If, like me, you were a fan of the WB’s Felicity then it’s very amusing to ponder the fact that the co-creator of that series, Matt Reeves, and the show’s star, Keri Russell are teaming up again on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which Reeves directed. While Russell has worked with Felicity’s other creator — a guy named J.J. Abrams — since Felicity ended (in Mission: Impossible III), Apes marks her first time reuniting with Reeves.
As Russell remarked to me about the experience, “This is not the project I thought we’d be doing together, let’s be honest. He has this most beautiful film, this independent film, that he wrote that I would love to do, and we tried to get money for it a few years ago. It’s so good, and maybe, hopefully soon. But this is not that. [Laughs] This is so crazy and ambitious and epic. I had no idea what I was signing on for. He had a phone conversation with me and just said, ‘Please come do this.’ I said, ‘Matt, I’m finishing this show [The Americans], I’m so tired.’ He said, ‘Just come do this with me,’ and I’m so glad I did.”
Russell was quite enthusiastic about what ultimately appealed to her about the project, exclaiming, “First of all, Andy Serkis — what the heck! I was deciding whether or not to do it, and just physically — I have two kids too; I can’t work all the time. I need to just do a few things here and there, and then be a mom. I was deciding whether or not to it, but my loyalty for Matt is so strong. [The Americans’] Matthew Rhys had done a movie with Andy, and he said, ‘You don’t understand. Andy Serkis is this incredible actor.’ I said, ‘I don’t really know.’ He’s like — growing up at RADA [Royal Academy of Dramatic Art] — he said, ‘He was who we revered.’ I said, ‘I know, but it’s, like… apes! There are going to be guys in gray unitards. I’m not a good enough actor to do that. Literally, I’m just being honest.’ He said, ‘I’m telling you. He brings it.’”
As Russell recalled, Rhys wasn’t exaggerating about Serkis. “The first day, we’re in these Vancouver wilds, like deep, deep into the misty — you can’t see the ground, the moss is so thick and spongy, and it’s so spooky and misty — and out from over the hills comes Andy in a gray unitard and all those dots, and he is so f**king good. He’s just there, and he’s doing these scenes; there’s not a moment of hesitation — and I have to do really intimate things with him in the back, where he’s very injured and I’m holding him, he’s sobbing… Can’t we get him in a movie, like, some independent, amazing movie? He’s so good. He’s crazy good. Anyway, the movie is epic.”
On the other hand, Russell did have to admit there was some downside to a project of this scale. “Taking those 3D cameras on location like that, it was so slow — it was, like, the slowest thing. P.S., my major gripe the first month, which did take a lot of pride to get over, I went from doing The Americans, which is all this cat eyeliner and blown-out hair and stiletto boots and hoes and tight jeans, to working with all boys — I was the only girl — in mud for four months. No makeup, frizzy hair.” She laughed, adding, “Matt just kept going, ‘Can you wear your hair like Felicity? I just really like that.’ I was like, ‘Like that? Like frizzy? Oh, Matt!’ No makeup, because it’s 10 years after there’s no electricity. I’m like, ‘Where’s my eyeliner!? This is the worst!’”
Besides Serkis, Russell noted how impressive the entire cast was. “Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke and Kodi McPhee, who’s incredible. So we had a good little group. I think that’s what hopefully will translate, even though it’s this giant, summer, science fiction movie, I think that’s what Matt would bring to it, are these kind of emotional actors. Nobody would ever approve me to be in one of those movies. Seriously. That was all Matt.”