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WonderCon 2014: Gary Oldman & Keri Russell on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I didn’t realize Gary Oldman speaks so slowly. That accounts for the brevity of this interview, but I was indeed speaking with Oldman and Keri Russell at WonderCon for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Hey, I’ll eat up my time listening to Gary Oldman talk. Let’s call it deliberate. As Troy McClure’s agent would say, these acclaimed actors play…. the humans. Ellie (Russell) and Dreyfus (Oldman) are survivors of the epidemic that wiped out most of humanity, and they are about to witness Caesar (Andy Serkis) bring the apes to power.

CraveOnline: Is a harmonious existence between humans and apes out of the question?

Keri Russell: Well, I think that’s the question of this film. No, and I think this moment there’s hope for it. This moment, that’s what we’re asking. Could it happen?

So if there was hope, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is where it went wrong?

Keri Russell: It’s not decided, is it?

Gary Oldman: Go see the movie. Get back to me. [Laughs]

Keri Russell: Yeah, it’s not a tragedy or anything. No, that’s the question of this one.

Good, that’s what we want. We want science fiction to ask those questions.

Keri Russell: Yes.

What are Ellie and Dreyfus’s relationship with Caesar?

Gary Oldman: I have no relationship with Caesar. You do.

Keri Russell: My relationship, I think I’m aided, I’m different from a lot of the surviving humans because of my medical background and my work with the virus. So I have a better understanding and less of a fear of the apes in general. I think that helps me want to connect with Caesar and I think it allows me to get to the idea of who he really is quicker. I mean, it’s scary, it’s startling but then I think I have less of the fear than other people have.

Does the scale of Dawn compare to any of the other big films you’ve done on, Mission: Impossible III or the Dark Knights and Fifth Element?

Gary Oldman: I spent pretty much my whole time with humans in the compound and on sets that were rooms. So in the making of it, for me personally, it felt like a regular drama. Again, I was the guy in rooms. You were out there.

Keri Russell: It felt huge.

Gary Oldman: But you were working with the apes.

Keri Russell: And we were shooting in these crazy, deep, deep forests, these tiny little trails with these giant cameras and all of the different camps of the Weta guys. Michael Seresin, our DP had his own tent to color correct as he was doing it because he was using all natural light. It was extensive and slow and beautiful.

Are there any big set pieces for Ellie?

Keri Russell: I’m just one of the tribe that’s there on the adventure in the woods basically. You know what the biggest thing was, Ape Village. They built that. That incredible wood thing, it’s insane. That was magnificent. It was incredible. They built this giant thing in this parking lot where the apes live and it’s unbelievable. We did lots of action.

Gary Oldman: I think the idea of using a technology that has been primarily studio bound, motion capture has been 50 cameras in a gray room, you would do this whole thing where you do T-poses and you have to log in and log out. I did the early days of it with Zemeckis. I found it a complete pain in the ass to be honest with you and I would much rather have some props and clothes and be on a movie set. That was in its very early stages and now it’s come on and advanced, the technology, so he’s taking huge big 3D cameras and motion capture on location and as you probably saw even from the bit of footage that you saw, it has a totally different feel. It’s visceral, the way that they put the apes into the natural world.

Keri Russell: That’s really beautiful.

It looks like Dreyfus had a family before.

Gary Oldman: Yeah.

How does that impact what he’s doing in the movie?

Gary Oldman: I think it influences pretty much [everything]. He cares about this community and I suppose is the chief of the tribe.

Keri Russell: Yeah.

Gary Oldman: He feels a great deal of responsibility. But he is coming from a place of great hurt and personal loss. When things start actually heating up, he’s on the side of the humans.

Keri, congratulations on “The Americans” getting a third season.

Keri Russell: Thank you.

If season two had been the end, would you have needed more?

Keri Russell: I still find it interesting, I do. It’s a fun place to work. I really like the weird, complicated marriage. I think it’s interesting, and to me it’s the marriage that’s interesting to me. The spy stuff, I like it, I like that it raises the stakes of everything but I’m interested in the weird marriage.

Gary Oldman: No, it’s the relationship, what it’s about.