Woody Harrelson monkeys around on the set of Planet of the Apes
At trilogy’s end, Caesar begins quest to avenge apes after slaughter
WOODY Harrelson is the new villain in the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise. In the final film in the trilogy, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind after the apes suffer unimaginable losses.
Harrelson plays the Colonel, a driven military leader who will go to any lengths in his fight against Caesar’s forces. But as the Emmy Award-winning actor reveals in this Q&A, he’d love to play one of the apes in any future films.
Q: How did director Matt Reeves pitch the Colonel to you?
A: I think I read the script, and then we talked, that’s usually how it works anyway. I liked the idea of the Colonel, I mean, sh*t, you’d rather be an ape in one of these movies, a loveable ape, like Bad Ape! Steve Zahn 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 Heart Of Darkness, better known in 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.
Q: As an actor who has worked with some effects but not with performance capture, how did you find it?
A: 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 mocap 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 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. Obviously, to get to do this and see the evolution of it; I was watching it at early stages when they showed me some scenes many months ago that were worked on a little bit, and sometimes you’d see apes, sometimes you’d see what was shot, and to watch it develop, it’s great.
Q: Was it easier because you’d seen the first two films?
A: When I saw the first one, I was like, “holy sh*t! 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.
Q: If the opportunity arose, would you want to come back and play an ape?
A: I think I would do that. I think people might know it was me, because my voice is recognisable, though they might think it’s Woody Allen, the way things go with me. I’d be maybe up for that. Just to be a part of it, it’s such an amazing thing, this story hooked me. I would love to be actually a good guy in one of these movies if they do one. This is a trilogy and War is number three, so who knows?
Q: This film feels like a giant Western in its scope.
A: That’s the beauty of it; you’re not conscious of the technology which is what’s important. It’s like a classic Western in many ways, and a revenge story.
War for the Planet of the Apes opens on Thursday.
Woody Harrelson in a scene from War for the Planet of the Apes.