Take a minute to meet the guys who bring the magic of movies to life.
Movies, especially movies like the upcoming War of the Planet of the Apes seem like a fantasy book has just popped open and become reality. The magic of movies never ceases to amaze. However, behind each little trick are dozens of men and women toiling away to make sure everything comes off perfectly. A couple such people are Mark Bomback, Dan Lemmon, and Joe Letteri. Mark Bomback wrote the last Planet of the Apes film as well as the upcoming one. Dan Lemmon and Joe Letteri, two of the visual effect geniuses from WETA, the visual effects studio behind Lord of the Rings, Ghost in the Shell, and so many other films, help bring Bomback’s great and touching script to life. We got a chance to talk with Mark and learn more about the process of writing the script as well as what inspired the film he and Matt Reeves made. We also got a chance to speak with Dan and Joe who shared how they brought this wonderful film to life. Check out our interview below in text as well as in video from the red carpet:
Dan Lemmon and Joe Letteri
How much of the film was practical effects versus CGI?
Dan: There’s something great about having something in the camera to start with. So we fought really hard to keep as much of the practical explosions and dirt hits and squibs as we could. It could a challenge because you have to put apes behind all of those effects, so often we have to overlap additional CG elements over the top. All the apes in the movie are completely digital. Any character that’s a little furry, fuzzy and doesn’t look like a human, that’s a digital character.
There were a lot of close ups and it’s difficult to bring out the emotion of a character’s face. What are some of the difficulties of portraying every single muscle of a character moving?
Joe: That’s exactly right, it’s every single muscle moving and making sure it comes through. Fortunately, this is the third film that we’ve done with Andy as Caesar, so we’ve learned a lot about how to make that detail without having to go very broad with it. That’s where we spent a lot of our time, in that minute detail.
Dan: And in some cases we’ll alter the design of the characters slightly in order to hit emotionally the beats that the actor playing that character hits.
You guys have worked on many films. Were there any difficulties working on this film as apposed to the others?
Dan: One of the challenges with this whole franchise is that emotionally those characters have to carry the whole movie, but because they play along side humans and play in real photography, they have to look 100% photo real. If the audience doesn’t believe those characters photographically or emotionally, then the movie doesn’t work. That’s a real responsibility for us.
Joe: With so many apes in the film, there were so many interactions. Apes to apes, apes to humans, apes riding horses, apes interacting with the snow and the rain and the splashing. There was all that really grounds it that makes it feel like the apes are there when you shot the movie.
The film features many prolonged sequences of silence or non dialogue. What were some of the difficulties in writing that?
Mark: As a writer you have two tools. You have dialogue and action so we relied a lot on action. With the apes, because they use sign language so often, a lot of our challenge was to keep that sign language really minimal and maximize every moment. We don’t like to have more than two lines of sign language at at time. It’s a challenge.
When you were writing this film, were there an external influences such as silent film?
Mark: Yea actually Matt and I would, everyday, while working on the film, would watch everything from The Great Escape to Bridge on the River Kwai, or Spartacus, Braveheart, and a lot of biblical epics like Ben-Hur, Ten Commandments, and yea.
The character of Caesar reminds me a lot of Moses from the Bible. How heavily was he inspired by that?
Mark: We think of him as a Moses figure. He has that same mythical status amongst his people and this is the film where you really see him elevate to that place in their mythology.
How was working with Matt Reeves?
Mark: Matt is the greatest. I’ve been working with Matt now for 5 years and we’ve really become close friends and it’s great to work with your friends.
This film had a conclusive ending, but there is a fourth film in the works, where do you see this film going?
Mark: I hesitate to answer. When you’re done seeing this, there’s a lot of places it could go and a lot of characters it could follow.
Who was your favorite character to write for?
Mark: It’s hard to say which one is my favorite, probably the one that gave us the most laughs while writing was Bad Ape and Caesar, it’s just truly an honor to write for a character like that.
Did you base the character of Woody Harrelson off Marlon Brando’s character from Apocalypse Now?
Mark: Not based off him, but loosely inspired by, amongst other people like Patton. A lot of different archetypes of leaders. That was certainly a movie we watched a lot and got a lot of inspiration from.
The film hits theaters this Friday!