[Minor spoilers] You clearly understand story archetypes and fundamentals, the movie is about the failure to coexist which is a tragedy. And there’s a lot of tragic elements, but it doesn’t go quite there fully. Is that something that's a function of sequel or studio demands?
I actually think it is a tragedy, there’s a tragic arc. To me, what the movie could be about was the one moment in time where it wouldn’t have been “Planet of the Apes,” there could have been peace. But that moment passes and at the end of the movie that chance is gone and you see that exchange between Jason Clarke and Andy Serkis and to me that is what could have been and it doesn't happen. And you know that Caesar is going to have to engage in a war now and that is the last thing he ever wanted. And what choice does he have now? It's a painful choice to have to be made and confronted with because he sees himself as rooted in the human world as he is in the ape world.
In a certain way his father, his surrogate father Will [James Franco] was a human. In fact, as Andy Serkis tells it, he thought that he was human until a certain age when he realized he was different. He spent his life as an outsider. In that sense, I do see the movie as being tragic and in keeping with the dark hued endings of the “Planet of the Apes.”
I think that that is part of what is going to energize the continuance of the story. The movie doesn't end in utter desolation but there is a huge emotional cost. Without getting into spoilers, there’s a brotherhood that's lost, a chance at peace that's lost. The thing is, I certainly also hope that it’s going to be satisfying to an audience. I mean it's a summer tentpole movie. I don't want them to come to the movie and go like, “Wow gee, that was a big bummer, why did I see that?” I can't say that I was looking to just leave people in utter devastation. I wanted it to have emotional impact and I do think that there is absolutely a tragic element to the story being that moment in time passing and being gone forever.
Don't get me wrong, I agree that there’s tragic elements, I’m just suggesting that the movie suggests something much deeper like both these leaders dying in a vain attempt to preserve peace, which is really tragic.
Sure, sure. Well, some of them do die. As much as movie is a brotherhood between Malcolm [Jason Clarke] and Caesar [Andy Serkis] and the connection between the human and ape worlds, I really saw the movie as being a story about two brothers. And the two brothers were Koba and Caesar. Had the humans never shown up, their brotherhood would have continued and their family would have expanded and the idea that somehow the presence of humans exposed the fault lines between characters.
But those fractures and power struggles would have hit a head at some point, no?
They might have, but I don't know. I think that Koba is utterly sincere when he says he would do whatever Caesar wants because he was freed from bondage by Caesar. He was rescued from the horrors of his life by Caesar in ‘Rise.’ This is someone that he devoted his life to and became a vital brother in this community of brother apes, you know? It was really important to me that it not appear as if Koba was looking to be the alpha at the beginning of the movie. One of the first gestures in the movie is him saving Caesar’s life and his son and makes it possible for Caesar to see his newborn. And another reason why I see a tragic dimension to the arc of the story because those are two characters who are bound in a brotherly love at the beginning and at the end, it’s ruined.
So where do you go from here? You’re still directing the next one, yes?
I am. We are going to have to take a moment and talk about all the things, Mark Bomback and I are going to be writing the next one and we have a lot of ideas but you know we're going to take a moment to breathe. We just finished this one so we'll see where it goes but we have a lot of ideas we just have to sit down and start it all up again. But it's really important to me that whatever we do next is something that can be better than ‘Dawn,’ so hopefully we can achieve that aim.
Do you foresee a big time leap? Like the 10 years between the first two films?
I don't necessarily think that there will be as big a leap between films. I see Casear as a seminal figure in ape history and he's a mythic character. He's essentially like their Moses and I think Caesar having to grapple with what it means to engage in this conflict that he doesn’t really want to be a part of and how that cuts at his core is going to be one of the great challenges for the character. I also think it's a generational story. He has children and I think it's going to be… to me there are many chapters of this mythic ape journey towards the original '68 movie.
I was going to ask, when does the history finally cross over with the ’68 movie?
I think there are a number of films and stories to be told here, absolutely. That's what's exciting about it. The question is: are the audiences interested in going on that journey with us? The disparity between the way the world looks in ‘Dawn’ and the way it looked in the '68 film is huge so how do we get from here to there? Then when we do get there, if we do get there, how is that world different by virtue of the new point of view that we've taken?
Is the “Invisible Woman” something you’d still like to make or are you tied up in ‘Apes’ movies?
Oh absolutely. It's a passion of mine and I really ought to make that movie someday and I think that it could very well be the next thing I do after this. It's definitely something I've been trying to get made for many years that I hope I will finally get to make in the foreseeable future. It's been quite a long journey.
It’s Hitchcockian in tone, is that right?
It's a character story, in that sense it's very Hitchcokian but it does… it's a drama that's told in a suspense mode. It's about this woman who’s a mother, homemaker and a wife and someone who has secretly gotten herself into trouble. She turns to desperate means to get herself out of it and nobody really knows and she has been robbing banks for a period of time unbeknownst to anyone. In a way it's a Hitchcockian family drama.
Interesting. Does the presumed success of ‘Dawn’ make something like that easier to make in our current movie climate?
I certainly hope so. It's a small movie and something that I would undoubtedly make quite quickly but I tried to get it together a number of times. The first time Naomi Watts was going to be in the film and it just fell apart and I ended up doing “Cloverfield.” Then I tried to get it going again right after “Cloverfield” and the independent film market fell apart and went out of business. So I ended up doing the most personal story I could do at the time which ended up being a remake of “Let the Right One In.” It’s a small film that could be made in a short time and I think that hopefully the success of this will make "Invisible Woman" possible.
Rian Johnson’s doing “Star Wars,” Gareth Edwards made “Godzilla,” you got to make an uncompromised and dark “Planet Of The Apes” film. Do you feel a return to filmmaker-based big-budget movies rather than studio-driven ones?
Maybe to some degree, yeah. I turned down a lot of studio tentpole offers including ones from Fox. But I loved what they did with ‘Rise,’ so I was really open to it because and they specifically reached out in the spirit of looking for a filmmaker. It's actually what they said they wanted and actually meant it too.
Despite a couple key collaborations Fox had with say, James Cameron, they weren't necessarily known of wanting to work with filmmakers on these kinds of big movies and that seemed to be a big part of their approach on this film. I kept waiting for the moment when they would say no and they didn't. We certainly had our debates about things—that happens no matter where or what you do. But they let me make this movie which is incredible.
Do you see the business changing at all?
Well, certainly Chris Nolan did that with the Batman films, they were hugely successful. But at the end of the day success is the driver and if they make a number of these filmmaker-based films and they fail miserably then it probably won't be the order of the day. It always comes down to the same thing. The studios… it's a business and always has been, and it has to work. In my experience they loved the idea of doing something that both fulfills the summer tentpole spectacle, but also has some ambition and if that works then they’re going to go that route. And if it doesn’t work then of course they won't.
Change will come first and foremost from audiences. If they connect to it, great. If they don't connect to it, then wherever audiences go, that’s where the studios are going to chase.
“Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” is in theaters now.