How'd They Do That? Beneath 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'
By David Weiner
James Franco is confronted with the next step in evolution in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes,' and the stars explain how they used 'Avatar'-style movie magic to turn 'Lord of the Rings' star Andy Serkis into a revolutionary chimpanzee.
"I never think of performance capture as any different to shooting performance with a 35mm camera," says Serkis, who provided the voice and body motion-capture for Gollum in 'The Lord of the Rings,' as well as 'King Kong' himself. "It's about getting inside the soul, the mind-set of whatever character that you're playing, whether it's human, or whether it's a creature or it's an ape or a primate or whatever -- performance capture allows you to do that."
In 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes,' dedicated scientist Franco develops a miracle Alzheimer's cure that allows the brain to repair itself, inspired by the struggle his father (John Lithgow) endures from the disease. Franco tests the serum on an ape that gives birth to a young chimp named Caesar (Serkis), but when the serum's side-effects result in increased intelligence, mankind soon finds a rebellion on its hands: The rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Franco calls Serkis a pioneer in the performance capture field, saying, "Andy is so good at the behavior, and he's so connected to what he's doing, that he allows my imagination to take over and I can really treat him as if he were a chimpanzee."
"I almost forget he's Andy Serkis; I look at him and I'm thinking chimpanzee, because his mannerisms are just so bang on," says 'Slumdog Millionaire' beauty Freida Pinto, who plays Franco's veterinarian girlfriend. "My heart would really break just watching him do what he was doing."
Also starring 'Harry Potter' star Tom Felton and Brian Cox, the film is a reimagining of the 1972 film 'Conquest of the Planet of the Apes' and features plenty of fun little nods to the original franchise.
'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' is poised to conquer the box office on Friday.