Hollywood Notebook: Secrets of apes, planes, road trips revealed

The Fresno BeeJuly 5, 2014 

Caesar (Andy Serkis) ponders his next move as he faces a threat posed by a colony of humans in "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes).

TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

I recently had a chance to chat with cast members from the upcoming "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" and discovered some interesting tidbits about the making of the movie that opens Friday.

The production is the continuation of the story of how apes rise to power. In this film, most of the human race has been wiped out while apes continue to flourish and evolve. Under the direction of Caesar (Andy Serkis), the ape population has found peace in the forests near San Francisco. This peace gets disrupted by a group of humans looking to find a way to restore electrical power to the city.

There's a scene, once power is restored, where the character played by Gary Oldman can finally see the photos he has stored on his electronic device. It's an extremely moving moment — one Oldman said was possible because the pictures are of his real family and dog.

In another scene, the apes turn out in full force to warn humans to stay out of the forest. Several of the apes are riding horses. When director Matt Reeves started filming the scene, he had the actors (dressed in special garb that would later allow computer animators to make them look like apes) sitting on real horses. When the horses proved too skittish, the actors had to sit on ladders with the horses added later through computer animation.

Serkis jokes that it's a little hard to look intimidating when you are sitting on a step ladder.

Pumped up

I talked with Dane Cook in Yosemite National Park about reprising his role as the voice of Dusty in the sequel, "Planes: Fire & Rescue." Most of what he had to say will be the subject of a story closer to the movie's July 18 opening.

But one thing that surprised me was how fit the comedian looked. The other times I've interviewed Cook, he looked more like a typical stand-up comedian — a little out of shape and pale from no sunlight. This time, Cook looked like he could suit up for a football team or become an MMA fighter.

The new muscular build, and his buzz haircut, was for a film he just completed.

"It's a psychological thriller, very different from 'Fire & Rescue.' I play an astronaut. I decided that if I was going to play an astronaut, I couldn't look like I had not exercised in 20 years," Cook said.

A dreamy role

Ideas for movies come from a lot of places. Many are based on novels, comic books or old TV programs. Believe it or not, though, there are still writers out there with original ideas.

The inspiration for the script for "Tammy" came to Ben Falcone, writer/director and husband of the film's star, Melissa McCarthy, while he was sleeping.

"He came down the stairs, having just woken up, saying, 'I just had a weird dream. You go on a road trip with your grandmother.' It all came out of that," McCarthy says.

That was six years ago. Falcone and McCarthy turned the dream into the feature film that opened July 2. The film also stars Susan Sarandon, Gary Cole and Kathy Bates. McCarthy gets giddy when she talks about sending the script to Bates.

"I knew even if she never read it, the fact it was in her house was exciting," McCarthy says.

It's odd that McCarthy's character does the driving on the road trip in the movie because Falcone says in real life, she falls asleep within 15 minutes when they go for a drive.

After "Tammy" finished filming, Falcone, McCarthy and their children drove from the movie's final location — Niagara Falls — back to Los Angeles. Falcone jokes that he was certain the children would love looking at the countryside.

He was wrong.

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at www.fresnobeehive.com.

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