Movement Coach Alain Gauthier: I researched for a month to understand the movement of the primates

Alain Gauthier, the Movement coach of Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, talks about training actors to contain their ‘human element’, the challenges faced while shooting and more
Movement Coach Alain Gauthier: I researched for a month to understand the movement of the primates

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes features only one prominent human character as opposed to several hundred ‘ape’ characters. The upcoming film happens 300 years after the events of War for the Planet of the Apes. Due to the outbreak of a virus, humans have been rendered weak and the primates have taken over the planet. They can speak, build things and make cognitive decisions for themselves and others. It is a civilizational change and hence, it was a challenge to bring this dystopian reality alive on screen. It came upon movement coach, Alain Gauthier, to train the actors playing the apes to authentically embody the physical attributes. Before he could do that, he had to dive deeper into understanding the posture of the apes and their movements. “I first started studying the musculoskeletal system of the apes, noticing the differences between them and humans. Then I went into the comparative studies between the walks of the apes and that of humans,” he says. It was a learning process for him, as he tried to mimic the movement of the primates himself. “I was able to immerse myself into a good month of understanding the creature.”

It took a lot of effort for the actors to get into the body of the apes and mimic their movements. “I prepared them through weeks of physical training and body awareness,” he says. “Along with that, they had to drop the human being inside them so there is a clean vessel to contain an ape.” After over two weeks of rehearsals, the actors could transform into animals. This was also when director Wes Ball and the producers were called upon to take a final look at them and suggest any changes. “When they came, we would do improvisations. I would throw a situation and the actors would take it. All of them were so into it,” says Alain. “They loved being apes.”

While filming, it was a major challenge for the actors to act like primates and not let the human elements come out. Thus, Alain had to keep a close eye on their body movements and guide them if they were hitting the wrong note. “When they would interact with the director and get last-minute notes or had to try something new, sometimes the actor would act a little bit human because it's a safer space to handle the last-minute change,” he says. There are many subtleties involved in the movements of apes and even a slight error would make it seem human-like. Hence, it was extremely crucial for the actors to stay in character. They also went through motion capture tests in the beginning to have a look at themselves. “They immediately noticed that if they stand like a human being, they look like a guy in costume. It does not work,” he chuckles. “Although they are trying to be an ape, if they do a movement that apes don't, then, I had to notice that and keep them in line,” he concludes.

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