“War for the Planet of the Apes” is the third film in the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy. Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the humans are entangled in a war between each other. The apes suffer great losses and Caesar strives to avenge his kind. The war pits him against Colonel (Woody Harrelson) in a battle that will determine the fate of the planet.
By his side is Maurice (Karin Konoval), an orangutan who has been Caesar’s closest friend and adviser since the beginning.
Jeremy Hsiao (JH): Where does this third film take off from?
Karin Konoval (KK): It’s about two years after where we left off in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” There’s been a great deal of war and the apes have suffered a bunch of losses so it has been a very, very tough time.
JH: In the first film, Maurice was the only other ape who could talk to Caesar at the time. Maurice was a character Caesar could rely on in the beginning. Now, their planet has expanded. What role will Maurice play in the third film?
KK: They were able to connect in that sense of their relationship as Maurice being Caesar’s confidant and adviser. That relationship increases and is more significant and richer through the telling of “War for the Planet of the Apes.” Maurice’s role is number one as Caesar’s adviser and is his conscience when Maurice feels Caesar needs the voice of a conscience in his head. Maurice will challenge him upon occasion, not to go against him, but because he can feel what is best for Caesar. Maurice will do it in honor of fulfilling his role as his adviser.
JH: How did you prepare for your role as an orangutan?
KK: When I was first cast in 2010 of course I didn’t know anything about orangutans. The research was that I read every book that was written. I watched every video that I could find. The physical training with quadrupedal walking and running was a very strenuous part of the initial preparation for the role. We also had to do things like add weights to each of my arms as I [walked] along because I’m 125 pounds while Maurice is about 300. I would do weight lifting in the gym, yoga, stretching to gain orangutan flexibility, and upper arm strengthening to do climbing. The very particular quadrupedal movement I had to get into my body is different from chimps and gorillas. I also had to find Maurice’s psychological and emotional integrity as a mature male orangutan. I had to teach myself how to long call, bringing orangutan vocalization into my voice. It has been a lot of different fronts over the years.
JH: When did you begin preparations?
KK: I backed up my preparation before I knew the third film was coming. I knew exactly what would be required so I started four or five months before filming. I started workouts in the gym, long distance cycling and flexibility stretching. I would say by the time we were a month out, I was in the gym every day for about an hour and a half, and cycling a hundred kilometers a week. I was moving slowly and consistently towards being able to maintain the cardio that’s required for quadrupending and to maintain that over a six-month shoot in extraordinarily difficult weather conditions.
JH: How was your experience working with the performance capture technology to bring your character to life?
KK: The technology is the technology. So it’s something I have to wear as an actor: the grey suit, the helmet with the camera, and the wires all over my body. But my job doesn’t change: it is to play Maurice, in his physicality and psychology, the integrity of his character, and thoughts and actions. The technology is not really something I feel like I have to work with in any way. My challenge as an actor is to portray the mature male orangutan that is Maurice. There’s nothing different I have to do working with this technology than I would for any other role. It’s the role itself that’s challenging. The technology captures every part of my performance so I have to have more refined integrity to my performance. It is very freeing and allows the actor to do anything, but the actor has to do it. It’s not like it can be made up later.
JH: Were there any challenges in filming?
KK: One of the things I loved the most in the very first part of preparation was the training for horse back riding. The month I spent training at the ranch, with Navarone, a Dutch Fresian stallion that I rode in the film, was amazing. That was particularly challenging for me because I do not have horsemanship. I found that challenging but also absolutely magical. It was one of the most wonderful gifts of this film, to spend the time learning to be relatively proficient on horseback with Navarone under Danny Virtue’s guidance.
JH: Do you have any advice for others in the entertainment industry?
KK: You’ve got to love what you’re doing. If you love the story telling and you feel like it’s absolutely the thing you have to do, then it’s going to work out somehow, no matter what. If you’re heading for it for fame, fortune, or any other reason than the desire to tell a good story and be part of that and give yourself to it fully, then I don’t think you’re going to find much meat on the bones. If you really love being an actor, love the story telling and are willing to move through whatever [happens], then there will be a place for you. Trust in that.