Here’s some (Old) Major news for you: Rupert Wyatt, the director of Aug. 5’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, confirmed to EW that he and Apes star Andy Serkis are working on a big-screen performance-capture adaptation of George Orwell’s Stalin-inspired Animal Farm. Though the project is in its early stages, the duo will collaborate on the script, and use Serkis’ motion-capture studio, The Imaginarium, for the project. Seeing as how blown away we were by Wyatt’s use of the technology in clips for Apes, it’s easy to get excited about the prospect of Farm, which would feature a diverse group of human-like barn animals leading a rebellion. “With performance capture, you can really perform this story in such a way that it’s sort of seamless in terms of human performers playing animals,” Wyatt tells EW. “It’s very much like theater. Especially with something like this that is about phsyical movement, nuance through gesture.”
So, if the film will be all about performance, who can we expect to fill the hooves of Old Major, Napoleon, and the like? Obviously, Serkis will be portraying one of the characters, according to Wyatt. As for which one, he’s keeping mum — “I don’t want to give too much away,” he says. (Let’s just be glad that, for once, Apes and King Kong star will be able to branch outside primate parts.) But in order to make the best use of motion-capture, Wyatt is hoping to snag some of the industry’s most talented players. “We want to get the best actors for the role,” he says. “It would be the same as if we were doing a stage production. [And] with Andy as our lead-in, I feel that’s good enough for me right now.”
Of course, Farm is still far from reaching the big screen. First, Wyatt has to see the release of Apes, a film that could turn into a franchise (and push Farm to the back-burner) should it prove to be a box office success. And Wyatt, for one, is certainly open to an Apes sequel. “It’s definitely the desire of everyone involved, to continue telling the story,” he says. “There’s a question mark at the end of the film. All the best stories for me don’t tie up every single loose end. We end with certain questions, and certainly the scenario of what’s next.” (Don’t, however, expect to see star James Franco cursing the film’s apes in front of a buried Statue of Liberty — Wyatt says his Apes deviates from the original film’s ending. “It’s a totally different film in many ways,” he says. “To emulate that or to kind of try to pull the rug from the audience — an audience these days are savvy enough to know what you’re doing to them. We would have suffered for the comparison. So we looked to be more original than that.”)
Audiences who are enraptured with the performance-capture quality of Apes may certainly hope for a sequel — Wyatt says some who have screened footage of the film couldn’t tell that they weren’t looking at real apes. “We created the skin and the hair and the anatomy of the ape on top of a human performance,” he says. “That’s a first. That’s an absolute first. It’s never really been done before, and this is the first photo-realistic film dealing with animals that are not fantastical in any way. They are very much grounded in reality. That’s never been able to be achieved up until now.”
And, hopefully, later again with Farm.
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