Before they became those "damn dirty apes," they were just regular apes in a lab somewhere. At least that's the premise of the upcoming Planet of the Apes prequel film Rise of the Apes, starring James Franco and a slew of other Hollywood stars.
Director Rupert Wyatt's addition to the venerable Apes franchise takes place prior to the ape uprising and focuses on a scientist (played by Franco) who is experimenting on the chimpanzee Caesar (played by motion-capture expert Andy Serkis) in order to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Caesar gets smarter from the experiments and, well, one thing leads to another and the apes take over the planet.
One would think an actor like Franco, whose work ranges from blockbuster movies like Spider-Man to a run on the daytime soap opera General Hospital, would have jumped at the opportunity to join Rise of the Apes, but in a recent interview with NBC's PopcornBiz blog Franco said he wasn't sure at first.
Talking about his decision to join the cast, Franco said:
"I saw ‘127 Hours' as an opportunity to have an unusual acting experience, and I honestly felt the same way about ‘Planet of the Apes’ where when I first heard about it I thought “Well, hmm, I don't know. Those masks have cult value, but…’ And then I found out, ‘Oh, that that’s not how they’re doing it,’ that it’s actually all of Peter Jackson’s Weta people doing CG and that I’ll be working with Andy Serkis who played Gollum. I was such a big fan of those movies and I am interested in new ways of performing and new ways of filmmaking so I thought why not?"
Franco went on to praise Andy Serkis' impressive motion-capture work saying:
"There’s no way we would ever get scenes that we did with a real chimpanzee. Because Andy’s so good at that behavior, it’s like acting opposite a real chimpanzee with great acting instincts. It was cool, it was new-new for me."
With a solid cast, which includes Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, and Harry Potter's Tom Felton, Rise of the Apes isn't lacking in the acting department. Plus, as Franco mentioned, they are working with Weta technology for the CG, so you know that will be top of the line as well.
It's a good thing too, because Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes definitely rubbed a lot of critics (myself included) the wrong way. Then again, Burton's Apes film was quite successful at the box office.
Rise of the Apes is scheduled to hit theaters on June 24th, 2011.