Exclusive: Matt Reeves talks Dawn of Apes and the future of the franchise!

This year, Matt Reeves created an epic return with DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. With a phenomenal lead performance from Andy Serkis, as well as incredible special effects, the film is easily one of my favorites in the franchise – next to the original 1968 feature. It is exciting to see the continuation done with respect to the earlier films as well as telling a brand new tale.

Mr. Reeves is one of the most impressive filmmakers working today, as well as being one of the kindest gentlemen to chat with. With the upcoming Blu-ray release, the director took time out to talk with us about the special features that audiences will be able to check out. He also discussed his thoughts on whether or not Serkis should be considered during award season as well as what kind of journey Caesar will take in the new film. And when it comes to the sequels, how close are we to seeing a remake of the original film.

It is always great to talk to Matt Reeves. And I’m thrilled to get a chance to take on DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES once again – which you can order here – as well as looking forward to what he brings with the upcoming sequel.

It seems to be a bit of a balancing act promoting this film as well as planning ahead for the sequel.

Yeah, there are still people that haven’t seen it so we are excited that it’s finally coming out on home video. And people who really responded to the film, I think it’s really cool because there is a lot of stuff on there to show how we did it. In this case in particular [the making of the film] is a story in and of itself. It’s funny because I’m preparing to do the next movie and we just finished the one, and all of a sudden we are going to the next. In a weird way, watching all the supplemental features before its release, it kind of set me up for getting ready to do it again. Because by the time I was done watching it, it reminded me not only how crazy the experience was, but really how much I loved the people I was working with. And so by the time I was done, it was like, yeah I can’t wait to do another one. But when we were starting off, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I can’t believe we are going right into it.’ Having to look at and approving the features is one of the things that helped me get excited about jumping in again because it reminded me of what a special experience this was.

What are the features that you are most proud of bringing audiences?

They did a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that I think is pretty interesting to watch if you are at all interested in how a performance capture movie is made. I can say that never having made one before that I had no idea how complicated the endeavor was. I think there is something about us being out there in the wild with performance capture cameras, 3-D cameras on cranes, actors in unitards with tracking markers all over their body. That is a particularly bizarre sight. That is one of the things I think is pretty cool to see behind-the scenes. Of course it was fun as always doing a commentary, and also there are some deleted scenes on there. There are scenes that I really wanted in the movie, but getting near the end it really seemed like the movie played better without a couple of them. And they are scenes that I had affection for. It’s kind of fun to know that at least they will live in this.

There has been a lot of discussion on this film in particular about the possibility of Andy Serkis getting Academy Award recognition. What are your thoughts on that?

I think Andy Serkis is one of the best actors working, I think he is amazing. I think the only reason this continues to be a story is that there is a lot of confusion about performance capture and what you are seeing in scenes, and how much of that is Andy and how much of it is WETA. The very simple answer is that the performance, the emotion, is all coming from Andy. If you are affected by what you are seeing in his performance, you are affected by Andy. And what’s amazing is that WETA was able to translate that performance onto the anatomy of the photo real life, and do that in such a way that literally each hair is so vivid and so real looking, that the illusion then becomes incredibly [bizarre]. You see human emotion that is expressed through an ape which is bizarre. But that emotion comes from Andy. So for me, there is no question in my mind that if someone is responding to that performance, and feeling affected by it the way that I am, and someone sees it as being award worthy, that really reflects on Andy. It also reflects on WETA. What they do is incredible, which is to translate that performance and realize it all in a way that is photo real. It is incredible what they do and they deserve award recognition as well. Their category would obviously be special effects, and I think that Andy absolutely deserves recognition in the acting category.

I fully agree, it’s a fantastic performance. And I know you’ve been briefly talking about where you’d like to go with the next film, what excites you about where you see Caesar going with the next installment?

Well it’s interesting because Mark Bomback and I are working on the next story, and I have to say given the trajectory of how his arc has gone from the first movie through DAWN so far, what is so exciting to us is that this is sort of his biggest arc yet. We are going to take him to places that test him in a way that is more painful, and in ways that he has never been tested before. [We will] really test his leadership, and more than that his heart and soul. There are ways in which the experience he had with Koba in the last film, really create a context in this story that is going to be, in a way, his greatest challenge yet. We are very excited about it you know.

You have to keep in mind that he is such a unique character and the world he comes from is a human background. He was raised by humans and in a way he sort of thought he was human, yet an outsider, but he is also an ape. And when he was thrown in with the apes who he later led to a revolution, he was quite different than they were because he hadn’t been brought up as an ape. He was both ape and human and also neither. That made him a unique character to be a bridge between these two worlds in the story.

As this story continues, we know that war is not avoided by the end of DAWN. That is going to take us into the world of what he is grappling with. Where he is going to be thrust into circumstances that he never, ever wanted to deal with, and was hoping he could avoid. And now he is right in the middle of it. The things that happen in that story test him in huge ways, in the ways in which his relationship with Koba haunts him deeply. It’s going to be an epic story. I think you’ve probably read that I sort of described it where in the first film was very much about his rise from humble beginnings to being a revolutionary. The second movie was about having to rise to the challenge of being a great leader in the most difficult of times. This is going to be the story that is going to cement his status as a seminal figure in ape history, and sort of leads to an almost biblical status. He is going to become like a mythic ape figure, like Moses.

Do you see yourself actually going forward and returning to the original PLANET OF THE APES as a remake?

To me the idea is that the 1968 films stands as trajectory in that, what is so exciting is that the world of that film is so different from where things started in RISE, and the way they are in DAWN and now will be in the next film. There is a huge distance to cover between here and there that is all about Caesar and future generations, and how this world has transformed into that world, and the struggle that they’ll have to go through and how we create the world that we know from that. I think once you’ve gone through all of those chapters, you’ve gotten all the richness of those stories, you could very well find yourself going into that story again, but I think it would be from a new perspective. The idea would never be to remake the ’68 film. There might be some of those events from another perspective, and obviously to also see them as events that grew out of everything that we’ve been watching from this new iteration. They wouldn’t be exactly the same either. So if, and when, we ever get there, which I think is an exciting notion, it would definitely not be a remake but it would be sort of a re-telling of those events from a new perspective. And the events themselves would probably be a bit different since they will have grown out of these films.

Source: JoBlo.com

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JimmyO is one of JoBlo.com’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.