With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes out this week, we caught up with the motion-capturing man of the moment for a chinwag about ape camp, chest-beating and Princess Leia's buns…
FHM: Hi Andy. How much monkey poo was flung at you during your ape research for this month’s Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes?
Andy: No faeces. Having done Kong and the last …Apes movie, I’ve watched hundreds of hours of ape videos, been to Rwanda and London Zoo for research but I’ve based my character Caesar on one individual ape called Oliver. He was brought up by humans in the ’70s, walked bipedally and had a lot of human-like facial expressions. In fact, he was called the Humanzee because people for a while thought he was half-human, half-ape.
I’ve always approached Caesar as a human in ape skin. He doesn’t even realise he is an ape until he reaches his teenage years and then he’s cast out from his parents and left to go and find his own ape within.
There's a whole cast of you donning the motion capture suits and monkeying around. What were those rehearsals like?
The first stage was observation. Everyone was very dedicated to looking at their own species of ape, whether they were playing a gorilla, chimpanzee or orang-utan. They studied them very thoroughly.
Then a lot of work was done with the performance coach, Terry Notary, for a lot of the other cast members who hadn’t played apes before. That was the technical training.
The third part was a full-on rehearsal period, or “ape camp” as we called it. We just spent a lot of time improvising.
If we wanted to go physically ape-shit and act it out with deep accuracy, what tips would you give us?
Apes don’t pound their chests with closed fists in the Tarzan-like fashion, they cup their hands. You’d need to chest beat at 17 beats per second and inflate your chest muscles so they’re like very tight drum skins.
What’s the weirdest injury you’ve had while in a motion capture suit?
When I was playing King Kong, I was charging through a scale model of New York and I hit a corner of a building. It practically went halfway into my leg. It was quite a deep laceration, which was fixed with bandages and Manuka honey, believe it or not. It’s amazing medicine for deep cuts. I highly recommend it.
You played Gollum in the Lord Of The Rings movies. Of your friends, who does the best impersonation?
Martin Freeman’s very good. In fact, one of his very good Gollums is on YouTube.
You're famed for playing savage apes, slimy creatures and child killers. Do you ever yearn to play a hulking, action hero?
I think Caeser is quite a heroic character but, if I was to play an action hero, I've always fancied playing Spider-Man. I might be well past the acceptable age now, though. The glory of motion capture is that you can play anything at any age, but I'd have to play Peter Parker as well and I don't think the motion capture budgets would stretch that far.
You’re starring in the new Star Wars film. Which prop would you love to walk away from the set with?
Princess Leia’s buns. I just think they’re tremendous and, in the middle of winter, what more could you possibly ask for? I mean her hair buns, of course.
Check out the trailer below for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, out now in cinemas.