“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” Interviews: Kevin Durand and Owen Teague Trained as Cirque du Soleil Acrobats

Owen Teague, Freya Allan and Kevin Durand star in the all-new Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes by Wes Ball. And the two actors benefited from lessons from Alain Gauthier, acrobat and choreographer of Cirque du Soleil. Explanations…

The film franchise with US$2.17 billion in revenue expands with the arrival of a 10e feature film. Derived from the trilogy directed by Rupert Wyatt and Matt Reeves, in which Andy Serkis played the role of Caesar, a thinking and talking chimpanzee, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes takes place several centuries after the simian species took power.

Noa (Owen Teague), a young chimpanzee, sees his clan captured or massacred by an army of masked monkeys. He sets out in search of his family, meeting along the way Raka (Peter Macon), a particularly wise orangutan, as well as Nova (Freya Allan), a human with speech. They will face Proximus (Kevin Durand), a bonobo monkey, head of a warlike clan, eager to find and appropriate human technologies.

Noa (Owen Teague) and Raka (Peter Macon) in “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes”

Photo provided by 20th Century Studios

Become monkeys…

Trained by Alain Gauthier, choreographer of Cirque du Soleil, both Owen Teague and Kevin Durand had to follow a type of particularly intense training camp.

“He started us off with training that he had to give to the acrobats from Cirque du Soleil. It was physical theater work. Additionally, as he is a very scientific man, we studied the different species of monkeys that we were going to play. We looked at their anatomy and biology to establish a format in which we would work. This is how we determined the movements of our bodies. The other part of our job was to make these characters come out of us, both vocally and physically. We became an extension of our characters,” explained Owen Teague during an interview with the QMI Agency.


Raka (Peter Macon), Noa (Owen Teague) and Freya Allan in “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.”

Photo provided by 20th Century Studios

“His work allowed us, when we arrived on the film set, to completely inhabit our ape bodies. These bodies became a kind of frequency that we could tune into to transform ourselves into monkeys. He encouraged us to improvise a lot. When the actors improvise, you see all the layers they have created beneath the dialogue. We understand why the characters act the way they do or say the things they say. This is especially true in my relationship as Proximus with Owen and his character Noa. Our improvisations are reflected in the film, and it’s something that we are both very proud of,” added Kevin Durand.

A more “pure” game?

Performance capture is still a misunderstood discipline in Hollywood. Their bodies covered in a suit that resembles a diving suit coated with electronic sensors, the actors move and play in front of the camera. Visual elements – skin, hair, eyes, etc. – are then added in post-production. It is also through this process that Andy Serkis became Gollum in The Lord of the Ringsthen Caesar in the previous trilogy of The Planet of the Apesthe Briton having opened a studio specializing in performance capture.


“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” Interviews: Kevin Durand and Owen Teague Trained as Cirque du Soleil Acrobats

Freya Allan in ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’.

Photo provided by 20th Century Studios

“In the theater, everything is imagination,” said Owen Teague, who spent a good ten years on the stage before his career in cinema and television. The story is the same with Kevin Durand, whose passage off-Broadway left him this love of a game stripped of all artifice and which performance capture allows.

“As Andy often says, there is no mystery to performance capture. We’re not doing anything much different than usual. We move and speak in an unusual way, we are dressed in thousands of dollars of sensors, but we play a character,” said Owen Teague.


“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” Interviews: Kevin Durand and Owen Teague Trained as Cirque du Soleil Acrobats

Anaya, Noa and Soona in “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes”.

Photo provided by 20th Century Studios

As Kevin Durand says, director Wes Ball, to whom we owe the trilogy The Ordealintends to release a film version Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes where moviegoers will see the finished film and the performance capture filming side by side in order to demystify this little-known and misunderstood technology!

The legacy of The Planet of the Apes

Since 1953, the date of the publication of the novel by Frenchman Pierre Boule, The Planet of the Apes has been made into films – the first, with Charlton Heston, dates from 1968, and the most recent is the excellent War for the Planet of the Apesreleased on screens in 2017 -, in a television series, in video games and even in a comic book, the enthusiasm of fans has not been denied for more than half a century.


“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” Interviews: Kevin Durand and Owen Teague Trained as Cirque du Soleil Acrobats

Wes Ball, the director of the film “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes”.

Photo provided by 20th Century Studios

“The film allowed me to reframe my perception of humanity,” said Owen Teague. We know where we come from from a scientific point of view, but we only feel it when we come face to face with a chimpanzee.”

“Monkeys are the mirror of humanity. We look these monkeys in the eyes and we see ourselves. Playing Proximus, I looked at myself and asked myself some difficult questions: what are we doing to the planet? What are we doing to each other? Proximus is aware of these issues and it knows that it cannot let Homo sapiens regain the power they had,” concluded Kevin Durand.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes hits the screens of Quebec in force from May 10.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes: a very physical shoot

Filmed in Australia in breathtaking natural settings, the film sets Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes were “huge”.

“The entire village of Noa has been built. The bunker [dans lequel Proximus veut pénétrer] was also a set, in fact, it was several sets in which we moved according to the scenes,” explains Owen Teague.

As action plays a significant role in the feature film, “the filming was extremely physical,” said the actor. From the first day of what I will call “monkey school”, I spent my time squatting. Monkeys’ legs are much shorter than those of humans, so this difference in size must be compensated for, explains Kevin Durand. Owen spent his time crouching, I admit that I had an easier shoot because it was shorter than him who is in all the scenes.

“My thighs got huge, I had to change pant sizes during filming,” exclaimed Owen Teague.

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