Films

Andy Serkis On Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Motion-capture don Andy Serkis fills us in on Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

It took us humans a lot longer than 10 years to evolve into the wondrously complex creatures we are today. Ten years in the ape world, though, is apparently no time at all. OK, so fans of the franchise will know Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the rest of his simian gang had a little intelligence-enhancing help in 2011’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, but forthcoming sequel Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes reveals these guys are ploughing through the evolutionary checklist at break-neck speed. Reading books? Yep. Riding horses while carrying automatic weaponry? Walk in the park. Expressing high-concept philosophical ideas via sign language? You betcha.

This second instalment picks up where Rise… left off, with Caesar living in the forests of San Francisco. We’re not talking fully fledged conversations (yet), but our human-raised hero has taught his fellow apes to sign and communicate with sound. “‘Knowledge is power’ is the belief Caesar tries to instil in the community,” Serkis tells ShortList. “He knows language is the tool to make that happen. The ability to communicate logic without being over-emotional is important.”

Ensuring that communication ran smoothly was performance coach Terry Notary, with whom Serkis and co attended ‘ape camp’. “He’s a brilliant teacher,” says Serkis. “I also worked with him for The Hobbit – he taught everybody how to be elves, orcs and dwarves. For Dawn… he worked on cultural specifics; you’ve got orang-utans, gorillas and chimpanzees, so everyone had their own ape vocalisations to master.”

But we humans aren’t faring so well. A devastating virus, known as ‘simian flu’, has wiped out most of the population, and the survivors need electricity, which only the apes can provide. “There are fight scenes but it’s very well balanced,” claims Serkis. “It’s a peace movie. It’s a great story about prejudice and empathy, it has real emotional heart.”

An epic man-ape stand-off that also tugs firmly at the heart strings? We’re sold.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is at cinemas nationwide from 17 July