Steve Zahn has been a familiar face for decades, ever since making his big screen debut in 1994’s grunge-era classic ‘Reality Bites’. Ever since, he has often popped up as the comedic sidekick in dozens of movies and TV shows. And while he has done voice work, such as in the ‘Stuart Little’ movies, ‘Dr. Doolittle’ and on the TV series ‘Phineas & Ferb’, next summer he enters a new type of performance, motion capture, playing a new character called simply Bad Ape in ‘War For the Planet of the Apes’. Zahn joins the king of mo-cap, Andy Serkis, who is returning for his third and final turn as ape leader Caesar.
Zahn’s character Bad Ape is described as “easily distracted” and Zahn summed up his spin on the character saying, “Oh. I bet he’s just excited about everything.” But also cautioned, “There’s a lot of this ape that’s not funny in the least bit.”
As far as his first go-round with motion capture, Zahn opened up about the experience of joining the other mo-cap actors weeks after they had already been shooting and what he learned from the experience:
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“Andy was shooting, so I came in while they were shooting, so me and Terry Notary, who’s kind of the guy as far as movement. Terry plays Rocket. I would meet with him. I missed the camp because I was shooting down in Puerto Rico, and then I came in, and they had already started shooting and they said, “Well, you should come in a couple weeks early just so you can get going.” And then I got there, and I got really scared and I thought I need more than two weeks. Terry and I would meet. I would work all day on stuff and then I would meet up with Terry in the afternoon when they were getting close to wrap. Terry and I would work for hours every day. It was really incredible, because I thought it was going to be a lot more like, “You’re a dancer. I’m a dancer. Here’s the moves. You do this. You do that.” It was more kind of theater work. It was organic. Terry, the first day, we just sat in chairs and looked at each other. He was like, “What is it about apes? What is it about monkeys that …” We really kind of went to this essence, this organic thing. Then I started realizing, I was like, “Oh, this is important.” It’s not about pretending you’re an ape, it’s about being an ape. It’s about being this character. We don’t have ape suits on, so we really have to become apes. If you pretend you’re an ape, it’s going to look like sh*t. If you be one, and it’s second nature, then it’s going to work. To get to that point takes a lot of work.
That’s what’s kind of incredible about it. I kind of thought that too going into it. Like, “Oh, this is going to be all these things, and oh, I’m going to have to do so much post work.” And then I realized, no, this is actually more organic and kind of theater-like than anything I’ve ever done, which blew me away. I really thought it was going to be a completely different … challenging on a completely different level.”
We’ll have to wait and see if Zahn’s hard work paid off.
‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ directed by Matt Reeves, stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, and Terry Notary. War begins on July 14, 2017.