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Alongside the launch of the new trailer for Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, actor Owen Teague has revealed the research and training process that had to be undertaken to tackle the physical new role – including six weeks of ‘ape school’ and some intriguing animal encounters. Which was quite the challenge given that the cast were mostly new to motion-capture performance work.
“It was fantastic,” enthuses Teague, speaking exclusively to GamesRadar+ about the extended pre-shoot training required to portray his young chimpanzee Noa. “We had this movement teacher, Alain Gauthier. Well, that was his title – but he was much more than that. He helped us create these characters. He worked with us to get the physicality down, but he also helped us make these characters our own and find their voices. It was a blast.”
“We started with exercises to get in touch with our bodies and build strength because we're doing very physical stuff in this movie,” continues the actor. “And then we started getting our characters on our feet. We started speaking. Alain helped with everything.”
Going into specifics of the exercises, Teague adds, “Alain would lead us through extended improvisations, where he would give us an activity to do as our characters. I remember the first time we did it. It was so magical for everyone.”
“We were all sitting in this room and we were passing a rubber ball back and forth as apes,” the actor continues. “It was a very simple activity. Soon enough, one of us starts making a game out of it and another takes that and turns it into something else. Pretty soon, we're running around the room chasing each other, climbing on stuff and swinging around – and this goes on for an hour.”
“Finally, Alain brings us out of the exercise and says, ‘You guys just did that without breaking for an hour. Now you're feeling it.’ It was incredible. We would have those kinds of experiences every day.”
Other research methods used involved up-close and personal encounters with the imposing animals. “I’ve been about a foot away from an ape,” the actor explains, with a big smile on his face. “I went to a place called the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida, which is about an hour away from where I grew up. Our producers know the director of the sanctuary, Patti Ragan, who said I could spend some time there to hang out with the apes. That ended up being a really wonderful experience.”
“I still go down there whenever I'm in Florida,” he adds. “I go and spend a week down there and I work on the fences or I do some construction for them – but then, at night, we get to hang out with the chimps. It’s nice to be able to spend some real time with them. They're amazing and are now my personal obsession.”
During our exclusive interview, Teague goes on to reveal how eagles play an important role in the upcoming movie. In Kingdom, apes have domesticated the flying animals and the two species have developed a deep bond, much like humans and pet dogs in the real world today.
“They brought in a falconer to spend a day with us and show us what that relationship is like,” Teague tells us. “The bond of an eagle and a chimp is a big part of the movie and the eagles are all CG – but I have held an eagle, which is not a sentence I ever thought I would say.”
Describing his up-close experience with the powerful bird of prey, Teague admits, “It was kind of terrifying. They are frightening animals. When you look into the eyes of an eagle, you think, ‘This thing could kill me and fully would if I step out of line.’”
Comparing the two different species, the actor continues, “The chimps can also be very scary and they're very dangerous animals – but they’re also my friends because they share body language with humans and they’re very easy to communicate with. One of the chimps I got to spend time with knows American Sign Language, so we had conversations – but eagles look at you like prey. That’s scary.”
For more films coming your way, check out our guide to the other biggest upcoming movies.