'War for the Planet of the Apes' Stars Reveal How It Evolved From 'Planet of the Mo-Cap Actors'

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

When audiences see War for the Planet of the Apes on Friday, the screen will be populated by those damn, dirty apes that bedeviled Charlton Heston nearly 50 years ago in the beloved 1968 sci-fi classic. But War director Matt Reeves experienced an earlier version of the film that looked quite different. “You cut a version of the movie that has to work before you start doing the effects,” the filmmaker told Yahoo Movies. “That version is not Planet of the Apes; it’s Planet of the Mo-Cap Actors.” (Watch our full interview with Reeves and the film’s cast above.)

Mo-cap, or motion-capture, is the particular brand of modern movie magic that has made this current iteration of the Apes franchise possible. And from the beginning of the new trilogy  which started with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, continued in 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and concludes with War — the filmmakers have leaned on pioneering mo-cap performer Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, The Force Awakens) to create a compelling on-set portrayal of ape leader Caesar that teams of animators can enhance later on.

“The hardware of it all has become a lot more robust,” the actor says, praising the level of photorealism on War in particular. Serkis’s co-star Steve Zahn calls seeing his simian counterpart, “Bad Ape,” for the first time a “moving experience.” The veteran character actor makes his mo-cap debut in this film, and he likes it. “The technology is so great,” he says. “What you do is just go act.”

And even now that Planet of the Mo-Cap Actors has evolved into War for the Planet of the Apes, Reeves says he can still see the humans inside the apes. “You look at them and you see the performances. I can’t see Caesar without seeing Andy, I can’t see Bad Ape without seeing Steve.”

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