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Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Pick a question, any question

Good news: We members of the Japanese masu-komi were privileged to attend the premiere press conference for Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes."

Tim Burton, Tim Roth, Estella Warren and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

Bad news: There was not a single screening of the film prior to the press conference.

Result: Tim Burton, Tim Roth, Estella Warren and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa appear and when they asked "Any questions?" there was an embarrassed silence. "All right, bye!" said Tim Roth, and jokingly prepared to make a dash for the door. Questions came, awkwardly, ones like "I saw the preview to the film and it looks like there's this really cute chimp . . ." Answers were often just as weird. Tagawa, somewhere deep inside his full ape makeup, replied, "Ano saaa, mmph-mmph mmmble mmm . . ."

It was Hollywood's wet dream: a film that critics can't see, its merits judged only by the trailer. Still, it was interesting to see the personalities on display: Warren and Hiroyuki-Tagawa were enjoying their piece of the limelight, eager to talk about anything; Roth was in a devilish mood, one common to professional actors in silly films who've already cashed their checks; and Burton strained to say anything coherent about the project, which may confirm the lack of vision apparent onscreen.

On his decision to make the film:

Tim Burton: I had to think about it, because to me, it was such a classic movie, that the idea of remaking it was not such a good idea, because it was so much of its time. But the mythology and the overall property of this sort of reverse world just was intriguing . . . I liked the idea of reversal, so the outsider is basically the normal person. Actually, I find all the characters in this to be outsiders in some way, from the apes to the humans, all of them.

On why he took his role:

Tim Roth: I wanted to work with Tim. And also, it seemed to me to be an experimental film with a huge budget, and I liked that idea.

Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa: I graduated from high school in 1968, the year the [original] film came out, and that was the year Robert Kennedy was assassinated, the U.S. invaded Cambodia and the idea that in this time of all these social and political changes, that someone might make a movie about apes and humans and evolution was quite profound to me. So in coming to this film, the only question I had was, how much do I have to pay to be in it?

On acting out ape body language:

TR: If it had been purely chimpanzee, it would have been [like] a National Geographic documentary, which isn't necessarily that interesting. The other direction was humans in rubber masks just walking around like other people. So we kind of invented a way of moving that is purely imaginative, pure fantasy. Once you find your "move," it's a free-for-all. In a sense I never felt like I was playing a chimp, I felt more like I was playing a shark. I really enjoyed the bestiality of it.

On his casting decisions:

TB: We wanted good actors who are able to act through the masks. I mean this as a compliment, but Tim has an evil chimp side to his personality. Some people think chimps are cute, but I find them terrifying. He captured that paranoid chimp quality, the feeling I actually get from chimps.

On the four hours of makeup he went through every day:

TR: I used to sleep through it. It's like having a really bad head cold. It weighs on your face, but when you're actually acting it's fine. Although working under the makeup was at times uncomfortable, as an actor, I found that being invisible was really liberating. But mostly, under the makeup, I was laughing. Because it's really quite ridiculous. It really feels like the reason I became an actor, when as a child, I would go into the backyard and play cowboys and Indians. And this is it. This is one for the children.

On playing an ape:

CHT: I was born in Tokyo and raised in Louisiana and Texas, and I always felt like I had a mask on anyway. So to play this character, to wear a mask, is not anything new. The most interesting thing was how we had to eat using a mirror. You'd look in the mirror as you're eating, and you'd think "I'm feeding this ape, but its going down my mouth."

If you were really stranded on the planet of the apes, what would it be like?

TR: I'd be food.

EW: I'd do the same thing as my character does. Maybe more for equality, than changing the ruler of the planet. But everyone wants to have that feeling of equality, and everyone fights for it.

CHT: My whole life has been that way, really out of place. But I've gotten not only accustomed to it, but really enjoy it now, because it's . . . [masked mumble, mumble] . . . a different kind of person. So I would feel right at home.

TB: I'd plant lots of banana trees and become rich cornering the banana market.

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