“Andy Serkis has graciously passed the torch to us”: the director of the new film “Planet of the Apes” opens up

A new installment of the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, titled “The New Kingdom,” hits theaters this Wednesday, May 8, 2024.

“Andy Serkis has graciously passed the torch to us”: the director of the new film “Planet of the Apes” opens up

A new installment of the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, titled “The New Kingdom,” hits theaters this Wednesday, May 8, 2024. We spoke with director Wes Ball ahead of the release of this new film.

The confrontation between Apes and Humans is far from over. This Wednesday, May 8, 2024, spectators can discover a new episode of the science fiction franchise, Planet of the Apes: The New Kingdom. More than two hundred years after the death of Caesar (Andy Serkis), who freed the primates from human oppression, new clans were born and humans returned to the wild. New characters will have to find their way in a world where Caesar's teaching is forgotten, even misused.

It was director Wes Ball, who worked on the Labyrinth franchise, who was responsible for directing this new opus of a franchise that is still popular more than 55 years after its first episode. Between respecting the heritage of the saga and its codes and constructing new characters and new issues, the challenge was significant for the filmmaker. We met him before the film's release, this Wednesday, April 8.

At first I didn't think it was necessary (laughs), until we came up with an idea that I found interesting enough to make a new film. We worked a lot to make our story independent of the previous films. We wanted to start a new story that doesn't repeat previous episodes. But we still tried to respect and honor this heritage: we still operate in the same universe as that of Caesar, and he himself is a character who always hovers spiritually over the plot.

Time will tell whether the public agrees or not, but we believe we have struck the right balance. We find the DNA of the previous films, but we were still able to write a new chapter in this franchise of 10 films released over a period of 55 years.

It would definitely be the technical aspect of making the film. A film is always difficult to make: it's always complicated to write a script, to make it functional and coherent, to prepare the film, shoot it, edit it... But this one was particularly complex because we uses motion capture and numerous visual effects. I think there are 15-16,000 shots in total in the film, and only 30 of them don't feature visual effects. Which is very different from other films in the franchise, in which there were more apes and more human characters. Here, there was nowhere to hide.

The scale of work on Planet of the Apes: New Kingdom was much larger, and it was a real challenge. It was my first time working with these technologies, so I had a lot to learn and it was a fun challenge... But also very difficult.

Ultimately, actors need to get to a point where they no longer think about motion capture techniques at all and just perform by being sincere in their scenes and honest to their characters.

We worked a lot to achieve this: for around six weeks, the actors were trained in a sort of “monkey school”. It wasn't to rehearse the scenes, but just to learn how to sit like a monkey, walk across the room like a monkey, and behave like a monkey. Until it becomes so intuitive that they don't have to think about it on set. Once filming started, it was just a matter of shooting the scenes, working hard, being honest and present...and trusting the technology to capture every little detail, so the special effects teams could then get the job done amazing what they did.

Did you work with Andy Serkis (César) for this new film?

Yes, and he was incredibly generous. He was a bit like our “Monkey Godfather” on the film. He knows so much about motion capture, whether it's with the role of Caesar, but also Gollum, King Kong and in Tintin... I asked him what I had to be vigilant about, what I had to think about, what he thought of the script. He was an excellent conversationalist, honestly, he was a real support. I don't want to speak for him, but I think he felt like he had told his story, and he very graciously passed the torch to us, letting us move forward and warning us about the little pitfalls. which he had already discovered in the past. He was invaluable in that way and couldn't be more generous and kind.