Tim Burton goes ape with the natives and native with the apes
I don't think I would be interested.‘
Burton was not only a fan of the original movie but of its star (‘harlton lleston who appears in a fabulously referential cameo. as an ageing chimpan/ee. "l'here‘s really nobody like him.‘ Burton says. "l'here‘s this intensity that comes through. His voice gives me a thrill every timef
Burton was drawn to the central theme of reversal inherent in the original story. to the inverse Darwinism. the upside-down world where apes are in charge. and wanted his to be more ape-like than in all previous outings. (‘onsequently they leap from trees and bound along the ground on all fours. ‘We tried to link it with human behaviour.’ he says. "so unlike the first film. where it’s just apes as humans. we tried to link them to human mannerisms so it creates this weird mixture of both.‘
Burton‘s version stars Mark \N'ahlberg as Leo Davidson. art astronaut on the l'S space station ()beron who disobeys orders by launching himself into space in search of his pet chimp Pericles. and. one time- wormliole later. winds up on a planet ruled by talking apes. There he finds 'l'im Roth's liascist chimp (ieneral Thade who. helped by Michael (‘larke Duncan's gorilla Attar. is determined to wipe out mankind. and Helena Bonham (‘arter's rebellious chimp Ari. a human rights activist eager to promote better relations with humans.
‘I probably wouldn‘t have done it for another director.’ says Roth. "l’here's something special about him visually. It's very lush. he has a twisted attitude and his images are dark. I was keeping my lingers
crossed because I thought. please don’t ask me to be human.‘ Why? ‘Because it's Planet ()fT/w Apes. I want to be an ape.‘ was a ‘ fhere were times. however. _ when Roth came to rue his decision. due to the exacting Putting It on was always a pain In the ass’
experience of wearing the ultra- detailed ape make-up. To transform the lead actors into their ape selves required being on set at two or three o‘clock in the morning. followed by up to three hours in the make-up chair. '(ietting the make—up off was always a blessing.~ Roth says. ‘Putting it on was always a pain in the ass.’
'l‘hade proves to be the film's enduring creation. ferociously bouncing all over the place. going ape shit at bad news. a leering. sneering chimp that counteracts the cute tag chimps have got thanks to tea ads and circus acts. ‘I just loved playing it.‘ says Roth. 'lt‘s juicy. lt's all slow and he‘s kinda creepy. It just felt sexy.‘
:l/tt’s has proved lo be a monster hit. Its first weekend box office take was nearly $7llm in the l'S. making it the second highest three-day opening in history. l5ox clearly has another potential Apes franchise on its hand and a sequel seems all but a formality. But Roth says he‘s not contractually bound to make one and will only do it if Burton is involved. a view \Vahlherg seconds. As for Burton. he's too burnt out even to contemplate another trip to Apeville just yet. ‘lt's like I can’t have an affair while I'm still working on the movie and I‘m still working on it.‘ he says. ‘l‘m not one of those types that can go. "Oh. here‘s my next four pictures lined up." because I don't know if I need to let out more aggression or if I‘m going to be in a calmer state or if I'm going to be in a light romantic mood. or if I‘m going to want to do that baseball picture I've been dying to do.’
Planet Of The Apes, general release from Fri 17 Aug. See review next issue.
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His jingle for The Simpsons is probably the world’s best-known theme tune, though it’s his scores for Tim Burton (from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure to Planet Of The Apes) that rank DANNY ELFMAN as one of Hollywood’s top film soundtrack composers. Interview: Miles Fielder
What’s the first thing you do when preparing to score a film?
I don't do anything until the director’s got a rough cut of the film. I learned early on: no preparation is the best preparation. I try to neutralise my brain and see where it takes me; there’ll always be a book. In Batman it was the architecture and shadows that suggested the tone of the film. Planet Of The Apes, it was the military aspect, the tribal aggressiveness of the apes.
Jerry Goldsmith’s original score is very distinctive.
I hadn’t heard Jerry’s score since it came out. He's my role model, but I was relieved it was such a different sounding score from mine. There’s some irony in that 30 years ago one could do a score that was avant garde, so progressive; 30 years later I'm doing something that’s almost traditional. The original movie was shot in such a straightforward manner, the score gave it an otherworldliness. I’m sure the fact that it was non-melodic was intentional. Tim Burton's is a much darker, more theatrical movie that required constant weaving of melody.
But both scores are heavily percussive.
The percussion was half the score. My percussionist was the percussionist on the original score, but all the percussion on the new ﬁlm is my own. I’m sorry for that, but my love is percussion. I used to travel around Africa collecting instruments and I used to build them: marimbas, metalaphone and fibreglass instruments.
You’ve scored all but one (Ed Wood) of Burton’s films. How did you meet?
It was a ﬂuke. Pee-wee Herman, whose name is Paul Reubens, was aware of music I had done with my band The Mystic Knights for my brother’s film, The Forbidden Zone [now a cult favourite]. So my name popped up for Tim’s first ﬁlm, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. We had common ground in terms of the stuff we grew up on. Now, I don’t have to sell a score to him, Tim allows me a longleash.
It’s hard to imagine a better collaboration between two artists. That’s because we’re both so peculiar.
Your Simpsons tune is probably the world’s best known theme.
I hear little variations on it all the time, so I’m aware it’s entered the subconscious of the culture. When you do a television theme or commercial it’s quick, it’s easy. I met with Matt Groening, he gave me a pencil sketch of the title sequence and I literally wrote it when I went home after the meeting. When you work three months slaving on a film, that’s funny. It's ironic that something I spent just two days on should be what I’m most well-known for.
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