is very specific and again — we do look at certain — [AkiraKurosawa is one our favorite directors. we try not to rip off any of the masters but if we get compared to the master in a good way — we go alright. In a bad way — we go what are you talking about?

Are we going to get a more global perspective on the ape’s society?

Clark: You’re going to get a global perspective on the state of the world. Global perspective of the ape society – no, because again we’re following these main apes and specifically Caesar. Steve Zahn’s going to show up and give us a taste of the possibility and the question of what else is out there. But the drama and the emotional focus is Caesar how are you going to end this war both externally and internally. We really wanted to get out of San Francisco in this movie so one of things that were important to Matt was let’s start in a battle.

They’re fighting military people. This is a war after all. This looks like the Muir Woods but not the Muir Woods where their home was burnt down. But we know they left San Francisco. It’s been about two years. They didn’t get too far out. They hunkered down in the woods as an ape would do and they got it on. And then after that through Caesar’s conflict and turmoil, he departs with his posse… It’s a western. He’s Clint Eastwood in this movie.

Caesar and Koba from Dawn of the a Planet of the Apes

Is Koba alive?

Clark: I don’t know — I can tell you 100% Koba’s not alive in this movie. We did do that.

Were you consciously doing [the Koba audio cue in the credits of Dawn]  to mess with people?

Clark: We’re never trying to manipulate and mess with… When you finish the movie, you hope you did a good job but you never know. When we finish this movie, then we have to go in post for a year. We believe in our story, our team, Fox… but you don’t know. So you put the movie out and then it’s up to you guys to go oh that was good. So there was talk… Matt and I — we loved Toby Kebbell. Koba is a great character. He was great for entertainment and for Caesar. Caesar loved Koba.

He was his brother until the humans showed up and Koba could not contain his rage and everything was lost. We loved what that said about the world but we also loved what it said emotionally for these two characters. We were really sad to see him in visual effect turnover meetings tumble down three hundred feet and die in a fiery ball of hell. Yeah — there were conversations. They wouldn’t have done that to Darth Vader… So we were like god did we make a mistake killing Koba? But again we have to look each other in the eyes and say — could anybody survive that fall? For real? And the answer is ‘No’ and then we were sad.

But are we going to see any antagonism within the ape community?

Clark: Yes.

Will we see gorillas vs. apes?

Clark: We’re always looking for good storytelling. And in good storytelling there’s always got to be conflict both external and internal. It’s not harmonious. When you’ve been in war for two years and there was already a big faction… we couldn’t get too deep in with those characters with Koba but there was a lot of Koba sympathizers. There were a couple guys sitting on the rock basically flipping Caesar off. You’re making a mistake here dude. These humans cannot  be trusted. I don’t care if Keri Russell is so pretty. I don’t trust her. She’s going to do something bad to us. And that’s the world we live in right?

What’s the plot of the movie?

Clark: Caesar goes on a journey at the end of the first act because he doesn’t believe he’s fit to lead. Apes have found where they think they can live without human fighting. A promised land, so to speak. A place where they can start over. A safer, more beautiful land they can inhabit. And he goes on a dark quest because he thinks… Like the humans that were attacking them in the beginning of the movie, there’s a scene that they basically say if we can kill Caesar, the apes head is cut off and we can win this war. Caesar believes if he can kill Woody, they can win this war and let the apes that I’m leading start anew. It doesn’t work out that way.

Caesar on his own gets caught in his own thing… [Caesar and his group] pick up a blonde girl, a little girl — along the way and there’s a great scene, they’re going to leave her and she’s young and not able to take care of herself and Caesar says we’re not taking her and Maurice says to Caesar — I understand but I’m not leaving her. And you love Maurice. And the next cut is the little girl on the back of a horse, holding onto a big orangutan, looking at Caesar.

I will say this movie is dark — there are dark elements to it. There are much lighter elements too. I think we’re trying to find a much better back and forth balance between very impactful emotional drama and how it effects Caesar and the group but also give entertainment and lighter moments. There’s levity… But there are more reasons to smile and laugh than there were in prior movies.

Caesar finds that his apes have been captured and that’s where we are. We’re here seeing what some of the apes have to do. And they’re being asked to do a task only apes could do and there’s a bigger third act ending and then Caesar has to come into Dodge and it’s on. The drama is how is Caesar going to free these apes. Is Caesar going to best and vanquish this bad guy in Woody Harrelson? But the real drama is inside Caesar — are you going to reclaim your morality? Are you going to find your humanity? You’re the most human of all the characters. You’re the most just, you’re the most right. it seems you’ve lost your way a little bit in this movie. Can you regain it back? That’s the suspense and the drama that plays out through the course of this thing.

war for the planet of the apes

Who is Woody Harrelson’s character? Is he just unrepentantly evil?

Clark: Even the most truly evil people on our planet today. I’m sure if you had one moment in time — you could see them with their kids and go oh my god… Did you watch the Sean Penn interview with El Chapo? Now there might be some theater there but he really came off as some farmer not looking for a fight. We’re not interested in painting people black and white. We’re looking for the grey because that’s the complicated world we live in so we like to paint all our characters with very strong points of view.

He has a point of view. It doesn’t coincide with the ape’s point of view. He’s against Caesar. In a different time and a different world  they might have been able to coexist. But where circumstances have brought these two to the table now in this movie, they cannot be on the same side…. Who’s going to inherit the planet? Who’s going to win? That’s what this is about. The dominant species wins. Woody Harrelson is a smart character. He knows they’re stronger. He knows they’re faster. He knows they’re as smart now. He realizes we have a big time problem. He knows they’re mad. So what do you do about that when you’re dealing with the virus?

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes photo

Any talk about bringing back Jason Clarke and Keri Russell?

Clark: Yeah — we’re thinking always about those guys. And I said to the press in the original script of Rise, James Franco dies and we shot that and it was bad. it was bad for two reasons: it was a horribly staged thing. Brian Cox had a shotgun and shot him from a hundred feet away. And emotionally it wasn’t the right thing to do. You wanted a scene where the surrogate father said to the surrogate son, “I’m sorry. I screwed up. I want you to win and survive. Go.” And then he went up to the tree and we believed he was going to make it. And we felt good about that. And that was important to us. we wanted to feel good about where the humans are finished so you felt behind the apes. But then we thought — there’s a virus and the virus killed James Franco. That’s how we dealt with it. and no one really asked because that was the world of our movie. In this movie we’ve already set a precedent. We really wanted to get away from that drama and we did radio up north and bring in these heavies. We know that’s not Jason and… Gary Oldman blew himself up…

What about snow and its effect on technology?

Clark: We are constantly trying to push technology. It’s helpful if it’s used to tell the story. We’re always trying to make it more interesting to look at. Motion capture probably has been done in the snow. But not like we’re doing. And so I’m saying for the record we’re doing it for the first time: motion capture in the snow. so we have performance capture actors doing their thing and then we have motion capture capturing that action out in snowy locations. It’s so cool.

On 65mm — which is awesome. That experience is going  to be great. This movie will be able to be seen in 3D. We shot it in 3D last time because we didn’t have enough time in our post schedule to convert it; we have time now. Not to hurt the 3D camera companies but the 3D conversion companies have gotten so good at this that if you give them enough time, we can deliver for the audience that wants 3D a very good experience.

We’re shooting this in native 65mm for filmmaking reasons, for directorial reasons and I’m very excited about it. We have bigger sets. We’re outside more. We have more rain, more snow. More action. More levity. More emotion. More, more, more…

war for the planet of the apes

You mentioned offhand this is a Western and Caesar’s Clint Eastwood.

Clark:  I didn’t say he is Clint. I referenced Clint Eastwood. Caesar’s Caesar.

We’re getting more and more that this is like a huge epic Western. Can you talk about that?

Clark: Caesar goes on a Western like journey to kick Woody Harrelson’s ass. And he finds out that Woody Harrelson has captured his apes. Feeling responsible, because he wasn’t leading his apes, he goes in to get them. And he basically get captured. So they are all at this camp, which is at the top of we’re calling it the Sierra Mountains. A fictitious facility. It was a repurposed after the viral apocalypse, it was a military installation that housed a lot of military stuff, weapons and things like that. But it also became let’s call it an internment camp.

In that area, unfortunately in California’s history, and it’s not why we did it, but it’s an interesting thing I think about constantly. During World War II, Asian Americans, Japanese, were interned there. It’s a horrible, I lived in Mammoth for a little bit. Every time you drive past there, you can’t believe that this happened during your lifetime. It just feels like and it’s crazy one, you have all these people in the Presidential campaign talking about this stuff. You’re like oh my God.

So this place was that. Crosses and things were referred to. So the apes are being put to work to do something. Again, and I’m being loose here ’cause I don’t wanna fill in the plot for you completely. There’s a big third act finale. Apes get kind of pinned into some bad stuff. But the apes are gonna be killed. But so it’s Caesar’s job to figure out where he fits into this story and the world of the apes, which is do I wanna continue the path that I started, I wanna kill Woody Harrelson? Or is my job to free the apes? Or both?

And that’s the drama of this. So what you’re seeing here is kind of the bad part of like the apes are enslaved to do some horrible things. There was the Koba faction of apes that did not agree with how Caesar was leading the apes. And in this movie, there’s conflict inside of the apes and there are some apes that have not been on Caesar’s side. How far will they go for survival?

Continue Reading Dylan Clark War For The Planet of the Apes Interview >>

Cool Posts From Around the Web: